'What is the best and worst the church has to offer?'
What are your thoughts on the Christian church? This query is not about the local building or the sermon that was heard last week; it is a broader question of the perception you have of the church. A question that can lead to extreme highs and extreme lows while looking at your preferred news outlet. Clicking on one video may show the beauty of a group of Christians as they attend to the needs of people suffering somewhere in the world, while the next video link depicts the horrors of things that happened behind closed doors of a prominent church leader. What is the public to make of these mixed messages?
The Centre of Public Christianity based in Australia and fronted by Simon Smart, John Dickson and Justine Toh, have been working on a project that addresses these questions directly. For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined has taken years of investigation and work to get to theatres, but it has been worth the wait.
In comparison with the latest Marvel or heist film, there is not much action to experience from this theological discussion, but the history makes for fascinating drama as the details unfolds on screen. The investigative team does not hold back on exposing some of the worst that the church has had a hand in throughout history - The crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and the oppression of women. Showing that despite the message that Jesus offers to the world, sometimes his followers can sometimes get misled. These realities are painful to acknowledge, but show that there is something to learn from history and the hope that mankind doe not repeat these atrocities.
Thankfully they balance the worst with the best by engaging with the actual words of the man from Nazareth. Showing that the original intent of his teachings was radical and world-changing, but how sometimes the audience lost sight of the message. The stories of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and more serve as an excellent counterbalance to the challenges seen throughout the past. The historians manage to show the profound impact and influence that Jesus’ teachings of humility, human rights, charity and non-violence have had on the moulding of Western culture and have lead to some of the best events in the world’s history.
A refreshing component of this video project is the quality of the filming, storytelling and the quality of the presenters. There is a logical thread that runs throughout the different segments and the consistency of the production that adds to the quality of the historical content. As a documentary, the CPX team manages to keep the pacing and the content engaging without diluting the message they are trying to convey. The presenting crew comes across as having a passion for the information that will draw audiences into the elements of each narrative shared.
Despite anyone’s preconceived notions of the church or faith position, this is a film that is accessible and should lead to a multitude of robust conversations. It will not answer all of the questions people may have about the church, Jesus or God, but it does provide a rich and in-depth analysis that should be accessible to anyone with genuine curiosity on the topic of the church, for better or worse.
(No star rating on this film. None needed. This film comes highly recommended)