On Saturday, Actor/Rapper/Singer extraordinaire Donald Glover (AKA “Childish Gambino”) hosted SNL. I gotta admit, I missed that and I am salty about it because the clips that I saw on the internet were HILARIOUS!! He also dropped 2 new songs, one of which he released a video. By Sunday evening, the video to “This is America” had broken the internet, as it SHOULD HAVE! I’ve watched the video a couple of times already and it is a video that is a 4 minute and 4 second-long 500-level college course in and of itself. There is so much to unpack in this short piece!!! New York Times Best-Selling Author & Chicago native/blogger Luvvie Ajayi has one of the best think pieces/breakdowns of the video I've seen thus far. Check out her take here.
What struck me about the video/song is the main theme: The nation is crumbling all around us (protests, racial injustice, gun violence, mass shootings) and we’re all too distracted (with the latest dance crazes, social media, our beloved cell phones & etc.) to care! One particular scene in the video was especially gut-wrenching….that church scene!
There is a scene where Childish Gambino’s character tip toes into a church service and there’s a choir singing and blissfully happy as they clap and sway the good ole Baptist way! He briefly joins in and dances a happy, jovial jig of his own, but then stops. His face suddenly void of expression, an assault rifle is handed to him by someone off camera, and in 2 seconds he spins around and massacres the entire 10-person choir and strolls to the next scene (which includes a glimpse of an apocalyptic pale white horse STRAIGHT from the Book of Revelations being ridden in the background)! There were many take-aways from this scene for me:
1) This scene definitely seems to highlight the Charleston church shooting in June of 2015. With Supremacist Dylan Roof walked into a Bible study at a Black church and killed 9 people with an assault rife. He has been sentenced to the death penalty.
2) The lyrics to the refrain portion of the song that the choir is joyfully singing right before they are all shot are: "Ooh tell somebody. You go tell somebody. Getcho Money (Black Man)! Getcho Money (Black Man)! Getcho Money (Black Man)!" *gunshots...choir is shot dead* This is HUGE! I didn't catch this before, but this could also serve as a dig at the "Prosperity Gospel" pastors who are spreading the Gospel of getting money as their community is experiencing GREAT suffering. *While I personally am not against prosperity because the Bible DOES speak about it, there are some unbalanced teachings on it that have caused the majority of people in society to reject the whole notion of it altogether.
3) Another take on this scene could have an even more sinister “anti-Christ” message: Church can’t save you/Christians don’t have the answers. Or better yet, it’s easy for the church to ignore the problems in the outside world…until they reach our doorstep.
Let’s lean in to that last take for a bit because it is my main purpose for writing this article! When I saw this song title and video, I couldn’t help but see similarities (in concept at least) to Lecrae’s song/video “Welcome to America” from his critically acclaimed album Anomaly (released in September of 2014). I remember Lecrae virtually being burned at the proverbial stake by white evangelical Christians during this time (and after the Ferguson riots in 2016) for highlighting socially injustice issues in his music and on social media. I also recall reading that Lecrae’s faith was tested during this time & he decided to “divorce” white evangelism (not Christianity) for their failure to address social justice issues. In fact, in evangelical churches all across America, Black people have been leaving in droves because their pastors have either failed to address racial injustice, or silenced them/accused them of being divisive when they brought it up.
Childish Gambino’s latest video serves as a wake-up call to America, but I feel that it should serve as a wake-up call to the CHURCH as well!!! What things have we allowed ourselves to be distracted by as our nation implodes around us? Are we making significant impact in our communities? Are we having the hard, but necessary conversations about race and injustice? This world is looking for hope. It’s looking for ANSWERS. Answers that WE as the church are supposed to possess. And if we are not a part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. Selah.
**This video contains graphic images and is not suitable for children...though there are children in it (and yes, THAT is symbolic in and of itself because ALL of our children deserve a better America). Click here to view Childish Gambino's "This Is America".