Skip to main content

Marshall: A Review

Thurgood Marshall was a civil rights icon.  As founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, he argued 32 cases before the U. S. Supreme Court and won all but three. The most notable may have been Brown v. Board of Education which threw out the “separate but equal” approach to public education. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court.

Rather than attempt to tell Marshall’s life story, the film Marshall selects one case in which he was involved In 1941 when he was hopping across the country by train to defend African-Americans.  In this case he works with local attorney Sam Friedman to defend a man accused of raping his employer’s wife.

Although this is in some ways a standard court room drama, the film summarizes the challenge of finding justice for African Americans as well as the prejudice against Jews while America was fighting the Nazis and Jews in Europe were being sent to death camps.  Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) fights for individual rights on the home front alongside Friedman (Josh Gad), a rather reluctant advocate.

Young Marshall is depicted as  brash, brilliant, and driven.  In this snapshot that summarizes a long and illustrious career, Boseman embodies what made Marshall such a pivotal figure in the civil rights struggle.  He is tenacious, unbending, and a bit self-righteous but these are the qualities  that  made him successful.  Although often playing for the quick laugh, Friedman (Gad) reminds the audience that the fight for equality was (and is) not only for blacks but  for every citizen, regardless of race, color, or creed.

In addition to the search for justice, the primary ethical theme here is the nature for truth and what leads us to lie.  Both accuser and accused have separate stories driven by their own fears and needs.  The courtroom drama peels away the lies and discloses the fears of each while uncovering the truth.

As the leaders of the civil rights movement pass from the scene, films like Marshall remind us of the courage of those who led and those who stood with them.  It is also a reminder that the fight for justice  continues.


Check these out

Confessions of a Recovering Southern Baptist

I am grateful for my heritage as a Southern Baptist.  I was exposed to the Bible and worship from a very young age.  I grew up in a church in south Alabama that supported the Cooperative Program of missions giving.  This meant that our church had the benefit of being part of a supportive group of local churches and the educational opportunities that afforded. Our state convention provided varied and effective ministries with groups like orphans, ethnic groups, and college students.  We supported missionaries at home and abroad.  We had good Bible study and training literature (which we paid for, of course).  I went to an accredited seminary and paid a remarkably low tuition.  Wherever you went on a Sunday morning (in the Southeast and Southwest, at least), you could find a church that sang the familiar hymns and studied the same Bible lesson. In hindsight, I realize that this Southern Baptist utopia was imperfect.  There were significant theological differences, often geograp

The Bible Tells Me So

As I read the story of the Good Samaritan during my devotional today, I was reminded of the times that I have heard the story in the Christian education setting of the local church--as a youngster in primary and intermediate classes (old terminology), as a young adult in college classes, and then as an adult, often teaching the passage myself.     The characters and story line are very familiar due to these experiences of Christian education. These are challenging times for Christian education in the church.  Like so much of what is happening in the church today, the old forms do not seem to support present needs.  What once worked no longer seems to be effective.  Christian education or the formation of believers is in a state of flux. In an article on , retired professor Colin Harris addresses this issue. He points out that the period of the 60’s and 70’s  “saw the beginnings of a loss of vitality within the educational dimension of church ministry, as the

A Future for the Global Leadership Summit?

Craig Groeschel, the founder and senior pastor of Life.Church. The Global Leadership Summit which began as a project of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and its founding pastor, Bill Hybels, over 25 years ago was held this week without Hybels. For several years, the GLS has been now produced by the Willow Creek Association, a spin-off organization and a loose network of churches but Hybels has been its driving force. Attended by thousands at the church facility in South Barrington and broadcast to thousands more at satellite locations, the annual meeting brings together not only evangelical leaders but outstanding speakers from business, charitable organizations, politics, and business.  For the first time, Hybels did not appear due to allegations of sexual impropriety brought against him over the past year by former employees, staff members, and business associates.  He has already left the church and resigned from the board of the association.

The Baptist Diaspora

I have just returned from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly.   As usual, I had the opportunity to meet and greet many friends and colleagues.   My reflections on the meeting will wait until tomorrow, but as I drove home and thought about who I had seen there, I also thought about those who were not there. During the 1980s and 1990s, the progressive Baptist movement in the south lost many who had identified with the Southern Baptist Convention to other denominations.  Women ministers moved to denominations such as United Methodists to become pastors.  Some changed to denominations such as the United Church of Christ due to its clear stance on issues of social justice. Others became Episcopalians because of their love of the liturgy. The exodus continues today, however.  An American Baptist friend on the west coast told me recently that several young ministers who had been nurtured in CBF churches and seminaries had accepted churches in his a

Calling a Woman as Pastor

From time to time, I receive a call from a member of a pastor search committee that is considering a woman as their senior pastor (which is a term that I don’t find anywhere in scripture, but I understand the concept).   I am always flattered that the candidate has chosen to use me as a reference, so I take the opportunity very seriously.   I must admit, however, that I come out of some of those conversations a bit frustrated. The interviewer usually has a set series of questions, and I try to respond appropriately while pushing the boundaries a bit.   By doing so, I am often able to engage the interviewer more informally and address some concerns specifically related to women in a pastoral role.   As a result, I am no longer surprised when the caller will say something to the effect, “But there are some on our committee who feel that she does not have enough experience.”    On one hand, if the concern is that the candidate does not have any experience as a senior pastor