By Anna Harman
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” is a dark satire that focuses on a pastoral scandal within a Pentecostal megachurch. It is a politically correct mockumentary that seeks to expose the hypocrisy of leaders within megachurches and seemingly the sin that exists within the Christian church in general.
Pastor Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) has gotten involved in a scandal involving young men in his church, Wander the Greater Paths. It made headlines and caused the church of 25,000 to close its doors. In an effort to redeem his image and rebuild the church congregation, Lee-Curtis and his wife Trinitie (Regina Hall) are participating in a documentary as they prepare to reopen the church’s doors on Easter Sunday.
At the beginning of the movie, Lee-Curtis and Trinitie are shown sitting on giant thrones on the stage in the church. It was revealed that they always sat in those seats during services, in front of the congregation. I think this is the first example of how this film tries to mock church leaders that misuse their influence in the church. Oftentimes in megachurches, leaders are viewed by the congregation and sometimes themselves as being celebrities or “royalty.” This is a very prevalent issue that places more emphasis on the leaders and what they can do for the church, rather than on the ultimate One who deserves our praise, loyalty, and worship.
Lee-Curtis gives a sermon at the beginning of the film, and it’s all just for show. That is an important part of this film to recognize that most of the “preaching”, religious language, and practices are JUST for the sake of the documentary they are producing. The pastor and his wife are completely different people when they are off-camera. Their main source of motivation for trying to mend their broken image and reopen the church is so that they can regain their power and fame.
I think that a lot of nonbelievers view Christians as people who are fake and put on a show. This can be true in some cases. Especially within megachurches, sometimes people place their focus and faith in the wrong places, and it results in lukewarm Christianity. If people are going to church because of things such as the material things it can offer, the quality of the worship team, or merely the people that attend, they aren’t putting their attention on the right things. The ultimate reason for baptism, church attendance, or involvement, among other things, should be to bring glory to God.
In addition to these things, there was an obscene amount of profanity, blasphemy, and sexualized spiritual language that both the pastor and his wife used. They frequently talk bad about people or curse at them then immediately follow it with “God bless.” The whole movie, they are holding back from showing any negative emotions, they are insincere when they are being nice to people, and they are constantly bragging about their riches. The church for them is about power, fame, and money. This is a real issue, especially among megachurches, and this movie did not hold back from pointing out the hypocrisy of churches.
In a video of a sermon that Lee-Curtis gave to the congregation, he defends his mistakes by saying that he was “too generous” with his love and that he “gave too much.” He never blatantly admits to what he did or apologizes, he just defends himself by claiming he was spreading too much love when he was a part of the scandal within the church. He said he’s no criminal or pervert, he’s JUST a sinner. He tries to justify his actions by saying this, rather than repenting for the sin he committed.
It is true that some megachurch leaders have been involved in serious scandals and then tried to wrongly justify their actions, which made it even more unsettling to hear Lee-Curtis say he was spreading too much love while sharing relationships with young men. He also tells the church they should listen to him because he is “the prophet with the word of God and the gorgeous Bugatti.” He tries to deem himself worthy of the people’s trust and loyalty by saying this. This is one of the first examples of the prosperity gospel taught by Lee-Curtis.
Lee-Curtis preaches the prosperity gospel many times. He talks about how God has blessed them with a mansion, several nice cars, a home theatre, a huge pool, and many other nice things because they have been good and blessed others. They are incredibly vain and clueless about how insensitive they look, especially after the scandal. It is a sad reality that many megachurches today value material things over the savior and spreading the truth of the gospel. Many of the pastors within megachurches do believe in and preach the prosperity gospel, and this is a problem in America. I want to acknowledge that this is something these churches need to take full responsibility for and that there are major improvements to be made as far as how they handle scandals or problems with sin among church leaders.
I couldn’t help but think the whole time about what unbelievers were taking away from this movie. There is truth in this movie, in that people within church leadership, especially among megachurches, have abused power and poorly handled scandals. Personally, I thought this movie was still very disrespectful to the Christian community and to God. I pray that these filmmakers would come to know the true heart of Jesus because they have clearly been shown a misrepresentation of the Christian faith, some of which is because of the poor example megachurches in America have set.
It is a very uncomfortable and shocking film to watch as a believer. Although, it opens up the conversation to be held by Christians and nonbelievers: How can we improve the church and hold leaders within the church accountable for their actions and their teachings so that we can ultimately love those around us better?
I give this film a 1/10.
“Honk for Jesus” is now playing in theatres and streaming now on Peacock.
Anna Harman is a junior Biblical Studies major and also a reporter for Cedars. She appreciates writing, peppermint tea, flowers, and going to concerts.