BRADY COLUMN: A Date with Destiny

Published 11:15 am Friday, March 1, 2024

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The late Ralph Sockman, former minister of Christ Church in New York City, once said, “Ours is a day of destiny and we must rise to the statue of ‘people of destiny.’  We must act with speed and decision, but above all with a sense of direction.”  Believing that to be true of our time, I’ve titled this article “A Date with Destiny.” And today I want to write on the elements of a nation’s greatness.

The first element of a nation’s greatness is the sense of spiritual destiny!  Immediately after God spoke to Abraham about his land, Abraham built an altar to God.  Whatever else that means, it means that Abraham had a sense of his spiritual destiny.  The reason the Bible is in a class apart from other ancient history is because through all its human record there is this overtone of Divine reality.  The Hebrews believed that they were God’s people and that God had a purpose and a destiny for them.  If I’m not mistaken, I’ve read some of this same kind of thinking in the early history of our own country.  Our early colonists fled religious persecution and came here for freedom-political and spiritual freedom.  These early fathers and mothers were not all saints by any means, but were men and women who believed in and feared God.  They founded this nation upon faith-faith in God and spiritual ideals.  Writing in his book “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional , and may be believed that no Democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”  And we forget that to our own peril.

The second element of a nation’s greatness is its refusal to surrender to the perversion of its day!  Recently, I read about a woman who phoned her TV serviceman and complained that something was wrong with her television set.  The serviceman asked if there were any visible signs or symptoms.  “Well, the newscast is on right now,” said the lady, “and the reporter has a very long face.”  The serviceman replied, “Look lady, if you had to report what’s happening these days, you’d have a long face too!”  Such is the pessimism of our time.  For the most part, news reports are demoralizing for all of us.  There are ongoing investigations, continuous accusations, increasing crime and drug abuse, an uncertain economy, increasing threats of terrorism, incessant wars and questionable leadership.  And many folks see our nation plunging recklessly out of control.

But let me hurriedly add that I am an optimist by nature and by faith.  I am an optimist about our country and believe strongly that we will rise above all this.  Unquestionably, there are some “bumps in the road,” that we as a nation will have to handle-the drift away from goodness, the breakdown of ethics, polarized splinter groups, etc.

The third element of a nation’s greatness is its maintaining the “Dignity of Life.”  With their religious faith and philosophy, our founding fathers and mothers developed “a dignity of life.”  Basically, ours has been a heritage of humanness and dignity despite lawless frontiers and rough living conditions.  Thus, as people of faith, we are the custodians of the cherished ideal of “the worth and dignity of the of the individual.”  Now, to be sure, we haven’t always lived up to that ideal.  Regretfully so, but we are still the custodians of that ideal.  I read that at the height of racial tension in South Africa, 20,000 people attended the funeral of a white human rights activist named Molly Blackburn.  And over 90% of those attendees were black.  Why?  Because Molly looked on you and saw a human being of infinite worth.  She saw you as one created in the image of God.  She saw you not as black or white, but as a human being.  Despite some evidence to the contrary, that is our religious heritage in this nation and must be passed on to our children and our children’s children.  A family made a tour of New York City.  At the close of the day, they asked their little girl about the trip.  Most impressive to her, and to almost every visitor, was the Statue of Liberty.  They said to their daughter, “ What about the trip?”  The little girl relied, “I keep thinking about the lady holding the lamp.  Don’t you think we ought to help her?”