Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Morning Thanks--Birthdays, 2/12

From a distance--and from north of the Mason-Dixon--it seems all but impossible to understand the legitimacy of what created, 150 years ago, the American Civil War, the institution of slavery.  How on earth could good people go to war to protect the right to own--to literally own--other human beings? 

The best answer is probably Marxist in theory: the South went to war to protect their bankrolls, their entire way of life. More than anything else, slavery created the economic structure of Southern society, and when the Federals got too close to destroying it with their moral braying about "the coloreds," there was only one course of action--secession. The South left the Union, and the Federals flowed in in what may well still be called, by some, the War of Northern Aggression.

For the most part, we have come to judge Abraham Lincoln as the closest mortal we have to a Savior for guiding the Union through a storied conflict that pitted brother against brother.  And he is an unlikely hero--tall and even a little clumsy, rough hewn as some gnarly cottonwood, a bumpkin almost totally uneducated. Still, Lincoln, historians say, was blessed with wisdom that far transcended yours and mine.  His death at the Ford Theater only enhanced the reign; he died a martyr.

Lincoln was born today, February 12, 1809, somewhere in a log cabin in the woods outside of a gathering of frontier frame shacks with a name that itself blesses the myth abundantly, a town called Hodginville, Kentucky.  Whatever good could come from such a place?--people might say.  The answer is Abraham Lincoln.

In Shropshire, England, on that very day, another babe was likely slapped into first breath, another boy child, a man who would travel the world, studying flora and fauna during a time when England had put itself generally in charge of world politics.  Eventually he made it down to a string of islands where he was sure he noticed something particularly interesting, that birds and animals had somehow developed differently, due to the characteristics of their particular surroundings.  

That observation led him to put significant stock into an idea about the origins of life, something called "the theory of evolution," an idea so extraordinary, so "out there," that he waited twenty years to say it publicly, confident that it would certainly be seen as "unChristian."

It's quite the amazing juxtaposition, really--those two men, giants in their time, mythic even today, born on the very same day an ocean apart.  Who in either bedroom would have ever believed that those tiny babies would change the world?  

Wherever Christians believed that what the Bible said about Noah's son Ham somehow made slavery defensible, Lincoln was hated.  Some skinheads and lamebrains, I suppose, still do.  And Darwin?--he's still indefensible among hosts of believers. He may have waited twenty years to think out loud; he could easily still be waiting, 150 years later.

The list of names that rise from the history of the 19th century, the celebrities, you might say, has to include Lincoln and Darwin, top of the list, no matter what you think or believe of them. 

They're reason enough this morning, for morning thanks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another February birthday must not be over-looked, Dr. James Calvin Schaap was born 65 years ago in Sheboygan, WI to Calvin and Jean Schaap. A Flying Dutchmen!

Welcome to the wonderful world of medi-scare.

Happy birthday, James!