Submitted by Rev. Dr. Don Longbottom
Mary Ann and I attended a showing of “The Green Book” Sunday night. It was one of the finest movies I had seen in many years. In my opinion, it deserves a place in our congregations to be used in Christian education.
There are two main characters with one being black and the other white. One is an uneducated and a somewhat racist Italian-American probably 2nd generation. The other character is an intense, highly educated, musically gifted, slightly snobbish man, of color. They are going on a musical tour of six months into the Deep South in the year 1962.
The acting is stunning and the character development is rich and deep. But what made this work fully deserving of the Oscar it received was the development of the relationship between these two men. Both were flawed, both carried biases gleaned from their social locations and families of origin. Both were real people and not caricatures. These two, in reality, remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Why do I think this movie offers good Christian education?
We live in an era when people are required to be purely one thing or another. If you are a liberal…you need to check every box without exception. If you are a conservative, God help you if you are progressive in any way on any subject. If you are looked up to by any segment of the population, you had better not have any discoverable failings. The problem is obvious in that none of us can be perfectly fit into any “category.” Why is this the case? We are human. We are just people.
When Jesus embraced the Roman Centurion, he embraced a man of violence. He healed the beloved servant of the hated occupier. In order to serve as a Centurion, this man had to have done things of which Jesus vehemently disapproved. This is not a one-off as there are numerous biblical examples of Jesus acting in this manner. So what do we make of this dynamic?
Although willing to take even a life-threatening stand, when called for, Jesus repeatedly resists making premature judgments about people. Apparently, Jesus saw the individual life as a “work in progress.” Can we not do likewise? We live, these days, in a kind of “kill or be killed”…” take no prisoners” cultural dynamic. Although this will sound a bit old fashioned I wish to say; this is how the world does business. As a people of God, we are called to a higher level of compassionate living.
Jesus had a pretty simple yet profound theology, we are called to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The concept of neighbor is a bit misleading. Jesus did not mean the person living next door. For Jesus, everyone, every human being, is our neighbor. Regardless of your nationality, ethnicity, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or any other human category…you are my neighbor and I am commanded to love you. BTW, love in the New Testament is not primarily about feelings. Love is doing the best you are able for another human being.
The Green Book is a phenomenal presentation of flawed human beings building bridges across racism, homophobia, and social class, to one another. It is an honest, painful, humorous, and uplifting story. Do yourself a favor and go see it.
Peace and Honor,