50 years later, poverty is still an issue in America.
I cannot say I am the greatest dancer. I enjoy all types of music. The rhythms of my eclectic taste often entice me to move. Naturally, I easily find myself swaying this way or that way. My feet are not far behind. Only sheer foolishness would compel me to compare my dancing with grace and gifts of Beyonce, Tina Turner or any champion from Dancing With the Stars. I know my limits. That's one of the first steps to being successful: Know what you can and cannot do.
I can do the basic two-step. A step to the right. A step to the left. A step up. A step back. I do not have to think about it. Just a simple one-two, one-two, and the sounds tickling my ears manifest in my feet. There is no harm if all I do song in and song out is slide to right, shimmy to left, take it to top and prance it back. A simple motion of one foot forward and one foot backward, and I am at peace relishing in the music of the moment.
This year marks many watershed anniversaries. Speaking of music, The Beatles brought their novel tone and charm to the United States fifty years ago. Seven decades have transpired since "D (Decision) -- Day" when General Eisenhower and Allied troops stormed the shores of Normandy, France. Thousands of mostly white young people from across the nation converged on Mississippi in 1964 to lead freedom schools and register voters under the banner of Freedom Summer. This political and social lab for teaching and training the next generation was not immune for violent retaliation. Among the many nameless and not so renowned victims were the most recounted murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. On July 2, 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Acts forbidding discrimination based not only on race, but also sex. Herein would be the prelude and forerunner to the Voting Rights Acts of 1965.
Looking in our rearview mirror, it would seem that America has danced its way to a society where all are invited to dine at the welcome table. No need for protests or sit-ins. Just come and sit, for we are equal and beloved of one another. With Barack Hussein Obama as the "POTUS with the most-est" all is well. Let the music play. Choose your partner. Whether it is the Wobble, the samba or the basic two-step, time would make us think that the world has jiggled forward.
Yet, the danger of the two-step is it moves society one place forward while propelling citizens one move backward. How exciting and well deserving are celebrations honoring the valiant efforts of the military from World War I to D-Day, from Vietnam to Operation Desert Storm, from the Iraqi War to Afghanistan. One step forward. The fiasco in the Veterans Administration and its lack of care and coverage for soldiers threatens to smear such jubilation. One step backward.
Recent ceremonies awarding Congressional Gold Medals posthumously to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King are reminders of "from whence we have come." One step forward. However, members of North Carolina NAACP gather on Moral Mondays because of immoral political action. One step backward.
The Supreme Court dismantled the Definition of Marriage Act in June 2013. One step forward. The same court one day earlier gutted Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act thus opening Pandora's Box for a myriad of voter ID laws in unsupervised states. One step backward.
America knows how to two step. No dance lessons needed.
The war in Iraq is officially over. American military presence almost nonexistent. At least we thought the turmoil had abated. One step forward. Now a new group, ISIS or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, aims for more border control, a maneuver that has cost hundreds of lives already. One step backward.
The two-step is not unique to American soil.
Genesis 28:10-22 records the narrative of Jacob as he journeys to find a wife. Weary from his travels, he falls asleep using a stone as his pillow. Talk about hard head. This grandson of Abraham dreams of a stairway reaching to the heavens. Angels ascend and descend this bridge as if providing some type of red carpet for the appearance of the Lord. God then speaks to Jacob saying, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying... All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring (vss. 13-14)."
Jacob is in the process of continuing the family legacy when the Lord approaches him to confirm that he will indeed birth a profound progeny. One step forward. Yet, anyone who knows the story of Jacob understands that he is also the one who stole his older brother's inheritance. One step backward. He deceived. One step backward. He paid for his deception. One step forward?
Perhaps the angels moving up and down the ladder are more than just eye candy emanating from Jacob's involuntary sleep thoughts. The descending-ascending activity on the staircase to heaven is symbolic of the tumultuous life of the dreamer himself. He had moments of betrayal. One step down. He had moments of blessing. One step up.
Our lives are quite similar. There are periods in life when all is in order financially. One step forward. Yet a sudden pink slip or lack of unemployment benefits can send us into a fiscal spiral. One step backward. We are happily married. One step up. Within a few months a terminal cancer diagnosis, divorce or unexpected event can bring marital melancholy beyond measure. One step down. Our faith is secure at any given stage. One step to the front. An unexplained tragedy fractures it. One step to the back.
We know how to do the two-step. Life is a two-step journey. No dance lessons required.
This dancing is a cognitive, spiritual and social dissonance enveloping and guiding our lives. Such a constant state of flux, although unsettling, provides ample lessons on recovery, repentance and resilience.
In the end a spiritual speaks to the challenges we face in the world, the U.S., and even in ourselves:
We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
We are climbing Jacob's Ladder
Soldiers of the cross.
Bible Study Questions:
1. During what period in your life were you making progress? During what period were you moving backward?
2. What does is say about your nature, our relationships that we are constantly up and down?
3. If you do not dance, what helps you to relax and unwind?
The Dancing Mind by Toni Morrison
Teaching the Bible Through Popular Culture and the Arts edited by Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray
"I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack
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