The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel: Two Thumbs Up for Roger Ebert

Excerpt from Mark 3:1-3

"Then he went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand . . . . He said to the man with the crippled hand, 'Stand here where we can see you.'"

Reflection by Lillian Daniel 

The famous film critic, Roger Ebert, is well-known for his thumb, which would point up for a good movie, but down for a bad one. He and his partner Gene Siskel kept movie fans' attention through the years with their passionate debates about the latest releases, where the best movies would get their most coveted award of "two thumbs up!" 

In a recent interview on National Public Radio, Ebert recalled Gene Siskel's years of illness and his death: "He was intensely private about the situation," Ebert recalls. "I respect it. I think perhaps it influenced me to be very open about my own illness."

Today, Ebert has written a memoir and is a prolific blogger. He has been very open about his own struggles with cancer, which have left him unable to speak, and with a face that many of his fans would not recognize, disfigured after many surgeries. 

In Jesus' day, people saw disfigurement as a mark of shame. So it must have been quite remarkable when Jesus said to the man with the crippled hand, "Stand here where we can see you," right in the middle of the meeting place. I don't think Jesus was objectifying the man or scrutinizing him. I think Jesus was telling him that he had nothing to be ashamed of, and that he deserved attention not for what he looked like, but for who he was, a child of God. 

Still writing and still moved by the movies, Ebert debated whether or not to allow himself to be photographed, since he looks very different today.  "I was advised not to be photographed looking like this," he says. "Well, it's how I look. And there's nothing I can do about it. We spend too much time as a society denying illness. It's a fact of life." Ebert allowed his wife to photograph him and then posted the picture on his blog. "This is the face I have," he says. "I accept it."

Two thumbs up for Roger Ebert. Two thumbs up for all those who work to make a more loving, less shallow world. Two thumbs up for taking your spot in the meeting place, and being appreciated for who you really are, deep down. 


Dear God, help us to see each other as beautiful, to see ourselves as beautiful, and to see you as the artist behind all that beauty. Amen.


[Taken with permission from the United Church of Christ's Still Speaking Daily Devotional, 10/9/11]