Spirit Alive: Looking into the Soul of America
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
July 24, 2018
Food for the Soul:
Finding Our Better Angels in Difficult Times
"History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do."
This past spring, Susan and I attended several marvelous lectures put on by the Oregon Historical Society in their Mark Hatfield Lecture Series. This year's series included lectures by Taylor Branch, Bob Woodward, Annette Gordon-Reed...and Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, who has written about Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and George Herbert Walker Bush. Meacham is a remarkable historian and writer...and a delightful speaker.
Walter Isaacson, an outstanding biographer himself, says: "This is a brilliant, fascinating, timely, and above all profoundly important book. Jon Meacham explores the extremism and racism that have infected our politics, and he draws enlightening lessons from the knowledge that we've faced such trials before. We have come through times of fear. We have triumphed over our dark impulses. With compelling narratives of past eras of strife and disenchantment, Meacham offers wisdom for our own time and helps us appreciate the American soul: the heart, the core, and the essence of what it means to have faith in our nation."
I found Meacham's book to be helpful in a number of ways...
In addition, Meacham reminds us that "we cannot guarantee equal outcomes, but we must do all we can to ensure equal opportunity." Hence, our work is still before us as we do battle with forces that continue to try and deny the American promise to those who are different from us, whether this be based on race, immigration status, or gender.
Clearly, Meacham is concerned about our present moment. As he says: "I am writing now not because past American presidents have always risen to the occasion but because the incumbent American president so rarely does. A president sets a tone for the nation and helps tailor habits of heart and of mind. Presidential action and presidential grace are often crucial in ameliorating moments of virulence and violence-- and presidential indifference and presidential obtuseness can exacerbate such hours."
We are seeing some of this spirit alive and at work through the efforts of those who are saying no to the separation of immigrant children from their parents, from the high school students touring the country and speaking out against gun violence and murder in our schools, and through the courageous voices of women who are saying "enough" to sexual harassment and abuse.
Yes, we live in difficult times, but the voices of the many and the courage of the prophetic witnesses among us are not yet done with their soul-filled testimonies. For as Meacham says: "Our constitution and our politics...have endured and prevailed, vindicating the Founders' vision of a country that would require amendment and adjustment. That the nation was constructed with an awareness of sin and the means to take account of societal changes has enabled us to rise above the furies of given moments and given ages."
I pray that we are up to this important task yet again...in our own time!
Let us walk in the light of God's love,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.