Wednesday, November 13, 2013
12 Years a Slave: A Painful Truth
When my husband Anthony and I left the movie theater after seeing 12 Years a Slave this past Saturday evening, I KNEW I had to blog about this movie.
Even though I don't feel like I have much to say - that hasn't already been said - I feel like I MUST speak. I MUST write.
Because 12 Years a Slave shook me to my core in way that hasn't happened in a very long time.
I left the theater thinking, I've got to tell THE WORLD to go see this movie.
Four days later, I do have a few more thoughts. So here you go...
I. US slavery was a brutal, evil part of our country's history:
The US slave trade is said to have begun in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia (my parents' home-state). For over 250 years, human beings were sold as cattle for the purpose of financial gain for their slave masters.
12 Years a Slave handles this period of time with fervor and brutal honesty. It is very painful to watch, but it is an authentic portrayal of one man's story. It also uncovers a more obscure aspect of slavery -- free black men and women who were kidnapped and forced into slavery.
Some have labeled the violence in the movie "excessive." However, the US slave trade was excessive. It was brutally violent. It was vulgar and dehumanizing - intentionally so.
II. The Bible was misused by many slaveowners to subjugate their slaves
The key word here is misused.
It was painful to watch the scenes where slaveowners misquoted the Bible. And I wondered, how could someone misuse this life-giving book? How could they use the Bible to justify so much destruction and pain? How did they misinterpret it so profoundly - with such wicked intentions?
I have no answers here. I only know that some people will go to any lengths for money, power and social standing. Even to the depths of distorting and prostituting my Father's beautiful and inerrant Word.
III. God can use our deepest pain for His glory
Warning: Plot-spoiler ahead...
Based on the true story of Solomon Northup - beautifully portrayed by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave ends with a short description of Solomon's life after his rescue from slavery. After spending a horrific 12 years in slavery, Solomon was said to have joined the abolitionist movement and also to have aided the escape of slaves through the Underground Railroad*.
Would Solomon have become an anti-slavery activist without his experience as a slave? Maybe. Maybe not. But his story reminds me that God can use our deepest pain to grow us up, to take us to higher heights, to use us for His purposes and His glory.
The universal truth here? God never, ever wastes pain.
He didn't waste Solomon Northup's pain.
And He won't waste yours either.
* The Underground Railroad was a covert network of people and places that assisted fugitive slaves as they escaped enslavement in US southern states.