God’s Echo From An Alabama Bridge

Fifty years ago on an Alabama bridge named in honor of Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general, state senator and Klux Klan leader. The descendants of General Pettus’s slaves gathered to march across that bridge in a peaceful demonstration demanding the voting rights that the constitution mandated, but the nation had not yet delivered.

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 39

Fifty years ago on an Alabama bridge named in honor of Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general, state senator and Klux Klan leder. The black descendants of the slaves that General Pettus tried to keep enslaved, first by war and later by a system of disenfranchisement called Jim Crow. Gathered to march across that bridge in a peaceful demonstration to ask for the voting rights that the constitution mandated, but the nation had not yet delivered.

As they tried to cross the bridge the demonstrators were met by “neighbors” namely the Alabama State Patrol. The “demonstrating unarmed neighbors” were beaten with clubs, hit with whips, and blinded with tear gas.

The troopers “neighborly” actions resulted in the hospitalizations of nearly one hundred of their fellow “neighbors”. Suffering from injuries that included broken arms, fractured skulks and gunshot wounds.

Those “neighborly” actions on that Alabama Bridge that day were witnessed live on television by millions of our fellow Americans neighbors. Seeing our fellow “neighbors” being beating, whipped and gassed disrupted the normal tranquilly of a Sunday afternoon in America. The conscious of a nation was shaken so much so that March 7, 1965, would be forever called “Bloody Sunday”.

God commands us “to love our neighbor as ourselves.” Sadly on that day like we have on many others; we did not love our neighbor. However, what made March 7, 1965 different was perhaps for the first time we American neighbors saw for ourselves how we treated our fellow American neighbors not just on that Alabama bridge. But in all aspects of life under Jim Crow. The nation saw for its self that we were not loving our neighbors as ourselves and realized that something had to change.

In the half century since that day progress has been made. Civil, voting and educational rights have been won. African-Americans neighbors are now more than just the enslaved labor that built American.   African-Americans are becoming more and more of a full partner helping to shape a better more inclusive destiny for the country that we all love.

Some in this country view the United States as an “exceptional nation”. Therefore, if we are exceptional where did that exceptionalism come from? Did it come to us by luck? Did it come to us by birth? Did it come to us by God?

If our so called “exceptionalism” came to us from God.   God’s echo from that Alabama Bridge is calling us to be exceptional in keeping His command of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

So God’s echo from that Alabama Bridge is calling us to:

  • Love the millions of undocumented neighbors in our country like we love ourselves and to give them a descent and possible pathway to the citizenship we all enjoy.

God’s echo from that Alabama Bridge is calling us to:

  • Love our Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender neighbors like we love ourselves, and to stop judging or condemning them. Scripture commands us: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2 . Therefore we should love our Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender neighbors by supporting equal access to all the rights and privileges this nation has to offer. Including the legal right to marry.

God’s echo from that Alabama Bridge is calling us to:

  • Love our most perilous neighbors our Children. By doing all we can to ease poverty, provide opportunity, and to promote the equality that we all want for ourselves.

God’s echo from that Alabama Bridge is calling America to be exceptional and to truly live the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

Love the Lord and Love your Neighbor is the great lesson of what did not happen on that Alabama Bridge on March 7, 1965.

But on this day and in the days to come, we can best honor the memory of what happened on that “Bloody Sunday” by obeying God’s command that is still echoing fifty years later from that Alabama Bridge: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

® 2015 Marben Bland

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