Anyone searching for the message and meaning of John McCain’s soaring funeral in the National Cathedral need look no further than the third verse of the Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” the moving prayer that has sent generations of sailors to their rest. The bipartisan cream of the nation’s political and national-security establishment sang it in lusty unison to open the service:
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Or for those in peril in D.C., as the case may be.
The United States has no national church, no state religion. But in the closest thing this country has to Westminster Abbey, what amounted to a respectful countergovernment gathered on Saturday morning for more than two and a half hours of song, speeches, and prayer, not only to celebrate McCain’s valiant life, but to bemoan the current state of American politics, and to condemn—if only by unmistakable implication—Donald Trump’s starring role in that degradation.
And just as Charles Spencer memorably lashed the British royal family at his sister’s funeral two decades ago, it was McCain’s daughter Meghan who electrified the congregation with a eulogy that drew razor-sharp contrasts between her father and the president who—at McCain’s own wishes—was inconceivably conspicuous by his absence at a gathering that drew three former presidents, the entire congressional leadership, a raft of former generals and Cabinet members, and Trump’s own daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.