In June 1858, at the close of the Illinois Republican State Convention, then-Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln quoted the words of Jesus of Nazareth, warning that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” that America could not be made of half free and half slave states.
It was a prophetic statement, as in less than three years Lincoln would become the 16th president of the United States, and the American Civil War began.
The clash nearly tore the Republic apart.
Not since before the Civil War has America been so deeply divided, says author and historian Os Guinness.
“As an admirer of this country,” says Guinness, a British national, “I think there’s no question most Americans would agree [that] what Americans love supremely is freedom. The American way of freedom coming out of the Hebrew routes in Exodus is a distinctive freedom. And yet it’s been deeply challenged today.”
The war in Israel provides clear proof of the divisive nature of the American landscape — which now mirrors the global unrest.
Even before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, a Gallup poll showed that Democrats had increasing sympathies for Palestinians rather than Israelis by a 49 to 38 percent margin — an 11-percentage increase from the year before.
Republicans held a staunch 78% sympathy for the Israelis to 11% for Palestinians, while Independents also sided with Palestinians, 49 to 32 percent.
Now, angry and sometimes violent protests against Israel are happening all across U.S. soil. Tens of thousands of people in various cities are marching to protest the war and blasting vitriol against Israel, against its very existence.
“You’ve got a deep division about what the country stands for and is today. And it must be resolved.”
Guinness warns that we are at a crucial time in this country.
The division, he says, stems from two competing philosophies: one based on the American Revolution of 1776, the other on the French Revolution of 1789. In his book, “The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom,” Guinness lays out the difference and why we should be concerned.
On a recent episode of “Lighthouse Faith” podcast, he said, “Ideas like postmodernism, radical multiculturalism, the sexual revolution, the cancel culture, critical race theory, all that stuff — all of those come down from the French Revolution, not the American Revolution. And so you’ve got a deep division about what the country stands for and is today. And it must be resolved.”
Guinness says just like before the Civil War — we cannot stand as a house divided.
Jesus spoke those words in response to the scribes after they accused him of being in league with Satan after he cast out demons from a possessed man.
Jesus responded, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25).
Historians have debated whether Lincoln’s primary concern was freeing the slaves — or was he more political pragmatist than passionate abolitionist. But Lincoln knew that his monumental task was to keep the Union together, that America in the future would have huge responsibilities on the world stage and had to be foundationally solid in order to have the moral authority to challenge global powers.
Eighty-three years and five months after Lincoln quoted Jesus, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, met with Adolf Hitler at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. It was Nov. 28, 1941, 12 days before the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor, 12 days before America would enter the fray of World War II.
Harassment, vandalism of Jewish businesses and threats against Jews have become the “new normal.”
In Indianapolis, a woman drove her vehicle into a building in a residential neighborhood because she believed it was a Jewish school. It turned out to belong to a sect of Black Hebrew Israelites.
Even the symbol of America’s foundational freedom, the Statue of Liberty, has been the site of an anti-Israel protest.
Guinness says that America’s distinctive freedoms, its 1776 founding, mirrors the quintessential liberties from the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
Says Guinness, “‘Let my people go.’ The ringing declaration of Moses to Pharaoh is the master story of freedom in history. But it’s a freedom that is incredibly complex. It’s a positive, not a negative freedom. The freedom ‘for’ something, not against. It was a freedom born for the purpose of worshiping the Living God, which Guiness says America needs to rediscover.”
The American Republic was, and is still, a grand experiment, and a fragile one at that — birthed in two bloody wars, one that created it and the second to preserve it.
There are few nuanced positions on the issue of whether to support Israel’s right to existence.
The pro-Palestinian protests are not hiding the fact they are calling for the elimination of the Jewish state.
So America must choose.
Guinness says that what America lacks is a Lincoln-like leader.
Says Guinness, “I’m just a pipsqueak, a foreign admirer of this country. But you need American leaders at the highest level, setting out the choice like Lincoln did, like Moses did, so that Americans can choose.”
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