Faithspotting “Boys State”

Listen to the Boys State episode

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974#episodeGuid=c0e735fa-8cea-489a-9eed-39046a6e36d6

Kenny and Mike discuss the film and faith elements spotted in the documentary film Boys State. Directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, Boys State documents the 2018 Texas Boys State gathering. Boys State is a national program dedicated to building in high school age teens greater understanding and participation in civics as well as developing leadership skills in community and state governance.

Dating back to the 1930s, Boys State and Girls State is sponsored by the American Legion with AL Auxiliaries in each state sponsoring and supporting boys and girls who attend their respective programs. Each state organizes and conducts their Boys and Girls State gatherings. 

In planning the film, directors McBaine and Moss identified 4 of the 1150 that would be the primary subjects of the film. The film details as the boys go about the work of running for leadership positions in the political party they were randomly assigned. The for primary cast members are Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall, and Rene Otero.

While the primary focus of Boys and Girls state is to elect statewide office holders, the program in Texas also elects members to the Boys/Girls State state legislature where legislation is presented and voted on. Each party also develops a platform which is a part of the election process.

Kenny’s reaction to a pre-screening event for the film:

Rene Otero

Watching Boys State is a Dickensian experience as we see the best of our society and the worst of our politic. The best is watching 1100+ teenage boys spend a week taking serious the complex job of governance and reflecting on issues that impact society. The worst is the witnessing the imitation of the most inferior practices of Adult State. The hope is the rising generation will retain the former, refine the latter and lead the nation in a resumption of its foundational march toward a more perfect union. 

Faith elements spotted and discussed include the appropriate and inappropriate ways persons of faith are called to deal with differences and disagreements. Such ways of keeping community in the midst of differences are an act of love Christ calls all persons to offer all others.

I Corinthians 13 is lifted up as an example and expectations for how individuals and communities are to behave. As with most of Paul’s letters to churches he founded, he offers corrections to some of their actions and drifting from the expectations Jesus and he has that they reflect the Kingdom of God in their beliefs, actions, and treatment/love for one another.

Other elements from I Corinthians include chapter 3, tribal divisions in the church (followers of Paul and Apollos.) Chapter 10:23-33 Do all for the Glory of God vs personal glory, satisfaction, and elevation. Just because something is lawful does not make it beneficial. Persons of faith are to aim for a higher standard.

Other example from Scripture for how communities and and persons of faith are to live and treat others include;

Romans 12: the Marks of a New Creation, blessing those who persecute and not repaying evil for evil.

Ben Feinstein

II Corinthians 5: Ministry of reconciliation and serving as ambassadors of Christ.

II Corinthians 6:1-8 Do not accept the Grace of God in vain, by living contrary to the Way of Christ. Now is the acceptable time and day of salvation to serve Christ fully and not put up obstacles to others.

Ephesians 4: Unity in the Body of Christ. v25 speak truth to neighbors and fellow members of the Body, speak truth to one another, settle differences and anger.

Philippians: Chapter 2,4: Imitating the humility of Christ, and putting aside differences and be of the same mind in Christ and focus on what is true and good in Christ.

Another topic is maintaining an awareness that as younger members of society and communities watch, listen, and replicate the behavior of adult leaders, so persons of faith are observed by persons within and beyond the faith and seen as representative of their faith community but also of God and Christ. II Corinthians 5 above. To misrepresent God, the Gospel or the person of Christ is to put a stumbling block before others. (Matthew 18:6-7, Mark 9:42, Romans 14:13-23)

Lastly as one the subjects indicated after he saw the film, that he regretted some of his actions. While we do not have the luxury of seeing a film of our actions, or others seeing it, we know that God sees everything we do, and when we act in ways unbecoming a disciple we hurt the one we say we love and worship.

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Faithspotting “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Listen to the episode Won’t You Be My Neighbor:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974#episodeGuid=06f23268-58ef-43fc-b2ca-b655e4e0ab94

Kenny Dickson and Mike Hatch discuss the cinematic and faith elements reflected in the Fred Rogers Documentary Film Won’t You Be My Neighbor, available for streaming rental or purchase on YouTube, Amazon Prime and other streaming services.

Although not categorized as a “faith film,” Won’t You Be My Neighbor communicates elements of faith and what it is to employ faith by serving God as a disciple of Jesus. In showing the how Fred Rogers cared for and taught children, families, and other adults, the film allows viewers to witness truly effective proclamation of the Gospel and reflection of the person and teaching of Jesus. 

Faith Elements Spotted:

Incarnation, God With Us: Fred’s willingness and courage to be present with people, through television, in the midst of challenging, difficult times as well as good or ordinary seasons.  John1:1,14-18 (The Word Dwelt Among Us,) John 3:31-36 (The One Who Comes From Heaven,) John 8:12-20, (Jesus the Light of the World,) John 11:28-35 (Jesus Weeps,) Matthew 18:19-20

Jesus Honors and Welcomes Children: Fred respected children enough to include them and talk to them as people even in the midst of unpleasant or tragic situations.  Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-15, Luke 18:15-17

Holy Space and Moments, Worship: Where ever two or three are gathered.  Itinerate nature of Jesus ministry. In the towns, countryside, Samaria, homes of sinners. Allowing faith to determine moral beliefs rather than moral beliefs and opinions determine how or what we believe. Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus ministers outside towns and cities) Matthew 4:23-5:2 (Sermon on the Mount) , John 4:1-42, (Jesus with the woman from Samaria.)

In all things and times, God works for Good.  Romans 8:26-28

Calling: Having the faith to follow even when one does not know where or is unfamiliar with the ministry God is calling one to. Jesus to disciples. (Call of Abram) Genesis 12, (Jesus Calls Disciples) Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, (Levi) Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-29, (First Disciples, Philip and Nathanael) John 1:35-51 (Would Be Followers) Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 9:57-62 (Rich Young Man) Mark 10:17-31

Photo: Fred Rogers Photographer: Robert Ragsdale.

Living in and by the Ways of the Kingdom of God vs ways and values of the world. Accepting criticism and attacks. All children of God, are special and unique because they are created and loved by God.  (Sermon on the Mount) Matthew 5-7 (Servant Leadership in Kingdom) Mark 10:41-45.

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Faithspotting The Banker

Mike and Kenny discuss the film and faith elements in The Banker, starring Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson and directed by George Nolfi. 

Listen to The Banker episode.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974?i=1000490094669

The Banker tells the story of two of America’s most successful Black business men in the 1950’s and 60’s who sought to use their talents and financial success to offer blacks the opportunities to start building generational wealth, something discriminatory laws and customs had prevented in many areas of the country.

Apple TV+

This film offers context to the current conversations and conflicts over race in the United States and other nations. The story of Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris and what they worked to achieve offers a specific example of systemic racism that continues to impact persons and communities of color. The inability, or for some, limited ability to build generational wealth has been perhaps the greatest hurdle for persons of color to acquire the skills and opportunities typically necessary to achieve success similar to much of the white community.

Faith elements spotted include the following:

After having escaped the limitations imposed on him by Jim Crow laws and customs, Bernard becomes of of the most successful businessmen in the country. After a trip back to his hometown, Willis Texas, Bernard experiences the call to return and help the Black Community there by purchasing the town’s bank and begin offering credit to African Americans in the area. He knows this is a risky proposition and that he will face extraordinary challenges and risks in doing so.  Here he Bernard serves as a Moses figure, who, twice put the welfare of Hebrews above his interests, the first in defending Hebrews from abuse within Egypt and the second in returning to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. In so doing Moses put himself and his wealth at risk. Throughout he Bible, ministry and the call to serve God in serving others involves risk and sacrifice.

Jesus’s parable of the talents calls disciples to use all the gifts and abilities given to them rather than bury them under fear and expectations of others. Both Bernard and George used the intellectual gifts God had given them. In particular the expectation placed upon Bernard was that he should not utilize his intellect to the fullest and be content to bury it by accepting the limitations Jim Crow society placed on him.  Matthew 25:14-30 Luke 16:6

God’s call is greater than the social and other worldly obstacles one will encounter following God’s calling and desire. Discipleship calls one to live by God’s perfect vision rather than one’s limited sight.  David and Goliath narrative 1 Samuel 17, 

In order to be able to serve God and live by faith and God’s vision persons of faith must do their spiritual homework by practicing spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, worship, and theological reflection. Worship: Psalm 100, Prayer: Jesus prays at Gethsemane prior to his arrest, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Paul teaches Christians in Rome to offer themselves as a living sacrifice which is spiritual worship. Romans 12:1-2, Paul urges Philippians to continue to follow what he had taught. Philippians 4:8-9

In Christ, Christians have received spiritual freedom from slavery to the limitations of the flesh Followers of Jesus are called to use such freedom in serving  and loving God by offering love through service to others.  Galatians 5

Bernard Garett with Melvin Belli

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Faithspotting Da 5 Bloods Podcast

Hosts Kenny Dickson and Mike Hatch discuss the film and faith spotted in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a film vast in imagery, characters, and story and flush with social and theological reflection.

Netflix

Spoiler Alert for those planning to watch the film. Those not planning to view it should be able to follow the conversation especially the discussion of the faith issues presented. Da 5 Bloods is available on Netflix and is rated R for language and violence.  

Da 5 Bloods has a solid cast led by Delroy Lindo d who offers an Oscar worthy portrayal as Paul the leading of the 4 surviving  members of the squad, “Da 5 Bloods” who return to Vietnam to find and repatriate the body of their original squad leader, “Stormin Norman” (Chadwick Bosman-RIP) as well as finish a plan hatched during a fateful mission. 

Listen to Da 5 Bloods Podcast

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974

Treasure   What and where are one’s treasures as these determine where one’s heart is and what one’s life is dedicated to. Are treasures Godly and located in God’s Kingdom, where they cannot be lost nor lead to destruction? Or, are such treasures worldly and thereby vulnerable to destruction and being a path to destruction. Luke 12:13-21 (Parable of Rich Fool), Matthew 6:19-20, Colossians 2:1-5,

Forgiveness The transformative power of forgiveness whether offered to others, oneself, or received from others, which leads to peace within or between those injured. Such peace is in contrast to the destructive power of to oneself and others of burying or holding on to anger and guilt. Peace leads to reconciliation while destruction perpetuates brokenness of spirit, mind, body, and community.  The reunion scene between Paul and Stormin Norman depicts the peace found through redemption. Genesis 50 15-21 (Joseph forgives his brothers), Matthew 12:18-35 (how often to offer forgiveness) 2 Corinthians 2:1-11,

Control of Reactions and Faith  The ultimate and often final element of control one has is one’s reaction to the thoughts, words, and actions of others. Maintaining one’s faith in God’s goodness and the opportunity to be Easter People in the midst of suffering, whether brought on by the brokenness of the world and or the direct actions of others allows hope which leads to assurance and true peace.  Not surrendering to human emotions and desire to live by worldly values and ways is redemptive to self, community, and adversaries.  Numbers 6:22-26 (Priestly Benediction, John 16:16-33 (Sorrow Turning into Joy), John 14:27-31 (Jesus gives His peace)

“What’s Going On?” The seminal song by Marvin Gaye, written in response to the unimaginable hate and suffering inflicted by the Viet Nam war and the accompanying societal division and disorder. The song is more pointed when heard in the context of Jesus asking the question to the church / persons of faith when they fail to live up to His life example or teaching.  Matthew 12, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 2 (Jesus Cleans Temple) Luke 19:41-44 (Jesus Weeps for Jerusalem) John 11:28-37 (Jesus weeps for other’s mourning) Matthew 16:21-27 (Jesus rebukes Peter) Matthew 17:14-21 (Matthew rebukes Disciples for lack of faith), People of God Deny God’s Faithfulness: Exodus 32 (Golden Calf) Numbers 14 (Lack of Faith and Rebellion of God’s People)

Faith in Film Discussion of the two audiences of faith films and secular films that reflect and present elements of faith: 1. the church and 2. persons of faith and persons beyond the church or those questioning the faith in God. Faith films and films that reflect and lift up faith and theology are not synonymous with family or family friendly films. Discussion of how the Gospel can be communicated in powerful ways that are not considered family friendly.  2 Samuel 11-12 David’s adultery and murder, God sends Nathan to confront David.

Email kenny@crossroadsfaithandfilm.com for discussion notes.  

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Faithspotting: Greyhound

Hosts Kenny Dickson and Mike Hatch look at the Apple TV+ film Greyhound and discuss the faith elements spotted in the World War II, Tom Hanks screenplay.  Based on the novel, “The Good Shepherd” by C. S. Forester, Tom Hanks stars as Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause, Captain of the U.S.S. Destroyer Keeling, codenamed Greyhound. Krause also has charge over two other Destroyers providing protection for 37 cargo and troop transport ships crossing the Atlantic during World War II. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continually contested battle in the second Word War.

Listen to Faithspotting Here:  https://podcast.app/faithspotting-greyhound-e111938109/

Tom Hanks (Finalized)

Captain Krause (TOM HANKS) peers out the broken pilot house window in TriStar Pictures’ GREYHOUND.  Apple TV+

The faith elements spotted and discussed by Kenny and Mike include:

Confidence in one’s faith, God’s call, and grace to serve in ministry for Christ. Romans 15:8-11, 2 Corinthians 3: 1-6, Ephesians 4:4-7

Understanding “the evil foe” includes not only external forces, but the internal temptation to live according to the ways of the world rather than the righteous way and calling of God. Jesus tempted in the wilderness: Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1-13,  Jesus  in the Garden of  Gethsemane 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46.  Paul’s peace amidst storms at sea. Acts 27.                                                                               

The contrast between Peter’s denial and sermon on Pentecost. Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18,25-27, Acts 2:14-36                                                                                   

Serving Christ as Jesus served as the Good Shepherd, even willing to laydown one’s life. John 10:11-18 Such is the Way of Easter People.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and as such is the place of stability and certainty in the midst of uncertain times and circumstances.. (Hebrews 13:8)

Symbolism of water as chaos, Jesus sending the Legion into the swine, (Luke 8, Mark 5,) Genesis 1Creation account.

Going where one does not want to go.  Jonah.

For more information and discussion tools, please email kenny@crossroadsfaithandfilm.com

Next Week’s episode: Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods

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Faithspotting Hamilton

faithspotting blog

Faithspotting is a podcast (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify) dedicated to spotting and discussing faith elements in film, TV and Music.

hamilton 5

Walt Disney Company    Daveed Diggs / Lin-Manuel Miranda

In this first episode premiering August 14th 2020, hosts Kenny Dickson and Mike Hatch discuss the film and faith elements in the Disney+ film and cultural phenomenon Hamilton. The film was recorded over several performances at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Broadway, and includes the original Broadway Cast featuring  Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton); Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr); Daveed Diggs (Thomas Jefferson & Marquis de Lafayette); Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton); and Jonathan Groff (King George).

The following faith topics, and corresponding songs, were spotted in the story as told through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics and music.

 

hamilton 2

Lin-Manuel Miranda

A new identity available in Christ. “Alexander Hamilton”

 

 

 

 

hamilton 8

Jonathan Groff

 

  • The world turned upside down through the Incarnation. “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”

 

 

 

 

 

gettyimages-539730486

Leslie Odom Jr.

Imitating the humility of Jesus instead of pride in personal accomplishments. “The Room Where It Happens”

 

 

 

 

hamilton 11 eliza

Philippa Soo/ Miranda

The unimaginable reconciling and healing power of forgiveness. “It’s Quiet Uptown”

 

 

 

hamilton 10 eliza

Soo and Cast

Accepting the call as disciples of Jesus to tell the Gospel of Christ. “Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story”

 Click the link to listen to the Faithspotting – Hamilton Podcast

 https://podcast.app/faithspotting-hamilton-e111110052/?utm_source=ios&utm_medium=share

 

Faithspotting is found on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.  Weekly episodes are released on Friday mornings.  Please listen, subscribe and share.

For information regarding a Study Guide on the faith elements spotted in Hamilton email kenny@crossroadsfaithandfilm.com

Next Week’s episode: Tom Hanks in Greyhound

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“Dads” A Film Just in Time for Dad’s Day

dads 1

Apple tv+

“Dads” is an engaging recognition and celebration of modern fatherhood. Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, celebrities including Ron Howard, Will Smith, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Kenan Thompson, Neil Patrick Harris, and Hasan Minhaj, among others reflect on the impact becoming and being fathers had on their lives. These reflections are interspersed around powerful, more in-depth stories of everyday men and how fatherhood changed their lives as well. “Dads” premieres on Apple +TV on June 19th and is a partnership between Imagine Documentaries, and Dove Men+Care. Unilever, Dove Care’s parent company is supporting fatherhood and has established the Paternity Leave Fund which offers grants to fathers who do not receive paid paternity leave. Dove Men+Care is donating a portion of the proceeds of “Dads” to this fund.

“Dads” includes the humor every new father encounters when he makes the transition from being the son of a father and mother to being the father of a son or daughter. These stories and scenes are funny and endearing, but what gives “Dads” its fullness are the dads 9powerful stories of how the lives of the men were transformed through their presence and active role in parenting their children.  Another source of the film’s richness is the diversity of fathers and families. In addition to the mix of celebrities and fathers who are not famous, there is diversity in economic and marriage statuses, nationality and cultural background, sexual orientation, and the health of the children.  Through this diversity the core message of the film is presented; engaged and present fathers are needed and possible in all circumstances and lifestyles.  The drive behind this message is not to just to bring out the importance of being a present dad for the children, something everyone is likely aware of, but it is to present the importance and transformative opportunity fatherhood provides the men. Being an active and present Dad is an important thread that adds much to the fabric of a man’s life.

“Dads” recognizes the reality that many fathers have to work two and three jobs and have to be away from their family and children more than other fathers. This truth, however, that does not mean these dads cannot be active and present for their children even when they are away. The reality is that men can be absent fathers even when they dads7are present and men can be present fathers even when they are absent. The connection established by being present in the life of one’s children can span the times when the father is away. Consciously or not fathers too often use the demands of work as justification for their absence from the lives of their children. In one of his reflections, Bryce’s father, Ron Howard, astutely cautioned fathers to make sure they were not using the demands of work to escape from being present in the lives of their children. Ron’s father, Rance, in a segment taped 3 years prior to the others, described how his suggestion to Andy Griffith regarding the portrayal of Opie (Ron Howard) changed the tone of the relationship between Andy and Opie Taylor and reflected a widower father ensuring his being present in the life of his son.

Some viewers may question the need for another film about fathers and fatherhood. That only nine percent of companies offer paid paternity leave and over 75% of new fathers return to work after only one week following the birth of their child indicates the need to move past the traditional understanding, image, and value of fatherhood. In our conversation, Bryce indicated the genesis of the project was her learning that a significant majority of men offered paternity leave do not take it or only take a portion of what they are offered despite wanting to take more. Many of these men expressed concern that there would be professional repercussions if they took the full amount.  This statistic, more than anything indicates the prevalence of the stereotyped understanding of fatherhood, where fathers are expected to provide for their families from a distance.  Such an understanding does not reflect the need nor desire of families and fathers.

FAITH CONNECTION:

dadsIn our conversation, I asked Bryce why the film was titled “Dads” rather than “Fathers.” Ms. Howard said the original title referred to fathers, but her husband suggested Dads was a term that better communicated the familiarity of men being active and present in the lives of their children.  Communicating this familiar, more intimate relationship and understanding of fatherhood is evident in Christian Scripture and theology.

The Gospel of Mark, chapter 14 documents Jesus’s time of trial and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  During this time when he was alone in the Garden, he prayed to God that the cup of the crucifixion might be removed. In referring to God, Jesus used the Aramaic term “Abba” which is a more familiar and intimate title for “father.” This reflects that the relationship between Jesus and God was close and personal rather than formal and distant.

Another example of an engaged father is offered by Jesus in His parable of a man with two sons. While most refer to this as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” the setting of the story indicates that it is more about the father. Jesus offers this parable after he has been asked about the nature of God. Jesus describes God by his relationship to His Children rather than by physical or other attributes. In the parable, Jesus tells of a younger son who brings shame upon his family and community by demanding he receive his inheritance immediately, whereupon he leaves the country and wastes his money living a life of debauchery. At his lowest point, starving and envying the pigs he was hired to feed, the son decides to return home with his shame and work as a servant for his father.  As the father sees his son returning he runs to greet him, embrace him, and order a celebration in honor of his return.  While local custom and law allowed the son to be rejected and even killed, the father restored him to the family and community.

That the father saw his son while he was still some distance away indicates the father often scanned the horizon in hopes of seeing his son return. From the father’s perspective, even though the son he had been away, he had not been absent from the dads 3father’s heart. The forgiving father was not one who stood on convention and formality but was one who was present with and for his family. This is the model of fatherhood as described by Jesus and is the model presented in “Dads.”

Activities:

Discuss what does the description of God in the parable of the Forgiving Father mean to you?

 

Have you experienced God in this way?

 

Children: Call your father and father figures.

Share memories and experiences with your father.

Fathers: Share your memories of your father as well as memories of your time and experiences with your children.

 

 

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Review: The Banker

The Banker 4

Apple TV

With high caliber star factor and a well-written script based on an important story too few are aware of, The Banker is a film that should be on everyone’s watch list. George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) directs Anthony Mackie (Bernard Garrett) and Samuel Jackson (Joe Morris) in the 1960s set story about the two successful African-American entrepreneurs who become two of the first Black bankers in the United States.  While Garret and Morris are not household names like Jackie Robinson and other more famous “first African-Americans to break the color barrier” in their chosen field, the importance of these men cannot be overstated.

During the Jim Crow era of segregation financial credit was virtually non-existent for Blacks in the South and border states.  Jim Crow laws and customs were established by state and local governments and other societal groups in order to continue indentured servitude of African Americans by putting limits on salaries, professions, travel, and where they could live. Limiting access to credit was one of the most powerful weapons used to curtail the advancement of Black America.  In Jim Crow areas there were no banks owned by African Americans and very few if any, White-owned banks would loan money to black families and individuals, which limited where they could live and their ability to own and grow a business.

Born in 1925 in a small Texas town, Bernard Garrett had an intellect and ambition that led him to leave his home and pursue greater opportunities to build a life free from the Jim Crow restraints.  After moving to Los Angeles Garrett met Joe Morris, a The Banker 3successful businessman who had connections with the Los Angeles and California business establishment. Even with the greater acceptance of successful black businesses, because of their race, Garrett and Morris faced limitations in the size and type of investment opportunities they could pursue and wealth they could build.

The Banker details how Garrett and Morris broke through these limitations to become two of the most successful businessmen in the United States. While visiting his home in Texas and seeing how little had changed regarding opportunities for African Americans, Garrett set about dismantling one of the most powerful tools supporting the Jim Crow status quo, a lack of access to capital.

the banker 2The script is fast-moving and, given the importance of the subject, surprisingly full of lighter moments and humor. One of the major twists in the true story is most engaging, and though it could easily have been mishandled in the film, it seems genuine and not forced.

Not surprisingly, Mackie and Jackson offer solid, well rounded and fluid performances, enhanced by their personal chemistry. The supporting cast also supplies energy and smooth performances particularly Nicholas Hoult as Matt Steiner, and Nia Long as Garrett’s wife Eunice. Unlike, The Green Book, another film that cast light on a subject with which many were not familiar, the book that listed places African Americans could stay when traveling throughout the country,  The Banker does not have the feel of a white savior story.

the banker 9In an interview with the director and co-screenwriter George Nolfi, I asked about the genesis of the story and his involvement. The details of Bernard Garrett’s career and his struggles against the systemic racism of his time were captured in taped interviews prior to his 1999 death. The rights to his life story were then purchased by another studio where the story languished for many years.  While Nolfi was directing Anthony Mackie for a scene in The Adjustment Bureau, Mackie pitched The Banker to Nolfi for him to take on the project. As is often the case, other projects intervened and it was another five or six years before things fell together for the film.

The important role Garrett and Morris played in laying the foundations that would redress one of the most savage and often used tools in limiting the opportunity of African Americans was what attracted George Nolfi to the project. More specifically, the willingness of Garrett, initially, then Morris to not rest safely on their laurels and success, but put their achievements at risk in service to others, compelled him to join the project.

the banker 10 In making the film, Nolfi came face to face with the reality that without the opportunity to build wealth, people are unable to truly experience freedom and stability in their finances and life.  He became more aware of the impact systemic racism had, and currently still has in society. Nolfi hopes this film will help viewers realize, that although they themselves may not be racist, the echoes and effects of systemic racism in the past and present continue to erect higher hurdles for persons of color. With such understanding, it will be easier to dismantle the surviving elements of systemic racism as well as the lasting impact from its past application.  Nolfi also hopes that learning of the injustices these men faced, and their willingness to take them on and set in motion events that resulted in their eradication,  others will be challenged and empowered to stand against current injustices and systemic hardships.

Faith Connections:

As was noted during the release of The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi endeavors to spark imagination and thought on the part of the audience.  Growing up involved in the United Church of Christ, this desire to spark thought and conversation extends to issues of life, faith, and discipleship.  The film is a reminder that the nation has not always lived up to the aspirations of its founding documents that all people are created equal and should be allowed to pursue happiness. Likewise, the Church has not always lived up to its commission to love Christ by loving all people, making disciples, and being the Body of Christ on earth.  The Banker challenges viewers to examine where they can do better in upholding what we claim to believe in.

The Banker 1The Banker has several touchpoints with Scripture.  As Moses was forced to leave his home in order to find peace and security and then after finding it was called to return to Egypt, (Exodus 2-4) Bernard escaped the land where, because of his skin color, intellect, and drive to succeed, he was a target. After Morris raised the risks associated with seeking to return and serve Blacks in his hometown, Bernard, like Moses, resisted the temptation to stay where he was, afraid of losing what he had, and returned home to help his community escape the indentured servitude that had confined them so long.

A second touchpoint with Scripture is with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30.) Both Garrett and Morris had been given keen minds and abilities through which they achieved success.  Had they remained in California, content to live their lives and build bigger personal fortunes while so many others remained under the oppressive powers of Jim Crow laws and customs, they would have been like the servant who buried the talent the Master gave him to grow.  They had been given talents that led to affluence, and they were expected to use those blessings beyond furthering their personal wealth.

Lastly, the story shows the importance of remembering the location of true treasure. (Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:33-34, also Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22)

True treasures are those in the Kingdom of Heaven. Kingdom wealth and greatness are built in serving others and living by the ways of God’s Kingdom rather than the ways and values of the world.  Garrett and Morris wanted their lives to have been measured by more than zeros on a financial statement. George Nolfi and others attached to the project hope the story enables viewers to be mindful and motivated such that their lives will be measured for things beyond a balance sheet.

The Banker is rated PG-13 and with the closing of most movie theaters, can be viewed on Apple TV+. #thebanker

The Banker

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Faith, In the Crown Study-“Aberfan”

This is a study of faith issues presented in the third episode season three of the Crown. It can be used as a group or individual study. If it is to be used by a group, it is recommended that group members screen the episode, answer the questions, and share answers via posts or however groups are meeting during the Coronavirus closure period. Descriptions and dialogue from the episode are included for those who are unable to view the program.

Season 3 Episode 3   “Aberfan”   NETFLIX

Themes: The Incarnation: The Presence of God in Christ

Healing and Wholeness Through Congregational Worship.

 

Setting: October 1966 following a disaster in Aberfan Wales where 116 children and 28 adults were killed when, following heavy rains, a 30-foot wave of coal waste slid down surrounding hills and buried the Pantglas Junior School.

Background: The mining waste had been removed from mines above the town and collected into a 111 foot, pile or “Tip.” The tip contained 300,000 cubic yards of waste and had been a concern of the town for several years. The National Coal Board threatened Aberfan with the closure of the mine if the town of 8,000 continued to complain to the Board and Government.

Episode three depicts the Prime Minister (Jayson Watkins) visiting Aberfan the day of the disaster and the Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip (Tobias Menzies) visiting within the week. Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) however waited 8 days and public pressure to build before going to the town and consoling the families and community.

The Aberfan episode received criticism by depicting the Queen as one who could not empathize or become emotional in the midst of tragedy. The Queen’s initial absence in Aberfan, for whatever the reason, was felt by the residents of Aberfan as well as throughout the nation. Queen Elizabeth has stated that the delay is one of her greatest regrets as Queen.

Discussion:

  • Incarnation

In the episode, after she was pressed by Prime Minister Wilson “to go” to Aberfan, Queen Elizabeth stated the presence of the Sovereign paralyzes communities which she believed was the last thing Aberfan needed. When pressed further by Wilson, Elizabeth asked: “What precisely would you have me do?”

Wilson responds: “Well, comfort people.”

Elizabeth replies:  “Put on a show? The Crown doesn’t do that.”

Wilson clarifies:   “I didn’t say put on a show, I said comfort people.”

Elizabeth replies by silently dismissing the Prime Minister.

In the episode, as in the historical event, the eventual presence of the Queen had a strong and comforting effect on the people impacted by the disaster. Queen Elizabeth developed a close relationship with the people of Aberfan and has continued visiting throughout her reign.

the crown study aberfan 2

Netflix

Why was her presence, not her words or actions, the source of comfort?

 

 

 

Have you experienced a time or situation where the mere presence of someone was a source of comfort and strength?

 

 

 

Incarnation is from the Latin term incarnatio meaning “to enter into or become flesh.” In Christianity, the Incarnation is a doctrine that the pre-existent Son of God became human in Jesus. As with the doctrine of the Trinity, the word “incarnation” is not in scripture but is a doctrine developed from teaching throughout scripture, most explicitly in the Gospel of John, 1:1-18.

Think of a story or two in the New Testament where the presence of Jesus offered strength, hope, and comfort to the disciples and other followers.

 

 

How does the Incarnation, the belief that the pre-existent Word of God “became flesh and dwelled among us” John 1:14 offer comfort and strength during times of tragedy and trial?

 

 

John 1:14 is better interpreted “The Word became flesh and ‘pitched His tent (or tabernacle) among us. In Jesus, God lived with us as us, fully human and fully divine, living not separated from, but among His people. This presence of Christ is experienced primarily in two ways, through the Holy Spirit, and through the church, that is the Body of Christ.  Consider and share how you have experienced or witnessed the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit whether in the midst of a trial, or joy?

 

 

Share how you have experienced the presence of Christ through the ministry of the Church.

 

 

 

Share a time when Christ was present through you, offering hope, strength, and care to someone struggling through a trial or crisis?

 

 

 

 

Have you experienced or witnessed Christ’s presence either through the Holy Spirit or through the Church during the Coronavirus Crisis?

 

 

 

TAKEAWAY:   Offering care and support is first and foremost a matter of being present, rather than doing something.

 

  • Healing and Wholeness Through Congregational Worship.

In writing and designing Aberfan, the producers sought to present the events of the Aberfan tragedy, the emotions and experiences of the town and family members as accurately as possible. The episode is starkly divided into the day before and 8 days following the disaster, and as such it tells the story in a way that feels more like a reliving, rather than a retelling of the tragedy.

Aberfan opens at the school the day before the disaster. Children are given their assignment for the next day and released to go home. Families are then depicted going about their routines of family life that are familiar to any family, thereby establishing an intimate connection with viewers. Many of the images of the disaster’s aftermath, including images and elements of the memorial service and burial, were replicated as closely as possible. (People from Aberfan including some present during the tragedy were extras in the episode. Counselors were provided during the production to work with people impacted by the loss. Even after 50 years, many had never discussed the events of the landslide.)

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Netflix

In the episode, Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) is present for the burial service of the majority of children killed in the disaster. The service included the following Scripture (KJV) readings:            (Read the Scripture out loud)

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Zechariah 8:5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Revelation 7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth…..

And I Heard…. Then the Congregation began singing the Charles Wesley hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul:    (Sing the hymn or read out loud.)

Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide; o receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
leave, oh, leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in Thee I find;
raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness;
vile and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound; Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
spring Thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity.

 

What was your response to this scene?

 

 

 

What Scripture do you turn to for comfort and strength in times of trial?

 

 

Have you read Scripture for comfort and strength during the Coronavirus Crisis?

 
Upon his return from Aberfan, the Queen asked her husband how his visit went. Philip responded:

    Extraordinary, the grief, the anger, at the government, the coal board, at God too.                    81 Children were buried today: the rage on all the faces, behind, all the eyes. They                  didn’t smash things up. They didn’t fight in the streets.

Elizabeth: What did they do?

Philip:  They sang, the whole community.  It’s the most astonishing thing I ever heard.

Later Philip offers his reaction to the worship and singing in particular.

Philip:     The fact is anyone who heard that hymn today would not just have wept, they                         would have been broken into a thousand tiny pieces.

 

Philip mentions the anger of the people at God. While anger at God is not justified, it is human, and God forgives us. Can you think of Scripture references where the people of God expressed anger or lament toward God?

 

 

 

Have you ever felt such anger?  How did you experience or find peace with God?

 

 

Philip seemed surprised by the response of the town and families, singing in the midst of their pain and anger.  What do you think of their response?

 

 

 

What do you think of Philip’s comment that those hearing the singing would be broken into a thousand tiny pieces?

 

 

How do this scene and congregational singing in general, reflect the truth of the incarnation?

 

 

Jesus, Lover of my Soul is considered one of the most influential of Charles Wesley’s hymns. There are several stories regarding the story behind his writing the original poem. As it was just after his justification, many scholars see it as Charles reflecting his salvation process, including the times when he faced peril, sailing through a dangerous storm during his return from a difficult mission in America as well as the times he was attacked and threatened by crowds who disagreed with his preaching.

Which verses or phrases of the hymn speak most to you.

 

 

 

Reading or hearing Scripture read can offer hope and comfort when one is anxious, wounded, or broken.  For many, there is an added, perhaps more powerful dimension in congregational singing, in hearing or joining the voices of others, that powerfully restores wholeness in the midst of brokenness, and instills peace in the midst of worry.

Share a time if, in the midst of brokenness or fear, you have experienced healing, wholeness, or assurance.

 

 

 

 

What hymns or songs offer you healing and hope?

 

 

 

 

The song All Things Bright and Beautiful is very prominent in the episode. As with many schools in that time, it was sung frequently at the Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan. While adding to the poignancy of the episode, how do the lyrics speak to the nature of God?    (Look up for additional verses)

All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.
.
Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings.
All things bright …

The purple-headed mountain, The river running by,
The sunset and the morning, That brightens up the sky;−
All things bright …

 

 

 

Share other thoughts and responses to this episode?

 

 

 

How do you experience the presence of Christ, and the peace that passes understanding when in His presence during these days of social upheaval and interruption in life?

 

 

 

 

Watch the closing credits sequence. The way the scene is lit emphasizes the shadows of the children of Aberfan playing on the school’s playground. With regards to presence, the image and sounds indicate not only that the children are present here, in our memories, but they are present with us and all the Communion of the Saints in the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 

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Aberfan Following Collapse  Photograph: BBC/PA  

Aberfan Funeral

Inhabitants of the Welsh mining village of Aberfan attend the mass funeral for 81 of the 190 children and adults who perished when a landslide engulfed the junior school. (Photo by George Freston/Getty Images)

 

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Faith, in “The Crown” Study

This is a study of faith issues in the sixth episode from the second season of The Crown. It can be used as a group or individual study. If it is to be used by a group, it is recommended that group members screen the episode and answer the questions prior to meeting together. Specific parts may then be replayed during the meeting and discussion.

Season 2 Episode 6   “Vergangenheit” (The Past)   NETFLIX

the crown study 10

NETFLIX

Theme: Christian Simplicity, Living a Discipled Life, Forgiveness

Setting:  Episode six of season two is set in 1954 during Britain’s first exposure to and surprising emotional embrace of the Ministry of Rev. Billy Graham. While her mother, husband, and leaders of Government bemoan and ridicule the emotional reaction of the British citizens to the preaching of Rev. Graham, the Queen joins her subjects in embracing the preaching and call to live out the teaching of Christ in their daily lives and relationships. Within this setting, the former King, the Duke of Windsor seeks to reestablish a presence in England by serving the Government in some official capacity. Upon considering his request the Queen is made aware of the Duke’s sympathies and possible collusion with Adolf Hitler before and during World War II.  The Queen’s desire to be a simple Christian and the preaching and counsel of Rev. Graham challenges her to live out one of the fundamental calls of Christianity, forgiving others.

Background: The Duke of Windsor was the elder brother of Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI. Upon the death of King George the V, the Duke became King Edward the VIII. After 11months as King, Edward abdicated the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American who was twice divorced. The Queen, her mother and most of the family believed George VI’s early death was the result of the pressures of being King, a position for he was not naturally suited but took on out of duty to the Crown and country after his brother’s abdication.

Questions and Considerations:

  • Call to righteousness and Repentance:

the crown study 6Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and her mother Elizabeth (Victoria Hamilton) watch a news report of Billy Graham’s first Crusade in London. In his sermon Rev. Graham (Paul Sparks) defines revival as living out the teaching of Christ in one’s daily life through relationships with others. Part of revival includes living out a Gospel of hope in the certainty of God’s love and triumph rather than living a Gospel of despair in the midst of worldly uncertainty. This Gospel of hope extends to the individual, society, and all the world.

To what extent is your life filled with the hope of the Gospel and what extent is it filled with despair?

 

 

What are your triggers for living into despair?

 

What grade would you give yourself in living out the teachings of Christ in your daily life?

 

In what circumstances do you find living the teachings of Christ challenging, and where do you find it comforting?

 

 

How or where can you overcome these challenge dimensions of faithful living?

 

 

Rev. Graham warns the congregation and TV audience that the hallmark of sin is turning away from God’s way/desire and towards one’s own way.

          When you close your eyes, close your ears to God’s way you will soon prefer

          your own ideas to the ideas of God. You come to a state where your own evil

          seems to you good and God’s good seems to be evil.   

 

When, where, and in what circumstances do you close your eyes and ears to God’s way?

 

 

What are some resulting ideas, ways, and life choices that are yours rather than God’s desire for you?

 

 

 

 Individual ways of being and acting correspond to the ways of the world.  One could describe this attraction as the gravity of worldly ways pulling against the righteous way God calls and empowers disciples to follow and live.

What is the source of this gravitational pull of the ways of the world, in general, and specifically for you?

 

 

This turning away from God’s desire is the basic definition of sin for both individuals and the community. In contrast, repentance is defined as, turning (literally), away from the sinful direction one has chosen for themselves, and back toward the path God desires. Following the desires of God is defined as righteousness.

What is the most challenging aspect of repentance for you?

 

 

 

How can you break the gravitational pull of the ways of the world and return to God’s way and desire for you?

 

 

 

How can you maintain this righteous course of life to which God has called and placed you?

 

 

 

  • Call to Offer Forgiveness:

the crown study 3After hearing Rev. Graham preach on television, Queen Elizabeth invited him to preach at Windsor Castle. Following the worship service, Queen Elizabeth met privately with Rev. Graham where she expressed the pleasure it was for her to worship as Elizabeth, not as Queen and the head of the Anglican Church. She shared with Graham that it was her desire to be a “simple Christian.”  As it turns out the idea of being a simple Christian is complicated. The Queen’s dilemma with her uncle and former King will reveal to her that being simply Christian is anything but simple.

While many leaders and citizens were sympathetic to Edward VIII, most of the Royal Family and others in government saw his abdication as the ultimate betrayal.  In stepping down from the throne he was placing his personal desires above his duty to serve the Crown, Country and God.  For some in the family, this betrayal was made all the worse because of the toll it took on George VI, who was not naturally suited to serve as King, and the probability that it led to his early death.  Of the senior members of the family however, Queen Elizabeth was more sympathetic to Edward.

the crown study 7The Duke of Windsor’s (Alex Jennings) request to re-enter English society and service to the Crown and country led to the Queen’s discovery of the depth of Edward’s sympathies with and rumored support for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party against his country and former subjects. With this new revelation, Queen Elizabeth struggled with the Christian command to forgive her Uncle. To assist in her struggle, the Queen asked for a second meeting with Billy Graham.

the crown studyIn this meeting Elizabeth asks about forgiveness; “are there any circumstances do you feel where one can be a good Christian and yet not forgive?”  Rev. Graham responds that “Christian teaching is very clear on this. No one is beneath forgiveness. Dying on the cross, Jesus himself asked the Lord to forgive those who killed him.”   After a discussion on whether the forgiveness of those who crucified Jesus was conditional given they did not know what they were doing, Graham still maintained that and lack the strength and perfect love of Christ, as recipients of God’s forgiveness, it is required that Christians forgive.  Although humans are mortal, Graham says, “We need not be unchristian ones.”  Seeing the Queen struggle, Rev Graham offered a solution for her and all people. If there is someone she cannot forgive, she should “ask for forgiveness for herself, humbly, and sincerely, and then pray for the person she cannot forgive.”

Consider situations when you have had difficulty offering forgiveness.  What were the circumstances, personal injury or insult, betrayal of confidence, financial?

 

 

What is the hardest part of offering forgiveness, especially to those who have caused great pain?

 

 

Do you believe that offering forgiveness in some way accepts or diminishes the wrongdoing?

 

What was or is the result of withholding forgiveness?

 

 

the crown study 4While holding on to anger can lessen the pain, it does not address nor reverse the effects of the harm. As pain relievers simply mask the symptoms of injury and can allow further damage to occur, so holding on to anger can lessen emotional pain in the short term but it damages one’s spirit.

Have you experienced damage or ongoing pain by holding on to anger and not forgiving one who has trespassed against you?

 

 

Consequences:  

The episode concludes with Elizabeth spending time in prayer and communion with God. Based on her countenance and spirit in the final scene, do you believe Elizabeth forgave her uncle?

Put in Elizabeth’s position, what would you have done?

 

 

the crown study 2Although Elizabeth may have forgiven Edward, and other members of the family did forgive him, the consequences of his abdication were continued exile from his country and desire to serve.  Edward, known to family and friends as David, shared with another King David the reality that though forgiven, he had to live with the consequences of his actions.

 

Additional Questions and Scripture teaching regarding forgiveness:

In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How do you interpret this portion of the prayer?  Are we asking that God forgives to the extent that we forgive, or declaring that we (will) forgive others as God has forgiven us?

 

Consider the order of the Lord’s Prayer. There is recognition that God is our parent and, as God, is Holy and deserves our worship. There is a request for God’s Kingdom to be completed and a recognition that God’s will be lived out on earth as it is lived out in heaven. God provides us daily sustenance and forgiveness and then deliverance from evil. Forgiveness and forgiving, therefore, come before deliverance from evil.

Consider why it is necessary to forgive before receiving deliverance?

 

How does not forgiving someone lead to evil?

 

 

In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus whether seven times is enough to forgive someone in the community? Put another way, Peter seems to be asking when can one start not-forgiving their neighbor?  Jesus responds by saying seventy-seven times, (or seven times seventy, 490).  Can one truly forgive if one is counting? The 77, or 490 times means that if you are counting, you are not forgiving.

The following parable, Matthew 18:23-35, tells of a King who forgave a subordinate official an unimaginable debt, 10,000 talents. That official then refused to forgive another person a debt 100 times smaller.  How does this parable speak to you?

 

Is such forgiveness something to truly live by and aspire to, or is it something that would be nice if it were possible?

 

Share other thoughts that reflect faith you saw in this episode.

 

the crown study 5

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