Ain't gonna study war no more,
Ain’t gonna study oh war no more....We were singing spiritual at full blast. I still remember that Saturday evening youth group meeting in 1984. One of our good friends was conscripted for two years into the communist army and was being sent to the border with West Germany. This spiritual was our political protest song. We knew that we were being watched by the secret police. They might have bugged our youth room, they might have an undercover agent among us (only later we learned they indeed broke the most vulnerable among us to spy for them; we forgave him). We did not need to worry. We were not discussing politics, we were not discussing our distaste for conscription, militarism, and the bellicose regime or at least not directly. We were just singing, and everyone in the room understood the subtext, it was our coded communication. In a similar way on other occasions we sang about Israel in Egypt’s land. Let my people go! We were singing about toppling the ominous walls of Jericho or promising each other that we shall overcome one day. The totalitarian regime could not stop us, they were trapped by their own ideology. They were supporting anti-imperialist causes around the world; they simply could not stop us from singing the songs of oppressed African Americans (Czech-Canadian author Josef Škvorecký, who died a year ago, wrote about it with his own humor.)
Thankfully, hope and striving for freedom and justice are not ideological, they are universal. And although biblical scholars and archeologists are almost unanimous that the exodus from Egypt never happened as recorded in the Bible. The exodus continues to inspire and keeps happening all the time. In this respect the Exodus is a myth in the best possible sense as defined millennia ago by the Greek Neoplatonist Sallustius - “Myths are stories which never happened, but always are.” This mythical striving for freedom inspired authors of spirituals under slavery, inspired the struggle against southern racism and segregation, inspired opposition against totalitarian regimes and South African struggle against apartheid. These stories continue to inspire the search for a safe, and more just and peaceful society today.
Come this Sunday to celebrate this heritage and to step into this ongoing strife. Our guest preacher will be the Rev. Dr. Paul Smith who walked and worked side by side with MLK. He will have more interesting stories to tell.
|An illustration from our Youth Hymnal by Zdeněk Šorm.|
Hymnal with this graphics was published only after 1989.
Nevertheless it nicely illustrates the content.