In the ’90’s we used to watch the TV Guide channel for what seemed like hours, waiting for something interesting to pop up on the schedule.
Then, a classic or favorite movie would appear. We would change the channel to TNT or TBS, maybe USA, and watch a movie we’d seen dozens of times. If we were lucky enough to catch the beginning of the movie we would see this disclaimer- This film has been modified from its original format. It has been edited for content and to run in time allowed.
Years later, thanks to streaming, no network censors are editing those old favorites for time and content.
And revisiting some of them has been, well, shocking.
I recently tried to watch one such movie. One of my absolute favorites from high school. But after only 15 minutes or so, I had to turn it off. I was horrified.
This was a film that I loved.
That I had told people for years that I loved. Even as recently as last month.
But suddenly I realized I had no idea what I had been recommending to people.
The violent and vulgar language and imagery. The commodification of women’s bodies. The whole, unedited story.
I did not actually know this movie.
Sure I knew the safe version. The edited for time and content version.
But that’s not what it is. At least it’s not all of what it is.
I felt like I needed to go back to every person I had ever talked to about this movie- clarify that I meant the edited version, the safe version. And I mostly felt like I needed to re-evaluate whether I can still watch these movies.
Or if I even still like them.
Are those words and scenes something I can accommodate? Sometimes. Sometimes not.
Sometimes I realize I can’t do it anymore. I have to say I was wrong, I didn’t know the whole story.
That feeling has been a familiar one the past weeks and months and years. Not just for me, but for many in the SBC.
We are realizing that we didn’t know the whole story. We had been exposed to an edited, cleaned up version.
And now, we are re-evaulating something much more important than movies.
We are wondering if the whole truth of the SBC is a story we can still tell.
Abuse and coverups, racism, misogyny, politics and money- in our history, and still today. There were so many things in our story that we hadn’t seen, we hadn’t heard.
But others had. They tried to tell us. They tried to show us. And now, (partially thanks to the internet) we can no longer say we do not know.
We cannot just turn it off. We have to see and hear every uncomfortable image and word. We have to know the truth to tell the truth- all of it.
Because our world does. They will not buy our edited versions of events. They do no care about our nostalgia.
They are watching to see if we will tell the truth. They are watching to see what the next chapter will be.
Will we try to simply fast forward what we don’t like, pretending it isn’t there?
Will we continue to protect reputations at the expense of repentance?
Will we shrug or celebrate as people walk away, unable to bear it anymore?
Will we tell the truth, with all the ugly and uncomfortable?
Will we say we are sorry, that we didn’t know what we didn’t know?
Will we give up our preferences and pretenses to make right what has been wrong?
Will we have eyes to see and ears to hear, more often than we have mouths ready to speak?
And will we go forward into the next chapter, resolved to create a better story?
I don’t know. But I hope so. The SBC story is my story. All of it. And I still love it. I want to still love it. I want to be able to keep telling it.