Monday, August 13, 2007

The Gospel

It's nice to see a positive movie every now and then, that does not present Christians, in particular clergy, as hypocritical, worldly, or downright evil. The characters in The Gospel are real folks, not preachy and self-righteous, but more like the kind of people you might go to church with every week. That is, if you go to an African-American church with really great gospel music! I am white, and go to a mostly white church with contemporary/charismatic worship, so worship music with a beat and worshippers that move around a bit don't bother me. But the worship in The Gospel rocks! I'm not sure my personality would fit in a church like that, but I would enjoy it from time to time. The worship in the movie was probably the best part. Most movies that have worship services, even Christian movies, are pretty lame. It's actors acting like they're worshipping. In The Gospel, it seemed very genuine, and made me want to join right in!

The story is of a pastor's son, David, who leaves the church and is estranged from his father. He becomes a popular hip-hop artist, with the lifestyle to match. When he learns his father is sick, he comes home and becomes involved with the church's building plans and the transition to his father's successor, who is an old friend of the pastor's son. In many ways the story is predictable, but it's well-told.

I like the theme of grace in the movie. David is the Prodigal Son (although he's not exactly living in a pig pen) who returns home, not to judgment, but to a warm embrace and a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his father (and, though it's not directly addressed very much, his heavenly father as well). His father's successor objects to David's taking a role in leading worship because of his music and lifestyle, but David's father is firm, giving David lots of room to reenter the family of faith.

The gospel itself is not presented in the movie, but Christians will see it played out throughout. If the movie makers are not committed Christians, they at least present a very sympathetic portrayal of Christians and church life. Several gospel artists make cameos in the movie.

One last note: as the product of a democratic church tradition, I was not comfortable with the seeming autonomy of the pastor and his choosing his successor by fiat. As the successor found, the temptations of power and ambition are quite strong and should be held in check by a circle of accountability of some form.

Bottom line: two and a half stars

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