At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch

Encouraged by author and acquaintance Andrew Himes new book, The Sword of the Lord – The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family, I began reading Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge – America in the King Years 1965-1968.

This 771 page epic is the final in a trilogy from Taylor Branch ( Pilliar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 and Parting The Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 (Pulitzer Prize Winner for Non-fiction).

I find that a reading of history is incredibly informative regarding the issues and challenges currently faced by one’s country and our world.

This book truly captures the essence of an ongoing struggle in each and every society. As stated by President Lyndon Johnson (p.230): “But wantin’ to do what’s right and doing’s what’s right’s two different things – and sometimes, it’s a long hill to climb in between.”

In reading this book, you re-live this era. Your heart breaks. Your soul is shattered. You’re shocked and appalled. You become baptized in the depth of the sacrifices made and lives that were lost. You see the faces and voices of hate, bigotry and prejudice – deeply ingrained in the human equation. Yet, you see what progress can and must be made when the immorality within the day-to-day of human existence is confronted with a movement of moral determination.

Consider the following excerpt from President Johnson(pp.112-113):

“Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth and abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and purpose and the meaning of our beloved nation….we have already waited a hundred years and more and the time for waiting is gone.”

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but contemplate ongoing, unresolved issues of social inequity and injustice where America has “waited over 200 years and the time for waiting is gone.

In what Robert Kennedy called “a moral issue — as old as the Scriptures…as clear as the constitution.” (p. 474) – segregation, in it’s many forms, remains an ongoing, unresolved challenge in America today. As I read Taylor Branch’s book, I could hear current day voices and the faces and places of the immorality of prejudice, bigotry and segregation the continue to inhabit the heart of this great nation. Essential U.S. immigration reform kept coming to mind. The most segregated social institution in America remains the church.

That’s why books like Andrew Himes The Sword of the Lord are so darn important. They remind us that the life’s work of Dr. King, Taylor Branch — and all those who have preceded us as citizens of this great country — that we have much more to do where the time for waiting is gone.


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