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Faith Politics

Deuteronomy and the kitchen table

I recently finished reading Bret Baier’s book, “Three Days in Moscow.” There’s a section in the book that talks about President Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this past Friday.

I pulled up the transcript of that farewell address, and I am amazed at the way Reagan weaved together poetry, grace, and truth in his speech.

Here is an excerpt:

“We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important: Why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did. Well, let’s help her keep her word.

“If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of that – of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

“Let’s start with some basics – more attention to American history and a greater emphasis of civic ritual. And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America : All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American – let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

You know, I think we’ve failed to do this. We’ve taken the freedom granted to us by others and drank of its pleasures. We’ve consumed it until we became fat. We took it for granted.

This portion of Reagan’s speech reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:6-13: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”

Sometimes I look at state of our country and bemoan the lack of civility, dignity, and love. But I have to wonder — should we blame more the people who are taking these actions? Or should we blame the people who at one point knew better and just didn’t take the time to teach?

Should we look on the mistakes and actions of others with contempt? Or should we have the grace of Christ, when he was being crucified on the cross and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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