“A house divided cannot stand.” Jesus first spoke these words as he addressed a crowd of followers and critics — many of whom disagreed with each other about the ways to embody both their religious and political identities.
We have also come to know these words because Abraham Lincoln uttered them in a speech he gave in 1858, before he was even elected president. At that time, the issue of slavery was highly contentious, and many believed it was up to each individual state to decide whether it would endorse slavery or condemn it. Vehemently against this approach, Lincoln continued:
“I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
Lincoln’s words resonate deeply with us this morning as our country searches for ways to heal — ways to reconcile with one another, forgive one another, and begin to put the pieces back together — in the aftermath of what has been possibly the most dividing and morally problematic elections in our nation’s history. And now, one question remains: “where do we go from here?”
At Valparaiso University, we have an extraordinary opportunity to help answer this question as we continue to model for the world the important work we do each and every day as a University that lives within and between the divides — and believes we are more enriched when we do.
Faith and reason. Conservative and liberal. Religious and non-religious. Female and male. Queer and straight. Black and white.
At Valpo, we don’t abide by these polarizing binaries. And we emphatically reject messages rooted in racism, sexism, discrimination — those comments that stem from hate and draw out the worst in humanity. Instead, we live at the intersection, learn from one another, listen to each other, and work alongside one another to discover how our various identities help us deepen our individual and collective understandings of Truth.
During this political season, it became profoundly clear that the world needs more leaders like those we cultivate at Valpo — leaders who will work tirelessly to extend their arms across the aisle and show compassion, respect, and dignity for those who are different from them.
If I learned anything from this election it’s that now is the time for us — as an entire nation — to place greater emphasis on the values we hold dearly at Valpo — on virtue, character, integrity, wisdom, leadership, and service. By doing so, we can begin to change the way we think together, work together, pray together, and live together as we do critically important work — not just for the sake of our country, but for the sake of the world.
I am both proud and humbled that, as a campus, we have worked so diligently to nurture dialogue across our differences and begin to overcome our political, religious, and cultural divisions. To foster an environment in which each member is accepted, safe, and valued. We still have much to do, but I am confident we will continue to carry this important part of our Valpo ethos forward on journeys yet unknown.
Today can be a day on that journey toward healing, peace, and unity across our differences. As we continue on our various vocational paths, and as we live out God’s calling to be faithful leaders and humble servants, may we remember those famous words, spoken by Jesus and Lincoln, that challenge us to come together to make this nation and our world a better place.
Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.