I've been trying to reconcile Biblical doctrines that have justified slavery during bible times, throughout history, and into today. It's not an easy task. Once I sense I've grabbed onto a valid thread, my mind is assaulted with the sad and broken way Jesus was used to destroy other people.
Today in church it was announced that we would be featuring the movie Courageous in March. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I will refrain from personal comments since I don't have a right to them yet. Comments from brothers and sisters who have seen the film stem from "It was the best movie ever!", and "We need more films to show what it means to be a dad!", to "As a black man, why do Christian movies insist on steretyping us again and again?" and "As usual, us Latinos are the labourers and brunts of jokes. This is all white, suburban Christianity has to say about humor?", all the way to the issue of egalitarian parenting v. complementarian. Again… withholding judgement until I see it personally.
But I did do some digging. The movie has sparked some issue as to the oppression of women and racism, which, for some seems ridiculous and that those who pick up on these perceived themes are missing the point of the whole movie. Possibly. I'm not discounting that. Those who claim these themes are evident insist that this is the true agenda of the film: not that fathers need to be present, but that they need to dominate the family. Possibly. I am not black or Latina, so I have not lived in a cultural setting where my entire people, to this day, are still often seen as "less". But I am a woman, and one that is whole and complete in Christ, and equal to my brothers in Christ.
How does this relate to slavery?
If minority groups, single moms, people of color, and other marginalized groups are suggesting the film is backing a system of thinking that has brought about violence, lies, hatred, oppression, and other "-isms", these are not voices to be ignored. They might not be correct point-for-point, but once again: many of us have not been raised to be ridiculed as a "Spic", or be the "token black" in the media. The Kendrick Brothers, Southern Baptists by association, produced the film and may very well have had one single message to get across: we need dads. Perhaps not. As I kept researching, I saw that the brothers have been linked to Vision Forum, a fundamentalist Christian pro-family group.
So I kept digging. Here are some comments found on "Doug's Blog":
"Adoption isn’t charity, it’s war." (concering the LGBTQ community taking in foster/adoptive children)
"Even as caging and exploiting tribal people for exhibition is wrong (as was famously done in 1904 at the Bronx Zoo to a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga), so too is elevating their backwards pagan culture as superior to more developed civilizations that owe their advancements to Christian ideals." (referring to how Christians should approach tribal civilizations still present in our world today)
"Our founding fathers intended religion and morality to be the pillars of the new republic, providing the restraint that would allow maximum liberty for the citizenry. Today, this delicate balance of religion and the state has been eroded by a secularist push to isolate Christianity in our culture and render it irrelevant. The choice in our day is a stark one: As a people we either return to our Christian roots or we divorce God altogether. Returning to the principles established by our founders is the way to restore moral sanity and rebuild the foundations that made our nation great."
There is more to read, and I'll leave you to do so at your leisure. However, when recurring themes of patriarchy, racism, domination, colonization, hyper-nationalism keep appearing, we must understand that these are integral ingredients that create a world ripe for slavery. Why are people still insisting on instilling such values in their children when the bible was taken so far out of context before, used as weaponry even, to "civilize the noble savage", or to degrade gay people as less than human (or doomed to hell), or judge single moms as incomplete families?
The oppression of women in the family and in society creates vulnerability. They are the first to be bought and sold, because the man of the house must remain to hold his kingdom together. Women are the weaker sex, thus easier prey. When we twist the Bible into the white colonized version that Vision Forum has done, we create more vulnerable women, men and children.
Do the Sherwood brothers subscribe dogmatically to VF? I don't know for sure. Does this make Courageous suspect in its message(s)? Well, as believers we are to be wise, calm and open to what others have to say. So yes, I do believe the message of dads getting back on track is a critical theme – dads that serve, dads that love, dads that seek help when required, dads that are examples. However, racism and slave-states were built on covert and subtle messages of incorrect theology many times over. VF is an example of this.
I, for one, am going in with caution. VF has made its mandate clear. However… a movie is just a movie. If I disagree with Courageous or its message, no one's making me watch it. Furthermore, disagreement can lead to fruitful discussion more than every person in the room experiencing a tearful altar call. It can also lead to pointless divisions, as much as tearful altar calls lead to emotional changes that last but a day.
My larger point here was to uncover some of the "family values" that aren't exactly family values at all, but rather Scripture guised in the American/Canadian dream, the white middle class ideal, and the continuing oppression of colonizers around the world in the name of evangelism. By doing so, Christians continue to contribute to slavery instead of abolishing it.
But hey… that's just my take.