To those familiar with his words of wisdom and gift for sharing them, it comes as no surprise that Cross Movement’s Brady “Phanatik” Goodwin now spends his days as a teacher helping educate the next generation. He took to social media over the weekend to provide more of those words and they were too good not to share. In this particular post, read how he breaks down a real world example of the TV show Black-ish and how Christians can pull from the example of how they went about packaging the show for the culture it would be a part of.
The Impact of Being “Christian-ish”
I recently watched an interview with Tracee Ellis Ross, the star of the hit TV show “Blackish”. In it, she described her view of the show and how the title fit. “This is not a show about being black” she explained. The people on the show happen to be black but could have easily been any other ethnicity and not much would change about the scenarios and how they are handled. And so, it is ‘black-ish’; but not a black show. She took great pride in their work having accomplished this.
This got me thinking about the Christian life, and the Christian’s goal, especially as it relates to many of us in the work-place and particularly Christian artists. Where should the work of our hands be Christian and where is it okay to just be Christian-ish. Let’s go back to Black-ness/Black-ish for a moment.
There was a time (and that time might still exist) when it was important to African-Americans to identify when a certain business or service provider was black-owned/operated. We spoke with pride about black doctors, black lawyers, black millionaires like Madam C.J. Walker. Historically, Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) were important to highlight. Even today, when we speak of education in the inner-city, we don’t just get excited at the arrival of new teachers; we say things like “It’s good to have black male teachers taking these jobs.” But why was/is it important to emphasize the blackness of these individuals and institutions? A few reasons:
1) Because of the lack of blacks in these professions/positions, it was significant to note that so-and-so was not just a lawyer or doctor, but a black lawyer or doctor. It gave a certain amount of pride to the community to know that we had lawyers and doctors. President Obama was not just a president…he was a black president! Some would argue that his blackness did not affect his presidency and that he was only ‘black-ish’ in the White House, for better or worse, lol.
2) It was exciting to think anyone in one of those positions or an institution would function with specific concerns of black folks in mind, to voice the opinions of black folk and represent them to the world. Again, some would fault Obama for seeming only black-ish here.
3) The opposite of #2 – There was the real concern that a non-black individual or an institution run by non-blacks would not function with specific concerns of black folks in mind.
But shows like Blackish signify a certain type of advancement. Think about the Cosby Show back in the day; blackness was not emphasized, but ALL of us were thinking about their blackness. It was designed to show something important. “A black family with a doctor and lawyer as the heads of house???” That was good to see! But what “Blackish” suggests is that, perhaps, we are past the days of needing to see Blackness as a stand-out feature. The above three reasons are no longer socially significant. It is not the differences of blackness that matters now, but the sameness. The fact that blacks are the same as everyone else, that is the point! ” The blackness of the characters is only an accidental happenstance of reality and the show is a success only if the character’s blackness does not distract from their shared humanity and cultural connectedness to other Americans. The less black, and the more “blackish” the show…the better.
Now, back to the idea of being “Christian-ish”. There was a time when the above three reasons for identifying someone or something as ‘black’ could also be applied to why people chose to identify their art/occupation as “Christian” (admittedly, this is true and easier for some occupations more than others). Of course this can be applied to artistry easily. Today, it is sometimes seen as a success when art is Christian-ish. Art is successful when the Christian-ness of it does not get in the way of the generic-ness of it. It is not the Christian’s differentness that matters, but his sameness. If this is the case, I am left with two questions:
1) Has the Christian cause advanced so far that our identity as Christians can now afford to take a back seat to our general humanity?
2) Does the goal of being “Christian-ish” open the door for others who only hold to the faith tangentially to also join in on the trend of making Christianity the accidental background material to whatever else they choose to put on their artistic palette?
Let us know how this affects your perspective in the comments, and find more from Phanatik here.