By Sikivu Hutchinson
In the 1997 film The Apostle Robert Duvall plays a white Southern Christian fundamentalist preacher and murderer on the lam seeking redemption. The film is literally cluttered with images of devout blacks, from black women swaying in the breeze at a big tent church revival to a particularly indelible church scene of dozens of black men chanting “Jesus” in rapturous response to Duvall’s pulpit-pounding call. I found The Apostle perversely fascinating because it trotted out this totally revisionist romanticized narrative of black obeisance to yet another charismatic but flawed white renegade savior figure in Louisiana (where, contrary to Hollywood flim-flammery, most of the congregations are racially segregated). These popular fantasies of black religiosity always seem to revolve around images of good, matronly black women eternally quivering with a strategic “Amen” or “can I get a witness;” subject to break out into a Blues Brothers back flip down the church aisle at any moment.
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Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of Blackfemlens, a journal of progressive commentary and literature, and the author of the upcoming Mortal Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and Secular America from Infidel Books. She is member of the James Agee Critics Circle, a commentator on Pacifica's Some Of Us Are Brave on KPFK 90.7FM, and a reporter for the LA Women's Desk of the WBAI Radio Women's Collective in NY.
Listen to blackfemlens commentaries on Fridays, 6:25pm LA Time, at http://kpfk.org.