During a moment bordering on lunacy, the group of narcissistic McCormick Theological Seminary friends who call ourselves “The Old Dogs” considered a letter to President Obama suggesting he consider whether he might be called to the pulpit at the end of his second term as President.
Barack Obama shares our theological-ethical tradition which understands Christian faith and practice as intrinsically related to the health of public life. Faith is not a private thing. It’s individual but never private. Every form of faith and practice has implications for the neighbor(s) — the wellbeing of the general public.
“Once to Every Man and Nation” is a hymn on which my seminary friends and I grew up. President Obama learned of it after Rev. Jeremiah Wright took him under his wing at Trinity United Church of Christ while the young Barack was working as a community organizer in Chicago’s impoverished south side.
On this New Year’s Eve, James Russell Lowell‘s hymn strikes me as the hymn of choice for facing 2017 and the post-Obama era in Washington, D.C. Lowell published this poem — originally 90 line long — under the title “The Present Crisis” in the December 11, 1845 issue of The Boston Courier in protest of America’s War with Mexico. We share here one stanza of Lowell’s poem, adapted for the hymnal, in hopes it might bring some small measure of good cheer for folks who, like us Old Dogs, are concerned about public life and the world itself of the Eve of 2017:
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.
Faith does not promise a rose garden. It calls us to behold the thrones of wrong and honor truth at all costs.
Grace and Peace to you this New Year’s Eve,