Ok, I confess – I’m hearing voices again. But these are not voices of imaginary people or beings. These are the very real voices of very real people who are no longer living. But their voices can still be heard if one cares to take the time to listen and learn. Today, I sit in a classroom surrounded by voices from the past. Their names and their words (commonly called quotes) cover the walls of the classroom. These voices from the past are calling out to me and I am listening. Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens, Marian Anderson and Harriet Tubman are some of the people who are speaking to me this morning. I have previously written about Harriet Tubman (post – C.C. voices from the past #172) so I will share some words of wisdom from some others today.
Thurgood Marshall said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Jesse Owens words also instruct and inspire, “Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.” Where or on what we choose to fix our gaze and our thoughts really does matter. It really does make all the difference. That must be why Hebrews 12:2 tells me to, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.” That must be why Philippians 4:8 instructs me in this way, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
That’s what Jesse was saying, look for the good, the good in people, the good in our circumstances, the good and many blessings of life that each day brings to us. Look for those miracles amid the mundane, as I would say. I can choose to count my blessings and give God thanks. What can I learn today as I sit surrounded by these voices from the past? Will I listen or will I ignore the lessons they have left to me and to you? Will I allow their voices to be silenced forever with the rewriting of history to fit today’s “truth”, a place where their voices are no longer welcome?
I would miss Marian Anderson’s voice and her words of wisdom when she said, “As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.” How true! Oppression holds in bondage both the oppressed and the oppressors. It may look different from the outside, but nobody in such a society is truly free. That’s why I must defend my neighbor’s rights as my own. If some are not free in this country, then none of us are free.
Voices from the past continue to instruct and to inspire me. As I sit with them this morning, Ronald Reagan’s words ring in my ears – ” . . . America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection. . . . (it’s) why the Pilgrims came here, . . . If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.” Reagan spoke those words in 1989. I wonder if his voice was heard then? I wonder if anyone besides me is hearing and heeding his voice today?
Voices from a much more distant past also speak wisdom into today. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas both had something to say about this idea of rewriting human history. Their thoughts arise from “the law of contradiction” which Aristotle says is the basis of all reasoning, the means by which we make sense of the world. This law states that both X and Y cannot be true at the same time if they are mutually exclusive. (my friend cannot be both taller than I am and shorter than I am at the same time. Only one of those possibilities can be true)
In this current time of COVID, the law of contradiction would mean that our elected officials cannot tell us that it is too dangerous for church services to take place while simultaneously saying that massive protest marches are safe and therefore permissible. (or that it’s safe to shop at Walmart but not at a smaller mom and pop shop? – seems like that would be the opposite, less people equals less exposure, therefore less danger from the virus? -seems like the small places should have stayed open, not the big box stores full of people from all over, instead of people from a specific neighborhood)
“So the law of contradiction means we can’t change the past. Truth resides in the past because the present is fleeting and confusing and tomorrow isn’t here yet. The past, on the other hand, is complete. Aristotle and Aquinas go so far as to say that changing the past – making what has been not to have been – is denied even to God. Because if something both happened and didn’t happen, no human understanding is possible. And God created us with the capacity for understanding. That’s the law of contradiction, which the art of doublethink denies and violates. . . . If the past can be changed, anything can be changed – man can surpass even the power of God.” (from Larry P. Arnn’s speech on Nov. 17th, 2020 in Rogers, Ar.)
Wonder what Aristotle would think about events transpiring today? So much doublethink, I think would make even Aristotle rethink his beliefs. Words are being redefined today at a rate so fast that no dictionary could possibly keep current. Thomas Sowell made this interesting observation –
“If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical fifty years ago, a liberal twenty-five years ago and a racist today.” Same belief or opinion but a different label is put on the person holding that opinion depending on what the popular thought of the day is. So yesterday’s radical is today’s racist. Is there a truth that doesn’t change? Hebrews 13:8 tells me,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Finally, a person who doesn’t change with every whim of culture and wind of popular opinion or personal preference, but remains constant throughout every era of human history and beyond – the person of Jesus Christ. What connection does the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ have with my search for truth that does not change over time or with the times? John 14:6 answers my question this way,
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ”
Jesus is the Truth and Hebrews tells me that Jesus hasn’t changed, doesn’t change and won’t change. I can count on His constancy. Because Jesus doesn’t change and He is Truth, I can know Truth that will not change when I know Jesus. Psalm 119:160 tells me something else about what is true,
“All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal.” In John 17:17 Jesus says as He prays to God for His disciples,
“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” So God’s word is Truth and it is an enduring, lasting Truth. I read in Matthew 24:35,
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”
So I have found Truth that not only will not change over time, but will also stand the test of time. It will remain over time, despite the fact that everything else falls away. In these days of doublethink and deception I do long to know what is true. Decisions based on false facts are never good decisions. Lies can limit my understanding and hold me hostage. Truth is necessary for freedom to exist. That must be why Jesus said in John 8:31-32,
” . . . Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ”
Freedom – the desire for freedom is what drove those who left their own countries to set sail and cross an ocean in search of a new land where they could live free. This desire for freedom is still the driving force today behind the journeys of those willing to risk everything for the opportunity to live in freedom. Remember the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. God eventually delivered them from slavery into freedom. He sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and God Himself went with them on their journey in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. God was with them and they were set free. It is interesting what 2 Corinthians 3:17 says,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
There is freedom in God’s presence. Must be why Psalm 33:12 says,
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.”
Another voice from America’s past said these prophetic words,
“America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Spoken over a century ago, this voice from the past seems to know what is happening in our country today. If only we might listen to and learn from these voices from the past, what sorrow we might yet be spared! This is a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Gettysburg Address) Too many have laid down their lives defending our freedoms for us to so easily give those freedoms up now without a word of protest. Did they sacrifice their very lives only to see the light of freedom extinguished here and therefore in the world?
One powerful voice from the past proclaimed these words when he delivered the greatest speech of all time (in my opinion). Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Lincoln memorial on August 28th, 1963. Much of what he spoke about has been realized in the years following his speech, entitled “I have a dream”, until recent forces have attempted to undo the positive progress that has been achieved. Freedom – the desire of every human heart and the birthright of every American citizen. Dr. King ended his speech with these words,
” . . . when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring . . . And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
I want to add my voice to those voices from the past fighting for freedom. I want to join with them in crying out, “let Freedom ring!”
sincerely, Grace Day