As we continue our Friday revisit of the previous “At the Movies” film and teaching points, I hope you all got to either attend live or view during one of the times it aired on the church website. Again, due to copywriter laws these sermons can only be viewed during the weekend services and one time on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 PM.
The movie this week was “42” about Jackie Robinson. The clips and Brian’s words were very moving. I did kind of “fact check” the movie on the internet and the source I found said that his wife Rachel had wanted the movie made for many years.
The article said that she and their daughter had a voice in editing and approved of the final result. For the most part all the things that were depicted in the clips we saw are verified, however there is one and I will make mention of it in notes below.
Even if you have not seen the movie, we are all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson and the year he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black baseball player to play major league ball.
I am going to share the notes I took during the sermon first:
* Racism in baseball was just a microcosm of the racism that existed in all areas of America in 1947.
* One of the quotes from the movie, and I was unable to verify if this was actually said in real life, but it certainly speaks volumes about humanity. When the Dodgers’ owner, Branch Rickey, first informed his staff what he planned to do, one of the men immediately advised that this was a terrible idea. Rickey responded that there was no law against it. The man replied basically while there was no law, there was a code. He went on to say, “You break a law and some people will think it’s kinda cool. You break a code, you can become an outcast.” To me that is a powerful quote. Lawbreakers have become celebrities at times, but code-breakers have a legacy of becoming ostracized.
* Also it was brought up during the discussion about drafting Robinson that he had a reputation for a temper and had been court-martialed with a dishonorable discharge from the military. I did find out that this was later changed and he was given the status of an honorable discharge years later. When reviewing why he was court-martialed, again Rickey pointed out that it was because he refused to move to the back of a military bus because he didn’t believe in segregation. In the movie, the character of Rickey said neither did he. And he wanted to do something about it.
* Another touching scene is when Rickey meets with Robinson and as he offers him a contract, the manager also gets in his face and basically grills him about the taunting and abuse Robinson will invariably face as he travels with the team around the country. As Jackie, justifiably, begins to react to this barrage, Rickey asks him if he will be able to take and hold his temper so his accusers won’t be proved right. Robinson asks him if he really wants to hire a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back and Rickey counters, “No, I want a player who has the guts to not fight back. Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground.” Brian added here that this is the example of Christ, who for the purpose that he had before him, held back from responding because the thing he was doing mattered more than defending himself.
* Brian called this effort something that requires more Spirit-control then self-control and also pointed out that the film did not emphasize to the extent that other materials from Jackie’s life revealed. The role of his faith was huge in allowing him to continue to hold higher ground than the sin of racism and its fruit that was often hurled at him.
* The last point I want to share is the scene that is not validated anywhere, but in the article I read – since Rachel Robinson allowed it there is evidence that this was a precedence in the relationship between Robinson and Rickey. After a particularly ugly crowd response to him, Jackie goes through the dugout and down into a hallway where he breaks down. Rickey knows his player had been pushed to the limit and he comes down. Jackie says that Rickey has no idea what it is like and Rickey wisely agrees. In the conversation that follows, Branch Rickey affirms to Jackie that he does not know nor does anyone else on the team know what Jackie has to take. He says that Jackie is the only one who takes it and then he just put his arm around him.
I found this to be a profound example of what the point Brian ended with is saying. We want to do everything we can to break down barriers and build bridges, but we also want to do it with grace and humility to say – I don’t know what it is like. I don’t know what you have to take and how long you have had to take it. I know it is wrong and I don’t agree with those who say and do these things, but I don’t know what you feel. However, I understand and affirm that it exists and it is painful and I will be here and I will listen and learn and I will put my arm around you and I will come alongside you and support you and I will do whatever I can to bring the change.
Finally, I will close with this that keeps running in my head and heart.
Nine years before I was born.
Ruby Nell Bridges was the first black child to be allowed to attend an all-white public school in Louisiana. I was two years old.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated when I was ten years old.
My point is this.
As I move around in my city, it is in my lifetime that the very beginning efforts of racial equality was forged. Black men and women my age know what it was like to sit in the back of the bus, drink from a different water fountain, use a different rest room.
They raised children who are my children’s age with this as their background and story. It may seem like all of our kids have the same advantages, but we need to listen. It may seem like such great strides have happened in such a short time that surely the battle is over.
But think about it.
The pain is not so far away and there are still people who would have it go back, sad as that sounds.
So we don’t know everything and we don’t understand what it feels like to be told where we can go the bathroom or get a drink of water or work or live. But we walk alongside many who do.
We need forgiveness and we need healing and we need God’s wisdom to be like Jesus, who called racism sin. Because it is.