As I listened to one of the news analysts during the Zimmerman trial “wrap-up”, one phrase stood out to me as a profound observation. She said, “We have lost heart for each other. We are no longer our brother’s keeper.” That’s a serious indictment against the human race today. Is it true? Is racial prejudice still alive and well? Haven’t we made any progress at all?
Whatever the answer, I believe that many are weary to the point of sickness over the violence on television and in the movies. Somewhere and somehow, if America is ever to regain her soul, people in the entertainment field must provide something that appeals to the whole person, and not to the baser elements in human behavior.
We have come a long way since the “Jim Crow” days. I was born in the heart of prejudice in a small Mississippi town. A town where the county sheriff orchestrated the murder of three civil rights workers. I hear Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I have a dream” speech. I wish I had joined the march on Selman, Alabama. I grieved over the subsequent killings. My first term paper in college was entitled: “The Race Problem in America”. It was written in 1946, but I still have it in my files. As I read it again the other day, I realized that progress has been made, but prejudice seems to have gone underground. It’s an attitude that is buried so deeply in us that we are quick to deny that it’s there. Many have what is called “subconscious prejudice”, and we may not even be aware of it. I think it all boils down to a lack of reverence for people who are different; whether it is race, religion or whatever.
Dr. Albert Shweitzer, one of the greatest people to walk the Earth, was going down the Ogowe River one day while writing his definition of a good man. He scribbled: “A good man is pure; a good man is loyal; a good man has reverence for life.” This last phrase, “reverence for life”, became his philosophy. He revered all living things—plants, animals and humans. It was all part of God’s creation. This verse in the book of Genesis became his motto: “And God saw that it was good.”
Call to mind the story of Moses and his “burning bush” experience. He heard a voice saying, “the place on which you stand is Holy ground.” Many of us have had similar experiences, especially when we are caught up in the beauty of nature—captivated by the mysteries of the marshland, overwhelmed by the artistry of an old tree or the delicacy of an unusual plant. Reverence for nature has become crucial.
Some say this is the 11th Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus didn’t say, “Love only those people who share your viewpoint or people you like.” Your neighbor is the other person sharing space on the same planet. Reverence beings with the individual. I must respect my life and realize that it is God’s gift to me. Reverence means to protect the rights of others. It is the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. And it will always uphold “liberty and justice for all”.
There is a story about a man who was choking on a chicken bone in a restaurant, so he held up his glass for water, coughing and gasping for air. The waitress whizzed by and said, “Sorry, but this is not my table.” Is this a parable for a world like ours? “Sorry, but this is not my church…not my viewpoint…not my political party…not my race.”
I still believe in America despite some of the “overworked tonsils and obese egos” in places of leadership. I still believe in millions of people who have a “want-to-do-it-right” attitude. I pray for a nation that was founded on the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. I still believe in a nation when the leaders will see the mindless futility of pumping billions into senseless wars when we can’t even pay our bills at home.
In the USA Today several weeks ago, was the account of some boys who were lost in the mountains of Oregon. They survived the ordeal and were rescued by helicopter. Someone asked, “What did you learn from this experience?” One answered, “I learned how to use my compass and to trust in God.” The two go hand in hand. God is our compass, and shows us the way out of our lost conditions and wanderings. The ground upon which we stand is, indeed, Holy Ground.