Lord, Save Us From Your Followers
Living Word, Deadly Weapon

Consider this not so much a review as a preview. The documentary was only available via the Internet, and while technical difficulties prevented me from viewing the last twenty minutes, I think I got the vibe.

Writer/Director Dan Merchant’s documentary is a commentary on the “left vs. right” polemics in this country, specifically addressing how the Church has joined the debate (hence the clever “bumper sticker man”). Merchant’s strategy for sparking dialogue is simply walking around major cities in the U.S. wearing coveralls—which are covered with conflicting slogans and contemporary culture buzz words. His basic question: “Why all the yelling at each other?” In his good-natured fashion he asks random folks what they think of the slogans displayed on his clothing. The responses he elicits are often interesting and insightful.

It’s certainly high time that someone made a self-examining film about the church in such a manner: light-hearted and full of joy and good humor. Lord, Save Us also incorporates plenty of clever animation to make its points. Consequently, it is an adventurous, honest probe into what went wrong in communicating the Truth.

Dan Merchant, the Bumper Sticker ManSome quotes in from the conversation that is the movie:

“People are not listening to one another.” —Dan Merchant

“The church is a whore, and she is my mother.” —Augustine, as quoted by Tony Campolo

“Do you realize how you trivialize the message when you present it in such a hateful manner?” —Tony Campolo.

“You know, just… Stop.” —John Stewart.

Christians have entered the political fray and for bad or worse have contributed to a “culture war.” The film is pretty non-judgmental, but I got the sense that the “war” began with and is perpetuated by the church. Instead of trusting God, we live our lives as practical agnostics, refusing to take the proverbial high road. We have resorted to corruptible tactics, doing what the rest of the world does. We trust in a foreign god: political influence. It seems that the church is more concerned about how devout we appear within our own paradigm than living lives that demonstrate or accurately emulate Jesus to the non-believer.

Beyond indictment, this documentary is also very instructive. The church should listen to what our culture is saying to us. There is nothing wrong with embracing the beauty of our culture. Loving our neighbors requires it. Our culture can teach us things, actually shining light on some of the beauty and truth of God, maybe in spite of itself.

Loving our neighbors also gives us a chance for dialogue, while God is redeeming the darkness through changed lives. God told the Israelites in Babylon to have families and work for the beauty of their newly adopted city. I don’t think God has changed His attitude about the role He asks His people to play in redeeming a culture. Proper participation wins us the right to share why we are different. Get that? Different, not dissident.

Merchant’s method is simple: engage people in sincere dialogue, thereby avoiding the demagoguery about religion in public life. I was particularly pleased by the clarity of comprehension and insightful responses of “normal everyday people” regarding what Jesus and Christians should represent and advocate. Fortunately, the film reminded me that foregoing one’s pet ministry in favor of studying Jesus’ methods of communication leaves an open road for sincere, genuine dialogue. In fact, most of the interviewees actually understand Christ’s mission fairly well, regardless of whether or not Christians successfully follow Christ’s example. It seems that God has put the Truth in each of us, saved or unsaved.

A powerful quote from Phillip Yancey opens the film, immediately and unmistakably establishing Merchant’s objective for his film: “No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.” Spot on. I was more than a little squeamish hearing several of our most venerated Christian leaders’ statements in this film. The church in this country is sick in many ways; our witness to the unchurched is the heartrending collateral damage.

I have been praying that God would begin to strengthen His Church; I sincerely believe that Merchant’s documentary is part of His answer to that prayer. God faithfully cleanses His own house first; if nothing else, Merchant’s documentary will provide an accurate, broadly-scoped and distressing perspective on how our culture views the Church; simply put, we aren’t speaking to them, we are speaking for each other.

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, I highly encourage you to see this film while it plays there this week, June 13-19. If you don’t live in Portland, track it down online, keep your eyes out for the DVD, or pray for wider theatrical release. This film could very well initiate a rapid and positive change in your approach and effectiveness in sharing your faith.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers is unrated, but should carry a PG-13 rating. There is some mild language, and some of the clowns are real. You’ll have some explaining to do.

Courtesy of the film’s national publicist, Mike viewed Lord, Save Us From Your Followers online.