The Power of Selma

We took the escalators up to the cinema in the centre of Pretoria to find more people than usual milling around. We wondered what the attraction was but then we got our answer through the discovery that 50 Shades of Grey was recently released.

The Pretoria cinema was busier than usual, filled with women going to see 50 Shades.

We were there for a different reason, to see Selma.

I have noticed a number of people blogging and commenting about this film. I’ve got a number of thoughts going through my head so I couldn’t resist joining the conversation.

Selma depicts the moment in history when Martin Luther King Jr and his collegues were campaigning for the vote for Black people in the USA. The film centred around the planning of a peaceful protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The history, acting, soundtrack, and direction shared the story powerfully, easily leading to questions for today.

Watching this movie in a country that has suffered from severe racism and inequality made my connection to the events all the more real and powerful.

The Power of Faith in Action

I was pleased to see that the writer of Selma didn’t play down the faith of MLK, but in fact highlighted it’s centrality to his pursuit of justice. I struggle with views that faith is personal and shouldn’t impact the public realm. I also struggle with views that say ‘saving a person’s soul’ is more important than seeing justice in today’s world. We all are influenced by someone, and I have chosen to follow a God who has a heart for justice, for forgiveness, for hope, for grace. A God who cares about today and urges his people to partner with him to see all of his creation redeemed. What are the issues today that we need to partner with Him to see change? The huge gap between rich and poor? The destruction of the earth through climate change? The massive number of people who are slaves through human trafficking? The inequality between male and females around the world? The ostracisation of people with different sexual orientation? Where are we being called to act?

The Power of Non-Violence

Selma conveys the struggle between the use of violence and non-violence. I have a value of non-violence in my life but watching the brutality of the police in the film arose feelings of painful revenge in me. Sometimes our values need to stand before our feelings. Violent revenge may have appeased something in the short-term but would have had negative affects in the long-term. Nelson Mandela struggled with the same issue when he was standing against apartheid here in South Africa. In an interview he stated that the power of non-violence can only work so far but then violence has to be the next step. It must be hard sitting back trying to be non-violent when you see your people between beaten and killed. However, I know it sounds idealistic but I stand by my value of non-violence as I follow Jesus who said to love your enemy and showed this in his own life through his sacrificial death. Non-violence has a powerful voice in today’s world where countries spend more money on the military rather than on those in desperate poverty.

The Power of Community

Big names in a movement are important. People like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi were important in gathering a following. However all of these people had a community around them. We need people to inspire us but then we need to take action ourselves. Selma shows the different people that were involved in bringing transformation. It highlights a number of people who were beaten and even killed for the cause. It argues the importance of a community, or even a country, to come together to see justice done. We are all important and gifted in different ways. We all have a role to play in today’s world. How can you work together with a community to see a difference today?

Selma is a powerful film and I would recommend you check it out. It’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts and reflections that it brings to you.

– P

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