“12 Years a Slave” – We Need to See This



I watched this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture last night – 12 Years a Slave.  It’s a powerful film based on the book by Solomon Northup, in which he recounts his experiences as a slave in Louisiana.  It’s not a feel good movie.   It’s a feel sad, feel mad movie.  It’s a movie that some want to avoid.  Who wants to to do something that makes you sad or mad?

Some are mad at the injustices that were committed against people.  Some are mad that the movie portrayed slavery in such a negative way.  Really.

It’s not a movie that you enjoy.  It’s one that you endure.   But we need to watch it.

We need to know.   The movie makes us confront the cruelty of which people are capable – yes, people who claim to follow Christ.

We need to remember.   “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana

We need to recognize that slavery is not just history, it is the history of our country.

We need to do some serious soul-searching.  Is it possible that even though we’ve done away with slavery, the attitudes and stereotypes that surrounded it still exist? Think back to the Cheerios ad and the responses to it.

We need to look at our use and understanding of the Bible.
The Bible plays a prominent role in the movie – as it did in the days of slavery – something I’ve mentioned before.

In one scene, slave owner Edwin Epps holds a church service for his slaves and quotes the Bible, Luke 12:47, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” After he reads this passage, he waves his Bible in the faces of the slaves and says, “and that’s Scripture!”

Each lash of the whip from the hand of Epps upon the back of Patsey – played by Oscar winning Lupita Nyong’o – was punctuated with Biblical justification.

Hopefully no Christian today still quotes the Bible to defend slavery.  But how many still use the method of interpreting the Bible that allowed slave owners to use the Bible as a spiritual whip.

We need to see God as the slaves saw God.  The “slavers” used their faith as a tool to control and dehumanize. The slaves used their faith to endure the degradations, indignities, and cruelties of slavery.

We need to make a “hypocrisy check.”  After Solomon arrives on the plantation, his master, William Ford, gathers the slaves and gives a sermon, quoting Luke 17:2, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”  We had just seen, in the previous scene, Ford buying and thus separating a female slave from her children.  We can’t miss the hypocrisy.  I should see my own hypocrisy as clearly.

We need to let the spirit of Jesus shape us – the spirit of justice, the spirit that sees each person as one made in the image of God.   The voice of justice in the movie belongs to Samuel Bass, played by Brad Pitt, a Canadian surveyor and abolitionist.  He tells Epps, “If you don’t treat them as humans, then you will have to answer for it… Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.”

It is Bass’ intervention that leads to Solomon’s deliverance and return to freedom – deliverance and freedom, but not justice.  Solomon does not find justice.  Because of racist laws, he was unable to hold the men accountable who sold him into slavery. In what ways do we need to intervene?

We need to see this film because it can change us for the better.  Maybe that’s what art does.

“This I Believe” Part 1


“A lie travels around the world, while Truth is putting on her boots.”  Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), British Baptist preacher who in his lifetime preached to over 10,000,000 people

Prompted by some recent mis-representations of my theological views I will attempt in the following posts to clarify said views and to communicate my positions on other theological matters.  So, come on, grab your favorite beverage, and join in the conversation:

Today’s post will follow a “That – this” format.  It was said “that” I believe…. but in truth, “this” is what I believe.

1.  It was said that I believe that “we cannot base our faith on the Scriptures as a whole.”
But in truth this is what I believe:

I believe that the foundation of the Christian faith is the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “For no one can lay any foundation, other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11; “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14; See also 1 Peter 2:6

Jesus, the Living Word, is the foundation of our faith.  The Scriptures point us to Jesus.
Jesus laid it out to the Pharisees, “You diligently study the scripture because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the scriptures that testify about me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  The Pharisees thought life was found in the scripture.  Jesus said it isn’t.  Life is found in Him.  Paul, therefore, says in Galatians 2:20, that we live this life by “faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.”

It’s like our cute, but not always so bright dog, Skittles.  When I point my finger at something to show Skittles, she doesn’t look at the object at which I’m pointing.  She only looks at the tip of my finger.  The Pharisaical trap is to fail to see beyond the Bible to Jesus.

Scripture is the foundation of what we believe but not why we believe.

2. It was said that I believe, “The only thing we can truly believe in are the four gospels.”
But in truth, this is what I believe:  The entire Bible is trustworthy.

The above misrepresentation of my view arose out of a teaching I gave at a seminar at which the leaders were “equipping” people to share the gospel to those without Christ.  The seminar covered topics such as “What is the Gospel” “What is truth” “The Resurrection.”  My task was to address Biblical issues in presenting the “good news” to people.

In talking to a person about Christ, I don’t start with the Bible and the difficulties commonly raised about the Bible. I start with Jesus as presented in the Gospels.  Even with questions and problems people have with certain Bible texts, we can have complete faith in Christ.  We have very convincing historical evidence confirming not only the existence of Jesus, but the historical events of his ministry, crucifixion, burial and physical resurrection.  The evidence of the Gospel’s reliability is such that each person must ask, “What will I do with Jesus.?”

Once a person comes to Jesus, he will then grow into a deeper appreciation for the rest of the Bible.

I believe in the Bible because I believe in Jesus.

So, just to be clear:  I believe this:
*The entire Bible is trustworthy.
*The foundation of the Christian faith is the life, death, resurrection of Jesus.
*When talking to a person about a relationship with Jesus, focus on the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.

Next post:

It was said that I believe that “the God of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament.”
But that’s not what I believe.  I believe…
I will address “that” in my next post.

What do you believe?