I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lincoln and Plutarch

This Sunday we will mark the birthday of President Lincoln. Lincoln was, as most people realize but some would like to forget, a complex man who struggled with issues of war and race during one of the darkest times in our nation's history. Naturally, we honor him (and all the other presidents) in February by selling cars. It is so much easier, after all, to cast our history in as one-dimensional a light as possible. So why not don a fake beard and declare freedom from down payments for the first six months? How much simpler than really thinking about the Civil War and the results of that conflict that still help shape the American cultural and political landscape.

This is what I fear for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, actually. I worry that it will become a "second tier" holiday that once meant something and now means a day off. Labor Day and even Memorial Day have also become less significant in the lives of most Americans. It is too bad. There is so much that needs to be done in order to make our communities and our families places where kindness, humility and justice are simply the way of life. It takes a lot of work and we are all, at times, tempted to place our own personal satisfaction ahead of the common good. These national holidays are to remind us that the struggle is far from over. When we cease to reflect on our nation's successes and failures, we lose the ability to govern ourselves with the sensitivity, subtlety and understanding that has always been truly necessary.

Here is a quote from Plutarch that I found while looking for material for Sunday. Maybe it will work for you...

Uneducated rulers think that by a bass voice, ferocity of expression, harshness of manner, and unsociable way of life they are imitating the weight and dignity of leadership; but actually they are like those colossal statues which have a heroic and godlike appearance on the outside but inside are filled with clay and stone and lead--except that the statues are kept in an upright position by the heavy substances, whereas uncultured rulers are often rocked and overturned by the ignorance within them.

Peace be with you...