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‘Honk for Jesus’ offers an uncomfortable reflection of the Black church

(RNS) — “In case you can’t say ‘amen’, then say ‘ouch.’”

In case you’ve spent any appreciable size of time in a standard Black church context, you’ve heard this. It’s often mentioned by a preacher after they know a sermon is hitting a bit too near dwelling and the standard “preach Bishop!” or “take your time, pastor!” call-and-response has gone silent. “It’s tight nevertheless it’s proper,” many would say as they watch parishioners shift of their seats whereas listening to “thus saith the Lord.”

When “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.premiered in theaters and on Peacock September 2, many had no alternative however to say “ouch.” The darkish comedy, starring Regina Corridor and Sterling Ok. Brown, is meant to be satirical in its depiction of a megachurch pastor and his spouse as they try and resurrect themselves after a fall from grace. But the best power of this “mockumentary” is that it’s not parody in any respect — moderately it’s one of the vital correct depictions of up to date Black church tradition I’ve seen.

Written and directed by freshman filmmaker Adamma Ebo, Honk for Jesus chronicles the efforts of Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) and his spouse Trinitie (Corridor) as they work to revive Wander to Larger Paths Baptist Church to its former glory. A sexual misconduct scandal has compelled the thriving establishment, which as soon as boasted 25,000 members, to close its doorways. Believing the folks have to see their miraculous restoration, Lee-Curtis enlists a documentary movie crew to comply with them as they journey towards an Easter Sunday reopening.

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With Ebo as writer-director and Daniel Kaluuya as producer, the movie is govt produced by Jordan Peele, identified for his movies “Get Out,” “Us” and this summer season’s “Nope.” Honk for Jesus continues in the identical vein of Peele’s social commentary and critique. Prosperity gospel, ego and manipulation have grow to be distinguished ministries in Black church buildings, leaving congregants additional impoverished whereas the pastor and his household appear to be the one ones prospering.

All the pieces concerning the first household should reinforce God’s favor as a result of, if they’re blessed, then their congregation is blessed too. The continual circulation of fabric wealth isn’t by likelihood; the primary household hustles extremely laborious for it. Therefore, the opening credit are punctuated with Lee-Curtis preaching about how he’s the personification of God’s goodness whereas Three 6 Mafia raps, “ever since I can keep in mind, I’ve been working these h*es and so they higher put my cash in my hand.”

It doesn’t take a lot time to acknowledge that Lee-Curtis’ plight is eerily much like that of the late Bishop Eddie Lengthy, a megachurch pastor who was accused of sexual misconduct in 2010 and died in 2017. However Honk for Jesus isn’t about Lengthy as a lot because it makes use of the scandal because the backdrop to discover what’s taking place in at this time’s church. That’s why we don’t simply see him within the movie. We see so many Black males, pastoring congregations of all sizes, who consider their very own hype and can cease at nothing to take care of some semblance of energy. And we see their wives, ladies who consider it’s their calling to make themselves smaller so their husbands can seem greater.

The Childs have misplaced every little thing and it’s unclear why. Sexual misconduct? Severely? Pastors cheat on daily basis. Like rappers, skilled athletes and different celebrities, nobody actually expects a Black man with wealth and status to be trustworthy — even when he’s preaching the gospel. So what would make the members of Wander to Larger Paths Baptist Church any totally different? As Honk for Jesus strikes alongside, it turns into obvious Pastor Childs’ sexuality is in query. Now all of it is sensible. Wander to Larger Paths’ members don’t discover refuge in Heaven’s Home Baptist Church, with Pastors Keon and Shakura Sumpter — performed by Conphidance and Nicole Beharie — with out purpose. They left in droves as a result of, for a lot of, homophobia continues to be one in every of a Black Christian’s best virtues.

And although he’s misplaced all of it, there stays a remnant who believes the unsuitable Lee-Curtis has performed might be neglected as a result of he has performed a lot proper. In spite of everything, these boys had been “grown sufficient,” no felony prices have been filed and souls have been saved because of Pastor Childs. Whereas the devoted flock’s forgiveness of Lee-Curtis and the group’s disregard for his victims are what perpetuate cycles of abuse and violence, you will need to word he by no means apologizes. Do pastors even do this anymore or do they merely dismiss any type of accountability as hate and the satan conspiring towards them?  

Lee-Curtis Childs is precisely who we expect he’s: a damaged man hoping the façade he hides behind will sooner or later make him completely happy. However he isn’t completely happy and neither is his spouse, who is probably an important particular person right here. The hoops Trinitie Childs jumps via and the methods she contorts herself to guard her husband from damaging forces, together with himself, make her each sufferer and confederate. Trinitie is sophisticated, eager to be totally seen for the totality of her sacrifices to make sure her husband’s — and by extension, her — success.

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We don’t know all that Trinitie is aware of however we do know she is aware of sufficient to make a unique choice — one which prioritizes her dignity and self-worth. She goes with out respect, recognition and intimacy as Lee-Curtis so recklessly mishandles what they’ve constructed collectively. In her documentary confessional moments, Trinitie tells a painful reality: it does take quite a bit to be a primary woman. Maybe extra of us ought to begin asking why.

A fast scroll of social media timelines present vastly totally different evaluations of Honk for Jesus. Over on Twitter and Instagram, the place many Black Christians who’re farther alongside on their deconstructionist and progressive religion journeys reside, the movie is being praised for its accuracy, candor and truth-telling. On Fb, the predominant dwelling of older Christians and people who consider in preserving the picture of the establishment, the movie is being blasted for making the church look unhealthy.

And each camps are proper, which is what makes Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. so nice. In some ways, its satire is a mirror — a hilarious and horrific one. All through the movie and particularly within the last scene, at this time’s Black church sees itself in all of its conflicting glory. The ugly can not be hidden. All of us see it. If the church seems to be unhealthy, perhaps that’s as a result of it’s. Ouch.

(Candice Marie Benbow is a public theologian and the writer of Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)

PODCAST: Why Deconstruction Isn’t Enough + Candice Marie Benbow

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