Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ did it. Virginia’s Alfred Street Baptist Church did it too. And even in Memphis at New Direction Christian Church and in Los Angeles at Hill City Church, the pastors approved of it.
What is “it”? Buying out theaters for screenings of Black Panther, the first superhero movie in recent memory that features an all-Black cast, a Black director, Black stylists and makeup artists, a Black soundtrack, and a big budget, pro-Black piece of the Marvel universe. No, it does not carry the overt religious message of The Passion of the Christ, but church leaders say a culturally positive superhero story can be a boon for the faithful.
“This is mind-altering,” says Pastor Otis Moss III, the senior pastor of Trinity, a church that embraces spiritual discussions after major movie events. Moss’ church purchased 1,200 tickets to the movie – the equivalent of about seven theaters. “It’s important for the ‘family’ to see it together,” he says. He even is working on a study guide for Black Panther.
“People are truly excited to witness Africa viewed not as a struggling, destructive, painful continent, but to see Africa through the lens of African-centered eyes,” Moss says.
The moment is historic, and to hear the actors tell it, spiritual too.
By all measures, Black Panther is on track to exceed most advance ticket sales for big-budget films opening on President’s Day weekend as city after city sells out multiple theaters well in advance. Early estimates from Imax and Fandango placed opening ticket sales around $165 million before a single theater even showed the Ryan Coogler-directed film.
Churches play a big part in this economic engine. With congregations large and small buying out one to 10 theaters and watching the film with the “family,” sales are skyrocketing. The trend is clear. By encouraging members to watch the film in their finest African dress, and by also creating study guides and film talks to engage members, the body of Christ is embracing and anchoring the largest cultural moment of 2018.
This is the stuff a progressive Black church can get behind.
Moss, who has collected comic books since he was 10, can spout out the history of Black Panther and is fascinated with how the spirit of the king in this tale can transfer from person to person, but can only live within a person who has lived a life worthy of the spiritual possession. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. From a purely artistic standpoint, Moss shares this admiration of comic book storytelling and illustration with his children and encourages his congregation to use movies such as this one to help envision a just future and a world where Black power is embraced.
“I had decided (about the screening) when I saw the trailer months ago,” says Moss, who is uniquely positioned to discuss movies and spirituality because he studied cinematography in college and very nearly went to grad school for it. He points out that Superman was originally a superhero for Jews, and the X-Men were originally created to embrace the differing ideas of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Black Panther gives historians and spiritualists a lot to decipher.
“Our study guide will talk about the real Wakanda: ancient Egypt and ancient Ethiopia, Timbuktu, great Zimbabwe,” Moss explains. “All these incredible African nations we were not taught about in school and the African origins of Christianity and Judaism and its connection to Islam. The Black Panther gives us a springboard to lift off the lid about racism and colonization.”
Trinity bought out eight theaters in a predominantly Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. When members arrive, they will be greeted by drummers, photographers, and a festive, celebratory atmosphere.
Leaders at Alfred Street Baptist bought out 885 seats–or around six screenings–at a theater near the church with three staggered start times.
Like Trinity, this is not Alfred Street’s first movie rodeo. But unlike Trinity, Black Panther is intensely personal to the congregation, Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley says. That’s because member Jesse Holland was the writer commissioned to pen the Marvel accompanying book, “Who Is The Black Panther?”
“If there is anything worth, as a family of faith, us to go and watch—we purchase the theater,” Wesley explains. “Jesse Holland is a member of our church … That made it even easier for us to support it. He will be there to give commentary. He’ll be leading our Faith and Film series. We thought this was a great way [to support] given the magnitude of the film.”
Alfred Street plans to gather in small groups for discussion afterward. And the pastor, who has a 10-year-old who will attend the screening, also is using it as a way to further connect with the kids. “It keeps church relevant,” he adds and laughs when describing his outfit for the event. He will definitely be “daishiki’d up,” he says.
“If the church only deals with stuff that was in the Bible, we would have no relevance in the world,” Wesley says. “Our mission is not to sit around and have prayer meetings and read the Bible. Members are going to see it and why don’t we see it as a family together.”
Many other churches would seem to agree judging from the large number of Black Panther screening Facebook invites swarming social media. Everyone is going to see it.
At New Direction Church, church leader Dr. Stacy L. Spencer hopes the men get some uplift from it, as a way to counter the effect of Black men being killed by police.
“Young men are inundated day in and day out with negative images and it’s emotionally castrating to them,” says Spencer, whose four-campus ministry has helped more than 25,000 people. “There has been a desert as it relates to a cultural icon, a superhero that young Black kids can rally around… To take young people to a movie and to imagine us as strong, to imagine us as heroic is a spiritual B-12 shot, a cultural B-12 shot… They can be heroes as well.”
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs is a Chicago-based writer whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Forbes and Essence. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two young sons who, sadly, are a wee bit too young for Wakanda part one. But for part two, they’ll be ready.
Known for her chart-topping single Greater Is Coming, Carr is also a Grammy-nominated and Stellar Award-winning gospel artist, minister, and songwriter who unapologetically proclaims her love for Christ. She walks boldly and proudly in her calling and encourages others to do the same.
Carr began singing at the tender age of 5 and was called to preach at 13. In a short amount of time, Carr has garnered both national and international reach: a Billboard No. 1 Top Gospel Album (The Life Project) and No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart and No. 1 on the Gospel Digital Song chart for You’re Bigger. The song also peaked at No. 33 on the Adult R&B Radio Airplay chart. Her audience rapidly grew, landing her collaborations with gospel legends Shirley Caesar and Dorothy Norwood and performances on BET’s Joyful Noise and TV One’s Triumph Awards. Recognized by Jet magazine as “One of the Top Ten Faces You Need to Know” and included in Ebony’s Power 100 of the most influential people, she is well beyond her years and a true inspiration for today’s youth.
Her new single, You Will Win, is available on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. Her words of wisdom remind us that with God and positive people in our life all things are truly possible.
Urban Faith: How is your upcoming album different from your other projects?
Jekalyn Carr: With each assignment God gives us we should go from faith to faith and glory to glory, and this album is full of inspiration. I’m excited for the people of God to be changed and inspired.
Urban Faith: How have your parents inspired your career?
Jekalyn Carr: My ministry is built on my relationship with Jesus and my parents made sure that they protected my gift. They made sure to surround me with people who instill me with values that push me into my destiny.
Urban Faith: Adding author and actress to your already amazing accomplishments, at 20 years old are you excited to share your forthcoming book You Will Win and new album One Nation Under God? When will your book and album be released?
Jekalyn Carr: In January 2018, my book and album will be released. I share tips on how to win. At the end of the day, we are declaring it and speaking it but we must also be thinking like a winner, talking like a winner, and connected to winners. You can’t say you want to win and you are connected to people who look defeated or are defeated. You have to make sure you connect to people who have overcome. Whatever giant you face in your life, this book will help you. It is time for the people of God to take our victory title back. It’s time for us to declare our true identity and that’s a champion.
Urban Faith: Can you talk about your involvement in the OWN TV show Greenleaf?
Jekalyn Carr: Yes, I had a lot of fun and was blessed for the opportunity. My episode premiered on September 6. My Dad also produced a song entitled Hold Me Close and it is now available on the Greenleaf soundtrack.
Urban Faith: When you think of the word “success,” what comes to mind?
Jekalyn Carr: When I think of the word “success,” I do not simply minister because I have the skillset to, but I want to see people prosper and see the fruit behind my labor by hearing how blessed people are through testimonies. That is my definition of success.
Urban Faith: How do you prepare for your day with having a busy schedule?
Jeklayn Carr: With a busy schedule, I start my morning by prayer and declaring positivity over my day.
Urban Faith: In the pursuit of our calling, sometimes we find ourselves drained because we lack balance. How do you find time to find time to take care of yourself and what do you like to do for fun?
Jekalyn Carr: I take time to have fun and relax. I enjoy going to the movies, hanging out with family, getting my hair and nails done.
Urban Faith: What advice would you give to anyone who hasn’t discovered their purpose or is afraid to step out on faith?
Jekalyn Carr: There is a reason God has equipped you with your gift. There are people who are in need of your gift. That’s why it important to step out and do what God has designed you to do. You will find that as long as you are operating outside of your purpose, you are just functioning. When you operate in purpose, you will prosper and want people to be transformed because of your gift. Whether your gift is a preacher, a doctor, a teacher or athlete, you can’t afford to sit down on what God has placed on the inside of you. Ask God for the strength to allow your gift to be activated but also ask for boldness so you can walk into it and be successful in it.
Many of us were disappointed last spring when we discovered “Greenleaf” was not returning for three months. However, the OWN series’ two-night, mid-season premiere finally begins August 15 at 10 p.m. ET. “Greenleaf” was also renewed for season three, according to Variety and Deadline.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, we’d like to give you a brief recap on what you’ve been missing. (Caution: Spoilers ahead, for those of you who’d like to watch the previous episodes ahead of next week’s premiere.)
“Greenleaf” tells the story of an affluent Black family led by the bishop of the fictional Memphis mega church Calvary, but viewers soon learn that this Christian family is anything but perfect. Members of the Greenleaf family include Bishop Greenleaf, Lady Mae Greenleaf, their four children Grace, Charity, Faith (deceased), Jacob, and grandchildren.
So far, Season 1 and the first half of Season 2 have provided viewers with a front-row seat to the lies told by the Greenleaf clan and allies to cover up sexual and emotional abuse, infidelity, and corruption.
During Season 1, Grace finds her way back to her home and church in Memphis after avoiding both her family and the spiritual call to be a leader in the church for years. Viewers have witnessed Grace’s journey in serving as a catalyst for seeking justice on behalf of her sister Faith who was molested by their Uncle Mac and commits suicide as a result of the trauma. And, as the first season continues to unfold, viewers learn that there are, in fact, other girls who experience the same trauma at the hands of Uncle Mac.
The Greenleafs’ son Jacob and his wife Kerissa are working on their strained marriage after Jacob’s affair in Season 1. He also fights to be heard and becomes frustrated with being overlooked by his family.
To add fuel to the fire, Jacob makes the decision to leave Calvary to become an associate pastor at his family’s competition church Triumph, but he soon discovers the lead pastor, Basie Skanks, has a gambling problem and uses Triumph’s money to fund his habit.
Jacob hides the “church meetings” (aka poker games) from his wife but she is not completely clueless. Nonetheless, Jacob is not pleased with the way Basie handles his church affairs and does not want to be associated with the pastor. So, Jacob offers to pay off the debt of Triumph’s second location, in exchange for him becoming the senior pastor of the church, with no connection with Basie and the original Triumph location.
On the other hand, Charity, the Greenleaf’s third daughter, is working on her music career, gives birth to a beautiful baby boy, and her husband Kevin opened up about being attracted to men. Even after Kevin decides to go to counseling and work through his issues in order for their marriage to move forward, Charity files for divorce.
After Charity receives a call from her music producer to travel out of town and record music with a group, she asks her ex-husband to watch their son. However, once Kevin finds himself alone with the family’s attorney, Aaron, whom he finds attractive. By the way, Charity is also attracted to her music producer.
The Greenleaf family often tries to sweep issues under the rug but the fire continues to grow and we all want answers. Will Charity date her music producer? Will Kevin date Aaron? Will Grace find justice and finally have Uncle Mac put in jail? Will Jacob get Triumph 2?
“Greenleaf” does an excellent job at highlighting the challenges that face a pastor and his family, and sheds lights on issues in the black church such as homosexuality and mental illness.
And, although many of these issues are embellished a bit for the sake of television, it is important for Christians to realize that even ministry leaders are not exempt from trials and tribulations any more than their members. I suppose we’ll all have to stay tuned to see what’s in store for Calvary and the Greenleaf clan.
Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar is one of the most popular music stars in the nation today, with multiple songs on his new album charting in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 songs. His single “Humble.” drew praise and critique from all sides of the Black community for its message as a corrective to pride and yet centering the conversation on his own desires as a Black man.
Recently Kendrick Lamar did an interview with hip-hop website DJ Booth, where he shared that one of his major messages in the new album D—. is that God is to be feared in a way that brings reverence and obedience. He shares that in his experience, many churches’ message is hope and forgiveness without talking about God’s requirement for obedience and judgment on sin.
He hopes his album will provoke thought and discussion of the idea that God is gracious and loving, but also a God of wrath and judgment who wants to use suffering to correct and discipline His children. Kendrick states in an email response to DJ Booth’s article:
“Our God is a loving God. Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE [sic]. OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God. And for every conscious choice of sin, will be corrected through his discipline. Whether physical or mental. Direct or indirect. Through your sufferings, or someone that’s close to [sic] ken. It will be corrected.”
An incomplete articulation of the faith
Kendrick Lamar’s sentiment is spot on; God is both a God of love and a God of obedience, merciful and disciplinary. Kendrick’s feelings about hearing only of God’s hope, blessing, and happiness as a child, leaving him feeling empty, are all too real for many people, including Christians.
The sort of preaching that does not speak to suffering, judgment, and consequences for sin while highlighting only God’s blessing is an incomplete teaching and sharing of Christian faith. A Christianity that pushes consequences and rewards into “the sweet by-and-by” is another incomplete articulation of the faith.
However, Kendrick’s wording is a bit misleading and his implications aren’t in line with what we see revealed in Scripture in light of Christ. Mercy itself means that God chooses not to make us suffer for every conscious choice of sin.
The idea that God would inflict harm on someone close to us for sin suggests belief in curses or divine consequences on whole households that aren’t congruent with what the Old Testament reveals (Jeremiah 31:28–30; Ezekiel 18:1–3) and Jesus teaches (Matthew 16:27).
It is reasonable based on Scripture to say that sin has consequences and that it affects a family, but its effect comes directly from its cause (Romans 6:23, 7:5, James 1:14–16), such as violence causing physical and psychological harm, not indirect through a divine judgment.
It is absolutely true that God disciplines the believer, even in light of grace (Hebrews 12:3–11). But mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:12–14), and the very definition of grace through the death of Jesus Christ is that we do not get what we deserve for our sins (Ephesians 2:4–16).
Got Cheap Grace?
What Kendrick has pointed out for the church is that many people are not hearing the message of consequences for sin that leads us to repentance. We live in a society where sin is seen as tolerable, and forgiveness for sin comes without price.
In addition, suffering in Black communities is often ignored or given a bandage of hope in “our season” instead of confronted with the Gospel of Jesus. Or worse but more commonly, some Christians use “cheap grace” to justify their hypocrisy.
Jesus proclaims life in the midst of death, righteous living and resurrection as acts of resistance to worldliness and death. As a result of seeing Christians who articulate a theology of grace without repentance and that fails to address suffering of Black people, Kendrick is left to find explanation for his reality in the law of Deuteronomy instead of the grace of Christ.
Jesus called for us to be disciples, not simply to be saved. Salvation is a free gift; following Christ is costly. Hope is in Jesus our Savior to redeem us from our suffering, not in ourselves to live righteously enough to end our own suffering.
This faith is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us by grace, not by works that save us from curses. The church would be wise to hear Kendrick Lamar and others like him as they cry out for understanding and direction that addresses the suffering, immorality, and brokenness they see in the world.
Jesus does not leave us to account for our sin on our own by the power of the law. In love, He gives Christians the Holy Spirit by grace to transform us, make us holy, and empower us to live justly. However, the church must preach the Gospel of Jesus that calls us to repentance and new life, not simply blesses us with no accountability if we are to reach the Kendrick Lamars in our world.
In the world of ratchet television programming, balance is certainly needed. So, when wholesome family shows are created, it is worth mentioning. The Manns, starring gospel power couple David and Tamela Mann, joins the TV One family with a docu-series highlighting Christian values, family drama, and fun.
Tamela Mann juggles the hats of mom, fashion designer, singer, and actress while her husband David Mann manages the roles of dad, actor, comedian, and business owner of Tillymann Entertainment Inc., the family business. Above all, the Manns enjoy spending time with their four children, eight grandchildren, extended family and friends.
So, as if all of that isn’t enough, here are five more reasons why The Manns is the show to watch:
1. It’s a great example of Christian marriage and family.
David and Tamela Mann are a God-fearing couple who have been married for almost 30 years. Through family and internal conflicts, viewers are able to witness how a family’s faith is tested each week throughout the series.
For the next several weeks, the Manns will experience everything from Tamela’s near-death experience during weight-loss surgery to her unconditional support for her daughter Tia who considers the surgery. Then, there are the episodes when the gospel power couple must address everything from their children’s addiction to their electronic devices to their daughter Porcia’s surprise boyfriend.
But, through it all, it is their trust in God that holds them together.
2. It’s hilarious.
Get ready! The Manns will give you a heartfelt “I can’t breathe” laugh as you witness hilarious moments, such as David Sr. and David Jr. “shouting” in heels and David Sr. facing his claustrophobia, or fear of confined spaces, and fear of mice. You don’t want to miss it!
3. It’s Real.
The Manns do not paint a picture of perfection as Christians. They are transparent about their issues and are intentional in showing viewers how they overcome them. However, viewers are also able to witness special moments, such as when Tamela wins her first Grammy and launches a clothing line.
4. You will be encouraged.
The faith journey is never easy, but some fail to realize that celebrities are not exempt from pain and disappointment. However, the Manns exists as a reality show that emphasizes the importance of keeping God first.
5. You can watch it guilt-free.
Thanks to reality shows like The Manns, you no longer have to refer to reality TV as a “guilty pleasure.” Unlike many of its counterparts, The Manns is for the entire family.
Can’t get enough of The Manns? You can also catch David and Tamela on The Manns Family Tour with their son David Jr., and daughters Porchia and Tia or join the conversation by connecting via social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@tvonetv) using the hashtag #THEMANNS.
Watch The Manns every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on TV One.
The Case for Christ film, debuting nationwide this Friday, is the most authentic journey from hardcore atheism to faith. The film is based on Author, Journalist, former atheist, and now Pastor Lee Strobel’s life without Christ as he intensly seeks the ‘truth’ behind the Christian faith that he once deemed bogus in order to ‘save’ his wife and marriage.
Jesus is a Fairy Tale
Although Lee (Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) collectively decide not to induldge in faith as a married couple, Leslie makes the decision to turn back to God after their daughter’s near-death experience and her asking questions about who Jesus is.
The unexpected series of events sends Lee on an exploratory tirade with his investigative journalism in tow. Throughout the film, viewers are able to witness how an atheist fights to prove his beliefs as ‘gospel’ through the use of science, historical facts, and general disbelief.
Many people have been a part of debates both online and in-person that discuss whether or not Jesus is a fairytale based upon scientific facts and anger towards the plights of the world. However, even with scientific evidence of the miracles of Christ and God, the doubt often continues to leave non-believers searching for more. “So, when is enough evidence, enough evidence?”
Facts vs. Faith vs. Marriage
Before Leslie decides to become a born-again Christian, her marriage to Lee was considerably solid. However, as her faith grows, so does Lee’s rage and presentation of facts against Christianity.
Lee’s main argument is that his wife believes in something that no one else can see, and he only chooses to believe in things that he can see. To add insult to injury, Leslie tries to force her husband into becoming a believer, which only drives him further away.
In fact, there are several moments like these throughout the film that makes moviegoers wonder, “Can a faithful and faithless love co-exist?”
On social media, the answers vary in the form of everything from scripture that discusses the concept of being equally yoked to those who think you should meet in the middle.
C.B. Fletcher Twitter
@CNegarita It would depend on the level of indoctrination mostly on the believers side. My wife is a deist been happily married for 12 y + 3 children.
Gary goes on to say that, as long as her children were not coerced into believing in God or atheism, he finds comfort in knowing they are making their own choices.
Blind Faith and Real Love
Case for Christ is a love a story between God, Leslie, and Lee. When we love someone we want the best for them and fight and are willing to fight on our loved ones’ behalf. Lee fought for his wife’s ‘sanity’ , while Leslie fought for Lee’s peace and salvation. And all of this took place as God fought for both of them to find Him and grow together.
It is the undying love between Lee and Leslie that keeps them going despite their differeces, and that love is what saves them both.
Check out the trailer for The Case for Christ below: