This summer, our church was looking to do two things: we wanted to offer a “light” educational series that adults could enjoy and we wanted to continue our conversation about racial reconciliation. One might think those two goals do not go together. But we were not to be deterred. We settled on the option of watching movies that were about racial reconciliation. Movies are certainly fun, but the topic still wasn’t capturing the “fun” or “light” criteria. Then the idea hit us: sports movies! Sports movies allow us to be entertained, while sneaking in powerful stories of hope, challenge, and encouragement.
The model has worked even better than I suspected. Our first two movies have been 42: The Jackie Robinson Story and The Blind Side. The last two movies are Coach Carter and Invictus. We were able to feature four sports: baseball, football, basketball, and rugby. Each week we have been able to cheer on teams, laugh at comical moments, and pause with discomfort when truth broke through. Our conversations have been rich – each movie bringing up parallels in our own stories – about race, about respecting the dignity of every human being, and about our journey with faith.
I think what has made that work is each movie is based on a true story. We did not make that connection when planning the film list, but it has been a powerful surprise. Unlike a fictional film, which could be dismissed as romantic, overly simple, or unrealistic, these movies show us real people, trying to live faithful lives on and off the field. Their stories have been encouraging us to do likewise – examine how we are living faithful lives on and off the field. Ultimately, I think that is the only way we are going to make our way toward racial reconciliation: sharing our stories and listening to others’ stories. It would be easy to do otherwise; to keep our heads down and ignore what is happening in the world about us. But these stories invite us into another way of being.
The invitation of our Faith and Film series this week is for us to find ways to engage outside of the theater. Maybe you start by telling someone about this awesome movie you just saw. Or if you are feeling more confident, maybe you simply talk to a friend or coworker – either of your race or another – and start with a confession, “I watched this movie and it has made me think about [insert your thoughts here]. What is your experience with that?” Using the movie or your own story allows you to do what Jesus did all the time – engage people where they are through the power of story. I believe reconciliation starts there: one story at a time.