Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twelve Years of Slavery (movie review)

I arrived at the movie theater directly from a comfortable winter Norman Rockwell family scene, with tree decorating and a crackling fire.  Definitely "the North".

Other critics aren't saying this so let me be original:  the two guys who entice our hero to Washington, DC are a lot like the two tempters in Pinocchio.  And Pinocchio is in turn related to the Biblical story of Jonah in some ways.  Certainly this guy loses everything, enters a living nightmare in the belly of "the South".

The film fit well into my own studies, of pro-slavery Christianity and divisions among Quakers, stereotypically working the Underground Railroad, but in actuality on the fence as established Meetings and not wanting to be seen as contravening (subverting the authority of) said Washington, DC, the nation's "capital" (cite Hunger Games).

The former overseer, down on his luck and paying off his debt by selling himself into servitude, is an interesting character, not just because he betrays our hero.  He's the guy Quakers are afraid will scare away black people.  Friends of my persuasion have an Oversight Committee and there's a stir amongst us to abolish said committee in favor of some more pastoral-sounding, less hard-edged committee.  That way none of us have to wear the label of overseer, which, after a movie like this, would seem at best an embarrassment and at worst an admission of a serious crime against humanity.

I'm against our brand of Quakers losing its edginess and instead recommend continuing to hack away at those ropes that bind us to the so-called "mother ship" of Christianity.  If it's a game of distancing from a specific terminology, then let's speak of Christians without so much of that "we" flavor.  Those Christians sure knew how to throw a dance party, we could say of the slaver couple, a not so happily married twosome.

At the New Thought Interfaith Panel, my mom, representing Quakers, got her own slot, along with Baha'i, Hindu, Scientologist and Essene (Islam, Jewish, Atheist etc.).  That seemed a positive step.

We may still embrace the Bible and of course Jesus himself, our friend and rabbi forever, without pledging allegiance to that twisted snake basket of belief systems unified by Emperor Constantine to consolidate control over his empire. Quakers already do not recite the Nicene Creed, a sure sign of heresy.  Why not officially leave the fold, at least among certain Meetings.

Christianity is deeply flawed and perhaps unsalvageable, as we see in this movie.  Or maybe it will heal from its horrible past.  Either way, Quakers need not tie their karma (fate) so tightly to this albatross.  We have a direct relationship with our principals and need not identify with these mostly priestly outward forms of the church-going, even if we affiliate and coalition with. 

I'd rather distance Quakerism from Christianity as a whole than hack away at our own internals and gut ourselves of Oversight.  We need not be ashamed of having overseers or admit cosmic guilt for attempting to practice responsible self super-vision.  It's all about how we spin it (overseeing).

Back to the film, I enjoyed Brad Pitt's part.  He's the modern voice in the film, speaking the mind of the audience which has been witnessing all this in horror.  "You must not be from around these parts" says our hero (in paraphrase).  "You're right, I'm from Canada" says Brad.  I almost laughed out loud, because Canada is even still sounding and acting smarter than Washington, DC ever could or did.  What a zoo, that city of pseudo-roman and modern architectures.

The bad guy slaver and the director have worked together before I've learned.

I respect the bad people in this movie for really doing a good job of acting.  They condemn one another in Biblical terms in ways that sound authentic, which is why I would never give up on the Bible as a source of soap operas, meta-stories, polemics and invective.

The Bible, a great storybook, is not the enemy.  Christianity, on the other hand, may deserve to be treated that way from time to time (with tough love). 

Look at Christians today and their two-faced support of nuclear weapons only for themselves and their friends.  Sound familiar?  How many Christians actually support abolishing nuclear weapons?  We should run more polls.