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the great debaters

Racial Hatred Disgusts God

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer - One intense scene in The Great Debaters was appallingly accurate.

Driving up a dirt road to another debate, Mel Tolson (Denzel Washington) begins to slow the car down. Soon the debaters and their coach see the party on the side of the road clearly.

Hanging from a tree is the dead body of an innocent black man. His body is charred from the fire started by his tormentors. A fire below his lynched corpse reveals the pleased crowd of white men, women, and children. It’s almost as if they’re picnicking, which happened in the Jim Crow South.

I couldn’t take it. I instantly became disgusted with such bigots who commit like crimes and claim the white race is superior. I also was sickened by the depth of hate one could have for another.

God Loves Us Equally

Denzel Washington’s new movie addresses many issues. Racial inequality and the injustices that occurred in our country are blatant, as they should be.

It’s after witnessing a scene something like this that I asked myself the same questions posed in Malachi 2:10:

Don’t we all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along? (The Message)

We’re all, men, women, and children, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Each of us is His creation. How could anyone claim to be a decent human being, let alone a follower of Christ, and still harbor prejudice thoughts toward someone whose skin is a different tint?

Racial Tension Today

During a recent interview with, Washington mentioned the cover of Ebony magazine when asked about current state of racial equality in America. He, along with Oprah Winfrey (who helped produce the film), are featured on it promoting The Great Debaters. In the corner, the cover highlights an article about nooses being used to intimidate in our country today.

“Wow, things have changed. But, they haven’t changed,” he says. “On the January 2008 cover, it’s talking about nooses. I guess it wasn’t even news then. Maybe that’s the difference between then and now -- it’s news. It wasn’t even news then.”

Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, and Nate Parker immersed themselves into the time period's history so that they weren’t just seen as actors playing parts in a movie. They wanted to be so powerful that audiences would see the reality these people faced each day.

“It was a task as a black man in America in 1935 to be compromised everyday, to have to say ‘yes, suh,’ instead of ‘yes, sir,’ to dumb yourself down in fear that you may be lynched, that you may be hung by your neck and dragged down the street without justice,” says Parker, the young actor who plays Henry Lowe.

“We feel it as actors and emotionally we have a sense of disturbing images and kind of being scared in that situation,” says Denzel Whitaker. “For me, it just brought me closer. It helped me to understand what I learned in the history books. It’s not just text anymore. It’s sad what America did. I look back on it and I definitely have a shame for America, a shame for human society as a whole.”

Biblical Thoughts on Racism

Their debate coach, Prof. Tolson, also was a poet who outspokenly denounced racial injustice and segregation. Something he stated years ago has stuck with me as I’ve learned more about this man and the history of the Jim Crow South.

It’s easy to love God. It’s easy to love Jesus. It’s easy to pray for the heathen African ten thousands miles from the house where you live. It’s hard to call a lousy tramp your brother and set him down at your table.

Hypocrisy couldn’t be explained any better than this. Let your actions toward your fellow man demonstrate for you. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. If racism and hatred is what spews forth from our mouths, then we are killing each other in our hearts.

If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both. (1 John 4:20-21, The Message)

Sometimes I think God cringes as He watches us tear each other apart. He must weep as I did when I saw that scene in the movie knowing we are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28). Each life is free from slavery and is precious to the Lord. He’s given us a free will to bless Him and others, not to use that freedom to curse our neighbors.

In Galatians 5:13-15, it says:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out — in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (The Message)

Care for each other -- that’s what Paul encourages us to do in Romans 15:2.

Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us. (The Message)

Let’s not allow hate to overpower the love we have for our brothers and sisters of all shapes, colors, and sizes. God created and loves us all. So, why don’t we try and treat each other with some respect and dignity.

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