Lord Save Us From Your Followers is a documentary about how U.S. American evangelical Christians see themselves and the big difference in how outsiders view Christians. I think that when it comes to pubic discourse, anyone who picks up a newspaper or watches television, the popular criticism of conservative Christian have become well known images ingrained in our minds: the religious hypocrites from a couple of my favorite movies, Saved! and Easy A come to mind. Christians lead double lives, they are too mean, they’re anti-intellectual, they’re divisive.
For the most part, Dan Merchant is dead on target in this movie. Although he doesn’t quote Scripture that often, he doesn’t have to, but lovingkindness, humility and hospitality are stressed as important practices in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. I’ve read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, and the confession booth story does seem an appropriate thing to do, seeking out your “enemies” and working for reconciliation. I also felt inspired by the final scenes of the movie, Christians working for homeless ministries, treating the oppressed like people while washing their feet.
A criticism for the film is the continued portrayal of Africa and Africans as helpless dependents and victims without any discussion of colonialism or political struggles, especially when it comes to Ethiopa (which was used in the film). How come Africans are always viewed as the dark skinned charity objects overseas without any subjectivity, who yearn for Americana? There was (from my post-colonial perspective) a huge disconnect between LSUFYF’s approach to the homeless here in the U.S., and Ethiopian children overseas. U.S. American homeless are viewed as simply having subjectivity simply because of their being American. This blind-spot toward America-centrism, the lack of honesty about cultural particularity throughout the documentary is also problematic as it pertains to the movie’s discussion of the culture wars. The culture wars are the day to day discussions, debates, and struggles where interested parties vie for control of the national culture of the United States. The Culture Wars are a predominantly white conversation, with Dominionist political events such as “Acquire the Fire/Battlecry” being a primary example. The problem with organizations such as these isn’t that they aren’t nice enough! It’s the philosophy and false theologies of empire and subjugation behind them that need to be confronted. How can Campolo and Merchant expect for people to come to the table together if one side sees the other side as objects to be colonized? It’s just unreasonable. Also, there was an indicative scene when Merchant was using the confession booth to apologize to the LGBTQIA community at a Pride event. One of the men he encountered admitted him feeling uncomfortable with Merchant claiming to represent all Christians an apologizing. There was privilege there that needed to be checked; would a person of color be able to do the same thing, first of all? And secondly, if the conservative evangelical Public Relations problem among the LGBTQIA community is a social problem, why is a privatized, individualistic practice of the confession booth the solution? I mean it’s just like years ago when the Southern Baptist Convention apologized to one black pastor for African enslavement and segregation, and now it’s racial reconciliation! While the documentary Lord, Save Us From Your Followers does offer part of the answer (lovingkindness and hospitality), I think it still leaves us with more questions.