Today I saw a possible future by looking to the past.
Today, one hundred and fifty yesterdays ago, Lincoln began the process of freeing enslaved Americans. Jackson wouldn’t. Washington lost nerve and Jefferson couldn’t, but Lincoln finally did it. His courage faltered and braver men such as Frederick Douglass faulted him, but Lincoln did it.
He saved the Union while freeing the slaves.
Today in the chapel of Houston Baptist University, a pastor recalled Moses, Paul, and Lincoln. He said God was in charge of history, even the history of the suffering of the African-American people. Nobody hid from the blood of Antietam or the original American sin of slavery. If America is chosen, then America is a prodigal son.
Hundreds of years of slavery when Christendom knew better and then decades of Jim Crow laws are enough to destroy any sense of superiority we might feel over any other nation. If we are loved, it is in the midst of our vices and not because of our virtues.
And yet America: God shed His grace on thee. Grace is undeserved and America did not deserve it, yet we got it. We got grace in Lincoln: an unexpected hero, better than what we gave him merited. We gave him a brutal frontier life and less than one year of schooling. He gave us his life.
Lincoln began to right a wrong, but he could only free the enslaved. Those made slaves in their minds by coveting the labor of those they would not pay and treated like animals could not be freed. They were slaves in their minds. No man could make a slave of Frederick Douglass, but no man could set Bedford Forrest free.
When we covet our neighbors wealth, we are slaves. When we are libertine, we lose liberty. When we hate, we put on shackles.
What is the purpose of education? What is a Christian education? Isn’t it liberation, at least partially? Reading liberates a slave, shouldn’t a good school stress reading? Slave masters encourage drunken behavior and every vice. Shouldn’t education train in moderation and prudence?
Slavery says consume, Christ says be recreated and then create. Slavery says follow your heart, Christ gives a new heart. Slavery encourages laziness and discourages thrift, Christ gives us treasure in the world to come.
For one moment, in this great and diverse school, I saw the promise of a real education in justice, moderation, and courage.
A college diploma must be an emancipation proclamation. It should free us from every chain, including the chains we forge for ourselves. . . ponderous chains!
It is happening, dare to hope, better come join us.