AJorlandoAmerican Jesus

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Documentary features
How does a religion survive in an enlightened, postindustrial society? By adopting the trappings of the culture that threatens to overwhelm it. American Jesus starts out as a tour of U.S. churches that wed their message to a specific pop lifestyle, be it surfing, mixed martial arts or heavy metal (of a sort). The camera crew shuttles from one quirky congregation to another, with such frequency and rapidity that you begin to find yourself wondering how this qualifies as an actual movie, as opposed to a mere travelogue to eccentricity. But then the hammer swings down. Like a less sarcastic Religulous, the doc ultimately homes in on the argument that Christianity in this country, for all its seemingly benign goofiness (and its flashes of progressive social conscience), now adheres in great measure to a genuinely dangerous end-times worldview. Millions of Americans, we’re told, are members of an apocalyptic death cult so panicked by progress that it yearns for Armageddon – and just might have the political clout to bring it about. Surf for Jesus if you like, but good luck avoiding that wave. – Steve Schneider