Friday, July 02, 2004

"We hold these truths to be self-evident...."

"...all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." (excerpted from the US Declaration of Independence)
Confession time: I am a closet fan of that icon of 60's pop music, "The 5th Dimension."

Yes, it's true. I've been living in the "Age of Aquarius" and have been "Workin' On A Groovy Thing" for the best part of three decades. And yes, I know...there's a lot of their music that's forgettable. But this weekend, there is one work of the "friends of Marilyn McCoo" that needs some attention.

In February, 1970, the 5th Dimension recorded a musical rendition of the opening of the Declaration of Independence, taken from the musical "Bread, Beans and Things." It was made into a medley with "Declaration," combined with Billy Davis' amazing rendition of "A Change is Gonna Come," and a reprise of the Rascals' song, "People Gotta Be Free." It is a work of real musical force, especially for its time, and it has stuck with me ever since I heard it, 34 years ago. (God have mercy, three that even possible? Wow...)

(That would explain the grey and white in the beard, though.)

The interesting thing about "Declaration" was the reaction to it by the media at the time. To put this in a relevant time-frame. Richard Nixon had been elected president in 1968, and was in the middle of his first term...but Watergate was still 2 years away. Vietnam was becoming a quagmire, and Vice Pres Spiro Agnew was willing to blame all the ills of the nation on the media and on liberals. Against this background, the 5thD recorded "Declaration" as a protest against the government and especially against the war. College radio stations of the day fell in love with it, and played it almost obsessively. But the Armed Forces Radio banned the recording outright, and a lot of pop stations refused to play it (even though it was a straight rendition of one of the "documents of freedom") for the same reason...because they said it endorsed overthrowing the government.

(Which it does, of a way. I mean, just look above and read it yourself.)

I share this for a couple reasons. One, it's the Fourth of July weekend, and part of me believes that we should be reflecting on our heritage, and not just stuffing ourselves with bratwurst and beer and trying to blow ourselves (and our posterity) up with illegal mega-fireworks displays. The concepts of the Declaration are ideas for which good men and women died, so that we would have the freedom to live our lives as we do. I surely need to remember that, especially this weekend.

But I also have to read these words and ask myself, "What are the things that I'm 'disposed to suffer' with, just because those 'evils are sufferable?' How should I be working - in my city, in my church, in my school - to be abolishing the causes of those evils? And are we really experiencing "a long train of abuses and usurpations" of our freedoms and civil rights? Am I free of those abuses, but others are suffering them instead? Am I willing to work to "throw off such government" where it is being harmful?

Part of the cost of freedom - and the cost of discipleship - is asking questions like this. I have to believe that this freedom to live and choose as I might - even to worship as I might - means that I need to be more aware of what is going on in my city, state, and nation. I may not be able to change the world every time - but as in so many things in this world, silence equals death...sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Thank you, God, for the gift of my life in these United States. It's not heaven, and it's certainly a long way from how You would have us live, Lord - but it's still an amazing gift to be able to live and love as we would - for which I give you thanks this day!

"Medley: Declaration/A Change is Gonna Come/People Gotta Be Free" is on The 5th Dimension album (vinyl) "Portrait," and on the CD, "Up Up and Away: The Definitive Collection." Feel motivated to do more? Click here and read this portion of the Declaration for yourself!

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