A few years ago, Fuller Seminary hosted a public screening of the Sundance award-winner The Birth of a Nation. Afterward, a handful of faculty and students gathered for dinner to reflect on the film and engage in a conversation about racial dynamics in our country, city, and seminary.

As we went around the table and shared our various experiences with race and racism, I voiced what I thought at the time was a fairly “woke” perspective regarding my growing awareness of racial inequalities. I admitted that I would never be able to know the true depths of the black experience in America. I confessed that, on a conceptual level, I was able to recognize the daily struggle of my sisters and brothers of color, but I would never be able to know it on a visceral level.

My friend and colleague, Joy J. Moore, an associate professor of biblical preaching at Luther Seminary, was clearly frustrated with my comments and pressed me to consider the deeper implications of what I was saying. For example, she asked if, since I, as a male, could never fully know what it meant to encounter the world as a woman, but then witnessed a woman being assaulted, would I hesitate to intervene because I couldn’t understand? She pressed further: Would I be incapable of knowing that it was wrong for a woman to be treated unjustly and be able to respond accordingly?

Through her analogy, Moore not only reframed my understanding of a movie but fundamentally altered the way I see the world. I experienced a similar kind of paradigm shift when I first watched the newly released film Burden, which debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. I wasn’t alone. The film won an Audience Award that year, along with a number of lengthy standing ovations ...

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