Twelve Years A Slave

If you haven’t seen the film Twelve Years a Slave, it’s worth the price of admission. It is an excellent movie but prepare yourself. It is replete with injustice, humiliation, abuse and unadulterated evil. It is based on the life of Solomon Northup, a free man living in Saratoga. He earns his living as a musician but early on in the story is kidnapped, separated from him wife and children and sold into slavery. We watch as he tirelessly perseveres. He is blessed to have an indomitable spirit and demonstrates a tremendous depth of character and determination to find his way home. Solomon bears up under years of mistreatment, being the undeserved object of another’s wrath, humiliation, and deplorable living conditions. The movie brings us face-to-face with the consequences of ignorance, selfishness, and the depths to which human depravity can reach, not unlike other historical events in which similar atrocities were committed against men, women and children. We can’t help but then anxiously consider the conditions of our modern age, admitting there are places we would not go today where the same vulnerability and evil lurks in the streets and byways. It is depressing to ponder the behavior of mankind, past and present. If we were to stay there, we would surely fall into despair. Fortunately, the movie helps us to somewhat recover. Solomon finally meets an advocate named Bass who brings hope. Bass represents the other side of humanity. He recognizes not only that the behaviors inflicted by those involved in slavery are destructive, but that they are rooted in ignorance, discrimination, detachment, devaluation of humanity, selfishness, and the love of money. Bass makes a courageous decision in the midst of justifiable fear and at tremendous risk, he does the right thing. Bass is the redeemer in the film and Solomon ultimately reaps the benefit of his actions. Even so, the film is unsettling and I am glad. I so value the opportunity to be reminded that it is most often not a giant leap, but rather a series of small steps on a slippery slope that makes us ‘one of them.’ When we start labeling, detaching, elevating, and marginalizing, we’re in trouble. May God help us to see others through His eyes. It is only then that we will all be more like Bass, ultimately reflecting the love of Christ to a world that is so desperately in need of a redeemer.

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