Blogging about life at a Benedictine monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota
Friday, July 6, 2012
All are Created Equal
Recently I listened to an interview that Krista Tippett, host of Minnesota Public Radio's "On Being," did with Jacob Needleman, the philosopher and author of "The American Soul: The Inward Work of Democracy." His ideas have particular resonance this week, when our nation celebrates its historic invitation to self-actualization and freedom. That resonance becomes even more powerful in the face of the many questions and complications - not to mention confusion and divisive partisanship - with which our country is so riddled right now. Jacob Needleman passionately presents some of the great and fallible human beings who forged this country we love - men and women who demanded of themselves high ideals, which they in turn expressed in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Among these people, he highlighted: George Washington, for being a man who "turned away from power" - no easy task in our competitive and power-hungry world; Jefferson, who knew the invaluable importance of "listening well," particularly if there were to be agreement among the Declaration signers; Lincoln, "humbled by power" even as he firmly exhorted "malice toward none, and charity toward all"; and from the 19th Century, Frederick Douglas, an escaped slave who deeply loved the America he felt compelled to criticize for allowing slavery to exist. Call what these men stood for what you will-- ideals or virtues-- but we need to reflect on them today, as we struggle to maintain our democracy. Let it not be thought that anyone, least of all Jacob Needleman, would deny Americans the fireworks, festivals, marches, and parades we so love to employ in our Fourth of July celebrations; but Needleman feels our patriotism must go deeper than all that. Astutely, I think, he asserts that our age needs not just external action groups, but "think groups" that could help us ask such hard questions as: "What are the duties implied by our rights as very blessed Americans? What is the inward work of democracy? What does the Declaration of Independence imply when it says, "All are created equal," and, "All have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? Dear God, we pray for this our nation and world. We ask that You help us remove the walls that separate us. Now, in this moment, we ask for new light; illumine our minds, so that we may seek truth, harbor no malice, and live in charity toward all. Use us, dear Lord, as part of your plan for the world's healing. May we no longer be at war with each other, or with ourselves. May every nation and every people, every color and every religion, find at last the one heartbeat we share. Continue to create and sustain this country, dear God, for us and for our children. Hallelujah at the thought! Praise God, that such a thing could come to be, through You, through us, and through Your light that shines within us! So may it be. So may it be. We thank You, Lord. AMEN.
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
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