Vocal Band – Let Freedom Ring

Let Freedom Ring

 

One morning on the national news, there was a story about a young African-American police officer whose associates at the department met him one morning on duty dressed in the hooded garb of the Ku Klux Klan. Even women on the office staff and other department employees joined to taunt and frighten him. The prank went on a long time before they told him it was a joke and had him pose for pictures with them all in their costumes of discrimination.

On the news, this handsome young father was being interviewed by a reporter about the incident. “How did you react?” the reporter asked.

“I was terrified on the inside, but all I could think to do was smile,” he answered. “When I got home, I sobbed like a child.”

Later the offenders, fearing reprisals and wanting to take back the photos they gave him, threatened the officer.

As I watched this young man trying to process such a deep and ugly violation by those he thought he knew, by those who served with him day by day under an oath to uphold justice, I felt powerful emotions rise within me. I felt anger at the indignity and at the violation of so many of the codes that hold any decent society together. I felt deep sadness at the breaking of the human spirit and the robbery of the self-respect of a fellow human being. I felt brokenness in my soul as I saw his pain and realized that all of us are capable of hurting each other deeply.

I left my house to go to the village for breakfast. As I sipped hot coffee, I watched a toddler across the room struggle to escape his mother’s arms. He wanted to explore the café and then, perhaps, get close enough to slip through the screen door into the morning sunshine.

Every person innately longs to be free. This toddler knew it even in the womb. The time clock kicked in one day and the same little body that had been content to grow in the security of that liquid environment began to make its way—force its way—through the narrow confines of the birth canal to a place where it could be free.

The passion to be free is built into the very fiber of creation: the seedling pushing against and bursting from the protective casing that carried it to its resting place; the gazelle racing from a predator; the squirrel, high above the ground, leaping to a distant limb to escape the competition.

Since the fall of mankind, ­people have used others to achieve their objectives. From the building of the kingdoms of Egypt and Rome to the present conflict between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the strong have taken advantage of the weak. But the dream of freedom cannot be snuffed out by force or manipulation. Sooner or later, ­people will have their freedom—sometimes at any cost.

“What happens to a dream deferred?” asked Langston Hughes in his powerful poem.

 Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

 

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

In our times, perhaps the greatest example of the irrepressible passion for freedom is the ­people’s reaction after the post–World War II communist takeover of what became known as East Germany.

Because so much land was taken out of private hands and forced into collective control and because of the repression of private trade in the German Democratic Republic (as East Germany was called in 1958), thousands of refugees fled to the West. In 1959, 144,000 fled. The number of refugees rose to 199,000 in 1960 as conditions worsened. In the first seven months of 1961, 207,000 left, including a huge number of the nation’s brightest minds—doctors, dentists, engineers, and teachers. It is estimated that by 1961, 2.7 million ­people had left since the German Democratic Republic was established in 1949.

On August 13, 1961—a Sunday morning—under the communist leadership of Erich Honecker, the GDR began to block off East Berlin with paving stones, barricades, and barbed wire. Railway and subway services to West Berlin were halted, cutting off the sixty thousand or so commuters who worked in West Berlin. A few days later, the GDR began building a wall.

One year after the first barricades went up, an eighteen-year-old man named Peter Fechter was the first of more than a hundred to be shot and killed while trying to escape. But as the wall grew higher, as more and more guards kept watch, as the death area behind the wall widened, and as the trench to stop vehicles deepened, the number of escape attempts only increased.

In Berlin, the wall stretched sixty-six miles, but ­people escaped by tunneling under it or by leaping over it from the windows of houses nearby into nets or onto the pavement. Soon the government ordered that the houses be evacuated and the windows bricked shut. Eventually, the buildings were demolished. Patrol trucks, watchdogs, watchtowers, bunkers, and trenches were added to the border area. Then, behind the wall, a second wall was constructed.

Yet ­people continued to escape.

In one of the more dramatic escapes, two families secretly bought small amounts of nylon cloth—eventually enough to sew a hot air balloon. They waited until midnight and then drove to a deserted field and launched their craft. Twenty-three minutes it remained aloft before the burner died, long enough to carry four adults and four children to their freedom. Back in East Germany, the sale of nylon was restricted and there was a ban on the sale of rope and twine.

No one knows exactly how many ­people escaped in the twenty-eight years the Berlin Wall stood. The wall became a symbol of all obstructions to freedom. Instead of stopping the free flow of ­people and ideas, it provided a tangible object that epitomized the barriers which the human spirit felt challenged to conquer.

It was a sentence from President Kennedy’s speech during his visit to Berlin in June of 1962 that lent words to the struggle for freedom. Throwing out the speech given him by speechwriters, Kennedy wrote a new one while riding through the streets of West Berlin, where between one and two million Germans roared and cheered for four hours. At Checkpoint Charlie, he climbed alone up to the viewing stand. Suddenly, in a far-off window of an East Berlin apartment, three women appeared waving handkerchiefs—a dangerous and risky gesture. Kennedy, realizing their risk, stood in silence facing the women in tribute to them. Then he squared his shoulders and began the speech that let the world know how universal is the spirit of freedom. He concluded the speech with the historic words, “Ich bin ein Berliner! [I am a Berliner!]”

We all are Berliners at heart because we all long to be free. The world knew in its gut that the wall would never work. It stood from 1961 until 1989, yet Kennedy’s empathetic sentence and that simple gesture from those women in the gray East Berlin window predicted that it would crumble.

Down through history, dictators and philosophies have attempted to enslave the human spirit. Blood has flowed like rivers in the fight to regain human dignity. The Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation have taken their places with other great instruments of liberation to testify to the human passion for freedom. The official seals of governments were burned onto these documents that have deeply affected our own way of life.

But never has a document of freedom had the power to alter the course of history and change human lives like the declaration bearing the bloodstained brand of the Cross. And this seal is burned not on a piece of paper but on the very souls of all who were enslaved by sin. The document is a simple invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Prison bars, heavy chains, dungeons, concentration camps, and shackles: none of these can hold a candle to the bondage of the human soul devised by the father of lies. But no release, no emancipation, no pardon can bring freedom like that bought at Calvary. That is freedom indeed! Let freedom ring!

This story by Gloria Gaither is excerpted from her book, Something Beautiful: The Stories Behind a Half-Century of The Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither.   – Source Gaither.com

 

 

Let Freedom Ring Lyrics

Deep within the heart has always known that there was freedom
Somehow breathed into the very soul alive
The prisoner, the powerless, the saved have always known it
There’s something that keeps reaching for the sky

Even life begins because a baby fights for freedom
And songs we love to sing have freedom’s theme
Some have walked through fire and flood to find a place of freedom
And some faced hell itself for freedom’s dream

Let freedom ring wherever minds know what it means to be in chains
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
We can be free and we can sing — let freedom ring

God built freedom into every fiber of creation
And He meant for us to all be free and whole
When my Lord bought freedom with the blood of His redemption
His cross stamped pardon on my very soul

I’ll sing it out with every breath, I.ll let the whole world hear it
This hallelujah anthem of the free
That iron bars and heavy chains can never hold us captive
The Son has made us free and free indeed

Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring

 

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