Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Synopsis: Matthew McConaughey stars in the true story of Newt Knight, a Confederate battlefield nurse who abandons what he realizes is an immoral cause and launches an internal southern rebellion comprised of former slaves, white deserters and anti-slavery women.

The action-packed (and violent) tale follows the ragtag group as they move from hiding in the swamps to taking control of Jones County, Mississippi and declaring it to be a free state for all people through the reconstruction years following the war that saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

The film also stars Keri Russell as Newt’s first wife Serena, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Newt’s African-American common-law second wife Rachel and  Maherashala Ali as Moses, a former slave who becomes Newt’s friend and right-hand man. Written and directed by Gary Ross (Big, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games).

Review: Probably the best civil war movie I’ve ever seen — and that includes the far more romantic (and, I’m thinking, less accurate) Gone with the Wind. McConaughey’s portrayal of the Bible-quoting freedom fighter is riveting and the rest of the cast shines as well. The movie has an interesting perspective in that it presents a non-monolithic south in which poor whites, while certainly not slaves, were exploited to fight and die for the wealth rich plantation owners (hanging being the alternative). Some of them actually figured out they were getting the raw end of that deal.

While I’m not an NRA guy (and certainly believe Congress has to do something to deal with assault weapons), the film also makes a dramatic case for the Second Amendment — dramatically demonstrating why an oppressive government  (i.e. the Confederacy) would seek to keep guns out of the hands of those it seeks to exploit and control.

As the story moves into the Reconstruction era, we see why black Americans were actually allied with the Republican Party.  What a difference a century and a half makes.

All in all, The Free State of Jones offers a valuable history lesson, fresh perspectives that are relevant to current events and a riveting and a gritty-yet-idealistic story. It’s Highly-Recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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