The Need for Unity

The Signing of Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

When the Founding Fathers first took up the question of independence from England, they appreciated the need for unity among the 13 colonies.  But the outcome of the ensuing debate was by no means assured.  For a time it looked like one or more delegations might oppose the resolution, and the dream of a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that we are all created equal would be dashed.  In the end though, the resolution and accompanying Declaration of Independence were adopted and a new nation was born, stating in its very name that we are the “United States of America.”

If we are to have a free and just civil society, it is an absolute necessity to be united, albeit in a way that respects diversity.  As the Founders recognized, the fact is that we are not wholly autonomous, but are interconnected and need to work together and for one another’s benefit (cf. Laudato Si’, 240).  Everything we do, everything we have, is dependent upon the cooperation or assistance of others.  The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, and the blessings of liberty that we enjoy – none of these would be possible without a whole legion of people working to make it so.

Yet, despite the need, it is not always easy to obtain unity or maintain it.  In fact, on this day 154 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought largely over the question of whether we should remain a Union or not.  While our nation today is not suffering the scourge of civil war, still the degree of polarization and rancor is disturbing.

A lack of the lived reality of unity and solidarity among people leads only to desolation.  In the face of the divisions besetting our country now, I think we could learn a great lesson from President Abraham Lincoln, who urged reconciliation and unity in his Second Inaugural Address near the end of the Civil War.  “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” he said, let us “bind up the nation’s wounds” and “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

As Christians, we have an important role to play in fostering unity:  The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Beatitudes, Ten Commandments and other divine teachings are all expressions of the call for union and solidarity, to overcome divisions and self-interest, to care for the poor and the weak, and to look to the common good.

Jesus challenges us to work out a social order in this world that more closely manifests the justice and peace of his kingdom – a kingdom where the good of all is realized and all are treated as brothers and sisters in one human family.  This Fourth of July, let us once again pledge and work toward being “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”