Selma is a powerful, timely film that cracked through some of the hardness of my heart around race and justice issues in America. I watched it with a group of Hopkins InterVarsity students, and afterward we had one of the most powerful group prayers that I’ve ever been part of. It was a teary, vulnerable time of confession, lament, intercession, and hope. We prayed so much that we ran out of time for discussion! (For anyone interested in leading a Selma discussion/prayer, this InterVarsity Multiethnic Ministries article is an excellent resource.)
As my friend Michael pointed out, a theme of Selma is Fog versus Clarity. In the fog of racism, white America committed unspeakable atrocities and brutalities. Of course its victim, black America, had great clarity on the matter, but they found themselves in the fog of fear and death. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in many ways an ordinary man, as he himself asserts in the film, but by the power of Jesus, he was able to cut through that fog with the clarity of the dream that God gave him – one of equality and justice and peace. And as Martin cut through the fog, he slowly helped others to see through it as well, both black and white. This is best illustrated in the scene where the marchers attempted to cross the bridge, when a white reporter relayed with horror that “for a moment the smoke cleared, and you could see the police beating them in the heads with batons.” For modern viewers of Selma, the fog is greatly dissipated and we sit back and watch with horror and disbelief what happened in our nation just 50 years ago. Yet with recent events such as in Ferguson, we are reminded that Satan still has a fog of racism and injustice over our nation, albeit a far subtler one than over past generations. One day, when Jesus returns, he will bring perfect clarity to everything, with judgment and restoration and peace. Until that day, while it’s easy to be blinded and tricked by the fog of evil, my prayer is that we as a nation continue to fight through the fog, hopefully led by people who follow Jesus.
As an extra, here is Common and John Legend’s song, “Glory,” from the end of Selma:
Comment with your own thoughts, prayers, and reflections from Selma!