Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stupid White People

Just kidding, sort of. I am taking an elective this semester, American History Through Film, that focuses on the the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Right now, we are covering the Civil Rights Movement. We watched two compelling documentaries entitled, "Ain't Scared Of Your Jails" and "Mississippi: Is This America?" These documentaries deeply moved me and I would like to share the experience.

The first film, "Ain't Scared Of Your Jails," showed the actual footage of the college student nonviolent organization movement, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, that lead the revolutionary sit-ins, demonstrations, freedom rides, and served unjust jail sentences. The movement began in Nashville, Tenn. and spread throughout the entire South to challenge racial segregation and discriminatory voting laws.

Most people know about the remarkable actions of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other famous Civil Rights activists, so this documentary was a freshly informative account of the young people that served as the driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement. These were the people out on the streets, beaten by angry mobs, and used their "peace training" to withstand the temptation of violent retaliation. Seeing the actual footage of young, brave African-American men and women endure threats, jeers, rejection, bombings and beatings to rouse the moral conscience of our nation is absolutely overwhelming.
The picture above is one of the Freedom Ride buses that seated blacks in the front and whites in the back that was bombed after leaving Atlanta.

The film highlighted the imperative involvement of black churches and integrated northern churches in the Civil Rights Movement. Churches were used to hold Civil Rights Meetings and the bodies of those churches reached out to the poor and oppressed black communities, providing education, support, hope, and protection best they could.

The second film, "Mississippi: Is This America?" showed interviews with white southern segregationists and the attempts of the "Citizen's Council" to put a halt to the Civil Rights Movements. Business owners, lawyers, police, bankers, and other powerful citizens joined together to punish whites that supported integration by refusing loans, closing and boycotting businesses, and making unjust arrests. Mississippi passed new voting laws to keep the black community from qualifying to vote.

The hatred and ignorance captured on film in these documentaries from segregationists is absolutely mind-blowing. The fact that this all unfolded less than fifty years ago is also unsettling. Watching the interviews with African-Americans that lived through this time, acquired their long overdue rights, and are still alive today to tell about it was especially moving. My fellow classmates and I had tears running down our faces as we listened to survivors recount the loss of their loved ones and the seemingly impossible obstacles overcome through faith, perseverance, and nonviolence.

These documentaries will be of great interest to those yearning to witness this epic era of American history and to any of the homeschooling moms out there with high school age kids. Most history must be read about because it occurred before the development of film. To be able to watch these video artifacts chronicling America's deliverance, or beginning of deliverance, from racial injustice is an enlightening opportunity that should not be passed up. It will make you squirm. It will make you cry. It will make you angry. It will make you grateful for the progress America has made. Most of all, it will allow you to get to know the stories of the every day people that became extraordinary by demonstrating the courage it takes to PEACEFULLY obtain justice, equality, and freedom for all.

Martin Luther King had a dream, and these documentaries tell the stories of those who were determined to make that dream a reality.


Blake said...

Segregation was wrong and all, but churches had no business getting involved in rebellion against governing authorities, even if it was civil disobedience. Blacks broke the law by intergrating with whites and the church was tainted by extorting rights before those rights were sanctioned by the law.

Peter said...

What good is the Church if it doesn't speak up for those with no voice, for those who are oppressed, and stand against those who would pervert God's word to justify racial supremacy? The churches involved with the Civil Rights Movement did not riot or resort to violence, but peacefully exercised their constituational rights (and God given rights) to awaken the rest of the country that had turned a blind eye to the injustice heaped upon African Americans in the South. Today's church could learn something from the civil rights movement about how to really serve and stand by the most vulnerable in our nation.

Blake said...

The Church should have stuck to praying for change and let God change the hearts of the authorities. How does the church wasting it time trying to get blacks and whites living along side each other furthering the gospel?

catrina said...

I love stuff like this, I could go on and on, so I'll stop now.

Tia Lynn said...

I know Cat. I have yet to weigh in on this one myself. But I'm with Peter, sometimes the church needs to get up off its knees and act.

You'd probably really like those documentaries.

catrina said...

Blake, by now you have probably moved on to greener pastures, but I wanted to say why I think getting blacks and whites to live side by side furthers the gospel. First from the Lords prayer, "let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Certainly you don't believe in a segregated heaven, and it shows the unsaved world the unity that Christ can bring. It also furthers the gospel with the second commandment of love your neighbor as yourself. If you are putting the needs of others, and are considering others more highly than you consider yourself, then you are showing Christ love, and when people of any race or religion encounter the love of the savior they are transformed and are never the same. Those are just 2 of my many thoughts on the subject, I hope you take the time to really think about how important it is to not only pray for people but to act. I had surgury last year and I knew that people were praying for me, it greatly comforted me, but what brought Christ to me was the people that cooked food for my family, went to the grocery store for me, and watched my kids for me. That was putting feet to the gospel, or your money where your mouth is.

Blake said...

Hi there Catrina. I hear what you are saying and I fully believe the church had the best intentions during the civil rights movement. However, the fact remains that the church was accomplice in violating the law. No matter how you spin it, that is REBELLION against the authority GOD has put into place. Good cause or not, it was a sin to violate the law, and sin will always taints the church.

Ofcourse blacks and whites and all other races should live along side each other, together and EQUALLY. But when things aren't as they should be, the church must wait patiently for change, not break the law and demand change.

Tia Lynn said...

Blake, your desire to obey God's command to submit to authority is admirable, but misguided. Many Christians have held to such a rigid interpretation, sometimes out of sincerity and other times as a justification for their indifference toward injustice. Some churches in Nazi Germany recoiled and sat idly by while massive amounts of Jews,Catholics, the handicapped, and gays were slaughtered.

But scripture gives many examples of civil disobedience: Exod. 1:15 - 2:10; Heb. 11:23; Esther 3:6,15; 7:4-6; Daniel 6:4-15; Acts 5:29,41,42; Acts 16:35-40.

While the sit-ins at segreated businesses during the Civil Right Movement were acts of civil disobedience, the marches and freedom rides were not. The supreme court had ruled that blacks and whites could be intergrated while traveling throughout ALL states in the U.S. The Southern states were in rebellion against federal law. So, those demonstrations were completely legal.

I think Martin Luther King Jr. sums up civil disobedience best:

"An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

Plus, part of obeying our unique democratic-republic American government IS TO SPEAK UP and protest injustice. We the people are the government and this government asks for their people's participation in the laws that govern us. As Christians, it's vital to take advantage of this unprecedented system of government.

Churches that sacrificed for society's most oppressed were living out their faith in true service. How that needs to be revived!

catrina said...

Blake the issue of the law can become pretty tricky. People use the bible to break the law on numerous fronts, (bombing abortion clinic, child abuse, tax evasion even though this on seems like a no brainer since Jesus said render unto Ceasar what is Ceasars.) However there comes a time when the law of the land oversteps the laws of God, Nazi Germany is the greatest example of that I can think of. I guarantee you that if I were living in that time, and Jews came to my farm seeking aid of any kind, I would be hard pressed to stand before the creator and tell him that I couldn't help his people because it was "against the law." I am reminded of Rahab the prostitute that hid the spies and lied about it. The lord blessed her lineage with the messiah. The ugly truth is that even though it is not often talked about, the south in particular was very similar to Germany, and the white supremist were the Nazis of that era. They raped young girls w/o consequence, they ran over people in the streets, they stalked them as they went to school and work, and often the laws that were there to protect them did nothing for them. Our constitution which should have a higher status than local law gave them equal rights, but the courts decided to bypass our constitution to make laws that were more appealing. Right now I obey every law of man that I am aware of, but if there ever comes a day that I am forced to go against the law of God, I will have some "thinking and praying" to do. I hope that states my opinion clearly.

Blake said...

I'll have to look into those examples of scriptural civil disobedience and whether or not the marches and freedom rides were in concordance with the law. I just don't understand why God would tell us in His Word that He appoints ALL authority and ruling governments and then would allow His people to go against what He has set up.

Peter said...

We have to honor the position of authority God has granted to government, but we all know authority can be abused and perverted. The Bible clearly teaches that to whom much is given, much will be required and those in power will be held accountable for their decisions.

As Christians, we obey the law of the land, but are ultimately required to fight for God's laws of JUSTICE, EQUALITY, MERCY, FREEDOM, ETC. ETC.

The churches during the Civil Rights Movement demonstrated a remarkable about of respect and honor for corrupt southern authorities by peacefully accepting punishment and living out the principles of nonviolence. It was an amazing testimony of transforming obedience that drew its strength from AGAPE.

Rhonda said...

What a charismatic, powerful speaker MLK was! It's such a shame that he died before seeing the reaping of his dreams.