Faithspotting “Tenet” Part 2, Return to The Theater

Mike and Kenny discuss the experience of going back to the theater for the first time in 8 months to watch the Christopher Nolan film Tenet as well as the corporate worship.

Follow the link to listen to the episode https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974?i=1000493362021

While viewing films, and church services via streaming or television offers ways to view films, shows, as well as to worship, they lack the benefits of a truly communal experience. Whether hearing the reactions of others in the theater or having conversations before or after the show, or experiencing the love, communion and connection of fellowship with other disciples, participation within community allows a fullness of the experience that cannot be replicated alone.

Cannes Lumiere Theater 2018 Cross Roads Faith and Film

The Christian Church is referred to as the Body of Christ and as a body, is designed to be connected working in concert with other parts of the body. 

This reality is also a reason for faith communities to always be looking for ways to minister those who are unable to participate in the events of a faith community.

First United Methodist Church, Richardson TX 2016 Cross Roads Faith and Film

Scriptural Calls to Worship:

Psalm 95, 96, 100, 132,

Acts 2 

1 Corinthians 14: 26-28

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Faithspotting “Tenet”

Mike and Kenny discuss the film and faith elements spotted in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Listen to the Tenet Episode:

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

Warner Brothers Pictures

While Tenet is a very complex film that may require a second viewing to more fully understand the complexity, it is also a film that is worthy of a second viewing. In addition to the complex plot, it is a stunning visual and auditory experience that will suffer greatly if seen even in the best home theater. 

Faith elements include Spotted:

God as Alpha and Omega,. While it pushes human imagination, God the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit pre-exist time and creation. There never was nor will be a time without God. (Revelation 21:1-7)

Apocalyptic Scripture and the whole Truth amidst less than full understanding: Given the complex plot and stunning, mind bending visuals, viewing Tenet can be similar to reading apocalyptic Scriptures. In his introduction to his commentary on the Book of Revelation for the New Interpreters Bible, Christopher Rowland offers guidance in approaching Apocalyptic Biblical texts:

To decode Revelation as if it were Morse code- a language whose only function is to conceal and is a means to an end, namely, the communication of something that has to be kept secret- fails to take seriously the apocalyptic medium. John, as the recipient of a revelation from Jesus Christ, has bequeathed to us an apocalypse , a prophesy, not a narrative or an epistle, a text requiring of its readers different interpretive shills- imagination and emotion for example.1

The symbolism of the visions and codes taken from the experiences of the books’ writers and their communities, The Books of Revelation, Daniel, and to a lesser extent, portions of the synoptic Gospels, Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, can be difficult for modern readers to understand and follow. The codes, imagery, and mysteries can be for readers a distraction and block the greater Truth, teaching, and experience gained from reading the passages. While study of the history and cultural context can provide greater understanding regarding the meaning of the images and symbols, embracing the mystery of these and others aspects of Scripture and God is a part of deepening one’s faith.

If one gets stuck trying to understand every component of the film Tenet as it is presented, one is likely to get lost very quickly. However if one excepts the mystery of some of the film’s plot etc. one will be in a better position to follow the and have a better experience of the film.

John David Washington

The non-linear, mysterious, and expansive nature of God: Similar to above, the reality of God is infinitely beyond human imagination and capacity to understand. Part of one’s faith is a willingness to accept and embrace the mystery that is God. The human tendency to limit God to the boundaries of human experience and laws of creation, is an act of disobedience and fear rather than faith. (Adam and Eve in Genesis disobeying God in an effort to fully understand if not be like God, (Genesis 3:1-14) (Job 15:1-9) (Ephesians 3) (I Corinthians 1:18-25)

Greed vs. Love: The greed fueled desire to own and control others is the antithesis of faith, righteousness and love for God. Such is in contrast to the desire and willingness to sacrifice oneself for the welfare of another. (II Samuel 11 David covets and kills) (Psalm 10 The ways of the wicked)  (John 15:12-14 No greater love)

Christopher Nolan
  1. The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume XII, p. 506, Abingdon Press, Nashville 1998
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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. Reflects God’s desire to be with us as one of us. 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: Fred’s “Holy Ground was the space between the TV and the children watching his program. Wherever two or three are gathered. Jesus’s ministry was itinerate and primarily conducted in towns, countryside, Samaria, and the homes of sinners. It was not restricted to Jerusalem or the Temple.

Allowing faith to determine moral beliefs rather than moral beliefs and opinions determine elements of our faith. Fred uses his faith, Scripture and other education and experiences to determine his moral beliefs and the subjects he addressed. 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. Fred’s health challenges as a child allowed him to experience the importance and need for imagination and stories. 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. Fred was not familiar with television when he sought to make it the setting of his ministry. 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. Following the example of Christ, whenever Fred saw injustice or other societal needs or failures, he had the courage to address them, even or especially when they were difficult. This opened him to receiving 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. 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. Exodus 3

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.

Listen to Da 5 Bloods Podcast

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/faithspotting/id1524339974?i=1000489408331

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. 

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.

Click the link to listen to the Faithspotting – Hamilton Podcast

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

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”

 

 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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