Posted by on 31 May 2013 | 0 Comments

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I recently had occasion to take in the movie ‘42’.  The movie depicts the events leading to Jackie Robinson’s introduction to Major League Baseball back in 1947.  As the story is told, one cannot help but be gripped by the many relational layers in the narrative. 

For those of you not familiar with the story, let me bring you up to speed:  Jackie Robinson was an African-American baseball player in the 1940’s.  In that era there baseball player could play in one of two streams.  The first and most prominent was the Major Leagues.  Big money.  High profile.  The place to play with the supposedly best-of-the-best. 

The second stream was the Negro League.  Not the majors.  Less money.  Low profile.  

And in case you hadn’t already figured it out, the most visible difference between the two leagues was that the all Major League players were white.  And the Negroe Leagues were made up of Negroes.  People of Color.  Blacks.  African-Americans… as the term has evolved. 

As a white man living in North America some 70 years after Jackie Robinson’s historic breakthrough into the Major Leagues, I found myself disgusted, reviled and appalled at the attitudes of some who opposed his involvement in the Majors solely on the basis of his color. 

Quite frankly, it was embarrassing at points in the movie to find oneself associated with white Anglo-saxons. 

That said, at other points in the movie, I found myself inspired by the those who quite frankly recognized the enormity of personal risk they took on, to do what they understood to be the right thing.  The motives may have been mixed - morals, money, and pennants among them - but at the end of the day, this is a story of many who willingly accepted risk to do make a way for an African-American to break through the color barrier, and play in the major leagues. 

This was not presented as Christian movie.  It was and is a true story about a breakthrough in the history of race relations in North America.  That said, to faithfully tell the story, the makers of the movie had no choice but to acknowledge the role that Christian faith played in the lives of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' president and general manager, as Jackie moves through a process that leads him to the Major Leagues. 

What I loved about the depiction of Branch Rickey was that he made no bones about acknowledging his Methodist roots, and his trust in living out Biblical principles.  My experience with so many Hollywood productions is that Christian characters are often painted as religious wingnuts.  Not so with the Brooklyn Dodgers president and GM:  This character has a faith foundation, but with enough grit to carry out his convictions in such a way that… well, in such a way that the world was changed.  I appreciated the fact that the filmmakers did not try to sully the well-meaning Mr. Rickey or to caricaturize him.  Instead he was depicted as a man of Christian character and principle to be a true hero in the story on the strength of his Christian convictions. 

At the end of the story, you couldn’t help but make a simple connection - Christians are people who can recognize what is right, and are not afraid to stand up for these things.  Without raising a banner.  Without marching in protest.  Being firm but not overbearing.  Here we see faith applied to the real world.  And the world changed as a result. 

Robinson’s story is a reminder to us all that God has called us to be more than good.  He has called us to be salt and light in the world.  I guess - in a manner of speaking - he has called us not to just blend into the world, but to stand up, and to stand out. 

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