Those who know us well know that one of our favorite pastimes on a day off is movie-watching. However, we prefer action flicks & family comedies or an occasional Sci-fi (to please my wife, who’s a Trekkie from back in the day), but never dramas. (As pastors, we see plenty of drama in the lives of people we serve & it’s never entertaining!)
But with Chris still in Dallas visiting our daughter, on Labor Day afternoon I went to a local theater to watch the box-office blockbuster, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”. As a white pastor of a majority-Black congregation, I had already heard rave reviews that piqued my interest.
And I saw why. The acting was superb, with Forrest Whitaker in the lead role, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a fellow White House bulter (my personal favorite in the film) and even Oprah, who was surprisingly good in her role as Whitaker’s alcoholic wife. (She repeatedly got the loudest response from the theater audience where I watched.)
All in all, it was a painful personal story about a White House butler who served under eight US Presidents through some of the most turbulent years of our civil rights history.
But I left the theater quite disappointed with Hollywood, because so much of the story was fictitious. For reasons known only to the producers, they completely re-wrote the the life story of Eugene Allen, the real butler who worked in the White House for 34 years. For instance, In the first 2 or 3 minutes there are references to 2 lynchings, a rape (of the butler’s mother) and a racist murder (of his father). None of these things happened to the actual butler, who also didn’t have an activist son or another son who died in the Vietnam War. (He had only one son, who served honorably in the Viet Nam war.)
There were numerous other mis-facts in the film, but my purpose is not to correct the story. My mind & heart simply wonders why Hollywood (or anyone else) needs to concoct stories to fuel racial division, when there’s enough sad facts in our nation’s past to go around.
At CLC, we are striving to build a church that values all people, regardless of skin color, age, gender, or class. Instead of finding more reasons to divide & separate us from each other, I want to lead a group of people who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and that begins with building genuine relationships with people who look different than us.
I left the theater disturbed Monday afternoon. Disturbed anew by the images of white Americans treating black Americans as no person should ever be treated. But I was also disturbed by Hollywood’s attempt to sensationalize and inflame racial hatred by unnecessary lies.
You don’t have to agree with my review. But I want to ask those of you who saw the movie: did it make you more determined to build relationships with other races, or did it reinforce negative feelings you may have had toward another race? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Thanks for reading – I needed to unburden my heart, because racial reconciliation is God’s heart for our world & it’s one of the foundations that CLC has built on for almost 24 years!
I hope you’ll join us for our new series, ‘CORE’, beginning this Sunday, September 8!