Oppression and Freedom


Almost exactly one year ago, my family visited the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. We watched video of Martin Luther King, we read quotes from Rosa Parks, and we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church across the street from the Institute, the site of the brutal bombing that killed four young, black girls during the height of the Civil Rights movement. One of the most powerful parts of the tour through the Institute was walking through the simple timeline of events highlighting the intentional oppression of African Americans in the Jim Crow South. It was unforgettable on many levels.

As we continue our At The Movies series and with the month of February being Black History Month in the U.S., it’s only appropriate that we look at 42, the story of Jackie Robinson. This first piece in the series will mention very little about the movie, and much more about the problematic principles that kept Robinson and many other African Americans out of the game of baseball for far too long.

Can we, at minimum, agree that oppressing another person or a group of people is wrong and against the will of God? Amazingly, it seems that in the minds of some extremist groups that this is still up for debate.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." God is a refuge and a stronghold for those who are being oppressed. It seems that God is there for them.

Proverbs 31:9 says, “Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” It sounds like we should speak for those being oppressed.

Psalm 12:5 says, “The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.” Sounds like God is going to take action to rescue the oppressed, by the willing hands of His followers or His own.

If there is one thing I’ve come to understand deeply, it is that our God is a God of freedom. Freedom has a simple definition - “the absence of bondage.” Freedom does not include doing whatever we might want - those things we might “want” actually bind us. No, God is all about freeing us from whatever binds us, unlocking our shackles so that we can run free.

It was wrong, absolutely wrong, for white baseball owners to keep us from knowing how Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Rube Foster could have fared against the white players in Major League Baseball. Anyone who loves the history of the game of baseball has been adversely affected by the choice of those owners to block participation due to the pigmentation of one’s skin. What a joy it would have been to see Josh Gibson hit a baseball well over 500 feet in Yankee Stadium!

We were all set free when Jackie Robinson was finally allowed to take the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. While it was too late for far too many, the lesson to all of us is to never intentionally oppress another person or people group, and to walk in a way that frees us and others from bondage.