Prophets, Losses, and Complex Truths | Sojourners

Prophets, Losses, and Complex Truths

July reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle C. 

MY PARENTS WERE raised watching Westerns in which the tropes were all the same: There were “good guys” and “bad guys.” I was raised on Disney movies with similar tropes. There was little moral complexity in these stories, which I suspect reflects our tendency to look at the world in terms of a good/bad dichotomy. Reality is much more nuanced. I appreciate the way that popular 21st-century movies have embraced some of that nuance. One example is the Oscar-winning film Crash, a complex racial narrative released in 2004. An antagonist police officer in the movie’s opening becomes a hero by the end, while his idealistic partner takes the inverse path. It’s never totally apparent who the “villains” and “heroes” are. While I think our investment in the good/bad dichotomy is still substantial, it seems popular culture might agree with the psalmist who says, “there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:3).

Our willingness to accept human complexity is key to our ability to reshape ourselves into more just communities. Today, we see state legislatures seeking to prohibit educators from teaching uncomfortable truths about our country’s past because of the dominant culture’s inability to confront that truth. I remember the words of James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The scriptures for this month help us change what needs to be changed by facing it and trusting in God’s ability to move us forward.

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