Editor's note: This piece originally ran at the Reformed African American Network.
From the moment I watched the preview for Get Out, I knew it would either be a daring feat or an awkward failure. The film has gone on to be a hit and a showcase for the courageous creativity of its writer and director, Jordan Peele. What excites me about it is the spotlight it puts on racial tensions in America.
Comical yet suspenseful, Get Out offers the dominant culture a sense of the woes, fears, and anxieties of black people. Peele’s story emphasizes the reality of cultural assimilation: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who is dating a white woman named Rose (Allison Williams), goes to visit her family for the weekend, where uncomfortable situations begin to hint at something more sinister. Through this plot, Peele brings out many of the tensions and emotions that black people often feel about being “the other.”
Early on, Chris’ nonresistant nature touches on the passivity that assimilation often requires. This is depicted during the couple’s confrontation with a police officer on their way to her parents. Rose defends him as the cop begins to unfairly question him. All the while, Chris’ pose is one of submission, due to his understanding of the injustice that could easily come his way.
Get Out also depicts how assimilation strips away the norms of an underrepresented culture in order for it to become compliant with the majority. This theme of assimilation and acceptance is emphasized as the couple interacts with Rose’s family. They try to bridge the tension of cultural differences with excessive friendliness and affirmation.
We are unified in Christ within our diversity.
The movie also considers the difference between pursuing racial acceptance and seeking racial reconciliation. Racial acceptance is easy, in that all one has to do is accept someone is of another race and culture. Racial reconciliation is difficult because it means integration, equity, and service. Throughout American history, we have seen the negative realities of accepting different races, while rejecting the notion that those outside of the dominant culture still hold the image of God within them. Redlining, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration are all examples of what racial acceptance and assimilation look like, without biblical racial equity and justice to go along with them.
Racial acceptance may come off well, but without God and a biblical approach, it can serve the wicked system of supremacy, envy, and power. Though Peele dresses these themes up with horror and humor, the implications in Get Out are stark. This movie shows racial acceptance and assimilation are not progress.
The cultural implications of this are quite alarming—not only for the culture, but for the church as well. In the film, hypnotism is used to reinforce racial supremacy and control. In the church, the misinterpretation of Galatians 3:28 is used as a similar tool. The Apostle Paul writes in this passage that there is no distinction in the body of Christ, and that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Though this is a profound truth, many have misused this passage in an attempt to eradicate the cultural and ethnic differences we possess as image bearers. Such differences are a beautiful representation of the grandeur of who God is. Yet some have used this passage to push an agenda of colorblindness. I completely reject the notion that Paul is teaching us to ignore our racial and cultural differences.
What Galatians 3:28 teaches, rather, is that there are no more racial, political, or cultural hurdles to salvation. Anyone can be saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once we are saved, we all become part of the body of Christ, unified together. Division, superiority, and inferiority have been eradicated in Christ Jesus. We are unified in Christ within our diversity. The reality of this passage should move us to pursue racial reconciliation, because the power of Christ destroys racial prejudices.
Get Out reminds us of the racial tensions in our society. Our response as Christians should not be to eradicate our differences of race and culture, but to eradicate the sins of pride, power, and supremacy that distort them.