A Reflection on The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s

If you didn’t watch the History Channel’s historical drama The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, you missed a great mini-series.  I’m sure it will run repeatedly over the summer, so watch it if you get the chance.  It has some of the best acting that I’ve seen on TV in a while and a captivating story to boot.  And the deeper meanings of this heartbreaking story provides some good fodder for theological reflection, which is why I’m writing about it!

As I’ve been pondering the series and the history that it accurately reflects, there are a few thoughts that are coming to the surface.  For those who’ve seen the series, maybe you could share some of your reflections as well.  And if you haven’t watched it – it’s highly recommended!

My take-away from the series is this: hatred destroys.  The driving force of this movie is the hatred between the two families, primarily the hatred that Randall McCoy has for “Devil Anse” Hatfield.  Randall uses words like “honor” and “justice” and “God’s will”, but he’s using those to justify his hatred towards the Hatfield’s.  There are two scenes that really reflect this, both near the end of the series.  In the first scene, several of the Hatfield’s have been sentenced to life in prison and one member has been sentenced to death by hanging (I won’t give away who it is and what they’ve done).  The verdicts are read and the courtroom empties, leaving Randall alone.  He looks down at his hands and I imagine that he’s thinking about all the lives that have been wasted, the children that he has lost, and his wife who is struggling mightily – all basically resulting from his insistence on hanging on to his hatred.  He has nothing but bitterness and loss to show for all his hatred.

In another powerful scene, Anse and his son Johnse (one of the few protagonists in the movie) are fishing in a pretty tense scene.  At one point, Johnse tells his father “I don’t have enough hate in my heart to be a Hatfield”.  That’s powerful.  Here’s my reflection on that: if not dealt with or eliminated, hatred begins to define who you are your relationships.  Hatred eats people up.  Sure, you may not find yourself in a feud with another family, but for many of us, hatred is still a struggle.  (And in our world, we’re given plenty of options of people we might hate.  This is perhaps especially true in a heated election year.)

It becomes really problematic when our Christian faith gets twisted in with our hatred.  This is a running theme in the mini-series, with different characters (especially Randall McCoy) using God and faith as a justification for their hatred and brutality.  Perhaps we’d like to think that we’ve come a long way from the days when families would feud with one another – we might think we’re more “civilized”, but perhaps that is not so.  It’s really sad when people use their religion, when people use Jesus, to justify their own hatred.  As John 3:17 tells us, Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  That does not sound like hatred to me!  Hatred does indeed destroy – but Jesus Christ offers healing and wholeness.  God does not desire that His children hate and kill one another, no matter how we try to justify it.  In the end, all of our justifications can’t undo the damage that our hatred causes – in our selves and in the lives of others.  The answer to hatred, any hate we might have or have experienced, the hatred of the world, whatever – the answer is the love of God revealed in Jesus and made real in us through the Holy Spirit.

Reflect on how you experience hatred in your life (past or present).  Pray for God’s presence and love in the midst of that.  Remember that the God we serve is love and that’s the answer to the hatred that destroys.

May the peace and love of God be with all of you!

Wes

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