Written by Scott Taylor
I have heard so much in my life about the year 1968. 50 years ago. I was not alive then. Nevertheless, I marvel at some of things that happened 50 years ago.
First, I should say, it seems that we often toss 1968 into a general pool of the horrible. The year has become almost an axiom for the horrible. In fact, just last week marked the 50 anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a few months, we will mark the same anniversary for Robert F. Kennedy. A few months after that, the same anniversary for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the Soviet invasion of Prague bringing an end to the non-violent revolution of Prague Spring. Not to mention the 50 anniversaries of any number of events from Vietnam. Perhaps it is with good reason that 1968 carries such a reputation for disaster.
And yet, there were some great moments that year. Stanley Kubrick released his masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Beatles released the White Album. On Christmas Eve, astronauts from Planet Earth viewed the dark side of the moon and as they orbited towards Earth, William Anders took a photograph of home. This photo is known now as Earthrise. It has been called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
I want to talk about that photograph for a moment – it seems to be taken for granted already. Are we not amazed to look at the entire world in a single frame? Are we not amazed to realize that on that single frame is contained all of our history, all of our wars, all of our loves? Isn’t the impact of the photo supposed to impress upon us humans the way God sees us – without boundaries except that thin one that separates us from the vacuum of space? Not to mention the fact that we should stand in pure wonder at the scientific achievement of such a perspective. But, it seems that what was supposed to the most influential photograph ever, has not lived up to the promise.
How can we make sense of this feeling that we should have figured something out a long time ago? How do we reconcile these two realities of our species: 1.) We can travel to the dark side of the moon and see our planet through God’s eye. 2.) We can’t inhabit that planet with social, environmental, economic, and spiritual sustainability. What do we make of such a conundrum? How do we respond?
Perhaps a better question than “how do we respond?” is “do we respond at all?” Sometimes when we don’t know the specifics of how to do something, we refrain from doing anything. When confronted with the world’s social, economic, environmental and spiritual problems, some religious people have responded with gnostic disengagement: “My soul is saved! To hell with the rest of it.” This is certainly not Christian. Some have removed themselves from being active participants in the community. Some have only engaged in virtual communities. Listen to Dr. King’s call to community: “…through our scientific and technological genius, we have made the world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”
As we commemorate the times in 1968 when communities were being forged in the fires of technological and social advancement, may we not disengage. May we consider that 1968 was not really that long ago – really, it was just yesterday. May we, as a local congregation of Christ universal church, hear freshly the words of Dr. King’s charge and do the work of daily transforming our neighborhoods into brotherhoods.