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I don’t know what internet rabbit hole I went down the other day, but I ended up reading a USA Today movie review of 42 from May of 2013. Well, you know something’s up when USA Today wants to point out how much religion was left out of a sports movie.
I’m pretty tepid about sports movies. But, 42 was different. It was really a movie about America’s deepest, most shameful, most persistent sin: racism. And, overall, it’s a happy movie, with a happy ending--that’s the way I like ‘em.
But, I had the sneaking feeling there was more. And the article in USA Today told me what it was.
Where did Branch Rickey get the crazy idea to break the color barrier in professional baseball? Why did Robinson agree? Eric Metaxas wrote about this in USA Today in May 2013. And, there it was—the “more.”
Branch Rickey was a bible-thumping Methodist who somehow came to believe that it was God’s will for him to integrate baseball. He saw it as an opportunity to intervene in the moral history of our nation. Fancied himself a bit of an Abraham Lincoln. With financial benefits.
He chose Robinson because of the young man’s faith and moral character. But, as Metaxas points out, the movie does little to help us understand where this moral character comes from.
How does someone become strong enough to maintain their faith and integrity in the face of what Robinson encountered?
As Metaxas relates, Robinson already had a passion for justice, no doubt taught to him as he grew up in Pasadena’s Scott Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. His pastor mentored Robinson and convinced him that Christ’s command to “resist not evil” wasn’t cowardly, but profoundly heroic. And so it proved.
Robinson got on his knees many times in those first two years, recounts Metaxas, calling on God to strengthen him to maintain his passion for the cause and his strength to resist temptation to fight back.
The makers of 42 did not show us this part of the fight. Maybe because they don’t want to alienate any portion of their audience. But, more, I suspect, because we don’t often acknowledge that integrity, grit, moral uprightness, a passion for justice--these things don’t just spring unbidden from us.
These things--integrity, grit, moral uprightness, a passion for justice--these are the fruits of a faithful, faith-filled, God-centered life. And there have never been more needed than today.