I was raised in the church. We spent almost every Sunday morning in worship service, followed by family dinner, and sometimes we would attend church events on Saturday afternoons, Sunday evenings, or other days in the week. I remember sitting in on conversations where older and wiser people discussed Christ, the church, family, and the daily struggles of life. One phrase that easily comes to mind from those conversations is, “Don’t be so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good.” I think about this phrase often when I am speaking with Christians who have been saved or in the church for a long time. Some of them find it hard to relate to those who are on “the outside.” Others have little patience with those who are taking slow steps in their faith. God continuously reminds me to come alongside a brother or sister right where they are and take the faith journey with them. As Christians, we must be spiritually minded and we must also understand that we have been called into a world (John 17:15-19) that is fallen, dark, broken, and full of sin. The world is where we are called to shine light.
I wrestled with this reality as I thought about recommending the movie, Fruitvale Station. Fruitvale Station received raving reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, taking home the Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic and Audience Award-U.S. Drama awards. It been in theaters several weeks but given my spiritual and emotional grief concerning the Trayvon Martin situation, I could not readily prepare myself to go see the film. After days of prayer and some fasting, I finally made it to the theater last week.
The movie is based on the true story and the last day in the life of Oscar Grant. Director, Ryan Coogler, and author, Michael B. Jordan (who played Oscar in the movie), did excellent jobs of portraying the humanity of Oscar. Like Trayvon Martin, Oscar was a young black male. He was not a hero; he was not a villain. Oscar was a father and a convicted felon who was trying to make a better life for himself, and life for him, was hard.
This movie is hard to watch. It contains tough language and difficult scenes, but one of the main points Mark Labberton makes in his book, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, is, “changing our world depends on changing our hearts: how we perceive, name, and act in the world. The ways of the heart are reflected in the world daily in how we perceive (see and assess one another), how we name (frame and position one another) and how we act (engage or distance one another) (pg. 23).” I believe Fruitvale Station can play a small part in changing the way troubled black males are perceived. Viewing it will cause you to wrestle with the young man’s anger and fears, his hopelessness, and his joys. It causes you to put yourself in the position of a person making poor decisions because options are limited. It causes us to wrestle with the injustices of corrupt police units and the injustices of our juvenile justice system (a topic in which I discussed with Dr. Kimberlee Johnson).
We need to allow this movie to open our eyes to see beyond our caves and inner circles. We need to see that this movie is only a picture of similar injustices like it which are happening all across this country. I was taken in from the start because the movie begins with an actual video clip documenting the crass behavior of the BART police at Fruitvale Station in the Oakland, California. After watching the movie, I came home and YouTube-ed a video which documented the last few moments of Oscar’s life. In the movie theater and at home, I cried for this young man; I cried for my brother, I cried for all African American boys who are growing up without hope, I cried for their mothers, and I prayed for Oscar’s beautiful little girl. I pray for us if we stand by and do nothing.
The movie will probably only be in the theaters for a few short weeks. Go see it and let’s talk about it.
Blessings, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013