#FreedomTrainLA stopped by Holman United Methodist Church on April 7th. Check out the recap from our discussion leader, Rev. Carlton Rhoden, lead pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles!
We examined for our theme the dualistic nature of the characters in Underground for episode 2, from Noah to Cato, from Pearly Mae to Ernestine. All the characters have to be innocent like doves and as wise as serpents. We discussed how they all have to play the line in order to survive and to secure survival for their loved ones and themselves. Jesus says:
Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. Watch out for people—because they will hand you over to councils and they will beat you in their synagogues. They will haul you in front of governors and even kings because of me so that you may give your testimony to them and to the Gentiles. Whenever they hand you over, don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you. (Matthew 10:16-20, Common English Bible)
One of the most interesting questions for me came from Cato in the opening scene. He asked in so many words, how can a white man in heaven save me? This is a profound statement coming from a slave. In it he is rejecting the image of God that oppresses him and his people. Cato cannot believe in that God nor is he willing to accept it as fact. This highlights some of the deep theological digging slaves unearthed as their bodies and spirits were trying to be crushed by the system of chattel slavery. The slaves saw themselves in the stories of the bible but identified as those whom God would deliver from oppression. James H. Cone tells us in God of the Oppressed, “The Christian community, therefore, is that community that freely becomes oppressed, because they know that Jesus himself has defined humanity’s liberation in the context of what happens to the little ones.” The Macon 7 and slaves like them are the little ones; they cannot just walk off the plantation. Each and every day of their existence is in danger of being taken away at the hands of another human being.
The Macon 7 in all aspects of their lives have to be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. The have to do a dance so that “master” is not aware that they are aware. But yet they must make plans for freedom and safety. Trust becomes and will always be an issue for them as they develop their plan for freedom. Can Cato be trusted? Will Moses secret be discovered?
Many of us play the dualistic roles in our jobs and communities as well. We too act as wise as snakes and innocent as doves. We dance on the line between our public persona and our personal persona. We do this because Jesus tells us that he is sending us out amongst the wolves. So we protect ourselves and loved ones by being wise and innocent.