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‘American Heretics’ Review: Challenging Religious Orthodoxies in Oklahoma

Jul 11, 2019

“American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel” doesn’t break ground cinematically, but it is eye-opening in other ways. This documentary from Jeanine Isabel Butler showcases progressive Christian leaders in Oklahoma whose ideas run counter to the state’s conservative political leanings.

The Rev. Robin R. Meyers leads his Oklahoma City congregation in a vote on whether to become a sanctuary church for undocumented immigrants. The Rev. Lori Walke, who preaches alongside Meyers, describes how her beliefs evolved in college. When she delivers an invocation at the State Capitol, she reminds lawmakers of “low-income Oklahomans who need health care for their families” and of “teachers who need money, not just the motto printed on it.” Bishop Carlton Pearson, who was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the film “Come Sunday,” was deemed a heretic after he challenged the Evangelical teaching that anyone who isn’t “saved” would be condemned to hell.

Bernard Brandon Scott, a scholar of the New Testament, offers historical and biblical support for the views they express. Other illuminating material includes a discussion of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, when as many as 300 people were killed in a thriving neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street.” You might be surprised to learn that voices in the Southern Baptist Convention initially praised the Roe v. Wade decision.

A closing title card indicates that Evangelical leaders who don’t share the views presented here declined to be interviewed or didn’t respond to requests for comment. That absence leaves unanswered questions. How common is progressive Christianity in Oklahoma? The answer would provide context for Pearson’s prediction that his church and Meyers’s will be the “premier megachurches in the next 10 years.”

American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.

American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel

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