People typically either love or loathe documentaries. I like a good documentary, but I am usually skeptical of Christian documentaries. We do not have a great track record of producing films that are high-quality in form and content. For this reason, I would not normally pay to rent a documentary named American Gospel, but I kept hearing glowing reviews about the film.
The film, which was directed by Brandon Kimber, sheds a clear light on the common “gospel” that is produced and exported from America. Our country has always imbibed an attitude of “Let me work hard and make my own destiny,” and the filmmakers show that this mentality has crept into American churches. The result is a gospel that says you can earn God’s favor by faith and good works. It is a religion of Christ plus works.
A particular strength of American Gospel is how clearly it communicates the true gospel. A host of solid pastors and theologians are interviewed throughout the documentary, and they shed light on how the true gospel confronts the Moral Therapeutic Deism, as Christian Smith puts it, that is so prevalent in our country. So many Christian publications are soft on the truth of the gospel, but American Gospel does a fantastic job of outlining the foundational truths of our faith.
Filmmakers turn their gaze upon an offshoot of the modern works righteousness movement: the prosperity gospel, the false teaching that God will give you wealth and physical wellness if you simply have faith and do good works. Besides pointing out the faulty foundation that undergirds the health and wealth gospel, the documentary tells the story of multiple men and women who were formerly under the sway of this false teaching.
One particularly interesting figure is Costi Hinn, the nephew of Benny Hinn. Costi, who formerly worked for his uncle’s massive ministry build upon the lies of prosperity theology, came to the realization that his family’s fortune was founded upon a sham. He now serves as a pastor of Mission Bible Church in California.
While the movie is over two hours long, it is worth your time. My wife and I watched it over the course of two nights, but I think it could be helpful to have your small group or Sunday School class watch the film together and then discuss. American Gospel is not a film that most people will be naturally drawn to, but it is is one that is a helpful tool for churches and Christians. You can rent the movie through Amazon.