Selma and the Cross

Photo by Spider Martin

Last night I had the privilege of seeing the movie Selma for the second time, generic and today is the 50 year anniversary of Bloody Sunday, discount rx when over 600 marchers were brutally attacked on the Edmund Petus Bridge in their attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery.

It’s incredible to think that 50 years ago, generic Black women and men were fighting to gain the right to vote and today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, our African-American president addresses the nation from the Edmund Petus Bridge.

It is also striking to watch the movie to realize how true it is that Selma is now, and to sit with the realization that Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, delivered from Alabama’s capital 50 years ago, is just as poignant and relevant today.

A few weeks before the march from Selma, Alabama, black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed by a state trooper. And today, young black men and women continue to be shot and killed without consequences for those who kill them. While watching Selma, the absolute disregard for the value of black lives by the police force, government officials, and white U.S. citizens becomes apparent. And yet today we still have to continuously proclaim Black Lives Matter because it is still clear that they don’t to many policemen, government officials, and white U.S. citizens.

In the movie, Dr. King speaks with Cager Lee, Jimmie’s grandfather, after the death of his grandson. Dr. King says to him, “There are no words to soothe you. But I know one thing for certain: God was the first to cry.” Mr. Lee responds, “I believe that,” and as followers of Jesus, we need to believe that, too.

The Cross is the most horrible, powerful, and beautiful moment of history and cannot be contained within a single meaning. The significance of Jesus’ crucifixion is deeper and more beautiful and mysterious than we can ever know, but I am confident that a part of its significance is to show that the Lord Jesus suffered and died in solidarity with the countless women and men who have, throughout history, been strung up on trees, been beaten and mocked, been scorned and objectified, been made to feel as though they are forsaken by God.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” -Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51, 54

The darkness, the tearing of the temple, the earthquake…I believe that is how God cried, how He mourned the loss of His son who had died feeling utterly forsaken by his Father. And I believe He still responds this way when His sons and daughters are murdered and beaten. We have a Savior who joins us in suffering and sides with those who are persecuted. While the Cross gives us the comfort that Jesus is not outside of our suffering but that he suffered in solidarity with those, like Jimmie Lee Jackson, who are abused and killed, the Resurrection gives us the hope that restoration is coming because no lie can live forever.

Dr. King knew that the Cross is the most powerful moment of history where love for enemies and non-violence converged to utterly destroy evil. He knew that hate and fear are agents of destruction and that love has the power to overcome both.

And so as we go away this afternoon, let us go away more than ever before committed to this struggle and committed to nonviolence. I must admit to you that there are still some difficult days ahead. We are still in for a season of suffering in many of the black belt counties of Alabama, many areas of Mississippi, many areas of Louisiana. I must admit to you that there are still jail cells waiting for us, and dark and difficult moments. But if we will go on with the faith that nonviolence and its power can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, we will be able to change all of these conditions.

And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.

Today as we remember Selma and the countless Black and White lives that were lost in the struggle for civil rights and human dignity, let us also remember that our fight is not over. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to continue with this struggle, to continue loving our enemies, to continue calling out the image of God in everyone we encounter, and to continue to fight for race-equality in our nations.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! Our God is marching on! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!

Leave a Reply