By. Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan
Just caught Peter and Paul, of the famed freedom and justice singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, on the Tavis Smiley show. Goodness, they were magnificent! It was quite good to hear them sing some of the folk songs of the Civil Rights movement while describing the climate surrounding their music and activism. They have a book out titled, “Peter, Paul and Mary: 50 Years in Life and Song”. As I heard their music and reflections, I became inspired by the fact that the sacred work of Civil Rights and freedom has always featured a multicultural, multifaith cast of bold, risk-taking, visionary people who had the audacity to sing their faith and convictions as they delivered truth to power. While our contemporary climate does reveal amazing levels of progress since the 1960s, the rivers and streams of everyday life continue to reveal toxic amounts of waste products such as hate, bigotry, violence, and discrimination of many forms that poison too many of our environments, physical, political and cultural. I am not altogether sure of the many songs we sing when we gather nowadays, but I sure think it is time for our music to recapture the passion and poetry of the songs of people like Peter, Paul and Mary, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and so many others who sang about freedom, justice and peace and therefore provided us with a soundtrack for social progress. During a contemporary era where large segments of society seem to congratulate themselves for not knowing or accepting the histories, values, and aspirations of people who differ from themselves, we need right brain inspiration that can liberate us from the prisons of our linear, individualism-colored world views so that we may actually see ourselves caring for our neighbors by acknowledging then dismantling walls and systems of nullification and selective privilege, by helping each other to succeed, and by learning each other’s story. Now is the time for music that teaches us, transforms us, and then transports us so that we may create earthly places where the long dictatorship of fear comes to an end, where a warm smile can melt glaciers of arrogance, and where people are willing to walk or roll hand-in-hand into a future punctuated by peace, with progress for everybody, and the trivialization of nobody. When we sing songs with these kinds of themes, we open ourselves to God’s still awesome ability to transform the world. I am ready to sing! How about you?