American Jesus, the new documentary from Shelter Island and Glass Eye Pix, is an interesting look at Christianity in America. On the surface, it offers viewers an unbiased look at the varied ways in which Americans today express their beliefs and worship. On another level, it’s interesting in that it shows that Christians in America have increasingly embraced the understanding that a church is just a building, not necessarily its congregation. This is perhaps the central discussion point of this documentary. The documentary’s open-ended question of “what if” is the perfect closure for the documentary. It is not so much an atheistic question so much as it is a question of faith in general. Much as with the rest of the topics covered throughout this DVD, it is certain to be a point of both discussion and contention for viewers. And that’s a good thing, provided viewers are open minded enough to politely discuss said topic. Said open-minded audiences will find in their discussions of this and every topic in American Jesus, that this is definitely a documentary that is well worth the watch.
The ways in which Christians worship today is vastly different from the ways in which older Christians worship and worshipped. It used to be that Christians worshipped primarily in church buildings. They worshipped in a very set, formal setting and manner. By comparison, Christianity today does not have to necessarily include worshipping in a traditional setting or manner. Viewers see in American Jesus that Christians today worship in “cowboy Church”, as part of Christian Motorcycle gangs, and even at skate parks and other rather nontraditional settings among others. They don’t do the traditional stand, sing, sit, pray format, either. Yet they do study scripture and try to live their lives the best they can. This expansion of how Christians worship is just one of so many discussion points (and points of contention) for viewers through the documentary. That’s because there actually is something of a divide even among the Christian faith in regards to “new age” worship. Another discussion point that makes this such an interesting piece to watch is the very concept of what a “church” actually is.
The traditional view of a church is that it is the physical building and the congregation that fills said building. To others, a church is just a building. And as viewers will see in American Jesus, the latter mentality is increasingly taking hold across the country. The church has increasingly become more about the gathering of people to worship than the building itself. This ties back directly to the traditional versus “new age” manner in which Christians worship. There are those holdouts that believe unless one is worshipping in a physical church, then one is not actually attending real worship. What’s more, there are those that believe that pastors of non-traditional churches aren’t even properly trained and ordained individuals. Given, this may be true in many cases. But in other cases, some might in fact hold degrees in divinity and be ordained. It brings the discussion on what a church is full circle and in turn, makes the discussion all the richer.
Both the discussions on the definition of a church and the ways in which the church body worships today are important discussion points raised over the course of American Jesus’ hour-plus run time. The documentary closes with a question that is more than certain to become a point of contention for viewers. The documentary closes by pondering why exactly it is that Christians worship. It doesn’t do so in any negative, antagonistic manner. Rather, it merely ponders the question of “what if.” It ponders the question of “what if” everything Christians do today even in having branched out from traditional worship is for not. That in itself is certain to open a whole new can of worms among viewers. However, those that can keep a cool, level head and discuss this concept on a mature, adult level (It seems a contradiction in terms at times,yes) will find quite a bit of enlightenment. Those same mature viewers will find that this topic and those already noted make American Jesus a documentary that is just as important a discussion tool in a church setting as it is in the classroom or elsewhere. It is a documentary that everyone should see at least once, regardless of whether one’s religious background. It will be available May 13th and can be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/American-Jesus-Aram-Garriga/dp/B002DY9K48/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1395667102&sr=1-1&keywords=American+Jesus.
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