During this last week, we have celebrated the birthdays of two great men – Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
Lincoln was President of the United States during the American Civil War, the war in which Americans killed each other by the thousands. Ostensibly the issue was states rights. But in fact, they were fighting over the issue of slavery, and it was Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Decree freeing all the slaves in America. From then on, the Constitution that declared that “all men are created equal” did not have a hidden parenthesis excluding people with black skin.
150 years ago Charles Darwin published his book about evolution, “The Origin of the Species.” Evolution is a story of amazing beauty and astonishing complexity in which life moves forward in a myriad of glorious manifestations. To those who believe in God, it is a great peon of praise and honour.
Both Lincoln and Darwin in their own ways defended and celebrated the diversity of mankind. What both were saying is that our strength lies not in our uniformity, but in our various talents, our different abilities, our divergent insights.
When the temptation is to retreat into our bunkers and shoot anyone within sight who is slightly different, who speaks a different language, wears different clothes, or worships at a different altar, learning again that our strength and survival lies in embracing our differences might help save us once again.
In today’s fractious and globalized world in which we rub so closely together, perhaps the lessons of these two men are more needed than ever before.