This Sunday at Virginia-Highland Church we will conclude our summer sermon series Faith & Film. If you would like to watch some of the sermons, you can find the videos HERE. The one from July 5 is my favorite. It is based on an obscure documentary called “American Promise,” and, of course, it was Independence Day weekend. So attendance was pretty slim for that one.
God seems never to listen to me about these things. I woke up that Sunday morning knowing that our entire country needed to consider the enduring and pervasive effect of racism, and that was the subject of the sermon. As I lay in bed before rising to get ready, I asked God to bring people to church for that service. While it was our biggest July 4th crowd in decades, it didn’t seem that the small group in attendance was going to have much of an impact.
The truth is I didn’t need to convince those present about the effect of racial inequality on things like education and income. They are good, progressive folks who live in Georgia. My job, though, was to call us all to stop ignoring what we know and to become aroused enough to speak truth in our silent and politely racist circles. That takes courage in places like Georgia and Texas, where we still pretend that a Confederate flag popularized in the 1950s and 60s represents our “heritage.”
This Sunday is the 92nd anniversary of Virginia-Highland Church, and the worship team has selected “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” to end the Faith & Film series. I didn’t see the movie when it was in theaters, but I watched it on HBO one Sunday afternoon after church. It moved me to tears several times. As I watched, I wondered if I would have found it so moving if I had not grown up, and lived my entire life, in the racist and segregated South. Perhaps if I had grown up elsewhere I wouldn’t have realized that racism can be subtle but still insidious.
It is the water in which we all swim, and, though we may take it for granted, it is so polluted that it threatens everyone’s lives, not just the multicolored fish who swim alongside us.
Rev. Michael Piazza