A Prayer For National Healing

By Mark Hagen

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I’ve been thinking of this quote by President Abraham Lincoln often this past year. We are one week removed from one of our nation’s most acrimonious and divisive elections. Pundits and “experts” are taking credit, assigning blame, and assessing what went wrong or what went right – dependent, of course, on one’s political leanings.

I happened to be in Washington, D.C. on Election Day.

It was refreshingly quiet and peaceful as most politicians were in their home state campaigning for those last undecided. Like many, I found myself totally fed-up with the bombastic rants from both sides of the political spectrum and frustrated by the lack of real dialogue on critical issues facing our nation.

My normal stress-reliever is to run. So I took a relaxing evening run along the national mall. I couldn’t help but reflect on the current state of our country as I passed the Washington Monument. I thought of the leadership General Washington exhibited in keeping a not yet formed nation together through a brutal revolution. As I passed the WWII Memorial I thought about the hardship faced by allied soldiers as they fought to rid the world of one of it’s greatest horrors including the “mercy deaths” of more than 275,000 people with disabilities at the hands of the Nazis.

As I passed by the Lincoln Memorial I thought of the ugly divisiveness of current US society that pales in comparison to the divided country Abraham Lincoln lead through our nation’s greatest (and real) crisis.

I was struck but the desperation and hopelessness of the great depression captured through sculptures at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial when no safety net existed for people with disabilities…or anyone else for that matter.

As I often do, I commiserated with Rev. Chuck Werth, a friend and Bethesda’s Vice President of Religious Life and Church Relations, who shared many of my frustrations with the intolerance and vitriol of the just concluded electoral season.

He shared with me the following prayer:

“Rid us, O Lord, of the arrogant delusions, which we hold regarding the times in which we live. We presume that our era is harder to live in and harder to live through than any previous time in our nation’s history. With a certain false pride, we suggest that we are being tried and tested more than any previous generation. Excuses abound for our neurotic screaming, our pitiful muddling, our eroded standards, our sentimental slobbering, and our pinching terror over the future. We confess that these arrogant delusions have caused a terrible division in our nation; two pitched camps each claiming to be protectors of the national heritage, when in fact, both have abandoned the fundamentals of your truth. Teach us, O Lord by your sane and steadying Word that we stand before you as we always have stood, living by your grace, striving to achieve that which is just and righteous in your eyes. Nothing in our present age has altered the great plain, steady fact that you are God and have not forsaken us, nor forgotten us. Confident in that truth, draw us together as a nation to work for the common good, standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Amen”

Now that the election is over, I pray that we can come together as a country and work to restore the greatness of the United States.

We can and must identify goals we can all agree on and compromise to make certain they happen.

We need to work together to create a Medicaid funding system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) that encourages true community integration and reduces waiting lists for people who desperately need support.

We must acknowledge and embrace the dignity of work for all people, including those with ID/DD, and work for increased employment opportunities in the community.

We must destroy barriers to employment by people with disabilities and pass legislation such as the Achieving Better Life Experiences Act, that encourages savings to be used for disability-related supports resulting in real consumer-directed services.

We should insist that all countries of the world embrace the inherent rights of people with disabilities through ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We will never all agree on every issue facing the United States.

However, we need to engage in real and respectful dialogue to begin to address issues that can no longer be ignored like the federal budget deficit, unsustainable spending on entitlement programs, and high unemployment rates.  It’s time to act together to restore our nation’s greatness.  I pray that happens now.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful and timely post. In addition to the disharmony in our broader society, I feel that we have overtly carried our political divisiveness into the workplace. Excessive political commentary in the workplace leads to suppresion of open, honest, and respectful discourse around issues that ultimately impact those we serve.

  2. Beautifully written. I would take issue only with the penultimate line, “restore our nation’s greatness”, and suggest that our nation has been great all along. Perhaps that which is in need of restoring is the bright reflection of that greatness in the hearts, minds and respectful behavior of its citizens.

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