Called To Do Great Things
The Grand Adventure
Nancy and I are nearing the thirty-day mark of our Grand Adventure, traveling the eastern seaboard of America exploring our nation’s early beginnings. We are letting the beauty of the earth and the colors of autumn fill our souls.
We have been to Jamestown, the early settlement of English adventurers in the New World. We have stood outside George Washington’s bedroom in Mt. Vernon and gazed at the bed where the first president of the United States died. We visited the various siege positions of Yorktown where Cornwallis surrendered his army to bring to a close our war for independence. We journeyed to our nation’s first capital, Philadelphia, and saw the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was debated. Nearby we stood before the Liberty Bell and peered inside the crack that distorts its face, perhaps a symbol of the fragmentation our country is currently experiencing. Imagine a miraculous time when we are united, and Liberty Bell is knit together and sounds the song we all yearn to hear: We are one people.
Thus far, our most startling discovery was of the life and times of a man named Hercules who in 1767 at age 16 became a slave of George Washington. We first learned of him while experiencing the new African American Museum in Washington, DC.
In 1786, this reportedly small, muscular man became George and Martha Washington’s chef. He was so gifted that he served his culinary delights in Philadelphia during Washington’s presidency. He was a slave, but he was privileged. He made money selling leftovers from the meals he served to the new nation’s elite-$200-$300 a year, a tidy sum of money for a slave.
Perhaps he heard private conversations of men such as Adams, Madison, and Jefferson as they spoke of liberty and how all men are created equal, and yet he, a man, was a slave.
How distressed George Washington became when in 1797 Hercules ran away from bondage. This man was most likely treated as well as any slave could be treated, but it was not enough. He wanted to be free. The yearning to experience his true state of being as a man able to determine and make his own life could no longer be contained, and he ran.
Truly, we are all created equal with the same innate desires coursing through our being. Having just been to the African American museum in DC, I long for the day when we put behind us the belief that one human being is superior to another because of race, religion, economic status, gender or education—that someone is less because of lifestyle and sexual orientation. Such beliefs deny the foundation of our country that we are created equal. It is this equality that we must find.
The Root of Prejudice
The root of prejudice is fear: we fear what we don’t understand, and we are unnerved by differences. If someone looks like us, worships like us, makes love like us, talks like us, and believes what we believe, we are at peace.
How false is this peace. How ignorant is the belief in superiority. Imagine a belief conceived to hide feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. How strange that a belief can hide the truth that the same color blood flows in every human being, that the same fears inhabit our souls-the fear of the unknown, of death, of disease, and of differences?
And what of the ways we are alike? Don’t we all desire security, safety, belonging, a home, love, happiness and a life of meaning? It is a matter of vision. Do we judge by appearances? Jesus cautioned us against this. Perhaps this lack of vision is the root of our ignorance, and ignorance causes us to act in ways that cause a cascade of events we cannot foresee. Remember, Jesus’ words on the cross after His words of forgiveness. “…they know not what they do.” That’s one of the best definitions of ignorance that I know, and here’s an axiom to consider: ignore the truth and ignorance is born.
A Little Wiggle Room
In the late 18th century, a belief in superiority caused the most learned men in our country to lose a piece of their souls for economic gain; men that knew better, for they signed one of the most sacred documents in the world containing the insight that all men are created equal.
Our forefathers lived in a time when most of the world considered slavery normal. This belief and all its tentacles of so-called biblical proof, economic necessity and states rights blinded men who feared a revolution that in their hearts of hearts they knew was coming, for liberty in all its forms is irresistible. These men courageously denied the power of King George, but they also denied the implications of the founding idea of a government by the people, people created equal by their Creator.
Let us not be too harsh with these men; let us give them some wiggle room. They did great things, but they left other implications of liberty and equality to other generations called to do great things.
However, in today’s world there is no excuse for beliefs of superiority. It is blatant ignorance because truths that are self-evident are ignored. However, we have yet to see how expansive is the sound of liberty. First, there was President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, followed by amendments to the Constitution, voting privileges for women, the Civil Right Act, but more is coming, for the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia may be silent, but the sound of its first ringing continues to encircle the earth and reaffirm emancipation for African Americans, women and LGBTs. The sound of liberty resonates today, and dreamers can feel the vibration. Can our president? Can our senators and representatives? Can our clergy? Are these leaders called to do great things?
Can you hear the sound of the Bell’s first ringing? It calls you to do great things.