Let’s cut to the chase: Selma is a fantastic film. 2015 has hardly warmed up, and what will be among the year’s best films has arrived. Selma revolves around several key events in 1965, which radically changed the civil rights landscape of the USA. However, this arresting, inspiring portrait of important history gives particular focus to the renowned man who led a world-changing movement.
Bizarrely, few films have been made about Dr Martin Luther King Jr – despite racial warfare being a steady theme of American cinema. Selma does an admirable job of fleshing out King’s psychological and personal life, while also examining the dramatic events he was at the core of. But Selma‘s rare offerings do not end there.
Christian moviegoers are resigned to the fact that most mainstream movies do not attempt to directly involve or support what they believe. Selma does. Various facets of Christianity are woven throughout, largely adding up to a motion-picture source of encouragement for those of King’s faith. For unlike similar biopics such as Amazing Grace or Unbroken, Selma doesn’t dilute the actual spiritual pulse of its central figure. Applause.
Among other examples of Christian inspiration flowing from Selma, servant-hearted leadership and cooperation within the body of Christ, are elegantly trumpeted. Witnessing how King – and his close-knit team of fellow activists – go about steering a national uprising, can seem as if Jesus’ own management instructions are being enacted. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them,” outlined Jesus, in response to the disciples’ scuffle about power, position and greatness. “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
As recorded in Matthew 20:28, Jesus goes on to explain why Christian leaders must behave with such humility and selflessness. Because Jesus himself “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life – a ransom for many.” Although Selma includes more testimony to God’s sovereign control and might, King’s convictions evidently echo God’s own son. The God-man who wielded power – for the best of others.
Selma depicts King and others putting their own interests first, even when they would rather not. Intermittently revealed is the great cost of civil rights activism, to King’s marriage. Selma could have included much more about King’s alleged adultery, but other incidents and confrontations demonstrate the revered leader as a flawed, questionable human. However, he also models how influence and force should be applied relative to the authority figure being addressed.
The power King came to possess merges tellingly with the Christian unity he subtly promotes. King calls upon believers to stand with him, to uphold the equality built into those bearing the image of God. Fighting for such basic recognition involves many people, coming together. Many were Christians and Selma often indicates what the body of Christ can achieve when its various gifts are exercised for the good that God purposes (1 Corinthians 12). Indeed, Selma suggests it’s entirely possible for Christians to be who they are called to be, when they dedicate themselves to that cause.