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But that problem is not a racial one.
Racial problems in America occurred decades ago. Years ago people of color couldn't play sports with whites. Today America's biggest sports icons are people of color - just ask fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Years ago it was illegal for people of different races to marry in America. Today many marriages, not just a few, are mixed-race marriages. It used to be different races in America didn't worship together. Today, our churches are often more integrated than not. Last Wednesday night at Emmanuel we heard a wonderful Bible study, taught by one of our pastors. He's a man of color, but that doesn't even enter our minds. We don't have a racial problem in America. A black man holds the highest office in the land. Decades ago this would have been unthinkable. We are all human beings, created in God's image, and we are all people of color; some of us just have less pigment than our brothers. We don't have a racial problem.
We have a culture problem.
This culture problem transcends race. It affects all Americans, regardless of color, gender or socio-economic status. Culture is defined as "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively." The problem in our country is that most Americans can't even understand the definition of culture, much less contribute to its display.
We have become an ignorant people. We are collectively ignorant of world history. We know our favorite sports teams, but we can't tell you about ancient Athens or Rome. We are collectively ignorant of classical literature. When most Americans hear the word Homer they think Homer Simpson instead of the first published poet of western civilization. We are clueless about world geography. We think the world revolves around America because we haven't seen the world. Most Americans are ignorant of the Bible. We'd rather play video games and watch our favorite game than spend an hour reading the Scriptures.
We have a culture problem.
When Abraham Lincoln miraculously became the President of the United States, there was a real, not imaginary, racial divide in our nation. Ironically, people considered Lincoln, the man who would eventually end American slavery, an ignorant backwoodsman. He was - at least by the standards of his day. Lincoln had no formal education. He lived on the frontier. He spent more time chopping wood than he did in class. Yet, at night, Lincoln read by candlelight. He read Aesop and Shakespeare. He studied geometry by reading Euclid. He memorized poetry. His favorite book to read was the Bible. As a young man, Lincoln taught himself Law by reading Blackstone's Commentaries on the Law, and he eventually become an auto-didactic lawyer in Springfield, Illinois.
Lincoln led our nation through our darkest hour because he was a man of culture.
He believed in honesty which meant his word was his bond. He treated other people with respect because he devoured the teachings of Jesus, and considered every human being a valuable person created in the image of God. He understand world history and therefore never took his place in history too seriously. He was self-deprecating and took very little offense at what others said of him. Yet because knew his own soul was damaged by laughing at others, he avoided scorn. Lincoln would rather be quiet and learn than be asked to speak and teach. He crafted his words succinctly (think Gettysburg) and thus every word bore potency.
Lincoln was a man of culture.
Culture is not obtained through the bestowal of educational degrees. Abraham Lincoln had no formal education. Culture is inner character characterized by personal humility and life-long learning. Culture is collectively displayed in a nation where citizens consider each other more important than themselves and eagerly listen and learn from what others have to teach. During our nation's darkest hour, we overcame because people--regardless of color--had culture.
We've lost culture in America.
When culture is lost in a nation, people become ignorant, self-absorbed, and hostile. The loss of culture is a little like the loss of red-blood cells in the human body. When red blood cells disappear, the body turns on itself and dies from within.
Our nation is dying.
Thank God that He is in the business of raising the dead.