Love Trumps Anti-Racism

"Burden" Demonstrates Real Racial Reconciliation

Here’s another movie to put on your Black History Month watch list. Like Radio, Burden, named after the main character, is also based on true events.

The narrative opens in an abandoned theater called the “Echo” in Laurens, South Carolina. The year is 1996. Mike Burden, a twenty-something ne’er-do-well miscreant, and a handful of sidekicks are demoing the inside of it to convert it into a combination “Redneck Shop and World’s Only Klan Museum.” Down comes the concessions stand; up go the Confederate flags and KKK memorabilia.

When the new venture goes public, Rev. David Kennedy, pastor of the predominantly black New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, responds with an impassioned but peaceful preach-in/protest outside. Unsurprisingly, the smug Klansmen are unmoved, and the background tension is set for the drama to come.

In the course of his work as a repossessor, Mike meets Judy, a single mom working a day job and raising eight-year-old Franklin. He’s quite taken with her, and the relationship is off to the races – until Judy issues an ultimatum. Mike can have either the Klan or her, but not both.

This is a hard moment for both of them. She doesn’t want to lose him, but she will not continue the relationship with him as a Klansman. As for Mike, by this time in the story, we have learned that he’d been orphaned as a child and that the local KKK boss Tom Griffin had taken him in. Mike both works for him and sees him as a father figure, such that the Klan is effectively his family, his social group, and his means of income. And so, although he doesn’t want to lose her either, apart from her, the Klan is all he has.

Forced to choose, though, he chooses her and separates from the Klan. Griffin then comes down on both of them like a hammer. In one fell swoop, they both lose their jobs, and they’re evicted from their home. This is a small town, and it’s not long before Rev. Kennedy becomes aware of what has happened. Now, he has a decision to make. What, if anything, will he do?

Without going into any more detail, suffice it to say, he helps them, putting real shoe leather to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s of-quoted, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

The story that plays out is one for heaven’s history books, but not everyone will get it. As I read reviews of Burden, it struck me that the reactions of viewers often reveal more about the viewer than the film being reviewed. Secularists don’t seem to know what to do with this story. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called it a “wobbly but well-intentioned broadside against racism.” Indiewire’s Kate Erbland said distributors were largely disinterested in it because “it was polarizing.” Its Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating is sitting at an underwhelming 52%.

But it’s not at all a broadside, and really, it’s not about being against racism. No, in classic truth-is-better-than-fiction style, the relationship between Mike Burden and David Kennedy is a deeply nuanced story about redemption. And in keeping with the way the world is, it is not easy. (Redemption never is.) It comes at a cost to many of the parties involved, and everywhere you look, it’s messy. Be forewarned, it contains incendiary racist imagery and violence. I don’t think we’ll be seeing this one on the Hallmark channel.

But it is good, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks that. Its Rotten Tomatoes audience score rings in at a pretty darn good 97%. Those who have room in their hearts to countenance repentance, grace, and mercy will find it compelling and satisfying. Those who don’t, well, they are the ones who’ll miss out. Don’t be one of them.

** Burden is available now for purchase and streaming. Click here for the trailer, here for an extended preview, or here to see Megyn Kelly’s interview with Mike Burden and David Kennedy.

has a BS in Computer Science and worked as a software engineer with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, IN, and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

Copyright © 2021 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/love-trumps-anti-racism

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