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U.S. National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, as Civil Rights marchers wearing placards reading, “I AM A MAN” pass by on March 29, 1968. It was the third consecutive march held by the group in as many days. Bettmann Getty image.

Like discovering pictures from a Time Capsule, Alan Taylor of The Atlantic reflects on “50 Years in Photos: A Look Back at 1968“:

“A half-century ago, much of the world appeared to be in a state of crisis. Protests erupted in France, Czechoslovakia. Germany, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, and many other places. Some of these protests ended peacefully; many were put down harshly. Two of the biggest catalysts for protest were the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and the ongoing lack of civil rights in the U.S. and elsewhere. Two of America’s most prominent leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated within months of each other. But some lessons were being learned and some progress was being made—this was also the year that NASA first sent astronauts around the moon and back, and the year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.”

The image of Civil Rights marchers wearing placards reading “I AM A MAN” is striking for a number of reasons. The silent photo lets us imagine the hushed walk under the bayonetted guns of authority. The authority may have feared a physical riot, but more, they needed to fear the riotous upheaval of an idea that came of age: each person walking by was a person.

The image speaks to the ongoing human will to be recognized as a person. What it means to be a person is as tenuous these days as it has ever been – for the law cannot do what a person must: recognize in another person – their personhood.

Recognizing our Personhood

It is not lost on me that this photo was taken a few weeks before Easter.  Soon we will be in the shadow of our own silent march, not under the bayonetted guns of an armed guard, but in the willful walk to the Good Friday Cross.

Our remembering the Cross forces us to contemplate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. But more than that, for all those who have come to know Jesus as Friend, Saviour, and Lord, we will recognize His profound dignifying of our humanity – of our personhood.

It’s easy to be distracted, or to forget, but in the presence of Jesus, each person finds in Jesus’ face, the reflection of the enigma of their worth. Enigma, because who could have calculated their worth based on being created in the image and likeness of God?  Who could have known what we mean to Him in light of how little others can mean to us. We are considered a person of value merely because He bestows it.

The spiritual journey is discovering our worth in light of His.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

Revelations 4:11

May Easter re-awaken in you what it means to be a person; may this re-energize in you the ability to treat others as persons.  May you receive His grace.

For more, see “Mysteries and Secrets.”