Tyler Perry, George Lucas and Why Everyone Should See ‘Red Tails’ This Weekend

It takes a lot to get me to go to a movie theatre; other than going to see the 3D version of ‘The Lion King’ the last movie I saw in theatre was ‘Up In The Air’. With that said, I think every single person who can should go see ‘Red Tails’ this weekend.

Why?

Because, if the story is true, the major Hollywood studios didn’t want to partner with George Lucas to get the film made. Their reasoning being that an all-black cast limits the audience.

Which brings me to Tyler Perry. Now, I haven’t seen a movie of his in theatre since ‘Diary Of A Mad Black Woman’; but I have been told that his movies always have a mixed-race audience. And they make money. With majority-minority casts.

So why didn’t the studios want to go in on ‘Red Tails’? Is it because Denzel Washington or Will Smith aren’t in it (even though Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard are)? Are the Tuskegee Airmen not a worthy subject? (everything else about WWII seems to be, but I could be wrong)

Or is it because, as George Lucas posits, that white heroes aren’t the focus?

I have no idea what the answer is. But I do encourage you to go see ‘Red Tails’ this weekend…if for no other reason than to support the telling of more of the stories of WWII from those whose stories haven’t been told enough. Plus…it’s a pretty good action film (even if the dialogue is a bit spotty).

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Next Year Can We Have A.Philip Randolph and Fannie Lou Hamer Day Instead?

Not that we shouldn’t honor the life of MLK Jr., but is the reason that he gets the day instead of people like A. Philip Randolph and Fannie Lou Hamer because he’s more palatable to white sensibilities?

As much of a player in the Civil Rights Movement as MLK Jr. was, lots of other people died. So why isn’t there a Medgar Evers or Emmett Till Day? Malcolm X Day?

Sometimes the “Great Man” theory of history really fits…Alexander the Great…Charlemagne…Martin Luther.

Other times something else is needed, closer to the treatment that the “Founding Fathers” get. (Yet many of them get the Great Man treatment)

But when we’re talking about something like civil rights, something that has such a long arc, why put all of the focus on that one man? Doesn’t that ignore the people and the work that made him possible?

Was King’s Dream Too Hopeful?…or Taking An Angry Black Woman Moment

The older I get, the less the “I Have A Dream” speech moves me. Not because it’s not a beautiful speech–it is. Maybe it’s because I like the imagery of the “Mountaintop” speech better:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Which is a re-imagining of this:

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab,  (Deuteronomy 34:1-5a)

Anyway…last year at this time I was fretting over the sermon that I was going to give the next day. I had been fretting over it for almost two weeks and, as I had been telling my supervisor, trying very hard to not be an angry black woman. I think I succeeded, even though I spent too much time talking about the ball commemorating South Carolina’s succession and Virginia’s declaration of Confederate History Month with no mention of slavery.  Since, as is my usual stance, I’m not going to be anywhere near a UU church tomorrow, I’m going to take this moment to be an angry black woman.

Earlier this week on Facebook, I posted a link to an article saying:

According to a recent study conducted by the Yale University Child Study Center, Black boys receive less attention, harsher punishments, and lower grades in school than their White counterparts.This trend persists from kindergarten all the way through college, regardless of socioeconomic status.

So…almost 60 years after Brown v. Board, young black men, no matter what their parents’ socioeconomic status, are still getting an unequal education. And I could say separate if the numbers about the percentage of black and Latino children going to majority-minority schools are even half-way near right. This of course doesn’t go into the numbers of black children who are placed in special education; not because they have more learning disabilities but because of other reasons.

If that weren’t enough…

…the foreclosure rate among African Americans is twice that of whites in the same circumstance…

…the unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.8%…

…40% of black children are living in poverty…

…one-third of African American males are in jail, on parole or on probation (and receive harsher sentences than whites for the same crimes)–which means that there are still more black men involved with the criminal justice system than in college…

…and to top it off a significant percentage of the American public still believes the birther nonsense (last I heard it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 15%)

King was too  hopeful. Maybe he had to be that hopeful; but he was still too hopeful.

Here ends the angry black woman moment.

Who Do We Say That We Are

For those of you who know your Bible, you will recognize the title of this post as a re-framing of Jesus’ question to his disciples: Who do people say that I am?

For this post however, I am not worried about what other people think about us but rather what we think about ourselves.

As I was doing some research, I came across this on the Disciples of Christ website. It is from an old survey, but I think it could offer something to the discussion that has been going on in parts of the UU universe of late. Rev. Tony Lorenzen talks about it here. Rev. Victoria Weinstein here. Rev. Peter Boullata here. And Rev. Tom Schade here.

Here’s the introduction:
Who do we say that we are? Identity is a vital concern for all parts of the church. Many long-time (Disciples) worry that we may be losing crucial characteristics of our common life. New (Disciples) want to know about the distinctive gifts of this community of faith. All of us need to have clarity about who we are in order to be faithful and effective witnesses to (Jesus Christ).

A church’s identity must be firmly rooted in scripture and yet flexible enough to adapt to changes in culture and the shifting demands of mission. Early Christians in Jerusalem had to learn what it meant to be faithful in Antioch and Rome. Our (Disciples) forebears, as they moved from the frontier to the city, had to rethink such matters as congregational autonomy and the goal of “restoring” the New Testament church. Today, we wrestle with what it means to be disciples of (our Lord) in a world that is increasingly pluralistic, globally connected, and yet so often violently divided.

Isn’t that interesting? If you change the word Unitarian or Universalist for Disciples, doesn’t this look like something we are wrestling with?

So here are the questions that have come to my mind:
1. What are the crucial characteristics of our common life?
2. What are the distinctive gifts of this community of faith?
3. Since the number of people in our communities of faith do not consider themselves Christian and/or theist is substantial, what are we faithful and effective witnesses to/for?
4. In the same vein, what are we disciples of?

In Order For It To Be A “Living Tradition”, You Have To Know The Tradition…or Modern Unitarian Universalism As A Case of Willful Amnesia

Tony Lorenzen over at the Sunflower Chalice blog posits that the continuing animosity towards the idea of Christianity in many UU circles is due, at least partly, to aversion addiction. It is an insightful analysis and I encourage you to read it.

I think Tony may be on to something, at least as far as those 50+ may be concerned. But I would posit that, for the children of those 50+, the case is much less aversion than the ingrained willful ignorance to scripture and tradition that they have received.

Many years ago Roger Wilkins, the historian and author, gave a speech in which he said, “What you have amnesia towards does not have amnesia towards you.” Now…he was talking about American history as it relates to those of African descent, but I think it fits the modern UU situation well.

For an example, let’s look at Rob Bell, who is just the latest in a long line of  Christian thinkers to explore the questions about the nature of God and God’s love and come out less than orthodox (even if not fully universalist or unitarian). Many in the UU-blogosphere tried to render an opinion as to whether Rob Bell was an universalist or not–without having any clue as to what classical universalist theology is, much less having any idea of who someone like Quillen Shinn is. (if you know what classical universalist theology is and/or know who Quillen Shinn is, I’m not talking about you.) Many of those same bloggers were eager to claim Rob Bell as one of us, not knowing where he fits in the line (assuming that one believes that he is an universalist).

If modern Unitarian Universalism is indeed a “living tradition,” would it not behoove us to actually talk about the tradition from which we come from more than just at Christmas and Easter? Instead we have this willful amnesia.

In a way, it is a real shame that we don’t do catechism the way our Transylvanian brothers and sisters do. If we did, then we would be able to pass on the tradition on in a systematic way to all comers. From there  you could give people the breath and wealth of all the world’s religions. Thus it would be truly a living tradition–a tradition that encounters the rest of the world in all its fullness and glory. Not only that, if we built a catechism we could tell our story–from Arius and Origen to Sharon Welch and Rebecca Parker.

The Methodist have the Wesleys. The Presbyterians have John Knox. The Baptists have Roger Williams. The Quakers have George Fox. The Brethern have Alexander Mack. We have Michael Servetus. And John Murray. And William Ellery Channing. Yet how much of our story is transmitted on any sort of regular basis?

Notice I said story and not theology. The reason I said story and not theology is simple…if I know your story, I can figure out your theology. Your story helps give your theology its framework–its body. Just as, once more fully developed, your theology helps you look at your story in new ways.

Our story is part of the Christian story. And it is a story that only we can tell. It is a story that we MUST tell. Others can, and do, talk about our classical theologies. But only we have the story. And we do ourselves and those to whom we are theologically and ecclesiastically related to a disservice by not telling our story.

If we are to be a “living tradition,” don’t we have to know our take on the tradition first?