Strap in, Saints and ain’ts! We’ve got to talk about the recently released satirical comedy starring Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. Slight spoilers ahead.
Written and directed by Adamma Ebo, the Black megachurch-centered feature tells the tale of Trinitie Childs (Hall), the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, who together with her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. But after sexual misconduct allegations force their church to temporarily close, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must figure out a way to reopen and rebuild their congregation all before their big comeback on Easter Sunday.
When we first meet the Childses, it becomes clear that this comeback (of sorts) will be documented by a film crew, of whom Lee-Curtis has hired—much to the apprehension of his steadfast, and long-suffering, wife. What’s also clear is that the braggart pastor is the poster child for Proverbs 16:18— “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
And what has made him so prideful and haughty, you might ask? Years of “prosperity preaching” and the flashy lifestyle that comes with it (I’m talking red bottoms, Gucci down to the socks, a Bugatti etc.), a congregation of 25,000 who drank in every word he fed them—whether Biblically based or not—like a nursing infant to it’s mother’s bosom, and the fact he’s been able to get by seducing and grooming young boys from his church for years under the radar, all while vehemently (and consistently) preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit. It’s a story nearly pulled straight out of the headlines (looking at you Eddie Long).
Its also hypocrisy at it’s finest. And the film does a very good job at showing how Lee-Curtis’ arrogance, guile, and pompousness cause so much tension and strife between both he and his wife, as well as themselves and the congregation they’re trying to win back. One immediate example that comes to mind is a moment where the couple decides to get intimate, but Lee-Curtis has a hard time getting…aroused for his own wife and doesn’t reciprocate an action she does on him. Another example is the nice-nasty exchange Trinitie has with a former congregant at the mall that’s filled with so much shade that the biggest church hat on Earth would fail in comparison.
Speaking of church shade, I’ve got to take a moment to acknowledge the brilliant Nicole Beharie and Conphidance, who play the faux humble pastoring duo over at a competing megachurch who are hellbent on maintaining their status as the new holy sheriffs in town. They also happen to be former sheep from the Childses flock as well, which, in and of itself, makes way for some of the most interesting and telling moments in the film.
But perhaps most interesting of all, is the tacit questions it asks viewers to grapple with, such as what do you do when the people you expect to walk more upright than the rest of us prove to be just as jacked up and arguably more mendacious as the sinners they act like they’re better than? What happens when the smoke clears, the mirrors of the people you’ve put on a pedestal start to crack and the duplicitousness of their humanity starts to rear its ugly head like the serpent did in the Garden of Eden? And specifically for Trinitie, what do you do when you realize the man you’ve dedicated your life to has dedicated his own to himself, and refuses to see that crucifixion he’s going through won’t lead to some eventual resurrection but self-destruction instead?
“I saved myself,” Lee-Curtis says in the films final act when finally confronted by one of the boys he groomed, setting his tragic flaw on centerstage. Sadly, by the film’s end, instead of him being born again or as Romans 12:2 likes to put it—being “transformed by the renewing of your mind”—it’s apparent that the future for the Childes and their once untarnished legacy will unfortunately be doomed for destruction. Thoughts and prayers, to these people indeed.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. is out in theaters now and streaming on Peacock.