Churches are buying hundreds of tickets to get their flocks and unchurched friends to see the newly released "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers."
The documentary exploring the curious question "Why is the gospel of love dividing America?" hit select theaters last month and is stirring dialogue especially in Christian circles.
"This is a movie designed to start a dialogue about our culture and Jesus," said Rob Cizek, executive pastor at Northshore Christian Church in Everett, Wash., according to the movie website. "You have an opportunity to invite a friend to see this film in a local movie theater. This is important. It can be much easier to invite skeptical friends to a movie theater than to church. After the movie, plan to grab a bite and talk about what you have seen."
Directed by Dan Merchant, an evangelical Christian, the documentary explores how America has become divided over religion and how conversations about Christianity have been reduced to sayings that fit on bumper stickers.
"To me, the division of America, this separateness, isn’t getting any of us anywhere," Merchant says in a book by the same title. "And both sides are making the same mistake: they think the so-called culture war is a winnable war. Some think, eventually, one side will win out over the other. I don’t see it that way."
It's time that people stop shouting and start listening, Merchant says.
In "Lord, Save Us," Merchant is clad in a white paint suit adorned with bumper stickers and fish symbols that mirror the debate Americans are having. With a Jesus fish positioned next to a Darwin fish, and a "Real Men Pray" sticker placed near "Free Jesus," the diversity of views presented on the suit are meant to open conversation with anyone he comes across on the street.
Moving away from the tradition of the Christian preaching on the street corner with "repent" signs and approaching people with an "I have the answer and you don't" attitude, Merchant chose to do more listening than talking.
He asked conservatives, liberals, believers and nonbelievers, and everyone in between about what they thought about Christians, Jesus and the divide caused by sharp rhetoric regarding religion.
He realized that Christians were "way more comfortable with being right than they were with trying to do the hard thing of loving one another," he said on the Today Show.
Instead of being so quick to fight, Christians need to return to what Jesus preached as the most important commandment, which is to love one another, Merchant said.
"There's the gospel of being right and the gospel of love," he said after a showing in Portland, Ore., according to The Oregonian.
The documentary, which is five years in the making, was released on DVD last year but only came to the big screen last month. A few edits and additions, including the election of President Barack Obama and an interview with The Shack author William Paul Young, were made for the theatrical release.
Some of the highlights in the film include a parody of the game show "Family Feud" that pits liberal media types against conservative Christians and a portable confession booth, which Merchant sets up at a gay pride event to confess the church's sin and his own against gays and lesbians.
As more people get exposed to the film, Merchant is mainly aiming for one thing – for everyone to have a conversation. That takes humility, listening and entering without an agenda, he says.
"Lord, Save Us From Your Followers" opens in three more cities – Irvine, Calif.; Spokane Valley, Wash.; and Medford, Ore. – this month.