The Gospel According to John

The passing of U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis last Friday turns the page on an important, painful and, ultimately, redemptive chapter of American history.  As the numerous and well-deserved tributes to Lewis have said, he literally “walked the walk” for racial justice his entire adult life, and most famously across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965.

I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Lewis; but I was fortunate enough to have heard him speak at Morgan State University in 2011.  Along with several hundred other faculty, staff, and students, I crammed into the auditorium for a glimpse of the living legend.  I admit that I do not recall exactly what John Lewis said that day; but I have never forgotten how his voice rumbled with passion and purpose.  Somehow John Lewis had transported us back to the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights struggle.  But as was his way, he did not allow us to remain frozen in the black and white images of history.  He reminded us that injustice and inequality are tireless foes, and it was our responsibility to confront them with the same fierce and urgent determination that he and his fellow revolutionaries had shown all those decades ago.

In an earlier blogpost I wrote about my devotion to the Fourth of July and my deep love of the Declaration of Independence (“You, Me, and Freddie D”).  Those words are sacred to me; but they meant even more to John Lewis.  First as an activist and later as a servant-leader in Congress, he held America accountable to the bold principles espoused in its Founding Document.  That, my friends, is genuine love of country.  John Lewis saw our shining potential as a nation; but he also understood that only the intense heat of sustained protest against discrimination would unleash that potential.

It is often said in the African American community that “we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”  If this is true, then surely John Lewis absolutely exceeded anything that the Founders would have dared imagine even in their darkest nightmares.  

To the end of his life, John Lewis continued to invite all Americans to stand up and commit ourselves to the fundamental promise embedded in the Declaration: “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”  

We have our marching orders; and there are still bridges to cross.  See you on the other side, Mr. Lewis.             

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. May his memory be for a blessing


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