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American Jesus

directed by Aram Garriga

Glass Eye Pix / Caravan USA

Interesting - here's a movie about the Jesus movement that succeeds in covering the topic in some depth while avoiding the screaming matches and bible thwacking arguments the topic so easily arouses. While this documentary favors the eccentric and flamboyant, it shows a range of attitudes and theologies that have goals ranging from helping the helpless to making your fellow congregants more helpless than they are today. Early on, we focus on some specialist churches like the Arena of Life Cowboy Church in Amarillo and a Surfer Church in Santa Cruz and the Team Impact church that proselytizes via Kung Fu demonstrations. These churches seem the most honest; the leader of Team Impact rhetorically asks "What does breaking boards have to do with salvation? Nothing! But it gets people's attention." I like that and he's successful enough to support the world's only "Christian mixed martial arts clothing line" with the featured slogan "Jesus didn't tap." It's commercial, but it's also aerobic and more entertaining than a Quaker service.

While this opening is intriguing, the main thrust of this story enters late. Roe Vs Wade in 1973 energized moribund conservative church groups, driving them to political activism, the lawmaking process, and ultimately hijacking the Republican Party. Justice may be the Lord's, but these Christians thought He wasn't getting His business done quickly enough. The rise of the activist churches brought with them an anti-science, anti-intellectual movement and their adherents freely admit what they are trying to accomplish. The film stops at the Creation Museum and a visits Pentecostal snake handling service, but we also meet a young man disappointed that after he burned his heavy metal CDs and replaced them with Christian Metal, it wasn't even close to the real thing. At the Deliverance Bible Church Pastor Cletus Adrian has gauges in his ears but offers the most meaningful analysis: "In Texas everyone thinks they are Christian, but nobody knows God." Some churches seem under examined; I'd like to know more about the Harmony Dust Treasures Strip Club Ministry (outreach to 170 strip clubs a year) and Billy Talen's Church of Life after Shopping. These seem weird but legit, but the most intriguing organization does get a thorough examination. That's XXXChurch.com; "Porn Pastor" Craig Gross claims this as the #1 Christian porn site. Ron Jeremy doesn't just approve, he's a member. Praise the Lord and pass the lube!

This film is part of the 2014 Florida Film Festival running April 4 to 14 in Orlando Fl. Details, screening locations and times may be found at www.floridafilmfestival.com/

www.floridafilmfestival.com/; americanjesusthemovie.com/