Loving: An unlikely love story that marked history

December 9, 2016

Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is quoted as saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” And indeed, the idea of change is one of the key themes of the new film, Loving, from writer/director Jeff Nichols.

A quiet, steady love

Loving is the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in 1950’s Virginia. As the film begins, Mildred, an African-American woman, informs Richard, a white man, that she’s pregnant with their child. Soon after, he proposes marriage. But before the nuptials, we see a couple deeply in love with one another. We see it in subtle looks and small gestures. They are a quiet, reserved couple, easy to root for. They love their families, they enjoy spending time at drag races and have fun with their friends on the weekends in a small community where many of the white and black people spend time together without a second thought.

Richard is a simple, hard-working man who loves Mildred. He takes her to Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage is legal, and the two are wed in a small ceremony in 1958. Only a few weeks after their return home to Virginia, police break open their door in the middle of the night, pulling the pair out of bed and arresting them for violation of the state’s marriage law. Richard spends the night in jail, but Mildred ends up having to spend several nights behind bars. Soon after the ordeal, they go before the judge. To avoid significant jail time, the Lovings plead guilty and are forced to move away from Virginia. They leave friends, family and the only community either of them had ever known.

Everything then changes for the Lovings. They moved to the city, when they’d much rather live back home in the country. They begin having children. The Civil Rights movement is in full swing with marches happening just down the street. Certainly the times are changing, but the Loving's situation is not.

A pair of unlikely heroes

After receiving advice from a cousin, Mildred decides to write a letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy explaining their situation. To her amazement, he responds, recommending their case to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Soon after, Mildred receives a call from the ACLU asking to meet. Ultimately, they agree to take on the Loving's case at no cost to them. The ACLU lawyers, Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, try to have the original ruling against the Lovings reversed. They are unsuccessful. But because of that, they are now able to take the Loving’s case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

When asked by one of his attorneys what he wants the court to know, Richard Loving simply says, “Tell the judge I love my wife.” That statement is simple and basic, yet profound coming from an earnest man of few words.

It’s no spoiler to say that the Supreme Court ultimately sides with the Lovings. Indeed, it’s a landmark ruling that changes the situations and lives of many people in this country. And it provides the Lovings long overdue justice, as well as the opportunity to finally move back to their home in Virginia.

A story of hope

Loving is not your typical crowd-pleaser movie in the traditional sense. Its pace is slow and measured. The sweet beauty of this film lies in the fact that director Nichols prefers restraint and subtlety over loud, exciting moments. To play it any other way would betray who the Lovings actually were as a couple. They elect not to attend the trial. They don’t like the attention and the spotlight. They love each other, their family, and they simply want to be able to live in peace.

Determining to affect social change was never a part of the Loving’s agenda, but perhaps their quiet faithfulness allowed for them to become agents of change.

It would be a mistake not to mention the phenomenal acting in this film. Joel Edgerton, who portrays Richard, completely embodies the hulking man with poor posture and a thick accent. Ruth Negga’s subtle and grounded performance shows off the quiet beauty that makes us root for Mildred. And through these characters’ eyes, we see everything in their world change, yet the one constant through it all is each other.

This quiet, romantic film rooted in love could not have come at a better time—when we see so much division in our country. Many in our history, and even still today, have twisted scripture in such a way as to discourage or outright condemn interracial marriage. This is wrong.

In her Christianity Today review of the film, Kristen O’Neal says, “Different people coming together is one of the most beautiful legacies of the gospel.” This isn’t just a fun fact for my interracially married friends. This is a heavenly notion. And while change can be difficult, as believers, we have a great hope— a hope that Jesus is actively changing things for the better. Indeed, he is making all things new.

Erik Parks

Erik Parks is married to author Catherine Parks and has two children. He is a Nashville filmmaker whose debut feature film, “Why We Breathe” is currently in post-production and will be released in 2019. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24