Last Friday Lisa and I took the time to go and see the new film “Just Mercy” starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson. The film is based on the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and Walter McMillian (Foxx), a black man wrongly convicted for the murder of a an 18-year old white woman in Alabama in 1987.
The arc of the story is familiar. In fact the crime took place in Monroeville, Alabama where Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was set. As the film makes clear, not much changed in the generation between the 1960’s and the 1980’s in Monroeville. The fact remains that not enough has changed between the 1980’s and 2020.
As we have just celebrated and honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and are on the cusp of Black History Month (February) I would highly recommend you see the film and/or read Bryan Stevenson’s book of the same name.
Since the working to reverse McMillian’s conviction and free him from prison, Stevenson has worked to reverse the conviction of over 130 persons wrongly convicted of serious crimes. Statistics also show that for every 9 persons executed since the moratorium on the death penalty in America ended, that there is one person who has been exonerated.
As we enter this election year, it is my belief that the church needs to engage in the difficult conversations that are before us as a nation and a people and not shy away from them. If there is any place where people of good will can disagree and wrestle with the difficult questions of the day, it ought to be as a part of the Body of Christ.
It is important that we engage with ideas different from our own.
It is important that we worship with people who are not just like us.
It is important that we seek out the experience and perspective of people who have for too long been silenced or at the margins of our national conversation.
May we, in this coming year, live fully into our commitment to respect the dignity of every human being as a part of our Baptismal Covenant.
It is also our duty to strive of justice and peace among ALL people, perhaps especially those with whom we disagree, seeking the Mind of Christ before we seek to be right in our previously held opinions.