“Defend the past. Save the future.”
Those words are lighting up TV screens this week, promoting the new NBC time-travel adventure series Timeless. But really, it’s ridiculous. No matter how many people want to go back and “kill Hitler,” the past cannot be changed. Right? Right?
I don’t know. Last night, director Ava DuVernay took me back to familiar figures from my childhood. She didn’t “defend the past.” She revealed politicians I remember as heroes to be complicit in things I find difficult to accept. And if you take that journey with me, we might yet become a church that helps “save the future” by refusing to defend our past.
DuVernay, who directed Selma—a gripping historical drama that has the gospel blazing through its veins—has just delivered a brilliant lesson in time travel, and its streaming now on Netflix. It’s called 13th.
With startling interviews, ugly statistics, kinetically charged animation, and shocking man-on-the-street footage of American history, 13th reintroduces Americans to their very own criminal justice system. I say “reintroduces” because DuVernay films through lenses that reveal a cancer running unchecked.
Full disclosure: Despite Jesus’s call for his followers to visit prisoners, I have never stepped through those gates. Remember those religious hypocrites who pass by the man beaten, robbed, and left by the side of the road? DuVernay’s perspective convicts me. I see now how blind I became, proudly pledging my allegiance to the ideal of “liberty and justice for all” while revering politicians who manipulated laws to perpetuate injustice.
Informed by the testimonies of historical and ...1
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