Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Changed Ones

At an 1850 anti-slavery convention in Cazenovia, N.Y.,
from the left, Emily Edmonson; Theodosia Gilbert
(the fiance of William Chaplin, organizer of the
Pearl escape); Gerrit Smith, the abolitionist
who financed the Pearl escape; Frederick
Douglass, the anti-slavery orator and
chairman of the Fugitive Slave Law
Convention; and Mary Edmonson.
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

It was a difficult time for the nation. Once the subject of equality was in the public forum, the painful truth was there for all to see. Slavery was too wicked to ignore; people were being treated like farm animals. We engaged, head-on against those who would harness the lives of others exclusively for personal gain.

It's been 150 years since emancipation here, and that particular battle still isn't over.  Equality and justice are ancient principles, long contested. Lincoln's words point to the same struggle that ran like flood waters through Israel and Nazareth centuries before.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Radical words.  At the time, the land was held captive by Rome.  The people bore the Roman occupation as they had many others.  More than a thousand years had passed since the Kingdom of Israel was first established; conquerors and wars had come and gone and come again.  The proclamation recorded in Nazareth was made after nearly a century of Roman rule.  The years pass.  The diaspora begins ...

That generation saw yet another revolt, another slaughter and genocide.  Masada fell.  The Jewish-Roman wars went on for most of 70 years.  Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were scattered or sold as slaves throughout the Roman world and beyond.  The emperor Hadrian, seeing the Jews as a root of continuous rebellion, did his best to wipe Israel from history.  He removed all map references, renamed cities, executed the Jewish scholars, prohibited the Jews from even entering Jerusalem, save one day a year. On the temple mount, he erected statues of Jupiter and of himself.  And he burned the scrolls.

Almost unnoticed in the historical record, a few new thinkers emerged and slipped away with those making their way outward.  Somehow, their presence added light to the the world.  They brought a bright change in human thought and choice.  Their numbers grew, and their lives were inexplicably odd; they were different creatures, loved and hated, pursued and persecuted, and still the light spread.

There were many who claimed to be light-bringers, just posers perhaps hoping for some advantage by association.  Though they took on the name, they themselves were unchanged by their new religion; they continued with brutal wars and inquisitions and widespread corruption.  There were clergy that backed every despot, and the religious elite were part of every empire.

But along the deeper pathways even now walk the changed ones, the light bringers; perhaps a new kind of human mind.  They often find themselves standing in two places at once, having two perspectives at once, and sometimes seeing that which is real.  The light changes their world and their children's world.  Even now.
And the battle rages on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

Mother Theresa's counsel suggests she understood.