In yesterday’s reflection, I discussed the pivotal year 1968 and the upheaval it brought. I compared some of the events of 1968 to the so far disastrous 2020, and I suggested that, as my title stated, This Too Shall Pass.
And so, that year did pass, but there were still years of upheaval and strife, mainly centered around the Vietnam War, then later, the Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon. But there were stories of redemption that get lost in the recounting of those years. I mentioned Governor George Wallace, the man who is best remembered for the demagogic statements he made as governor of Alabama- “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,”.
He subsequently lost in Presidential races in 1968 and in 1972. In 1972, Wallace too became the victim of an assassination attempt, one that left him crippled and in pain for the rest of his life. What we do not often remember is that late in his life, after he was crippled in the assassination attempt, George Wallace had a spiritual awakening, and he renounced his formerly racist views. He said that – “while he had once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness. In 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: “I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over”. Wallace later personally reached out to African-American leaders and asked for forgiveness.
So, redemption can come from pain and suffering. While Wallace’s racist actions have not been forgotten- and that is a cautionary tale lest they be repeated- but he has been forgiven by many of those whom he wronged and offended.
Let me conclude with one other redemption story of 1968. Three NASA astronauts took our attention off of a broken world as their spacecraft orbited the moon in December, 1968. We needed good news, and three astronauts gave us hope. You might recall the Pulitzer prize winning picture of “Earthrise” that accompanied this mission. It is beautiful beyond description. Here is the transcript of the astronauts’ message to Earth from December 24, 1968:
We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth