I am not a film expert, but after viewing the blockbuster movie “Ray,” I can see why Jamie Foxx was awarded the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of music legend Ray Charles. This hauntingly honest biography reveals a journey filled with tragedy and triumph, failures and faith, cowardice and courage, and helplessness and hope. Not long after witnessing his brother drown in a tub of water, the young Ray was to experience personal tragedy when his vision was cruelly snatched away from him.
The only surviving son of a single mother, he felt further ostracized when he was sent away to a school for the blind. Having developed piano playing skills during his unsanctioned encounters with a local night club musician while still sighted, Ray possessed the natural resources to fend for himself when he gained his independence as a young adult. Deeply scarred by the events of his youth and his exposure to individuals who took advantage of his blindness, Ray became an amiable egotist who mastered the art of manipulation and medicated his inner whirlwind with heroin.
Trading Blindness for Myopia
It appears to me that this movie interprets Ray’s life as a battle for control. Frustrated by his limitations in the broader society, the blind visionary decided to create a world where he could be king. In this world, he made the rules and those who disagreed with his stubborn methods were free to leave. By adapting this steeled attitude, Ray was actually utilizing a strategy that enabled him to regain his sight. Although he remained physically blind, as master of his own reality he could see whatever he desired.
Unfortunately, in exercising his imaginative right to see, Ray sold himself short when he traded in his blindness for myopia (nearsightedness). In the medical world, this would have been a tremendous breakthrough, but in the realm of the Spirit, myopia can be more destructive than blindness. The blind have an excuse for not comprehending through ocular channels, but the myopic have access to restorative remedies–be it corrective lenses, laser surgery, or simply moving closer to the unfocused object.
Sadly, many Christians have claimed to receive the light but have merely traded their spiritual blindness for impotent myopia. In a desperate bid for control, they have created their own little worlds where they have constructed their distorted versions of reality. They have confused Christianity with denominational culture and seek security in temporal sanctuaries. By their actions they betray that they have no interest in being immortal subjects in the Kingdom of God, but have chosen instead to be temporary rulers in earthly ecclesiastical structures. In similar fashion to Ray Charles–who utilized the hypnotic appeal of Black gospel music to boost his sale of secular themes–these myopic Christians contort the gospel message for their own egotistic purposes.
It’s not hard to determine whether you are a myopic Christian. Are you more disturbed by the push to legalize gay marriage than you are about poverty and capitalist driven exploitation? Are you so concerned with protecting the image of your church that you remain silent when leadership abuses power? Are you under the impression that the key to your salvation is in the hand of a certain denomination? Have you assessed your financial priorities in light of the gospel commission? When pressured by politically motivated leaders to compromise for the sake of unity, have you abdicated your God given right to stand firm on your convictions? While you emphasize doctrinal conformity, have you forgotten the essence of the gospel: clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and feeding the hungry? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Jesus offers a cure for your spiritual blindness: “I counsel you to buy... salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Rev 3:18, NRSV).
Applying the Salve
According to the movie, Ray Charles found this “salve” during his detoxification journey at a rehabilitation institution. As he struggled through the horror of another episode in the recurring nightmare that had plagued him for decades, a calm came upon him when he received a vision of his mother and brother who fortified him with assuring words. At that moment, the scales fell from his eyes and he was cured from his myopia. The world he had created for himself had become a prison, and only he had the power to open the door and experience the world beyond the walls.
Similarly, as Jesus knocks on the doors of our self-constructed prisons, only we have the power to open it and experience the joy of communing with Him (Rev 3:20). We can respond to Him by opening our hearts to the guidance of the Spirit. We can respond to Him by yielding our wills to the Father. We can respond to Him by engaging in selfless service to suffering humanity. We can respond to Him by applying his healing salve to our myopic eyes. As you seek to improve your spiritual vision, always remember that “a tree is known by its fruit.”
Keith Augustus Burton writes from Harvest, Alabama. He directs the Timotheos Club at the Oakwood University Campus Church, where he teaches eight to fourteen year olds Greek and Hebrew.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3836