Recently I watched, for the second time, the 2016 version of The Birth of a Nation. It’s a movie about the insurrection led by Nat Turner, an enslaved Baptist preacher, in 1831.
Instructed to sermonize to other slaves to squash ideas of an uprising, Turner witnessed the terrible treatment of his fellow man and the ways this created collective psychological stress in those he preached to. Seeking justice and freedom, Nat Turner led a historic and brutal rebellion.
As I viewed the behavior Nat Turner’s followers were subjected to, I wondered how anyone could endure such inhumane treatment. During the course of the movie, many professed that things would get better in the afterlife – the “sweet by and by” as it is referred to in a song they sang together. I’ve held that such a religious belief was nothing more than a way to keep slaves content to submit to their bondage.
While many in today’s world have moved beyond the belief that our good will only come in the hereafter, I have come to see that such belief played an important role for Nat Turner and his followers. It gave them the strength to endure indignities, separation of families, and unspeakable public beatings and abuse. It gave the slaves hope to get through inhuman experiences and psychological stresses they collectively endured.
They leaned on a power greater than themselves.
I bring up my experience of watching The Birth of Nation because, with the political and social divisiveness we are going through in America today, there is a sense that we are experiencing our own collective psychological stress. This is not to suggest that our challenges are anywhere near what Nat Turner and his fellow slaves went through. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But with so many things going on today – uncertainty of health care for many, hurricanes coming with a frequency and intensity not seen in recent times, fires in California and conversations about nuclear war, just to name a few – there are stress points affecting many on a personal level.
That being said, we can lean on that power we call God, the Universe, Divine Love, the Force or whatever suits our fancy. It is invisible, changeless and always supporting our highest good. We can rely on that invisible something to serve as our rock and our support during times of stress and trouble. We want to remind ourselves that there is only one presence and one power in our life and in the universe. As we make that the activity of our awareness, no matter what we are going through, it will be our strength to buttress us along the way.
During these times we must vision together, meditate together and affirm together. We must realize there is something within all of us that is more powerful than the circumstances we face. As we ask for guidance from this all-knowing Presence, we will be led to take whatever action is needed to create communities, a country and a world that works for all of us.
Peace & Blessings,