“Sometimes it stings, like a slap in the face.” That’s how Araminta Tubman – known best as Harriet – describes hearing the voice of God in the new Focus Features’ movie “Harriet.”
The film follows Tubman, the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor, who, after escaping to freedom herself, returns again and again, in order to bring other slaves to freedom.
This is the latest of the sweeping trend filling theaters with biographies of interesting and important historical figures. Unlike many of the other biopics on offer, this heroine is famous not for pop-star talent or mass appeal, but because of what she did for so many others.
Nor did she succeed by merely “overcoming great odds” or “relying on her own inner strength.” As the film makes quite clear, Tubman’s reliance on God gave her great strength and helped her overcome the greatest of odds.
In a time when far tamer references to faith, prayer, or God can be cause for cultural cancellation, I am so thankful that the producers of “Harriet” featured this part of her life story from the beginning of the movie to the very end. But even so, the film does not picture God as some weird crutch or wish-granting genie in Tubman’s life.
The movie also manages to avoid picturing faith in any way that resembles the prosperity gospel. Though Tubman prays audibly to God and expects God to answer, He doesn’t always do so in the way she wants or expects. After her own harrowing and unlikely escape early in the film, Tubman believes God wants her to rescue her husband. But she’s horrified when she returns to the South to discover he’s now married to another woman. She comes to believe instead that He sent her back for the sake of others.
Later in the film, Tubman is confused and desperate when her sister refuses to be rescued. She prays for relief, but it doesn’t always come. God speaks to her, sometimes with comfort and sometimes “like a slap.” While some critics think this depiction of the Christian God looks too much like mysticism, I would suggest the film portrays her relationship with God in a way that is nuanced, complicated, and realistic.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Maria Baer