America’s Most Revered Good Friday

America’s Most Revered Good Friday: April 14, 1865

During the Civil War, Americans in both the North and South were regularly asked to perform penance to support the soldiers in combat.

Throughout the war, President Davis regularly asked the people of the Confederate States of America to pray for their soldiers. As revealed in the thought-provoking Civil War history book “Upon the Altar of the Nation”, in three-day or week-long prayer events throughout the war, the people of the southern states complied: fasting, saying extra prayers, and attending church services in cities, towns and villages all over The South.

In the North, President Lincoln often did the same thing, asking Americans to call on God to protect Union forces engaged in combat.

Largely ignored in history books about the Civil War, this national spiritual movement is a special insight into the mindset of Americans of that era. They were God-fearing and humble. And just as impressively, they believed in the power of communal prayer.

Belief in the God of the Bible was an unspoken given among Americans of that era. This is why President Lincoln’s religious tone in his Second Inaugural Address resonated across the nation: everybody understood his concise, humble and reverent message about the importance of God in America.

One of the fascinating twists at the end of the Civil War was Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Just like this year, Good Friday in 1865 fell on Friday, April 14th. Two days later, April 16th was Easter Sunday. General Lee had surrendered his army a week earlier, and the nation was experiencing a week-long exhale as the Civil War ended.

But on that Good Friday evening, the bitter John Wilkes Booth shot the president in the back of the head less than a half mile from the White House during a play performance at Ford’s Theater. Booth leapt from the president’s box to the stage, shouting at the audience as he limped across the stage to escape. Mrs. Lincoln screamed as she and the other guests in the president’s box realized what had just happened. Bleeding profusely, President Lincoln could not be moved very far. A group from the audience carried the president across the street to a boarding house and crammed his unconscious 6’4” frame into a small bed in hopes of saving his life.

Members of his cabinet waited at his bedside through the night, desperately listening for his faint heaving breaths between the wails of his distraught wife whom they kept in a different room across the hall.

At dawn on the morning of April 15th, Holy Saturday morning, Lincoln exhaled for the last time. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton whispered to the men packed in the room, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Thanks to the technological miracle of that age called the telegraph, people across the continent learned of Lincoln’s murder by Easter Sunday. In retrospect, General Grant declared, “In his death the nation lost its greatest hero; in his death the South lost its most just friend.”

The president’s death was a jolting closure to one of the world’s most brutal wars.  Americans instantly made the religious connection of Lincoln sacrificing his life for America at the instant when victory was secure. Contemporary scholars noted that like Moses, Old Abe was able to see the Promised Land but not allowed to enter it.

Americans intuitively understood that Lincoln was the redeemer of America’s founding principles celebrated in the Declaration of Independence which were branded on the souls of every American child from that day forward.

Because Christianity was so ingrained in American society, in a powerful and another unspoken way across American culture, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on Good Friday and death during the Pascal Triduum fused him in the hearts of Americans as the Civil War’s sacrificial lamb, and turned him into an American Martyr.

–The Beltway Bandit

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Let’s Try Something New

Washington-Portrait-021516

Let’s celebrate Washington’s birthday on his own birthday

Long ago, our Nation celebrated one of the great men of Western Civilization, George Washington. The United States honored him with an official holiday each year on his birthday, February  22nd.

But thanks to a fine example of the dwindling logic in Washington, DC, Congress changed his birthday to any Monday close enough to his birthday. In the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, they did this to provide federal employees a three-day-weekend.

But even though it is known all over the country as “President’s Day”, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM)  https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/#url=2016   it is officially listed as “Washington’s Birthday”.

So how did everyone start calling it Presidents Day?

When in college, I was pummeled by several history and political science teachers who relentlessly trashed George Washington. Was it a conspiracy of history teachers who thought too much emphasis was placed on the man who created every precedent for political humility?

You see, some states honored President Abraham Lincoln, while other states honored President Thomas Jefferson on his birthday.  As you can probably figure out, Northern states celebrated Honest Abe, and Southern states did not.

Lincoln’s birthday falls on February 12th. Congress thought that plopping a holiday between the his and Washington’s would pretty much split the difference.

So in its perpetual efforts to solve problems which do not exist, did Congress change Washington’s Birthday to “Presidents Day”…?  The common explanation was that the newly-named-holiday would offer Americans a day to ponder the many presidents and their grand contributions to our heritage.

The problem is, nobody has ever heard of Rutherford Hayes, Martin Van Buren, or Franklin Pierce. This effort to make Washington just another one of 44 men simply corroded the national reverence for Washington, and eliminated the celebration of Lincoln and Jefferson in those many states that had up until then done so. Pretty soon schoolchildren may not know Washington’s name either.

Every year during the week after Valentine’s Day you can flip through the local newspaper and see advertisements for “Presidents Day Weekend”.  There is always a cartoon-sketch of Washington with a speech balloon telling his Heirs of Liberty to buy cars, refrigerators or carpet. The worst are TV commercials with an actor dressed in a colonial uniform sprawled on a bed calling Americans to join him at the mattress store.

Meanwhile, no American  high school graduate has ever learned why Jefferson invaded Morocco, why Wilson belittled the Constitution, why Ford vetoed more bills in record time than any other president, or how Coolidge balanced the budget during a recession.

In fact, despite the effort to make Presidents Day a teachable moment, Americans don’t know anything about any president, except that some owned slaves, a few were assassinated for some obscure reason, and that all Republican presidents were stupid.

The funniest thing about assigning Washington’s Birthday to the 3rd Monday in February is that this year, Washington’s birthday is actually on a Monday, but the Federal government celebrates it on Monday February 15th—a week early.

Ahhh, the irony which once again reflects the nimble OPM and the federal bureaucracy. They can’t even change their own rules just a tiny bit to celebrate Washington’s birthday on his own birthday.

It is an amusing example of how inflexible the federal government is in almost all its endeavors. You can find dozens of such examples in the soon to be published book, Bureaucratic Bombs.

For almost a half century, our culture has belittled George Washington. Despite the  Federal Government’s growing habit of ignoring precedents and laws, he continues to stand out as a grand example of leadership and manhood.

As David Boaz of the Cato Institute explains, King George III, the man who wanted Washington hanged as a traitor during the American Revolution, summed up Washington’s stature best:

The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/man-who-would-not-be-king

 

Too bad Americans don’t know how great George Washington truly was, and why he was so loved by his countrymen. And thanks to the insistence upon making him as bland as 40 of our 44 presidents, they never will.