Mississippi Baptist Consultant Says “Selma” Movie Can Initiate Honest Racial Reconciliation Discussion

selma movie

The movie “Selma” opening today nationwide can initiate honest racial reconciliation discussion and the study of African American history among Southern Baptists, said Chris McNairy, a consultant who has helped Mississippi Baptists bridge racial barriers the past two years.

McNairy said the film, though it takes artistic license highlighting the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., can encourage Southern Baptists of all ethnicities to study the facts of the historic struggle for voting rights by African Americans in the 1960s South.

“The movie brings out that point that there is a history that we cannot throw away,” said McNairy, founder of Urban Fusion Network, focused primarily on urban missions in spreading the Gospel and enhancing Christian disciple-making.

“For some of us evangelical conservatives, we don’t want to talk about parts of American history,” McNairy said. “Not to make a comparison to Jewish life, but for every diaspora there’s a part of their history that if we’re honest about it, we want to say, ‘We shall never forget.’

“The Jewish Diaspora will say they will never forget the internment camps. For the African Diaspora, they will never forget the slave trade and slavery. And you can go through the six major diasporas in America and they all have something about their history that they don’t want forgotten,” McNairy said. “The problem with historical segmentation in America is that it’s all about the European Diaspora. When we look at history, there’s not much dealing with the nonwhite history, so that even nonwhites don’t know nonwhite history.”

Selma, which first opened in a limited U.S. release on Christmas Day, has already spurred racial reconciliation talks in key sites of racial conflict in the country. In Sanford, Fla., where George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in 2012, two pastors have used the movie to give new life to racial reconciliation talks there.

In New York, African American business leaders have raised enough money for 27,000 middle school students to attend free viewings of Selma. The movement #SelmaHandinHand is encouraging interdenominational Selma viewings and post-viewing discussions in theaters across the country. The movement’s Twitter page shows participation in various states, including Alabama and Virginia. In Philadelphia, the National Liberty Museum is sponsoring a Selma Speech & Essay Contest among high school students, with a $5,000 grand prize.

Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., affirmed the movie as a good discussion-starter for racial reconciliation.

In Montgomery, he said, “we’ve been engaged in this conversation regarding racial reconciliation linked to revival for two decades. We pray that the movie and the Voters Rights March [50th] Anniversary will be a catalyst for the body of Christ to live, love and personify the call of Jesus to be one so the world may believe.”

Wolf, as a longtime advocate of racial reconciliation, has sought to develop a culture of inclusion through First Baptist, a congregation of 4,600.

“Over 20 years ago a group of black and white ministers began to meet under the banner of John 17:21. Our goal is spiritual awakening. Since God’s empowering Spirit cannot move over broken lines we wanted to be connected,” Wolf said. “John 17:21 is the prayer of Jesus asking that ‘we become one so that the world will believe.’ Our disunity and disconnection discounts our evangelism.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Diana Chandler