I haven’t seen Selma yet (although I fully plan to), but I have read this interview with its lead actor, David Oyelowo, and he says this in response to the question “Why should American Christians see this movie?”:
Because you see someone who doesn’t just talk about their faith; you see someone who walks it out, with sacrifical love. The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.
That is not only what Dr. King did ultimately (in being assassinated); it’s what he did for those 13 years that he led the civil rights movement. Every day he sacrificed seeing his kids. He had to endure death threats. He had to endure ill health. He often went into the hospital for exhaustion, because he was constantly putting himself on the line for others. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.
It’s very easy to hold someone like Dr. King out at arms’ length, make him into an untouchable icon instead of a flawed, sinful, regular guy who got thrust into a particular time and place in history. (I’m not the only one thinking about this; I’ve seen similar sentiments all over Twitter today.) But that’s what he was, which is a comforting thought–if a normal, flawed guy can make a difference, that means I can, too. But it’s also convicting–if a normal, flawed guy can be called to that kind of difficulty and sacrifice, that means I can, too.
* * *
I just started work in a public library branch in what used to be the largest unincorporated African-American community in the South, what’s now a largeish neighborhood in northwest Houston. It’s unfortunately known for its high crime rates, something I was warned about repeatedly when I let people know I was going to work there.
I drive past a sign every day marking a street that’s called Ferguson, and wonder if that name feels weightier now in light of the events of last summer and fall. Likely not. But it reminds me.
And I’ve always been keenly aware of race, as a daughter of both the Korean forests and hills and of the American South and Midwest. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been aware of the history of minorities in this country. But now I find myself working with and for a neighborhood I’m not familiar with, and I occasionally catch myself thinking horrifying things.
This is now the opportunity for me to put into practice all the things I said during Ferguson–I am there to serve and not be served, to listen and to learn and to love my neighbor as myself, but also just to do my job well and treat people as people instead of obstacles, business as usual. Race, so far, hasn’t really been a big deal, but I still look around and think, let justice roll like a river here, too.
I’m just one woman. And I’m not a prophetess, nor the daughter of a prophetess, but if all my thoughts on the gospel and race and culture aren’t relevant in Acres Homes, I don’t know what use they are.