A Helping of Courage

 

If giving up something precious meant guaranteed your success in life, what is it that you would let go of and forever walk away from?  When you think of an answer to this question, you don’t immediately begin to think of handing me things like your safety and health or livelihood do you?

This is the question being asked by the movie “The Help”, and if you are alive, human, and have 8 dollars you should definitely take 2 hours and 12 minutes out of your life to let it interrogate you.

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, the movie places its focus on the early 1960s (get used to this trend) and the plight of the African-American maid.  Two of these maids engage in the risky business of telling their life stories to a struggling, young, white, unmarried, journalist.  While the backdrop of the film is Jim Crow Era Mississippi, racism isn’t the real monster that the movie confronts.

If it were, it would be an easier film to watch.

If the movie were solely about racial prejudice, most of us could watch it today and feel let off the hook because  the struggle for civil rights has long since convinced us of the ironic inequity of  the “separate yet equal” movement.  Instead, the “The Help” is a movie about the self centeredness that drives us to marginalize others in our attempts to validate ourselves.

Whether it’s racism in it’s most blatant or subtle state, sexism, or classism, “The Help” continually confronts us with the disturbing notion that we choose to define ourselves by how we’ve elevated ourselves above “our competition.”  It also painfully illustrates that the human unwillingness to let go of our desired way of life, and the safety and livelihood that it seemingly ensures, is what enslaves us to a life lived in crippling fear and bitterness.

It’s refreshingly honest, surprisingly bold, and remarkably subtle for a movie that centers itself on subject matter that we all already agree is wrong.  It also points out how self-centeredness keeps us silent as we are being oppressed.

While most of us don’t consciously identify with a wealthy person who fears losing their privileged way of living, we do understand the struggle of the person desperate to hang on to what little money and dignity that they have left.

That’s probably our biggest problem.

Our self-centeredness doesn’t allow us to identify with the oppressor, only the oppressed.  That’s why the most remarkable aspect of the movie is not found in its reverent depiction of the servants, but in its portrayal of the unconscious and self-righteous oppressor.  No one in the movie believes that they are a racist (because they know someone worse) and everyone believes that they are doing the “Christian” thing as they defend a way of life that marginalizes every other person in their community regardless of color.

As the movie surges through it’s paces it becomes clear that change comes to a person who submits themselves in obedience to the commands of God.  It’s the ability to place our most precious assets in the hands of God that gives us the courage to stand for what is right… even if that means walking away from the life or lifestyle that we dearly love.

“The Help” succeeds where other lesser movies fail because in the end there is a human toll that is paid not just for sin, but also for righteousness.  Placing what is most precious to us in the hands of God is not an exercise in comfort and safety, but in dangerous obedience.

Those of us who choose to do so are able to learn that success is not an achievement of the will followed by a never ending battle to maintain our station and hoard of treasures, but a subordination of the will that produces a life of generosity and courage that is funded by the deep and rich righteousness of God.

 

“For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  -Ephesians 3:14-19

One Response to “A Helping of Courage”

  1. Sharon O August 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I have read many wonderful reviews about this movie, yours included. The next thing to do is to go see it and observe the movie as others have written. Thank you…

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