Blood Done Sign My Name
Main Point: Throughout history, many evils have disguised themselves as “religion.” Sadly, determining the difference between evil and religion is not always easy. But we must recognize the difference so we can respond appropriately.
The Video Clip:
Based on a true story, Blood Done Sign My Name is a movie set in the Deep South during the Vietnam War era. Racial tensions are already running high, just because of the time and place, but then a black war veteran, Henry Marrow, is murdered, allegedly by a white businessman. This fuels an even hotter fire of racism within the community. In the trial that follows, the white man is found innocent of the murder, splitting the town right down the middle.
The story focuses on the town leaders, a teacher and a pastor, who work to stem the civil unrest in the community following the acquittal of the white man in the murder trial.
Blood Done Sign My Name is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of violence, thematic material involving racism, and for language.
Introducing the Clip: “Evil can sometimes be hard to recognize.”
In the Deep South during the 1970's racial tensions ran high between blacks and whites…and that was in a “normal” setting. But in Oxford, North Carolina, a black Vietnam War veteran has been murdered, allegedly by a white businessman. This cruel event pushes the racial tensions even higher, and sets the stage for the movie known as Blood Done Sign My Name.
But it's only after the white man is found innocent of the crime that the real rage and racism breaks loose on the small, rural town. The courtroom verdict splits the town right down the middle; the whites were happy the murderer got off, while the blacks felt as though they were cheated out of justice.
In this scene we're about to see, Pastor Vernon, who's working hard to bring about healing in the community, sneaks his two sons into a secret meeting of the Klu Klx Klan where they can see evil, firsthand, for themselves.
But listen to the confusion Pastor Vernon's youngest son finds himself in, given all the “religious talk” of the evil KKK members.
Note: You’ll need to rent the movie Blood Done Sign My Name at your local video rental store and cue it up to the following scene.
(The scene opens with Pastor Vernon and his two sons crouching down behind a rock bluff so they can look on the activities happening in the field below them without being spotted. A group of adults are busy making preparations for something big. Finally, the men erect a huge cross in the middle of the field.)
Older Son: What is it, daddy?
Tim: It's a revival! (He stands up to run out to the cross, but his father snags him just in time, and pulls him back down to safety.)
Pastor Vernon: Tim! It's not a revival. (This clearly confuses the boy, since his father is a pastor, and there's a huge cross being raised. When he sees children running in the field, playing with one another, he grows even more confused.)
(The scene switches to nighttime. The KKK members are assembling around the cross with lit torches in their hands. They begin to chant.)
For our God.
The light of Jesus.
The light of Christ. The light of Jesus.
We are the chosen ones. By the fire of Calvary's Cross.
For our God. Let the circles of light become alive.
The light of Christ.
We need to cleanse and purify our virtues by burning out our vices by the fire of His Word.
Tim: I wanna go Daddy!
Pastor Vernon: Shhhh…..
(A KKK member hears them talking and walks over to the rock bluff where the family had been hiding. He sees no one because they have just left.)
(In the car ride on the way home Pastor Vernon tries to explain to his young son what he just witnessed.)
Tim: When I saw the cross, I thought everything was good.
Pastor Vernon: Evil can sometimes be hard to recognize. It hides in normal things, people you think you know. But recognizing evil isn't the hardest part. It's standing up to it even when no one else will.
In this clip, Pastor Vernon's son, Tim, learned a hard lesson: not everything that looks like “religion” and “Christianity” is really from God. Using the image of the cross, and highly spiritual language, the KKK members plotted their evil against others. Across history, many others have wrapped evil up in “religion” and caused so much harm. You and I need to know how to spot evil when it happens, no matter what it looks like…so we can do what Pastor Vernon says: stand up against it.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let's go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we'll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we begin, let's take a second to share our names and whether or not you would have been scared to see what Pastor Vernon and his sons saw that night.
- ASK A FEW: Do you know what/who the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) is? (Leaders – The KKK is a movement that began in the aftermath of the American Civil War when white men – dressed in robes, masks, and hats – used violence and intimidation to oppress and/or kill blacks and other minorities. Usually, they carried out their evil during the nighttime hours, and unfortunately, in the Name of Jesus. Their symbol was the cross, the Christian cross, no less, and the people who experienced their wrath lived in great fear of these warlords who supposedly acted “in the Name of God.” Sadly, the KKK is one of the best examples of “evil cloaked as religion.”)
- ASK A FEW: What do you think God really thinks of the KKK and their “religion,” given their often violent history?
- ASK A FEW: Have there been other instances throughout history where evil was dressed up as “spirituality” or “religion”? (Leaders – Yes. The Crusades was a prime example. Thousands upon thousands of Christians and Muslims killed each other…all in the Name of their God. Slavery has also been practiced and defended by people who claimed to be religious. The attacks of 911 were carried out by “religious” men who were nothing more than cold-blooded terrorists.)
- ASK SOMEONE: In the clip, Pastor Vernon said, “It's not always easy to recognize evil.” Do you think he's right? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: Is there any way we can tell the difference between “evil” and “the true will of God”? If so, how?
Read the following passage:
James 1:19-27 (NLT)
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
26 If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
- ASK A FEW: What are some of the things James tells us to do in this passage? (Leaders – He says to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry,” “get rid of filth and evil,” “humbly accept the Word God has planted,” and “do what [God's Word] says.”)
- ASK SOMEONE: How does James define “pure and genuine religion?”
- ASK A FEW: Do you think this is a good definition of religion? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: How does James' “definition” of religion differ from the “practiced religion” of the KKK?
- ASK SOMEONE: In the clip we watched, Pastor Vernon said there was only one thing harder than recognizing evil that had disguised itself as something good. What was it? (Leaders – Standing up to the evil.)
- ASK A FEW: A guy by the name of Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing.” What does he mean by that, and is he correct?
- ASK A FEW: What are some “evils” that you see in your life? Do you know of any evils that masquerade as “religious”? (Leaders – It could be as simple as a friend who's constantly made fun of by his/her peers, or racism, or violence, etc.)
- ASK A FEW: How does God want us to respond to these evils?
- ASK A FEW: Based on what you've read and learned just now, what will you do – exactly – the next time you witness evil at work?
We just watched a powerful clip from a movie about a few people's response to evil…the worst kind of evil…evil that cloaked itself as religion. If we're honest with one another, we have to confess that it's not always easy to determine the difference between some things that are truly evil and things that actually pleasing to God. Just looking over history, time and time again, we've seen people call evil things “good” and/or “religious.”
It's a sad, slightly condemning reality, isn't it?
But, God doesn't want us to be duped by people who are filled with hate and evil. He wants us to be able to recognize evil when it occurs, and respond to it accordingly. In fact, God has even given us a definition of religion that pleases Him: taking care of others who are helpless and keeping ourselves pure from the corruption of the world.
If something is called religion, but it doesn't meet this standard – guess what? – it's not religion that pleases God. God wants our lives to be about helping others, not hurting them, and staying pure and holy, instead of becoming corrupt and evil.
Most importantly, when we see evil at work…and we all will at some point in our lives…we must be courageous enough to take action against it. The action we take needs to be Christlike, though. We can never respond to evil with evil. We must respond in love…the love of Christ.
All around you, people are trapped by evil. God has put you where you are so you can represent Him and His love for those who desperately need you.
What will you do? You have several options when evil arises.
You can join in. That's usually easy to do…even if you know it or not.
You can also just turn a blind eye to evil. You can pretend you don't see it, when it's just as clear as the stars in the sky.
Or you can respond like Christ, showing love and truth to people who need both. It's always the most difficult option…but it's also the only correct option.
What will you do?
Close in Prayer
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.