Monday, February 15, 2010

A President's Day thought: we've lost so much

"To Bigotry No Sanction" - An Exchange Between President George Washington and Moses Seixas of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island

Read both letters. How did we get from an America with this kind of respect and good will to the polarized, petty politics today?

These two short letters are between people with different backgrounds and different belief systems, yet they find common ground in a quest for mutual good.

The Synagogue Elder wishes Washington "the water of life," a sign from Jewish prophecy used by Jesus and well known to Christians. The President, in response, goes out of his way to honor Jewish Scripture, with his wish for everyone to "sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree" taken from the Prophet Micah.

It is this recognition of each person's transcendent value that set the American experiment apart. Differences could be could be respected in humble admission of a higher authority and greater judge.

America has suffered when that sense of awe has been set aside. Slavery is rightly called "America's original sin" because it is our most obvious historic violation of the human being's transcendent worth . It is hard to understate racism's corrosive damage to our national life - most notably its undermining of the largely honorable parts of our Constitution.

Overall, we've lost any sense of awe and wonder toward the human being. More than any rejected moral rule or behavior, the loss of this truly Judaeo-Christian point of view renders our politics a cynical and bitter grasping at spoils without an eye to common good.

I caught the link to these letters last month at Christopher Johnson's Midwest Conservative Journal. He said the letters can bring tears to his eyes - which is no wonder when we consider the squandered blessing they reveal.

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