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Hidden Figures on Valentine’s Day

Hidden Figures

I recently went to the film, Hidden Figures (I recommend it). It is a film set in the 1960s, at a time in USA when segregation between men and women and between white and coloured was still practiced.

One of my realisations was that this was all so recent – during the formative time of many in leadership in USA today (to the point where, still as recent as 1965, USA was still needing to produce legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting). The undergirding attitudes are still manifest.

And it is all part of an underlying struggle with difference. Rather than rejoice in difference, many people fear difference.

Slavery, gender roles, racial segregation, and so forth – all have received justification from the Bible. That trajectory continues to this day in attitudes to gender, sexuality, race, and religions.

And shutting each other down by dogmatic assertions of: “that’s racist”, “that’s sexist”, “that’s homophobic” is having, manifestly, the opposite effect of what is intended. Rather than allowing for debate, it is pushing people with those underlying struggles with difference into hiding them – and they are coming out, instead, in the privacy of the voting booth. Brexit and Trump are sacramental – they are the outward, visible sign of an invisible reality. [And part of the perfect storm is the pushing of post-modernism to a post-fact culture. Spoiler: that is the subject of a future post].

We glibly say that “God is love”. And then many who are uncomfortable where the consequences might lead, assert that the reverse is not the case – that “love is God”. (As a disciple of the apophatic way) I’m not in a hurry to affirm definitions of “God” (in either direction). But, on Valentine’s Day, when love is celebrated, and I am certain that all love is sourced in God, I would rather stand with those who declare that “love is God” (and might get it wrong sometimes) than with those who are today’s inheritors of those who quoted the Bible to retain slavery, and the racial segregation and sexism so well presented in Hidden Figures.

More about Valentine’s Day.

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9 thoughts on “Hidden Figures on Valentine’s Day”

  1. Bosco, I think it’s unfortunate that so many commentators concentrate on those who quote the Bible to reinforce prejudice. (To be honest, I don’t see these arguments taken very seriously in America, with the exception perhaps of questions regarding homosexuality.) I think there is far more to be learned if we remind others of how effective Christianity and other faiths have been in fighting slavery, racism, and other evils.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. Could you remind us please how long it took Christianity to effectively fight slavery, racism, and other evils? And when did (just to give one example beyond your exception – a not unimportant one in any case) the arguments around gender roles stop being taken very seriously in USA? Blessings.

  2. Bosco, if you are going to take such a tone, I can’t see much point in my continuing here.

    Augustine of Hippo made a strong argument against slavery in the early 5th Century. Need I go on?

    In modern times, I remember with great pride the efforts of Dr. King, many Roman Catholics priests and faithful, and Jews, among many, many others in their demonstrations against racism in the 1960s.Appeal to religious arguments and example made a tremendous difference.

    Not to be rude, but what real knowledge do you have about religious arguments regarding sexism among the American people?

    I could call attention to what disturbing things I have read about racism in New Zealand, but I have the good sense–I feel–to leave that for you and others to address.

    I’m offended by your superior tone and I regret if my post has somehow invited this.

    1. Thanks, Kevin.

      No tone was intended. [Sorry if it came over wrong].
      I took from your comment that this post was one of those you criticised as concentrating on those who quote the Bible to reinforce prejudice, and that a post would be better, and there is far more to be learned, if we remind others of how effective Christianity and other faiths have been in fighting slavery, racism, and other evils.
      I too am thrilled and happy to share when Christians do positive things. But I am unwilling to shy away from the dark shadow-side of our history – some of which continues into our contemporary context.
      As for your question how people know about things in places other than where they live – surely that is not a real question in a world of television and the internet. That is how we generally find out what is happening in our own country also. In fact, some people in another country may often be more up with what is happening in our own than some of our own citizens.
      We are a global village. And certainly the religious attitudes in NZ are strongly influenced by USA religious perspectives. Our free-to-air public television system has several Christian television stations – with much of the material coming from and sponsored by American Christian communities.


  3. Bosco, thanks very much for your reply. I mean no mean-spirited criticism of your focus on those who would use the Bible to reinforce their prejudice. I simply don’t think that it is effective, for the most part. Those who use the Bible to belittle people or for racist, homophobic, et al. attacks are generally beyond reason. (Not beyond hope, but beyond reasoned argument.)

    I would challenge your viewpoint about our residing in some sort of electronic global village. I’ve seen too much ignorance, political spin, and real deceit practiced here in America to give much credence to media reports or even academic studies. For myself, I try to concentrate on what I have experienced, limited as it is.

    What I have seen often here in America is a refusal to see past the convenient mindset into which we have settled oh so comfortably. We wrestle with an issue just long enough to have two sides yelling at each other, and then the media finds a new subject for argument. In such an environment, what influence can a measured, cautious, and thoughtful minister, for instance, have? I often think that people here turn away from organized religion because they do not see or feel there the struggle and sacrifice needed for real understanding.

    The people who are arguing about specific Bible verses will soon grow tired of anger and dissension and, perhaps more importantly, they will find that those who once listened to their cavils have left the room. Instead, these refugees from easy ‘truth’ will seek out the existential challenge of Christianity (or another faith.) They will need role models, heroic men and women who admit their doubt, who admit their sin, and who struggle for good in the face of–let’s admit it–terrible odds.

    1. Thanks, Kevin,

      Responding to your challenge, I give just three further examples of beliefs and practices that are presented as Bible-based, found in USA, and spread from there with financial and other support (including, as I said, onto about a quarter of our free-to-air television channels here in NZ): the role of women in home and church; the attitude to science in evolution and with it to such things as responding to environmental issues, the age of the universe and its effect on caring for our planet in relation to the return of Jesus; the place of Israel and ramifications, for example, to attitudes to Islam.

      There are limitations to an internet discussion like this – valuable though I think it is. I suspect some of this would be easier over a beer or a coffee. But, even then we may disagree – and that, I think, also is fine.

      I continue to think that it is important that some Christians some of the time highlight that not all Christians are homogenous in their beliefs and practices, not merely as some sort of attempt to change other Christians’ positions, but to help broaden the perspectives of those who think that Christianity is some sort of monolithic Medieval world-view. I also, as I indicated in this post, want to work in partnership with those who may not hold to my faith in Christ, but who put what I understand Christ is on about into practice in a way that many Christians oppose.


      1. I agree (coming in late, but we’ll chalk that up to the time differences. :o) ) There is much loud talk here in the US that I feel presents the message that “God is hate/Hate is God” rather than God is Love / Love is God. It is not a way to build the Kingdom or spread the “Good Word.”

        Chants of “Build that Wall” are directly related to this fear of others you mention. Yet there have been many pastors who support this, some directly, some by their silence. The more conservative religious groups are worried about someone having to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or worried about which bathroom someone uses. (Texas is now working on their own “bathroom bill”) Refugees are turned away (how is this like God?) because of an unproven (“alternate fact”) belief that refugees are terrorists. Illegal immigrants who have been here for 20 years and have been working to provide for their children are being deported. Another city here in the Detroit area has settled with the federal government because they were blocking building a mosque for no rational reason. People without healthcare are viewed as “bad” rather than someone we together, showing the love Christ showed us, could easily help with all of our amazing resources.

        Many of the people behind these actions publicly claim their Christianity. All of these are published. In print. Online. People see. So this is the perception people have of the Church. Perception = reality. Christians are against women, refugees, gays, transgendered, Hispanics, Muslims. How can the world not see?

        While I know this is not true, without the other side coming out to have this debate, the world only sees this one side. I disagree with Kevin that no one pays attention to all of this. Some may not, but some do. The number of death threats to Jewish Community Centers has been on the rise. Yet our President did not bother to mention Jewish victims of the Holocaust on Holocaust remembrance day, nor did he speak out until forced on the uptick in anti-Semitism (instead yelling at an orthodox reporter asking a valid question respectfully.) People hear and act–Gabby Giffords, Vincent Chin, Trayvon Martin….

        Where is the Church? Hoping for a Supreme Court nomination to reverse gay marriage?

        Unlike Kevin, I feel there is plenty of ongoing opportunities for “measured, cautious ministers” to discuss these issues. But I would also assert that the Church is not to be “measured and cautious” when dealing with these topics. This is the time to stand up. Without doing this, the sideline Christians and nonbelievers continue to hear only the far right side. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Eli Wiesel)

        Thanks for allowing me to vent a bit. Appreciate your blog and comments.

  4. Bosco, I think you’re right about some conversations being better conducted in person.

    I am fearful of just which programs are being broadcast in NZ that originate in America. I have seen some of the ones broadcast here that hold to rather ‘old fashioned’ beliefs, but, truthfully, I’ve never met anyone in my lifetime who treats them seriously. (Perhaps I run with too small a crowd!)

    The one exception, in terms of viewership, is EWTN, a Roman Catholic channel. I know many elderly folks who watch the Mass broadcast each day and some who pray the rosary in response to the program set aside for it. (For what it’s worth, I don’t consider EWTN too far out of mainstream beliefs, though it certainly reflects a traditional approach to worship.)

    I’m going to see if I can discover what the real viewer numbers are for these channels.

    1. Yes, Kevin, these approaches are taken seriously here in NZ – on the one side by Christians; and on the other by those (the majority of our nation) who are not Christian. The latter are surprised at Christians like me who hold views different to those channels; and they are also put off even investigating Christianity because that is the most public face of it. Good luck, as just one example, finding a public declaration of a bishop in NZ (RC or Anglican) arguing that Christians can accept evolution. Blessings.

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