This article is condensed from Dr. Sollitt’s 1966 Memorial Day sermon at the First Baptist Church in Midland, Michigan.
Cain had slain his brother Abel. When asked by God where Abel was, Cain replied with an evasive question: "Am I my brother’s keeper?" But God was not fooled as to Cain’s guilt: "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground."
When we pause to remember those who have died in the service of their country — and are even now dying — what does the blood of our departed brothers cry out to us, whom war has thus far spared? Surely their blood must say something to us, but what is it?
Does it say, "The country for which we died is still worth fighting for"? or does it say, "We were wrong; no war is worth the cost"?
To be specific, should we have gone into Vietnam, or shouldn’t we have done so? And now that we are there, is it our moral obligation to remain or to withdraw? I honestly don’t know the answer, and the uncertainty is so disturbing that I almost envy those who can adopt one prejudice or another, then read or listen to only their side of the story and refuse to believe anything that conflicts with their opinions.
But of one thing I am certain. There is a cry I can hear distinctly. It is the voice of a brother’s blood saying, "Our America and her way of life are worth LIVING for." Our salvation lies, not so much in dying for our ideals as in living for them. Perhaps if there were more people who would live for the things for which our sons and brothers are periodically asked to die, there would be less call for their sacrifice. Living for America and her way of life may be an even greater act of patriotism than dying for them.
It is because we will not live for our ideals that we are repeatedly called upon to die for them. We fight abroad for the right of self-determination, while at home we avoid doing for ourselves, or deciding for ourselves, everything we can get someone else to do or decide for us. We fight abroad for the right of free elections and then at home we offer our votes to the highest bidder in the election. We sacrifice our sons in battle to provide and to protect religious freedom while letting our religion deteriorate to the point where it isn’t worth protecting. And when will we learn as a nation that we cannot worship in the sanctuary of Mammon without eventually sacrificing more sons and brothers on the altars of Mars? Surely if our ideas are worth dying for, they are worth living for.
Susan Coolidge said it best:
He serves his country best
Who lives pure life and doeth righteous deed
And walks straight paths however others stray
And leaves his sons, as uttermost bequest,
A stainless record which all men shall read;
This is the better way.
No drop but serves the slowly lifting tide;
No dew but has some errand to some flower;
No smallest star but sheds some helpful ray,
And man by man, each helping all the rest,
Make the firm bulwark of the country’s power;
There is no better way.
So let us start living for the things for which we ask them to die, such things as free enterprise and genuine self-government, honest work for honest wages, sobriety, integrity, morality, filled churches and empty jails, homes where men and women are faithful and children are taught by precept and example to reverence God and live pure lives.
"The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground" condemning us and saying, "You asked me to die for that for which you were unwilling to live!"
And back of the voice of our brothers’ blood I hear the deep rumbling of the voice of God himself asking, "What have you done?" Happy is the man who can reply, "I, too, aspire to be a patriot, to live the life for which my brother so nobly gave his. May his ideals be perpetuated in me and translated into life."