Of Patriotism, Privilege, Idolatry, and Ingratitude

I am not a particularly patriotic man. To say so is neither a point of pride or shame for me. It is a point of honest self-reflection and humble admission.

Four of my heroes were great patriots…men who really and rightly loved their homeland and people.

Socrates, on his mission from the God, like a proto-martyr committed to truth, would not flee death at the hands of his countrymen. If you have never read The Crito, you really should. In it we hear a man whose entire life has been lived to better his people by guiding them to humble truth and a self-reflective commitment to justice. By it I am often convicted for my less-than-constant love for my countrymen…particularly as “the laws” ask whether or not they have not established an order that provided a good life for him, to which he must confess that they have. And have I not been blessed by much more than an Athenian of 24 centuries ago by the bounty of our own homeland?

The Apostle Paul was another. Did his heart not beat like David’s with a deep love for Jerusalem and his people. His life, like all early Jewish Christians, would have been soaked in the Psalms, including 122, which states:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”

Or Psalm 137:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!

Such sentiments surely informed his impassioned cry in Romans 9 that if it were possible he could wish himself accursed for the sake of his brethren according to the flesh. The desire to make his fellow Jews jealous and draw them to their Messiah was part and parcel of his missional drive. It lead him to return to Jerusalem in spite of prophetic warnings that that return would lead to his arrest. Any gentile who assumes that the trip to Jerusalem was in Paul’s imaginings the stepping stone to Rome is deluded by his own bias of time and place. Paul did not receive clear word that he would speak to Caesar until he was caught in the storm as a prisoner after and because of his return to Jerusalem (recorded in Acts 23). Paul was intent on reaching Jerusalem by Pentecost and said he was “even ready to die in Jerusalem” (recorded in Acts 21).

Still another patriotic hero is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He died for speaking and acting boldly against the Nazis who had taken control of his beloved home. In fact, something not everyone realizes is that Bonhoeffer had every opportunity to save himself and his conscience. He had spoken against Nazi policies towards the Jews from various other countries. He could have remained as pastor of a German congregation in London in 1935 as laws against the Jews became more harsh; instead he returned to his beloved home because he was convinced that if he did not return home in the midst of troubled times, he would have no right to speak to his people once the trouble had passed.

And that is why I confess to a certain lack of patriotism. I am thankful for my homeland and would never actively betray it. I am thankful for the benefits and blessings afforded me by virtue of my birth. There are beautiful and amazing things about this country that I love…things past and present. Those who refuse to see that reality are deluded. But for all that, if America were to turn Nazi or Marxist and threaten my ability to speak and live and raise my kids according to truth, and God gave me an open door to escape and a direct word of warning of imprisonment to come, I would take the opportunity to move my family somewhere, anywhere, that our faith and lives were not so threatened…barring a direct word from Jesus Christ my Lord to the contrary. (I comfort myself in thinking/hoping I would do otherwise if I had no children…but I am no Socrates, for he had children and accepted death anyway.)

Still, that said, even those of us who are not true patriots should recognize that we are a privileged people.

Privilege…that is a loaded word for blessing.

I realize that some of our privilege has come to us through the oppression of others. The modest home that we have bought on our one acre…a run down old building on marshy land that we are working hard to reclaim…is as likely as not on land once belonging to a native tribe driven off by European settlers. And who knows what tribe they slaughtered or drove off prior to that. That is honestly part of the human condition for most people for most of history: conquest and reconquest; displacement and assimilation. It is popular among certain circles to decry the West in general and America in particular as especially evil in ways that ignore the facts of many good things in our ideals and history (especially many good things founded in truths preserved by the church or found in the scriptures) while at the same time in some act of poorly veiled sense of racial and cultural superiority, pretending as if no one can be as perverse as us because they are obviously not as enlightened as we are. As Leslie Newbigin has stated:

We are heirs of a culture of extraordinary brilliance. It would be utter folly to try to play down the immense achievements of the past 300 years of western culture. And yet there are many who now try to do this, who are apologetic or even neurotic about its achievements, who engage in masochistic denunciations of western guilt as though the rest of the human race were children who could not be held responsible for their own sins (Truth to Tell, 18-19).

Still, we must be honest about our failures especially when the church is involved in the matter of conflict between peoples. Furthermore, we should actively seek to understand the ways in which some have suffered where we have not…or perhaps still suffer because of our failures as a people.

The idea that so many fellow conservatives get angry about the idea of privilege, especially white privilege, seems silly to me. How many among conservative circles answer the question, “How are you doing?” the way we have been trained by Dave Ramsey: “Better than I deserve.” Does it not follow that perhaps there are people doing worse than they deserve or even simply getting their just deserts while we are not? Should not such sufferings inspire in us repentance rather than judgment or self-praise?

When Jesus is asked about the blood of worshipers in the temple shed by Pilate, he brings up people who died in a tragic accident of a collapsing towers in response and says that in light of such tragedy we should practice penitential lives (Luke 13). It seems that those moments in which we would look around at the suffering of others and assume that it comes of their own evil deeds or someone else’s, Jesus would focus us instead on our own evil and call us to use it as a warning to repent.

Amazingly, though, it seems that in the current political climate we are divided into two parties which Jesus in Luke 13 would confront and challenge. On the one hand there is the crowd who would blame all the evil on the oppressor…”didn’t you hear what Pilate did.”  On the other there is the crowd who would blame the injured, “that is horrible, but they probably deserved it.” Jesus gives no quarter to either musing, but rather calls us to look to our own sins and repent. Then, he calls us to a subversive faith…the life of the Kingdom that grows like a seed or spreads like leaven in dough (vs. 18-21).

Such is our calling now in this time of crisis. Anyone who would be a true Christian is not called to anarchy and the destruction of powers, but their subversion. Any who would be true patriots have a duty to be like my heroes above when confronted with the wrong of our own nation. To cover our own national sins is not patriotic. As Chesterton once said so pointedly, “’My country, right or wrong,’” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’” We can, believe it or not, honestly love and value that which is good in our homeland while taking responsibility for our sins. Yet it seems that now in America there are two parties, those who want to pretend as though we have fully dealt with all of our past sins and those who want to act as if everyone in our past were perverse and wicked beyond redemption while we woke “prophets” of the modern world are walking the true path of righteousness and perfection.

There is another option, like Newbigin argues:

If I understand the teaching of the New Testament on this matter, I understand the role of the Christian as being neither a conservative nor an anarchist, but a subversive agent. When Paul says that Christ has disarmed the powers (not destroyed them), and when he speaks of the powers being created in Christ and for Christ, and when he says that the Church is to make known the wisdom of God to the powers, I take this means that a Christian neither accepts them as some sort of eternal order which cannot be changed, nor seeks to destroy them because of the evil they do, but seeks to subvert them from within and thereby to bring them back under the allegiance of their true Lord (Truth, 82).

So, we can recognize the real beauty and greatness of the ideals and even amid the incomplete enacting and institution of those ideals from our founding while facing honestly our hypocrisy and sin. In fact, my fourth patriotic hero did just that in his Fourth of July speech given on July 5, 1852.

Frederick Douglass,  probably one of the best American writers ever published, understood the beauty of the ideals of liberty and equality. He knew the value of the Declaration of Independence as well as the core principles enacted in the Constitution. He recognized that slavery, which he had experienced first-hand, was a hypocritical institution completely foreign to the designs of our founding documents.

Consider the following from that speech:

I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

Or consider:

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise.

Furthermore he understood that the constitution was not the source of the evil…that the ideals found therein of limiting government engender freedom. In fact, the revolutionaries of today would do well to hear him on this point:

There is no matter in respect to which the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gate way? or is it in the temple? it is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slaveholding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can any where be found in it.

Still, Douglass did not withhold prophetic censure from the sinners of his day (often even boldly naming names):

Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

When contemplating the slave trade specifically and the fugitive slave law he said:

That (foreign slave) trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women and children, as slaves, remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the starspangled banner, and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime.

The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them.

Such was the crime of the times in which Douglass lived. His was the courageous voice of a prophet.  Thankfully, the horrible evil of legal slavery was ended in our country…though not as quickly as ought to have been and sadly it still persists in various forms and places around the world, even plaguing the dark parts of American cities and towns. Still it is not now a nationally endorsed and racially based trade, a fact for which we can give thanks to God and the men and women who heroically fought to end it.

Yet we all need to remain keenly aware that abolition did not bring an end to our sin of racial oppression. The weeds of racial tension and division we face now have more recent food upon which to feed. My fellow conservatives who say things about slavery ending over a 100 years ago as if that alleviates us of all responsibility for racial inequalities now are simply wrong. We need to keep in focus the reality that events like the death of George Floyd, aside from being horribly and tragically wrong, open wounds of much more prevalent abuse that happened to the whole populace of black men and women with government endorsement as recently as my parents’ generation. In many states black Americans could be legally discriminated against as recently as 56 years ago…and practically even more recently on a large scale.

Thankfully, still more prophetic voices arose against institutionalized racial inequalities, and, usually with encouragement and help from those true Christians (though sadly often all too few) who took up the cause of the oppressed black persons of America, things have improved. Interestingly enough, God used even a racist President LBJ to help push through the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which should caution us against assuming what God can do through leaders we don’t like or trust). That fact, too, like an understanding of the value of our founding documents is something our young activist should understand. The current rabble who indiscriminately and ignorantly destroy everything past and rage against anything old as if nothing has changed since the time that Douglass spoke in 1852, do a disservice to heroes of past generations (black and white) and in the process commit the sin of dishonoring their parents along with slander and perversions of all sorts.

I suppose we should expect as much from those who hate the Lord and reject the Gospel of his rule. God is the source of love, and those who will not love him cannot properly love their country of their people. One need only watch a few minutes of our news media to see exhibited what Paul predicted in 2 Timothy 3:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

However, such attitudes of hatred, dishonor, and judgment for our ancestors and parents without any grace or consideration for the times or the changes that were made seems to have crept in among our younger Christians. We are a people and a nation like all peoples and nations in our need for repentance. But the current sense in which we ignore the improvements, albeit imperfect ones, brought about over the last 200 years gives way to lies and self deception. This is tragic because we cannot effectively repent of our current sins as long as we are wallowing in the ecstasy of denouncing the sins of our elders and enemies and congratulating ourselves for our “wokeness.”

No doubt, there is a narrative, a dangerously idolatrous narrative, that somehow equates America with the Promised Land or the Chosen Nation. Clearly from scripture no nation is the fulfillment of Israel…it is the church in Christ which is grafted into Israel. Yet the idea of America as the New Israel has infected the American church from some of our earliest national religious writings and informed the speeches of some of our greatest American orators. In this matter of equating America with Israel, much of American protestant Christianity has a great deal in common with Mormonism, and is often therefore only slightly less heretical.

Yet I am writing for my peers and the college students with whom I work and my children. They do not, to me, seem in great danger of this American idolatry. Many of them recognize it for what it is. There is for us a different threat to faith. They (or we) have bought a different American lie, the centrality of self–a general narcissism that is destroying us from within…a self-congratulatory pride that grows as an effect of seeing that one idol of a disordered love for country.

Many of us have come to understand the truth of what Newbigin said in Truth to Tell, that “to give absolute commitment to the nation is to go into bondage” (80).   Yet in recognizing part of this truth, they judge their ancestors for fools and become something worse…those who are wise in their own eyes (Proverbs 26:12). The fuller truth as grasped by Newbigin is this:

It is good to love and serve the nation in which God has set us; we need more, not less true patriotism. But to give absolute commitment to the nation is to go into bondage. Family and kinship are precious gifts to be loved and cherished, but racism is a corruption of what is good. The mutuality of man and woman in God’s image is one of the most precious of God’s gifts, and feminism may be a legitimate protest against the evils of male dominance, but if it becomes the focus of ultimate commitment it becomes idolatrous. The free market is a good way of balancing supply and demand. If it is absolutized and allowed to rule economic life, it becomes an evil power (80-81).

Some…maybe many…of our parents have on some of these points committed the sin of idolatry, and idols always produce demonic fruit. But our self-righteous rejection not only of our parents idols but of our parents as well as the very good gifts of God on which those idols are built has led to a destructive and wicked ingratitude. Of this we should take serious warning…while the children of Israel (of whom the church is the inheritor and from whom we learn) were often severely punished for idolatry, but it was ingratitude and unbelief that often led to the most severe discipline from God. God will crush idols…but the crushing hurts much worse when our idol is ourselves.

As such, I think we would do well to take seriously the warning of C S Lewis to the young intellectuals who came of age in Britain after WWII. In his essay of the “Dangers of National Repentance” he writes:

The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.

When a man over forty tries to repent the sins of England and to love her enemies, he is attempting something costly; for he was brought up to certain patriotic sentiments which cannot be mortified without a struggle. But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry and restless minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen. All Christians know that they must forgive their enemies. But ‘my enemy’ primarily means the man whom I am really tempted to hate and traduce. If you listen to young Christian intellectuals talking, you will soon find out who their real enemy is. He seems to have two names—Colonel Blimp* and the business-man’ [could we not say President Trump and the Republican or the fundamentalist]. I suspect that the latter usually means the speaker’s father, but that is speculation. What is certain is that in asking such people to forgive the Germans and Russians and to open their eyes to the sins of England, you are asking them, not to mortify, but to indulge, their ruling passion.

Lewis does not mean there is no place for national repentance. Rather, his is a cautionary tale. If we find ourselves gleeful in a repudiation and renunciation of our elders, it may be that we are in as much or more need of repentance as they are.

No doubt, every people and every generation has its blind spots, and by listening to others we can come to see and repent. Indeed, I again point to Newbigin when he says:

It is not the business of the church to make an alliance with either the right or the left in the present political sense. It has to unmask the ideologies that permeate them and offer a more rational model for the understanding of the human situation (emphasis mine, 77).

But in our current cancel culture politics of the woke vs. the deplorable there is little of loving call to repentance and no offer of “a more rational model,” but much of hatred and disdain for our enemies and our elders.

National repentance takes more knowledge and perhaps less of zeal when addressing the sins of our elders and ancestors. The zeal of repentance should come with the attack upon our own sins. Merciful and respectful admonition more appropriate when confronting our elders, as Lewis says further on in his essay:

Is it not, then, the duty of the Church to preach national repentance?  I think it is.  But the office–like many others–can be profitably discharged only by those who discharge it with reluctance.  We know that a man may have to ‘hate’ his mother for the Lord’s sake.  The sight of a Christian rebuking his mother, though tragic, may be edifying; but only if we are quite sure that he has been a good son and that, in his rebuke, spiritual zeal is triumphing, not without agony, over strong natural affection.  The moment there is reason to suspect that he enjoys rebuking her–that he believes himself to be rising above the natural level while he is still, in reality, grovelling below it in the unnatural–the spectacle becomes merely disgusting.  The hard sayings of our Lord are wholesome to those only who find them hard.

Certainly, we can and should seek to finish the unfinished work of racial repentance and healing and reconciliation. That all requires honesty about our past failures. But it also requires a greater attention to our present failures and sins.

We can recognize the reality of white privilege and even the injustices that have created it. However, when we find ourselves in a privileged situation not of our own making (for in some sense the very meaning of privilege is a benefit or blessing that we have not made for ourselves) the proper Christian response is not some self-absorbed reflexive shame. Rather, unless we are aware of some wrongdoing that can be corrected, we should simply receive with thanksgiving and share in generosity. It is a privilege to have never been pulled over without proper cause while driving. I recognize it as a privilege of well made laws and a well structured system. I have countless friends who have lived and worked in other countries where they were regularly pulled over for driving while foreign…in hopes that they would pay a bribe. I should insist that my black brothers be free to share in that American privilege. I have been privileged to have a father present who has supported me and granted me a covering that is invaluable. If there is any way I can help provide that for black young men, through volunteering if I am able or through voting for crime and prison reform in the ballot box…for the presence or absence of a father is a privilege that has no bearing on the actions of the child but is totally beyond his or her control. We could speak of opportunity and education and so many other privileges that I have been given. It is to no one’s advantage that I or my children lose them, but to everyone’s advantage that my black countrymen share in them.

Still, we will never know every injustice or justice or “chance” event or stroke of bad luck or instance of good luck or hard sacrifice of others that has brought each of us to where we are in life. Nor can we always see at the outset what great things God can do with all those uncertainties in his providence. Therefore, when we see that someone has willingly sacrificed for our benefit, our response should be gratitude and generosity. If we learn that we have benefited from specific injustices which we can mend, our response should be restitution (and repentance for any part we have personally taken in the injustice). All other privileges we should take with gratitude and share in humility…for ingratitude and a vague sense of shame over blessings is as idolatrous in its own way as the assumption that America is God’s special nation. It is the assumption that by virtue of our special birth we are God’s special enemies.

We simply aren’t that important.

If we walk in humility in relation to all blessings and privileges which we receive, we will be better positioned to turn more effectively to repentance for our own sin. For if we wish to remove the speck from our elders, we had better first deal with our own log first.

And what is that log in our eyes?

It is a sin much like Douglass witnessed and experienced in his days. Our greatest and most wicked national sin now is still rooted in our rejection of a class of persons as persons for the sake of our own greed and comfort and desire for a false unity. That is one reason we must seek to understand our past blindness to racism…because our sin, abortion, is essentially the same root sin. It is the rejection of the image of God in another. Yet, it has been excused or allowed by church leaders like Jim Wallace of SoJo (see his ridiculous interview a while back with Mayor Pete or his party-line critique of Alabama’s abortion law and failure to say anything about the recent New York law). Many of my generation and younger Christians grow weary of the issue and lay it aside. It is uncool or unsophisticated or unfixable. And so, hypocritically, we treat our Christian elder who voted for Trump as the worst of evil hypocrites worthy of our disdain while acting as if our compatriot who bites the bullet to vote for any of the current field of radically pro-abortion Democrats is somehow enlightened and wise and thoughtful.

We have forgotten how heinous abortion is.

Hence, in the face of our current political mood, I am reminded of Newbigin’s statement in the 1990’s at a commemoration of and repentance over the slave trade:

When we stood in the old slave market, on Saturday morning, on those stones which had felt the weight of the bare and bruised and shackled fee of countless of our fellow human beings, when we stood in that place so heavy with human sin and suffering and were told to spend two minutes in silence waiting for what the Spirit might say to us, I thought first how unbelievable that Christians could have connived in that inhuman trade. And then there came to my mind the question: Will it not be the case that our great-grandchildren will be equally astonished at the way in which we in our generation, in our so-called modern, Western, rich, developed culture connive at the wholesale slaughter of unborn children, in the name of the central idol of our culture: freedom of choice?

Would that the understandable anger over the death of black persons at the hands of police could also be felt for the more than a hundred thousand unborn killed daily. But it isn’t. Somehow we believe we can legislate morality pertaining to racial justice and equality, but we cannot legislate morality in relation to abortion.

So, in the months ahead, before you judge too harshly the votes of others, before you assume your own greater wisdom rooted in your woke attitudes. I would call you to think of abortion in relation to slavery. Then I would call you take a look at these numbers. Watch them for five minutes and weep and be moved to the zeal in relation to your own coldness towards the aborted by the words of Douglass, for what he says about slavery then is true of abortion now.

Our intellectual moderation and sophistication in relation to abortion is a, “veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour…for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

If we allow our concern for the unborn to grow cold at this time we will find ourselves worthy of the invective Douglass released against the church of his day over slavery:

In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea’ when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”


You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave [unborn], you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse!

Cannot the same be said of us in relation to abortion as he concluded in the matter of slavery:

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery [abortion] in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

[The full text of Douglass’s speech is available below.]


Click to access speech_complete.pdf


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