A Patriot’s Dream

 

Katherine Lee Bates penned the song America, the Beautiful in 1913. In the fourth verse, she wrote of the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years.” The patriot dream looked far into the future to an America where “alabaster cities” gleamed bright, “undimmed by human tears.” The prayer of Katherine Lee Bates and all who have proudly sung her song was that God would shed his grace upon America and crown her “good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
 
I suspect that Bates’ optimism about the patriot dream was born out of the relative peace of the previous four decades. However, in 1914 the whole world descended into war. 116,516 American soldiers gave their lives to the cause of the allies. War broke out again less than 30 years later and claimed the lives of nearly half of a million patriots. With the many tears shed by the families of the fallen, it is safe to say that Bates dream of alabaster cities undimmed by human tears went unrealized in the short term.
 
In the year 2017, that patriot dream still lives, but, unfortunately, is still unrealized. The tears that soak the land of our cities today are not only shed over lives lost in military conflicts. Tears also stain the faces of mothers whose children are taken in gang violence. Loved ones weep for their children and siblings who are dying from drug addiction. Hatred that is deeply rooted in race and religious beliefs has led to multiple mass killings across our land in recent years. 
 
There is no way to measure the volume of American tears that have been shed since Bates penned 
America, The Beautiful in 1913. Many of those tears have fallen in our own city of Wiggins. Killings, drug and alcohol related deaths, suicides, and avoidable tragedy are happening right outside the four walls of our Stone county churches. If we extend the boundary out to Hattiesburg, Gulfport, and Biloxi, why, enough tears have been shed in the last year to fill the Mississippi Sound.
 
What may be even more detrimental to the patriot’s dream of alabaster cities undimmed by tears, are all the tears that will not be shed, tears that go unshed because their owners were never allowed life outside the womb. I have said much about the pollution of our cities with human tears, but imagine how much more the land is polluted by the more than fifty million babies that have died in their wombs since Roe v Wade. 
 
I do pray with Katherine Lee Bates, that God would shed his grace upon my country. We as a people desperately need His grace. We have no “good” to crown “with brotherhood.” We, like the rest of our global neighbors, are fallen people. We have polluted the land with blood, and the tears that stain the streets of our cities are the tell-tale symptom of our deepest and most fundamental sickness. We simply do not value life as we should. Our feet as Romans 3:15 says, “are swift to shed blood.” 
 
Understand that we are all complicit. Our collective negligence and complacency have led us to where we are today. We are fast losing sight of the patriot dream in the fog of our busyness. Every year as more tears fall, and more blood stains the ground we slide a little farther away and are a little less likely to ever realize a land where “alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” Our collective repentance is in order. 
 

In the Old Testament, the life of the high priest served as atonement for those who had shed blood by accident or negligence (c.f. Numbers 35). After the death of the high priest, they were allowed to go free from the cities where they had fled for refuge from their avengers. The life of the priest served as an atonement (a payment) for the life that the prisoners were responsible for taking. In the same way, the life of our High Priest, Jesus, was given as atonement for our crimes, but we must flee to Him. I suggest that we flee to Him together as one family, with our patriot dream in hand. May we long together, and realize together, the promised land that is free from tears.