Faith in Gettysburg
From the Diaries by Leon.
This past October on Lincoln Square in Gettysburg, my family participated in the annual “Life Chain,” a prayerful hour of silent witness against abortion. The prayer on Lincoln Square was part of the larger national Life Chain effort on the same day, with participants in over 1500 cities (1). The reaction we received was largely positive, as passing motorists smiled, waved, or gave us the thumbs up. Only one detractor yelled out his car window, “I can’t believe you brought children to this!” Because he seemed to be pro-abortion, I’m not sure if he opposed the presence of children at the Life Chain specifically, or the world outside the womb in general.
When I reviewed local coverage of the event the next day, I was delighted to read a story sympathetic to the pro-life movement (2). The reporter wrote from the perspective of two demonstrators who regretted having abortions. The article even provided information on Silent No More Awareness, an organization that helps post-abortive men and women cope with the loss of their child(ren) (3).
What is interesting is that this demonstration could have been stopped if Gettysburg had wanted to suppress it. The day of the Life Chain coincided with Gettysburg College’s alumni homecoming weekend, a (hopefully) busy time for downtown businesses, and a passable excuse for Gettysburg borough council to reject the Life Chain’s permit application. But the permit was granted, the businesses on the square were gracious, and about 100 of us, holding signs and praying quietly, lined the sidewalks in the heart of Gettysburg.
Having exercised my First Amendment rights in Gettysburg recently, I was bewildered by allegations on both Fox Nation and RedState that Gettysburg was trying to “kick God out of town” through code enforcement action against the Civil War Chapel, a bivouac-type gathering place built by the US Christian Commission (4), (5). The subsequent destruction of the chapel by arsonists amplified the claims and triggered an accusation that the town leadership had desecrated Gettysburg’s hallowed ground (6).
If you are reading this, you are probably among the Americans who, heeding President Lincoln’s words, have dedicated yourself to the unfinished task of giving “this nation under God…a new birth of freedom.” For you, any intimation that Gettysburg has forsaken God would be most distressing. Rest assured, the reports of His eviction are grossly exaggerated.
Today, this 7500-citizen town is home to 34 religious congregations (7). Tablets bearing the Ten Commandments remain the cornerstone of the courthouse. Today, the US Christian Commission renovates a new museum space to accommodate growing receptiveness to its ministry to visitors (8). Today at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, over 250 men and women prepare for a life of service to God (9). Today, construction continues on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church’s new school and parish life center because the existing facilities are bursting with the faithful (10). As snow falls on Gettysburg today, the Adams Rescue Mission shelters 6 families and 33 single men, in Jesus’ name (11). Today, a petition bearing the signatures of 66 local religious leaders implores the Pennsylvania State Gaming Control Board not to grant a license to the proposed Gettysburg casino (12). Today, Prince of Peace Episcopal Church plans for a permanent move of its soup kitchen to a larger venue (13). Today a Christmas tree stands alone in the center of town, hailing the upcoming celebration of Christ’s birth.
In short, the people of Gettysburg freely exercise their religious beliefs. In doing so, they have proclaimed God’s Good News. They have let their children come unto Jesus. They have provided for Him when He was hungry and homeless. Please have faith in Gettysburg, because, as far as I can see, Gettysburg is keeping its faith in God.
2. Katharine Harmon. ‘A silent witness.’ Evening Sun (Hanover, PA) – Sunday, October 3, 2010.
10. Craig K. Paskoski. ‘Sneak preview for new school.’ Evening Sun (Hanover, PA) – Wednesday, November 3, 2010.