Focus on the Family recently reviewed the Spike Lee film BlacKkKlansman on their pop culture site PluggedIn. As you might expect, the site’s purpose is to warn people about a movie’s problematic content to help them discern whether it’s appropriate for Christians.
The movie, based on a true story, is about Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who eventually infiltrates the KKK. The film has already generated incredibly good reviews from critics. (As of this writing, it has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) That’s because, while the movie has disturbing content, it’s there for a reason. You can’t talk about America’s ugly racist history without showcasing how it impacts our lives today (See: Charlottesville). It’s not out of the question, though, to say the violence in the movie may turn off viewers who are sensitive to that.
But that’s not the film’s biggest issue, according to PluggedIn reviewer Bob Hoose:
For the most part, BlacKkKlansman reflects upon the disturbingly vile mindset of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. It highlights the corrosiveness of racial hatred in any age. But the director also has another social and political drum to bang on as well.
Spike Lee tries to connect the KKK’s hateful actions in the past to politicians, conservatives and people of faith in the present. In doing so, his film offers a vivid — and disturbing — insight into what he apparently believes to be true.
Believes to be true. You have to shut down your eyes and ears to ignore what the Republican Party is doing to further racial division in this nation. Keep in mind that the founder of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, is one of Donald Trump‘s most ardent supporters — one of the loudest evangelical voices who believes that God hand-picked Trump to save America from the evils of abortion and same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality. So naturally, PluggedIn has an agenda to protect as well.
Perhaps Hoose is unaware that before evangelicals were using LGBTQ rights and abortion and saying “Merry Christmas” as their big culture wars issues, they were fighting to support segregation. They didn’t want the IRS telling Christian schools they needed to desegregate if they wanted to keep their tax-exempt status. Bob Jones University, which refused to let African-Americans on its campus at all in the early 1970s, famously banned interracial dating on its campus until the year 2000.
All that’s to say there’s a very real link between racism, religious conservatism, and the politicians usually supported by white evangelicals. (And that’s not even getting into conservative judges who saw fit to gut the Voting Rights Act, and the Bible Belt states that used that opportunity to make it more difficult for black people to vote.)
Hoose goes on:
Ironically, it’s also a prejudiced indictment. Perhaps even worse, Lee’s story could be interpreted as a justification for angry violence. In the end, Spike Lee peddles a message that feels nearly as prejudicial as the one he strives to decry.
What is the prejudicial message, exactly? That the KKK is evil? That racism is wrong? That the film’s protagonist, while perhaps a flawed character, is nonetheless someone that audiences can root for?
Well-crafted images are indeed powerful. And they stir people’s emotions. But anger, in all its enflamed and even cinematic variations, is an emotion that our world could definitely use a little less of.
Anger takes many forms. There’s the nihilistic kind that fuels hate groups like the KKK, and then there’s righteous anger, which is a completely appropriate response to such a group.
Anger is what motivated Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize sit-ins. Anger is what motivated Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her bus seat. Anger is what motivated Jesus to flip tables over when people were using religion as a means for profit.
Most of all, anger is the response that every Christian should have in response to a president who has surrounded himself with white nationalists and whose own top aide couldn’t name a single current black staffer in the West Wing following the departure of Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
And it should definitely make decent people angry when that same president has the full support of David Duke, who is portrayed in the movie in all his reprehensible glory.
If there’s any further proof necessary that Focus on the Family cares more about preserving its brand of white Christian nationalism than the values of Jesus, here it is.
(Image via Shutterstock)