In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden spoke of national unity and used words from St. Augustine. Augustine wrote that we can discern the character of a nation’s people by their shared loves, Biden spoke of rallying around those loves.
St. Augustine: “it will be a superior people in proportion as it is bound together by higher interests, inferior in proportion as it is bound together by lower.”
Augustine describes the consequences of a people who are unified by their love for the wrong things and their failure to direct their love toward God. He tells of Romans, Athenians, Egyptians and Assyrians—all once great nations that fell because of common loves of vice, selfishness, strife and disunity.
Augustine encourages us to be a people of shared higher loves, the highest being our love for God. He warns us of the fates of republics whose people loved poorly—and beneath themselves—as bearers of their Creator’s image.
By using St. Augustine’s words, but missing their meaning, the president lost an opportunity to encourage us to be a better people. When read and applied contextually, the passage challenges us to soften our bitter hearts toward each other by loving the lover of our souls.
Unity means nothing when we unite behind just anything. It means everything when we come together powered by the greatest loves—our love for God and for one another.
4 Replies to “Our national unity is only possible by loving God, so we can love one another”
I am not sure that we can say for a fact that President Biden misconstrued St. Augustine’s words. Mr. Biden is a practicing Catholic. He understands his faith and how that informs who he is and how he projects himself. He also understands how that affects his leadership.
Unity is vital. It is a need for us as a country to do great things. We are a nation full of diversity. We have lots of “isms” and beliefs, including concepts of faith and who God is. You and I share a similar picture. The God you and I hold to has revealed Himself in His son Jesus Christ. That informs who we are and how we live. My hope is that we can disagree about policy, but find unity in Him and in our desire to love and care for others. Mr. Biden, through his relationship with God in the church would seem to share our view of Christ.
I hope as we walk through the next 4 years, we will see division lessened. We will see actions taken that restore unity. We will hear those who may not have voted for Mr. Biden that he is a good man and his vision is rooted in his strongly held belief of a Creator and personal relationship with His Son.
I don’t think he misconstrued Augustine’s words; I think he misapplied them. He used them in a way that leaves out their true meaning. It’s good to call for unity, not good to use someone else’s words without proper context and completion.
I grew up Catholic in an Irish/Italian family. I was an altar boy. I can’t read Biden’s mind, but I think I can offer an accurate take on his Catholic mindset. Care to read it?
I am open to anything you offer me.
Most Catholics follow church teaching regarding moral issues like abortion. Most believe their salvation hinges on whether their good works outweigh their sins. Many place a lot of weight on obedience to the church and believe they could get a second shot at forgiveness through temporary punishment and purification in purgatory.
You may know all this, but my point is that virtually all Catholics believe they should live rightly, yet many think they can behave outside moral lines as long as they go to confession, attend mass on Sunday, and live “decent” lives.
I don’t know Biden’s heart, but his words and actions make me wonder if he places a lot of moral weight on his personal decency—he’s a “good guy” because he tries to be a good guy. The potential problem with this is that he may not realize or accept that no one can be good enough to achieve an acceptable moral level for a perfectly moral God.
In my view, Joe Biden confuses decency with a willingness to have a beer with people he likes or getting along all those years with others across the aisle. I was hoping we’d see the old Joe in the Oval Office—the Joe who showed moral courage by standing against bad policy and for average Americans. His moral courage seems to have been replaced with a new-found progressive moralizing of immoral positions like abortion, and worse, abortion through all nine months of pregnancy and beyond.