His name is Nick Sandmann and he was among a group of fellow students from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School attending Friday’s March for Life on the National Mall. Native American Nathan Phillips was also there for a separate rally for indigenous peoples. A fuller picture is now emerging as longer videos of the encounter show the boys standing in that spot for a long period of time before Phillips walked up to them to play his drum right in the middle of their group.
The students were later condemned for their actions, but Sandmann, who was shown standing in front of Mr. Phillips smiling, says he was only trying to calm things down in the midst of the chaos. The teen explained that by “remaining motionless and calm,” he believed he was “helping defuse the situation.” Sandmann responded to critics on social media who, he says, erroneously interpreted his actions as being racist. “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” he said.
According to Webster the phrase, “first-hand account” is defined as, “obtained by, coming from, or being direct personal observation or experience.” I have always found a first-hand perspective fascinating. To talk to someone who was actually there, who saw it really happen, who actually knew the person and talked to them first hand has always interested me. It is often that after controversial events more and more facts find their way to the forefront completely redefining the headlines.
Years ago, I was blessed to make the acquaintance of Tony Dolan and John Fund. Tony was a speechwriter for the White House in the 1980’s and John is a syndicated columnist. Both knew and personally worked with President Ronald Reagan. My good friend former Congressman Bob McEwen has also shared with me moments of personal interaction with our 40th President. I have always relished hearing their first-hand accounts of conversations and observations of their time with him. They were there, they really saw it happen!
As I give this some thought I am reminded of the words of Peter as he wrote to early Christ followers, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Wow, talk about a first-hand account! No one could convince him otherwise. Jesus really was who he said he was. Peter removes all doubt as he was even willing to die for what he knew to be true.
First-hand accounts are important because they dispel misinformation and falsehood. Peter must have been familiar with darkness, as everyone in his day was. No thousand-watt municipal street lamps ripped open the night sky. He saw the small oil lamps limited ability to illuminate a room. In our day and time many are skeptical of the story of Christianity and with the prevalent secular mindset of our culture, I can see why they have a bit of trouble embracing the incredible claims regarding Jesus.
Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch your death of cold,” she fussed. But young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. Pointing, Robert exclaimed, “See; look there; there’s a man poking holes in the darkness.”
In a day where the lack appreciation for the facts is more fashionable than what really happened. In a day when the character of a good young man is worth nothing compared to a trending news flash or a controversial headline. In a week when a Christian Mother of the utmost character is harassed and, dare say, persecuted in the media simply for teaching art at a Christian School… We have arrived at a precarious place, that is for sure.
Jim Geraghty, the senior political correspondent of National Review captured it well. “No hostile foreign power had to invade to impose these conditions upon Americans. No sinister cabal took control of the reins of our government. No one tore up the Constitution and imposed martial law or suddenly announced a new regime of seemingly random spotlighted surveillance and draconian social punishment for deviating from the mob’s amorphous definition of acceptable behavior. Groups of not-particularly famous, not-particularly powerful Americans chose to impose this new system upon all of us.”
Taking the truth of God’s word seriously matters; it deserves our trust because it is a book that has been shown to be reliable and relevant. It continues to inspire, challenge, comfort, instruct, guide and bless its readers. And our response to its message has eternal consequences. Perhaps it is for us, in this day to confidently and effectively poke holes in the darkness of our day with the truth… First-Hand!
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.