Not So Easy
This past Sunday I asked for a show of hands during the sermon of people who had seen 13TH by filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time). From my rough count I saw possibly a dozen hands go up, maybe less. I realize this is not the best way to conduct surveys, but it makes this week’s message to you an easy one to deliver. But it will not be easy to receive. Please watch the movie, but my suggestion is not to watch it alone.
When I first saw 13TH it was in a large group at a Unitarian Universalist Church. People began to watch it, but not long after they were yelling out at the screen in anger and frustration. Others were getting up and walking out for moments of it. The story of the Thirteenth Amendment and its deep and dividing impact has never been told more succinctly and poignantly than in DuVernay’s film. In a sense, 13TH is a next chapter in the work Michelle Alexander began almost a decade ago in her book, Ending the New Jim Crow. I encourage people to view this movie in groups or with a companion so that you can more fully process the upset you might feel during or afterward.
The reason I am asking you to watch this is not to upset you unnecessarily. The reason is that this church and many of its members are involved in different ways with addressing systemic injustices in the structures meant to administer justice in our country. In watching this movie, I pray you will gain an appreciation for the very deep and very real problem presented in the film. But I hope even more that you might appreciate the incredibly hard, spirit draining work many in our congregation are undertaking almost daily to address these institutional wrongs.
And who knows, maybe after seeing this movie you’ll want to join them in their work.
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.
I know that Netflix shows the movie. There may be other ways of viewing it. Here is a link to the preview on Netflix: