Last night, the nine leading Republican presidential candidates squared off in a debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, multiple questions were asked concerning America’s security in light of recent terror attacks and the rise of ISIS.
The pose-down that followed these questions reminded me of scenes from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1977 bodybuilding documentary, “Pumping Iron.” Instead of flexing oiled biceps, all nine candidates flexed oiled tongues in tantalizing tapestries full of political and military strength: bombs, no-fly zones, alliances, embargoes, surveillance systems, walls, fines, nukes, and more.
No surprise, right?
There is, of course, value in strength. When God told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” on the eve of battle (Joshua 1), He didn’t just mean it in a spiritual sense. He meant, well, “be strong and courageous” in the plain, literal, physical sense! It's good to enter a fight from a position of strength.
But amidst all of last night’s gubernatorial muscle-flexing, I found my heart longing for some hint of [NOTE: pause to swallow hard and brace thyself] humility. It wouldn’t have been too hard to express this, especially in light of the now stale topic of the Planned Parenthood videos that dominated previous debates. A partial response of this kind might have looked something like this:
“My recommendations for dealing with ISIS and terrorism do, naturally, include various military and political elements. We need to be strong in the midst of this battle. But on a deeper level than that, we must realize as a nation that we ourselves are a bloody and violent people. Why, just last month, we were standing on a stage just like this expressing our revulsion at an organization we fund with federal dollars – Planned Parenthood – and their practice of killing, dismembering, and selling parts of innocent, defenseless, unborn Americans. We certainly grieve over the 14 killed in San Bernardino. But every day in America we pay, with tax dollars or otherwise, to kill over 1,500 unborn children by abortion. We’re increasingly a culture that encourages and permits doctors to kill their patients through physician-assisted suicide. We’re entertained by movies and video games that practically gush with blood and violence. That is why, as one of my first acts as President of the United States, I would be to urge Congress to join me in calling for a day of national humiliation and prayer. In so doing, I would join one of the greatest Presidents America has ever seen, President Abraham Lincoln….”**
Of course, I’m sure I’d fall off my sofa and cry out for a defibrillator if any presidential candidate said that. Heck, pastors won’t even say that! But oh how my heart longs for it. What about you? Thoughts?
** Here’s the actual text of the resolution that President Lincoln signed on March 30, 1863. Keep in mind that this Proclamation was made in the middle of America’s civil war which lasted from 1861 to 1865. To me, this document is absolutely astonishing (in a good way). Oh, that God might grant us this kind of leadership in the political and pastoral spheres!
Washington, D.C. ~ March 30, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.