A Time for Repentance

The following quote is taken from a speech given in 1973 by Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) in support of Senate Joint Resolution 183, to proclaim April 30, 1974, as a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer. In reading over it, I am struck by how his words apply to our situation today, just as well as they did over 30 years ago.

“We are all troubled by the continual erosion of the American people’s faith and trust in their leadership in all parts of life. The current fuel shortage has caused us to reevaluate the legitimacy of our excessive use of the world’s natural resources. We witness a country torn apart with division and lacking the spiritual foundation that would restore its vision and purpose. We, as a people, through our own acquiescence to corruption and waste, have helped to create a moral abyss that produces a disdain for honesty and humility in high levels of national leadership…

“There is hope for a land and a people who have the capacity to recognize their sins and their faults, and turn from them. Repentance means precisely this – to turn the other way. In so doing, we recognize that past events and present conditions cannot be rationalized or justified; rather, they must be repented of, so a whole new way can be sought. This is how individuals and how our land as a whole can seek authentic renewal and transformation. So it is with this hope that I commend to the Senate this resolution calling for a Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer in our Land.

“Whereas, we have made such an idol out of our pursuit of ‘national security’ that we have forgotten that only God can be the ultimate guardian of our true livelihood and safety; and

“Whereas, we have failed to respond, personally and collectively, with sacrifice and uncompromised commitment to the unmet needs of our fellow man, both at home and abroad; as a people, we have become so absorbed with the selfish pursuits of pleasure and profit that we have blinded ourselves to God’s standard of justice and righteousness for this society; and

“Whereas, it therefore behooves us to humble ourselves before Almighty God, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

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4 Responses to “A Time for Repentance”

  1. John Lamoreau Says:

    Rachel,

    Thank you for inviting me to join! Mark Hatfield was a great Senator.

    God bless!

    Your ultra conservative, right wing, evangelical, pacifist friend,

    John

  2. Tamara Says:

    Rachel, thanks for sharing this. After reading it, I wondered about two things: (1) What ever became of this proposal? and (2) Would/could a Senator even get away with making such a proposal today (without getting everyone’s hackles up)?

    In my online search, I discovered that President Abraham Lincoln made a similar proclamation in 1863: http://www.appleseeds.org/day_pray.htm.

    To your point, times have changed…but have they?

  3. tom hinkle Says:

    Rachael and all,

    Mark Hatfield’s words are remarkable (for a Senator) and certainly apply to our present situation in the middle east, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and perhaps (God forbid) Iran.

    What I also find remarkable is Martin Luther Kings address to the Riverside Church in N.Y. City in 1967. His words show a remarkable similarity to the war(s) we are presently engaged in.

    “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked and rightly so, ‘what about Vietnam?’ They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve it’s problems, to bring about the change it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I can not be silent.”

    It seems we not only need these prophetic voices today, but we also need to educate our people to the creation, costs and consequences of our military mentality and activity throughout history. Warfare doesn’t happen without preparation and usually accompanying propaganda. In fact our country spends as much as the other 15 biggest military spending nations combined. Furthermore although the income tax charts show only 21% of our budget going to military spending, this amount does not include over 100 billion in supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, the missile defense program, the “black budget” of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the payment for veterans services, or the interest on the debt used to finance our military capacity. Some consider it to actually be 50% of our annual budget.

    Recommended reading if you haven’t already:

    Wendell Berry, “The Failure of War” and “Christianity and the Survival of Creation”
    Chalmers Johnson, His trilogy, “Blowback”, “The Sorrows of Empire”, and “Nemesis – the end of the American Republic”
    James Carroll “House of War” – The disastrous rise of the Pentagon.
    Thomas Merton, “Peace in the Post Christian Era” a book suppressed by the Catholic Church for 4 decades.

    Thanks for this great website!

    Tom Hinkle

  4. Rachel Stanton Says:

    John, I agree that Mark Hatfield was a great Senator. He is one of my heroes! Last summer I wrote him a letter and received a very nice reply.

    Tamara, thanks for the link to Lincoln’s proclamation. Senator Hatfield based his proclamation on the one written by Lincoln. The outcome was that Hatfield’s resolution passed in the Senate but not in the House. However, many people around the country still chose to observe the Day of Repentance. According to Senator Hatfield, “By April 30, 1974, thousands cooperated fully with the spirit of the resolution, abstaining from food, suspending normal activities, and reflecting on our national shortcomings.” On the Senate floor, there was a series of speeches given on the theme of the resolution. And Senator Hatfield participated in a service of repentance at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

    Tom, thanks for the great MLK quote and for the excellent book recommendations.

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