October 17, 2018

Recommendation and Review: Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

As documentaries go, I’m sure that Dan Merchant’s Lord, Save Us From Your Followers (LSU) could be critiqued in more than a couple of areas, but as tool to break up the logjam that is bad evangelical thinking on the culture war, it’s incredible.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers is more than must-see evangelical entertainment; it’s an opportunity to truly open up a conversation and a reconsideration of the way we’ve presented the Gospel in our culture. This is documentary dynamite. Handle with caution when around dedicated culture warriors.

Let me go ahead and say that LSU will, within the first 30 minutes, offend all those culture warriors and theological purists who believe, along with Ann Coulter, that the best thing Jesus ever did was get mad and turn over some tables. When Merchant spends 20 minutes apologizing to gays for the behavior of Christians and his own less-than-Christlike attitudes, some evangelicals are going to turn several shades of red and possibly need medication.

Some evangelicals will be furious that Merchant actually lets dedicated homosexual anti-Christians have their say without interruption. Some even get several sentences in a row, and Merchant doesn’t follow those segments with extensive Scripture quotations and Dobson responses.

Some evangelicals won’t like it when Merchant lets Battlecry’s Ron Luce show himself as a manipulator of the media or when he shows Justice Sunday to be nothing more than a political rally for angry Republicans.

Merchant lets non-Christians have the microphone a lot in his little movie, and they have their say, describing Christians in unflattering impressions and embarrassing stories. If you’d rather talk about the Godless secular humanists rather than actually hear from them, you may have a problem with LSU. When gays at Portland’s Gay Pride day begin telling, in painful detail, what they have experienced from Christians, a lot of us should feel bad….at least I hope so.

But then the secular activists may not like it when Merchant shows their over the top chanting of “Christian Fascist” at the Battlecry rally. Or they may object to Merchant calling Bill Maher a pothead and media firebomber.

In other words, Merchant is extraordinarily fair handed in his portrayal of both extremes in the culture war, and he let’s both sides talk- even Al Franken!- until you have to admit that we’re all human, we’re all sincere and we’re all contributing to the toxic atmosphere of cultural debate in America. While Merchant is a Christian, he’s committed to moderating a discussion that is fair to everyone. That’s quite a gift and he pulls it off well.

While Merchant isn’t doing a hit piece on those who aren’t evangelicals and dislike those who are, he is giving some of the better voices in the evangelical world the opportunity to talk about earning the right to be heard, acting like Jesus and facing the fact that we’ve failed to be much more than a lot of frustrated protestors and talk radio callers. LSU does a marvelous job of showing how people like Tony Campolo, Rick Warren and Bono are pointing to a way that Christians can be positively associated with the love of Jesus. The real heroes are the people who aren’t famous, but are doing incredible ministry to show the love of Christ to every kind of person, without distinction or agenda.

Some will say that Merchant is naive and the anti-Christian forces in our society want to eradicate Christianity and take away our rights. Perhaps, but Merchant gently makes the case that evangelicals are more than a little naive to believe they can shout, finger-point, whine, claim persecution and declare war on the very people they are called to love and still be heard as representatives of Jesus.

I found the last twenty minutes or so of this documentary- features about Katrina rebuilding and evangelical ministries to the homeless in Portland- to be particularly moving. I want all my high school students to see this film, even though many of them are internationals and may not understand the culture war.

I hope the entire IM audience will get this movie and will find creative ways to put it out there for group discussion. If you have access to a group of non-Christians and Christians who could watch the film together, something really wonderful could happen.

As I said, some won’t like the fact that Dan Merchant is acting like Jesus and encouraging us to do the same, but then that’s the point of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers: it’s time for evangelicals to do some serious soul searching and decide who we want to be like and what we want to be known for.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers has a comprehensive web site, where you can view samples, read Dan’s blog, find showings and keep up with book and tour information.

Comments

  1. Sounds like an excellent movie. I look forward to seeing it sometime.

  2. I’ve thought for several years that the way to handle the uncredentialed activists that invade my denominations quadrennial meetings, is simply to allow them to have their say in the meeting. Listening to them politely, would rob the invasion of much of its media glow, reflect positively on us as Christians and steal the glow of the spot light from them.

    Probability of that happening in my lifetime -1.000.

    Best of all it would be in obedience to the commands of our Lord. Mat 5:38-45 KJV

  3. Sounds like something I want to see, along with finishing Un-Christan by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons. If irony is indeed in short supply, as some note these days, then the message in the documentary that some do more harm by their actions than good may be lost. But some will get it.

  4. I have been volunteering at Nightstrike for the last three years and was on staff with Bridgetown for the last year. My experiences there were a major catalyst in my life to pursue more authentic Christian living. In fact it drove me to move into Rockwood (Portlands ghetto) with a team and start inviting the church to experience and build Christian community in order to more fully release Christ’s aroma. http://www.bethecompassion.com/

    I really appreciate your review of this movie. You will probably have more views in one day then I have since I first blogged about the movie over a year ago.

    Pastor M, It’s funny you mention Un-Christian. I was reading that book when I first saw the movie in October 2007.

    I whole heartedly agree with Michaels recommendation on watching this movie with groups. I have watched this movie with 100’s of people and it is guaranteed to ignite a good healthy discussion among all varieties of Christians and non-Christians alike.

  5. I appreciated the movie when I saw it a while back. I would have to give it an NSM rating thourgh (Not Sunday Morning). Most churches would be dealing with the fallout for months. However high school students, college kids, small groups, mixed christian and non-christian groups would certainly benefit.

  6. Thanks from the review. I would love to see it. I’m so glad there’s lots of believers out there who are more creative, energetic, motivated than I am to do these great things. Gives one hope.

  7. I watched this movie this weekend, and it was breathtaking. Yes, the first 30 minutes were controversial, provokative, and probably did turn a lot of people red, but I totally loved it. It raises very, very valid points, and it made me totally rethink my relationship with people, and somehow got to understand Christ a lot better.

    And while you’re showing it to your students, I’m showing it to my teachers. This movie HAS to be seen.

  8. bob pinto says:

    Some will say that Merchant is naive and the anti-Christian forces in our society want to eradicate Christianity and take away our rights.

    First of all, I haven’t seen the movie.

    I am little struck at first glance of the cynical title of the movie. The Lord’s people are not my enemies to be saved from despite the damage done by some.

    For an interesting coincidence check out dan edelen’s post on http://ceruleansanctum.com/ noting the exposure of prop 8 contributors being outted.

  9. Bob:

    If Prop 8 supporters are Christians, and they are ‘outed” they should rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and should love their enemies. True?

    peace

    ms

  10. I haven’t seen the movie, but John 6 came to mind when I read the title. Jesus refusing to let his followers make him an earthly king. It seems though that many of them still want that. How many times does Christ have to say “my kingdom is not of this world,” before we stop trying to make this world his kingdom?

  11. Bror

    Fantastic point!

  12. I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while, but wasn’t quite sure how to obtain it. The website talks a lot about tours and various public showings, but is it now readily available on DVD? At Blockbuster?

  13. A minor theological point to Bror. When Jesus said that, it was to Pilate who had asked.

    35″Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

    To which Jesus responded:

    36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

    The idea here that Jesus is saying, “My kingdom is not achieved by the means of this world.”

    His Kingdom is this world, that God’s Kingdom come and Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    On the subject of this movie, it’s a great one and very thought provoking. It made me question some of what I had always thought and confirmed other things that I’ve believed.

  14. Phil, W.
    I don’t think we are in disagreement. I don’t mean to deny that this world is his, and that he rules it as God. He does this even in non-christian countries.
    The point is he did not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He had more important things to do. So he rejected the Devil’s offer. He refused to let his people make him king. And he told Pilate my kingdom is not of this world. Not only does this mean that his kingdom is not achieved through earthly means. It means that he has a different kingdom all together, in which he as God and man rules. He was speaking of heaven, which will not be achieved on earth, and definitely not by propositions and laws.(Means of this world, as much as war and revolution.) But it does have its embassies in this world where the Gospel is preached in its purity and the sacraments administered according to his institution. There he rules as he does in heaven from his throne, the Cross, in the forgiveness of sins. It is a kingdom of grace, not of law.
    We already had the law when Christ came, we didn’t need any revisions to it either. What we needed was forgiveness, which is what Christ came to give. And in giving it he established his kingdom of grace.

  15. The legislative branch of government cannot legislate true morality. Morality is a result of a heart right with God. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Love, mercy, kindness, charity…equal turning the other cheek. Love wins the culture wars…if and when they are to be won. Only God can fight spiritual wickedness in high places.

  16. Mr. Monk…or should I say, Rev. Monk, saw the movie…showed it to my community group…they loved it. Challenged them…made the entire community peer into the depth of their assumptions about Christian praxis and the “reputation” of followers in the culture. This is NOT a perfect documentary…but it is good, good, good…good fodder for conversation and prayer. I also HIGHLY recommend “Purple State of Mind”.

    Keep up the good posts brother!
    Robin
    rdugall@apu.edu

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Bob: If Prop 8 supporters are Christians, and they are ‘outed” they should rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and should love their enemies. True? — IMonk

    Never mind that this sort of “outing” — an obvious “Let Bubba Do It” revenge tactic — opens up whoever did the outing to some serious civil liability if Bubba gets physical.

    I remember something similar with extreme pro-lifers “outing” abortionists years ago and James Dobson “outing” someone (address/phone/contact) just last year in some Culture War dispute. I think the former even resulted in some Bubba Doing It.

    I’m from California, and you would not believe just how hot the passions ran over Prop 8 — even hotter and shriller than the usual hot button over illegal aliens and “Mexifornia”. Everybody out here went batshit crazy over Prop 8; the pro-8s before the election (from the pulpits) and the anti-8s afterwards (targeting Mormons and ACT-UPing their places of worship, from Stake to Temple). Including race cards played on both sides, as the heavy brown & black turnout for Obama turned out to also be very straitlaced on this subject. And this “Let Bubba Do It” outing is just the latest craziness.

    Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics as Religion — I wonder no more why most Soviet-era Russians (immersed in Politics as State Religion) were alcoholics.

  18. Some will say that Merchant is naive and the anti-Christian forces in our society want to eradicate Christianity and take away our rights.

    Yesterday I was listening to an interview that included both the folks behind DC’s athiest slogans on the buses and the folks behind the Christian rebuttle slogans on the buses. Listening to both sides imply that they are an oppressed minority, I realized something that made me laugh: we ALL have a persecution complex.

    The atheist/agnostic/secularists feel oppressed by the Protestant Christian majority. The liberal mainline Protestants feel oppressed by the conservative Evangelicals. The conservative Evangelicals feel oppressed by the liberals AND the secularist. The Catholics feel oppressed by the Protestants and vice versa. The minority religions feel oppressed by everybody…

    Y’know… in this country I really don’t think any of us are really as oppressed or persecuted as we would like to believe.

    Oh, and I’ve seen clips of that movie… it’s GREAT!

  19. Just ordered the book, and am looking forward to the DVD. Thanks for the heads up, iMonk!

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The atheist/agnostic/secularists feel oppressed by the Protestant Christian majority. The liberal mainline Protestants feel oppressed by the conservative Evangelicals. The conservative Evangelicals feel oppressed by the liberals AND the secularist. The Catholics feel oppressed by the Protestants and vice versa. The minority religions feel oppressed by everybody…

    You know what that reminds me of, Obed? Listening to Dr Demento spin this Tom Lehrer ditty!

    Y’know… in this country I really don’t think any of us are really as oppressed or persecuted as we would like to believe. — OBed

    I believe a few months ago, IMonk did at least one blog essay on Persecution Complex as it relates to Evangelicals.

  21. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it sounds like something I should check out. One thing that does worry me (though I will reserve judgment until I see it) is that I think there is a fine line between pointing out the flaws (and there are many) of the contemporary church with love and simply bashing our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

    There are many things some Christians do that make me cringe, but I have to keep reminding myself that Christ’s blood covers us all and that I am no better than them even if my sins are not as public.

    Mr. Spencer, how do you think the film walks this line?