It’s worth pointing out again that these talks are not meant to be the last word on any subject but are aiming to be a seed thought in the middle of a general chat and music show.
For some while now my observation of the world has made me feel that we are living in increasingly troubled times – what with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and what’s been going on in Ukraine and Nigeria, not to mention the ebola crisis. So I was astonished when one of my church members who is very astute about these things sent me an article from a reputable newspaper that demonstrates in black and white that in fact things are getting better – there are actually fewer wars at the moment and fewer civilians, women and children being killed and injured.
I was forced to think again and I came to the conclusion that what has changed is the increasing visibility and horror of what is being done, often in the name of religion. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris were incredibly traumatic for France and for the world even though a comparatively small number of people were killed – and I say that without minimising the enormity of what was done in Paris. Similarly, pictures and videos of the hostage outrages in the Middle East are enough to chill the most optimistic heart.
What can we do? Well, I think there’s an important signpost in one of the films which has just hit our screens but which controversially wasn’t nominated for one of those BAFTA awards much in the news at the moment. Benedict Cumberbatch said of the actor who plays Martin Luther King in the movie Selma, ‘I wish David Oyelowo was here tonight. I don’t understand it. He would have got my vote.’
Quite apart from the brilliant performance of the lead player, I think this is a vital film for our times. The story is a familiar one but no less important for that. Doctor King was the leader of a movement that refused to use violence to confront the evil of racial segregation and won the day even though there is still much injustice to be overcome. Of course, it cost King himself his life.
Naturally, it isn’t given to many of us to head up a movement like that and we may think our actions are insignificant. We also need to grapple with the notion that sometimes war may be justified. We can be uncomfortably aware that even the best of us – even people like Martin Luther King – often have serious flaws as people. All the same, when faced with the evils of our day I think we must all have a basic commitment to a principle that comes to us from the Bible and is perfectly illustrated in Selma: ‘Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.’