1

Down to the river: A pastor’s journey toward real life, real sin and real redemption

Storytelling ProjectsThe day Jake Hall discovered 100.9 FM The Creek, he nearly plowed through a red light into oncoming traffic.

He hadn’t touched the radio dial once in six years of owning his Chevy Volt. But this Sunday morning was different. Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, two beloved entrepreneurs and music lovers, had just purchased a failing radio station and turned it into genuine Americana gold. As Hall approached the Spring Street bridge in Macon, Ga., to pass over the Ocmulgee River, Darrell Scott’s “Down to the River” suddenly broke through his humdrum focus with communion of another kind, Hall says.

“Now me and some buddies were down by the river,” Scott sings. “There were drinkers and dopers and abstainers by choice / There was red wine and white lines, blue smoke and good times / But when we all sang, we had us one voice singing.”

Hall barely wrenched himself out of transcendence in time to slam on the brakes and continue safely to Highland Hills Baptist Church where he serves as pastor. But that moment by the riverside was undeniable — it was time to act on the restlessness growing in his heart and sense of calling.

“The Creek caught me at a vulnerable moment when I didn’t expect it to,” Hall says.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, preaches to his congregation on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

“Every Sunday I suit up, put on that stole and I’m on until the day is over, and experiencing transcendence is sometimes rare in seasons of pastoral life. But Scott’s song was about real life, real sin and the real redemption that comes with years. That was a singular moment for me. I had decided it was time for me to reach out beyond the circle of Highland Hills and to forge new friendships, though I didn’t yet know that would become a new partnership for me or for the church.”

The following day, Hall crafted an email to Evans and Griffith expressing his unique gratitude for 100.9 FM The Creek as well as his vision for a show that would engage that tender space of music and meaning in the “Christ-haunted South.” Quotation of central Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor was all it took to get a lunch meeting, Griffith would later admit fondly. Yet Hall’s poignant humility and infectious grace — qualities that neither Griffith nor Evans were accustomed to in a pastor — would ultimately seal the deal for Gospel Gothic.

As Gospel Gothic found a foothold in Macon, the generous space Hall had offered himself in seeking new ground began to reflect around him, he says. Rather than recoil at Hall’s audacious enterprise, the Highland Hills congregation engaged the project with deep resonance and financial support, even producing the show’s executive producer Keith Gammons, who had perhaps become as restless as Hall.

“A kind of permission of the Spirit took over,” Hall explains, “and it couldn’t have happened without a church that was ready to try something new, without Keith Gammons, who after returning from a church hiatus to fight leukemia, needed something else to do, or without a lot of people at least seeing what could be and valuing the ‘what if,’ whether they understood it or not.”

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

Keith Gammons, executive producer and music director at Gospel Gothic, and Jake Hall, host of Gospel Gothic, discuss future events at The Society Garden on Ingleside Avenue on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

As Hall’s permissive spirit spread, Gospel Gothic began to cultivate a candid and generous table at which an entire downtown community could engage real faith, not to mention their often haunted histories with the church. By sharing level ground and being open to people’s doubts, skepticism or hostility toward the church, Hall says, he effectively became a pastor for those who were decidedly not looking for a pastor. And at the end of the day, he adds, friendship became a holy gift that ultimately bulldozed the wall between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane,’ ‘church person’ and ‘non-church person,” not to mention demolished Hall’s long-held desire to be the “expert behind the podium.”

“That’s not what pastors do and it’s not who I am,” Hall says. “I am much more passionate about exegeting the human document, of parsing out what’s behind someone’s story than I am about returning to the marginalia of sacred texts.”

Since Gospel Gothic’s inception in 2016, the Highland Hills congregation has journeyed alongside Hall in discarding attractional attitudes about church and sought solidarity with the larger community. Yet, there is nothing unique to Macon — even 100.9 FM The Creek — that makes such a shift any more accessible than in other communities, Hall says. Breaking free from that posture does not mean the adoption of some other unique strategy, he explains, but instead simply heeding the restlessness in you that craves real life, real sin and the real redemption that comes in joining the community around you.

“If I’m not making a difference in my community in a peculiar and particular way, using the gifts that I have, I’m not living a life that is life-giving to me” – Jake Hall

“If I’m not making a difference in my community in a peculiar and particular way, using the gifts that I have, I’m not living a life that is life-giving to me,” Hall says.

“Being a ‘good Baptist pastor’ and climbing the ladder in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not enough for me, and that pedigree is no longer a measure of my success. That meant silencing those voices and expectations of being a ‘professional minister’ and doing things a certain way and giving myself permission to do what I’m good at, where I am. We’re called to share the good news, but that looks more like sitting down at a table with someone, asking for their unvarnished opinion and listening. For my own sake and sanity and calling, I had to make those connections, and I am very thankful that I’m in a community that sees that as a part of what we do together. I feel more alive as a minister because of it.”

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, records this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 in The Creek’s recording studio. Gospel Gothic is hosted by Jake Hall and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

 


View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Misogyny in Ministry

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




What is Gospel Gothic?

Storytelling ProjectsGospel Gothic is a Sunday-morning radio program of 100.9 FM The Creek in Macon, Ga., that explores faith through the themes of Americana music. Hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., Gospel Gothic airs each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Co-hosting with Hall each week are Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek and self-confessed skeptics of Southern Christianity’s often misguided attempts at love and right living. Together, the trio unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. In doing so, they cultivate a growing audience in Macon and across the country for whom Americana music is holy and forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

In 2016, Gospel Gothic took hold as two dynamic forces converged in their community — an undeniable cultural revival in Macon centering on its deep musical heritage as well as Hall and his executive producer Keith Gammons’ longing to expand their calling beyond the church and join in that revival. As 100.9 FM The Creek encountered near-overnight success that same year, Hall and Gammons, with support and inspiration from Highland Hills Baptist Church, initiated a relationship and pitched their idea for a show about music and meaning in the Christ-haunted South. Since its inception, the Gospel Gothic partnership has grown its footprint and relevance with monthly “Beer and Hymns” events as well as periodic live tapings of the show at local breweries and venues in Macon.

To learn more about Gospel Gothic and listen to current and past episodes, visit thecreekfm.com/shows/gospel-gothic or listen to 110.9 FM The Creek Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

 


View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.

 




Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic

 

Storytelling ProjectsGospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Photo Gallery: Jake Hall, Gospel Gothic, Music and Radio

All photos taken in this photo gallery of Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic are by Jenna Eason.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason
Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, preaches to his congregation on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Jake Hall hosts the radio show Gospel Gothic, which discusses faith through the theme of Americana music on The Creek 100.9 FM on Sunday mornings.
« of 20 »

 

Storytelling ProjectsIn this ‘Signature Ministries’ series, Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

 

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Making God smile through music

During the recent Advent season, I challenged my congregation to savor the music of the holidays, and to listen with fresh ears to both the lyrics and melodies which carry our deepest longings and joys. As usual, in attempting to teach others, I learned a great deal. No matter the time of year or our personal musical skills, music is the portal to our experience with God and to our deepest selves.

In a recent podcast, social activist Ruby Sales tells about the impact of music on her life and work. Since her father and grandfather were both Baptist preachers, she was immersed in the songs of her faith and testifies that by the age of 7, she had at least 20 songs at her disposal. To use her words, that music became a currency for her to employ as she negotiated life. The songs became a shorthand language for her faith.

During Advent, I kept asking my people, “What would Christmas be like without music?” We could expand that by asking, “What would the Christian journey be like without music?” Without a doubt, our songs are our most primitive creeds, the way our faith is transmitted through the generations. Church historian Glenn Hinson once commented that though Baptists have no official creed, our songs are our confessions of faith.

Music sustains us in our dark times. Sooner or later, crises come to all of us, requiring us to access our spiritual playlist. In those desperate times, we need our song in the night. From his German prison cell during World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer bore witness to the rich reservoir which music provided. In a letter to his best friend, Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer reported that in those disgusting conditions, his ability to recall hymns of faith sustained him. As I read “Letters and Papers from Prison,” suddenly two Bible verses connect. The psalmist’s question, “How could we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?” is answered in Colossians 3:16, “with gratitude in your hearts, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.”

No doubt about it. Singing gives us courage. Music not only states what is true; it reveals what we long to be true. Through song, we lean into the future. The Civil Rights Movement in our own country confirms this. Ruby Sales also commented that music has a way of democratizing our faith. Singing creates a common language of the spirit, allowing everyone equal access to the holy. Through song, we stand up and say, “Move over; I have a place in God’s choir, too.”

Several years ago, I arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico, with a preaching team from the United States. As we met with our hosts in a hotel lobby and introduced ourselves, someone began singing worship choruses familiar to both our cultures. One song after another, a cascade of melody and harmony filled the room. After a brief silence, someone said, “Let’s pray.” My immediate reaction was, “I thought we were praying!”

In many ways, singing is the highest form of prayer. When I pray silently, I tend to stay “in my head.” When I sing, for better or worse, I do so with my entire body. From what I read in the Psalms, that makes God smile.




‘Straight Outta Compton’ reveals plight of African-American men in U.S.

All musical bio-movies seem to follow the same script. A group or an individual rises from poverty to the heights of fame. Along the way they get taken advantage of by a manager and end up casting said manager aside. There are drugs and sex. Allegiances get twisted and frayed, but by the end of the movie there is a renewed sense of purpose of making music.

Straight Outta Compton follows this script well. We see a group of young African-American men rise from Compton, a place where life and death hang in a delicate balance.

Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) is a drug hustler who hooks up with Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to form what became NWA. They are joined by MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.).

The group cuts a record which gains the attention of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who forms a record company with Eazy-E called Ruthless Records.

At the beginning, Eazy-E is the business front of the group. All the money flows to him and Heller. As time goes on the group becomes hugely popular with sold out shows all around the country.

A dispute over record royalties causes Ice Cube to leave the group and a war of words begins between him and the group. This leads to the group splintering apart.

The problems are laid at Heller’s feet. He cheats the other members of the group and looks after the interests of Eazy-E. But as time passes Heller only looks out for himself and hard times come to Eazy-E.

All this sounds like “boiler plate” movie making. So what puts Straight Outta Compton above the rest?

It has to do with the environment from which these young men come. F. Gary Gray, the director, spares nothing to show how African-American males are treated by the police.

There are repeated scenes where police harass members of the group. The only rationale is that they are black and being black makes them suspect.

When they are recording their first album, the group takes a break and walk outside. The police see them congregating outside and they jump to the conclusion that they are up to no good. The police make all of them lie face down on the ground for no other reason than that these black men look like those who they think are drug dealers. The police taunt and ridicule them. The group responds with anger and cursing. It is Heller, who is white, who intercedes for them and keeps them from being arrested.

This is the reason why one of their most famous songs came into existence. It expresses the frustration of always being a suspect and always being seen as guilty before proven innocent. All of this takes place in the late 1980s.

Even though set in the past, there is a timeliness to Straight Outta Compton. The headlines of unarmed African-American young men being killed and the “Black Lives Matter” movement all bring into relief that the problems portrayed in the movie are still with us today.

Straight Outta Compton is a vulgar, ugly movie. But it portrays a vulgar, ugly picture of being an African-American in America.

When Trayon Martin was killed, I asked Congressman John Lewis what I should say to my congregation. His response was there needs to be dialogue in church about Martin’s death and about the issue of race and social justice in America.

Straight Outta Compton, if viewed in the proper light, offers a chance for that dialogue to happen. It shows white America the struggle of being a young black man in America, and that struggle is not pretty. This movie makes that clear.

Straight Outta Compton
Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence and drug use
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff
With: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella), Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller)