Black Beauties: A commentary on Hidden Figures

Take One

I was born on the day that senator Robert Kennedy was shot by the hands of Sirhan Sirhan. On June 5th, 1968 I came into a world of terrible social injustice and hatred of black Americans. Two months prior to my birth on April the 4th, 1968 my Christian brother and fellow American Dr. King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray.

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I am not old enough to remember segregation because I was born in the era to end it. When I see the historical images of the prejudice, hatred, segregation and oppression I am shocked by the America that preceded my birth. I am a white man in rural white northern Michigan without a context to understand those times.bobby

I was reminded of this America in a vivid way last Saturday evening. I rocked back in my theater seat enjoying my popcorn with my wife and friends as the struggle of the 1960’s was masterfully presented to us. We came to see the film Hidden Figures and it did not disappoint. Last Saturday many women assembled nationwide to be heard in Washington DC as I watched a movie about how black women changed American prejudice in a much different way. It may shock you to hear that it was done in a manner that was very quiet and very Christian.

Jesus was from Nazareth, a northern Galilee hick town with a bad reputation. No one significant ever came from there. But Jesus, the oppressed and unjustly hated Jew became the most significant and single most influential person ever to walk this earth. In the face of injustice, prejudice, mocking and eventual murder he overcame it all and turned our world upside down. Nothing in our world would ever be the same after he gave his life.

In many ways these black beauties working for NASA overcame similar injustices. The film beautifully pays tribute to the manner in which they defeated racial and sexual discimination. What stuck out to me most in Hidden Figures is that these obscure no name women responded to oppression the same way Jesus did. Through humble service and meekness they dramatically changed their world and the world of those who followed in their wake.

Take two – America first

The women were driven by a higher purpose than themselves. America was in the space race and nothing else mattered except getting John Glenn on the moon before the end of the decade. Despite the oppression and injustice they put their noses down and did their jobs making themselves invaluable to the mission. There was never a more unjustly oppressed man than the sinless Son of God yet despite this he set his face towards the cross to accomplish his Father’s mission. In a similar way these black beauties were selfless and driven for something greater than themselves. This is truly a dying spirit in America I am afraid.

The women suffered in the workplace but overcame the cruelty in a very Christian way. These black beauties were humble, respectful, and gracious in the face of ugly oppression. There was a Christian principle they followed throughout the film, it reads like this-

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. – 1 Peter 2:18 ESV

The hidden figures suffered wrongfully but were never presented as harsh and retaliatory. These ladies had an internal beauty that was obvious to God and all who observed their good conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-6 ) They followed the example of Jesus in refusing to speak evil against their oppressors, nor did they pursue vengeful retaliation as Dr. King taught them.

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For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.- 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV

My take

True Christianity rejects moral relativity and the culture is growing increasingly more intolerant and hostile to absolute truth and Christianity. Opposition and intolerance are the embers of persecution and the fire has already started in America. Will the American Christian stand up and march, or will we humbly follow Jesus as these African-American women did? We are getting a slight taste of persecution, injustice, oppression and what will our response be? Perhaps American privilege has caused us to forget our higher calling to suffer joyfully for the name of Jesus.

As the credits rolled I thought that these women shined as examples of the Christian faith in the face of terrible injustice. I am not sure if they were confessing believers but their life sure reflected it. The film inspired me to follow the example of Jesus and of these women to persevere in the faith whatever the cost.

Live godly in a godless culture and you will suffer persecution. But the benefits must never be forgotten by those who desire to live this way. There is the benefit of grace and glory for all who suffer wrongly for doing all the right things. Jesus suffered and the Christian will suffer because of his name as well. Remember, and be encouraged by the words of Peter the persecuted apostle on how to defeat the roaring lion.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11 ESV

I am not a film critic, I am just an American Christian. I give this movie a five-star rating and two thumbs up despite my lack of credentials. I recommend it as a must see!

The truth about being truly happy

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, happy birthday, happy holidays, happy this happy that. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Life doesn’t miraculously become happy by simply attaching the word happy to every occasion or holiday. If it were that simple I would attach happy to every day of the year. You and I live in the real world and we know that life is partly cloudy with occasional peeks at the sunshine.

There are seasons of sadness and seasons of joy that turn as often as trees in their seasons. The Byrd’s were right when they put the bible to song in the classic hit turn, turn, turn. A time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) It’s coming up on 2 years since my son died and I am still sad on a daily basis but I am not without joy. I know the pathway to happiness in this life and at its end is paradise!TheByrdsTurnTurnTurnAlternate

Is their a truly contented person who is completely happy with their life? I want to be real with you for a moment. I have a continual sadness in my heart because of the 4 deaths that spanned 12 months in my family. I hope that 2016 brings more happiness to me and those I love most in this world. Can the sadness be overcome? Is  discovering happiness just a matter of mind over difficult matters and thinking my way into bliss or nirvana? No, I am afraid it doesn’t work that way and there is more to it than that.

Ask a thousand people what would make them truly happy and I suppose you would get a thousand different responses. I want to be happy and to turn away from this season of sadness- but how? A wise president once said, “Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Was Lincoln right? I want to be happy. If his statement is true then my sadness in life is a failure on my part to be determined enough to be happy. This too falls short of what is needed to be happy.

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Thomas Jefferson said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In all our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness have we ever obtained the happiness we pursue? If happiness is the feeling of pleasure and contentment then we must be honest and say that happiness at best is a vain and fleeting pursuit. It’s not jut an issue of our mindset, there must be more.

Bobby Mcferrin became famous with his catchy tune, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I agree with Bobby. Putting away worry and troubles is a good practice but it doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. At best, if we are free of worry we are at peace for the moment but is the absence of anxiety happiness? What if you had everything and not a care in the world, would this bring lasting happiness or just momentary pleasure?

King Solomon had and used every resource available to chase pleasure, he had wine, women and song, pleasures without barriers and found no happiness in it. “I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2) He discovered that the pursuit of  pleasure does not end with happiness but at emptiness. Isn’t that the way the world approaches life much of the time? We seek happiness in relationships, family, educational pursuits, jobs, careers, pleasure, gathering stuff, experiencing life and yet we are discontent, disappointed, and unhappy with all our pursuits of happiness and left empty and grasping for a phantom named Mr. Happy. 0f57928c01fdf9cdcb1c785bb82d6e9f

I have a confession to make; I puke a little in the mouth at the sound of Joel Osteen. I sure like his pretty teeth and his hollywood smile however. Is the blessed and happy life just a matter of name it and claim it positive confession which he preaches? No,  It is nothing more than a game which sells lots of books and merchandise which is surely providing Joel his best life now at the expense of people who want happiness in a bad way. It doesn’t go far enough either.images-4

Wasn’t Jesus born into poverty and hated, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief? Didn’t he promise his followers troubles and persecution and pain just as he suffered? Yet Jesus possessed joy, and his joy is provided to believers in our pain, grief, death and sorrow.

The Lord looked past his cross to the joy of returning home to his Father in heaven. King David foretold of his post resurrection joy in Psalm 16:11. “You made known to me the pathway of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forever-more.” Hope is a wonderful thing. Hope gives me joy, and someday my joy will be full in the presence of God with my loved ones who have preceded me. True happiness in this life is only a glimpse into the overflowing happiness the Christian will possess in our eternal home.

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Where is happiness found?

Happiness begins in the mind just as we have been saying. The key that opens the doorway to happiness, even in our sadness, is found in the words of Jesus. He said the blessed and happy people think this way. They are poor in spirit, humble, and mourning over sin. Happy people are meek, and those who seek after righteousness. Happiness is for the merciful and those who are pure in heart. Happy people are peacemakers and those who suffer for the name of Jesus. (Matthew 5)

Happiness is found in these beatitudes but to understand this does not go far enough. Jesus teaches us that the pathway to happiness is to kill every self-serving and prideful thought with humble servitude as a slave to God. Jesus washed the disciples feet on the night before he was to be crucified and listen to his advice about finding true happiness. “For I have given you an example, to do as I have just done unto you. Truly, truly, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed (happy) are you if you do them.” (John 13:15-17) What I know and how I think doesn’t go far enough to give me happiness. True happiness is found in humble self denial and obediently serving others as we would serve ourselves.

Jesus was God, became a man, emptied himself and humbled himself as a slave. He became obedient to God, endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him he endure it all for us. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Happiness is available. This is the truth about happiness!  🙂

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Happy New Year my friends!