Get Out is a taut horror thriller from Jordan Peele, famous as half of Comedy Central’s sketch comedy duo Key & Peele. In Get Out, Peele makes his debut behind the camera, directing fresh-faced Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror, Sicario) and Allison Williams (The Mindy Project) with his original script. But rather than comparing it to horror classics, I found it instructive to compare Get Out to another story with a relationship at its center – 2015’s film adaption of the hit musical The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. They’re both masterful in the way they use characters to hone a sense of perspective. And Lord knows, when it comes to racial issues, evangelicals could use a healthy dose of the black perspective.
So one of the problems I see in our political discourse, is that we often use the same words but mean different things.
And nowhere is that problem more vexing than in our discussions about race. It’s been a problem for a long time, of course, but ever since the election of Donald Trump, there have been a fresh round of arguments springing up on cable-news pundit panels, message boards and social media feeds. And the typical argument goes something like this:
Progressive: [Insert recent news story] is a clear example of racism! That [incident, action, statement or idea] is racist!
Conservative: No, it isn’t! Why do you make everything about race? That had nothing to do with race. [Insert person at the center of story] is not a racist!
Progressive: You don’t know what you’re talking about! Your denial of racism is racist!
Conservative: You don’t know what you’re talking about! Your accusation of racism makes you the real racist!
Rinse and repeat.
Editor’s Note: This is the written draft of a sermon that I delivered at Kaleo Covenant Church. The alternate title I considered using was: “‘Who'” & ‘What’: When To Use Which, How & Why.” To set the mood, I walked out to one of my favorite songs, which I reference later in my introduction. Hope you enjoy it.
It’s September, a time for a new start. It’s back to school time, yes, but it’s also a time when our home lives and routines tend to engage again. Summer travel season is usually over by September. Football is on TV, it’s the start of a new financial quarter… et cetera.
September is my favorite time of year, in part because my birthday is in September, but also because I think it’s a time for optimism. I have a lot of great September memories of starting school, starting a new job, moving to a new place… I have such a history of hope that comes alive in September. Also, “September” by Earth Wind & Fire… that will always be my jam.
Part of the hope that I tend to carry when starting a new season is that it represents a new start. Especially if you’re starting up at a new school or a new job, you’re getting a chance to make a first impression all over again, which means that you’re no longer shackled to the baggage that you carried before. If, in your previous life, you were known as a jerk, or a screw-up, or a loner, or bossy, or any other persona that you would rather leave behind, September is a time when you can start anew, and become the person YOU want to be, instead of the person that others have known you to be.
If you follow the inner workings of internet journalism, you’ve probably heard about the recent shuttering of Gawker.com, the centerpiece website of the Gawker Media empire that includes several other popular websites (specifically: Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, and Jalopnik). Those other websites will be consolidated into the Fusion Media Group, owned by Spanish-language conglomerate Univision Communication, Inc., but Gawker.com itself, as of early this week, ceased operations.
Univision chose to shut down Gawker after a successful ownership bid in a bankruptcy auction, which was the result of Gawker being sued by former wrestler Hulk Hogan for invasion of privacy after the website posted a video of him having sex without his consent. Industry observers claim the lawsuit was bankrolled by tech mogul and libertarian activist Peter Thiel, who made it his mission to destroy Gawker after they outed him as gay in 2007.
Because of the salacious nature of the lawsuit, most of the reactions from Christians in my social media have been muted, if any reaction at all – usually some combination of “meh” and “good riddance.”
But I think as Christians, we ought to be concerned about the implications of this series of events.
Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is out in theaters, and it dutifully fills all the boxes in the spy thriller checklist. Lifelike masks? Death-defying stunts? Car chases? Gunplay and physical combat? Glamorous locales? Check, check, checkity-pop-zoom-bam-BOOM.
One thing that stuck with me was the title; an interesting development, because action movie titles are often pretty irrelevant. They’re designed to sound intriguing-and-dangerous-but-vague, and too often come across instead as techno-gibberish. (Does anyone remember what “Ghost Protocol” referred to in the fourth M:I installment? Don’t look it up on Wikipedia, that’s cheating.)
On the contrary, a whole nation going rogue? That’s much easier to understand. The phrase picked up steam in the broader consciousness after Sarah Palin entitled her 2009 political memoir Going Rogue, reclaiming a definition of a rogue not simply as “someone who lacks judgment or principle,” but “someone who deviates from the expected norm of behavior.”
(Say what you want about Sarah Palin, but she’s amazing at deviating from expected norms.)
In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the rogues in question take the form of a nefarious collective of foreign agents called The Syndicate, all united in the pursuit of a terrorist agenda.
So with the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) shut down by Congress, super spy Ethan Hunt (Cruise) must rely on his friends, comic relief Simon Pegg as Benji, the steely-eyed Jeremy Renner as chief analyst Brant, Ving Rhames’ muscly perma-smirk as the homie Luther, and Rebecca Ferguson as mysterious femme fatale Ilsa Faust – all working together to defeat The Syndicate, and to a lesser extent, justify the IMF’s existence.
Okay, so this piece may sound like I’m trying to criticize Lecrae, so before I go any further, let me offer a few disclaimers.
I like Lecrae.
I really, really like Lecrae.
As an artist, as a person — as far as I can tell — he seems to be the real deal.
I have defended him in my writing plenty of times, most recently for collaborating with — *** GASP *** — secular artists, mostly because the sacred vs. secular dichotomy is generally unhelpful and really no longer exists, anyway.
But generally, I like his music, and I think he’s taking a great approach to his music career in general, which, by all accounts is growing to incredible heights. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that Lecrae appears to be enjoying a level of critical acclaim and professional exposure that most Christian rappers can only dream about. He’s appearing in a feature film, his new album Anomaly just shot to the top of the Billboard charts, and just this very evening (it’s probably airing as I type this), Lecrae is making an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing his new single “All I Need Is You” with The Roots.
This is all a Really Big Deal.
However, there is a shadow side to all of this attention.
(Editor’s Note: If you don’t know the history behind the term “modest proposal,” you won’t understand unless you read the whole thing.)
Well, last night happened and, as far as I can tell, the four horsemen of the apocalypse have yet to appear.
Which world-shattering event am I referring to? A new development in the Israel-Palestine conflict? A new executive order signed by President Obama? Another Mark Driscoll scandal? No, no… I’m talking about something important.
Last night was the premiere of the new Aaron McGruder comedy, “Black Jesus.” For the uninitiated, here’s a trailer:
I hate to beat an old comedy trope to death, but in this case, I couldn’t muster any other appropriate response. I just saw the story by Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Flame, Lecrae and Da TRUTH have filed suit against Katy Perry and Capitol Records for copyright infringement. In a stunning reversal of musical tradition, these Christian emcees are claiming that someone else took their style — specifically alleging that Perry’s 2013 single “Dark Horse” bears a more-than-coincidental resemblance to their 2008 hit “Joyful Noise.”
This lawsuit is a ridiculous embarrassment, not only for these emcees specifically, but for all of Christian hip-hop.
He was a Christian, in every good sense of the word.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.'”
— Matthew 16:24-25, New International Version
“And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, ‘Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!'”
— 1 Corinthians 15:30-32, New Living Translation
“I hope tomorrow will bring / a better you, a better me”
— Siedah Garrett (lyricist), Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)
Thanks to the good people at Klout, I attended an advance screening of the Tom Cruise / Emily Blunt sci-fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow,” and what I found surprised me.
First, it was good. Like, really good. Plenty of good old-fashioned action, but smartly paced and edited, moderated by a delicious time-travel premise, and magnified by two AAA-grade performances by Blunt and Cruise. If “Groundhog Day” and “District 9″* ever hooked up, had a child, and then hired F. Gary Gray’s “Italian Job” remake to babysit on the weekends, that film would grow up to be “Edge of Tomorrow.”