Inspired by their experience in the Southern Baptist church, director Adamma Ebo and her sister, producer, Adanne Ebo deliver an interesting critique of pastors, prosperity theology, and megachurch culture in the mocumentary, “Honk for Jesus. Save your Soul”.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a satirical comedy starring Regina Hall as Trinitie Childs – the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, who together with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. But after a scandal forces their church to temporarily close, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must reopen their church and rebuild their congregation to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.
In an effort to restore their reputation and position in church society, Lee-Curtis hires a documentary filmmaker to document the couple’s journey as they prepare to reopen their church doors on Easter Sunday. Lee-Curtis played by Brown is a larger-than-life megachurch pastor who brags about his material wealth with prosperity theology and sermons denouncing homosexuality. He finds himself embroiled in controversy where he is accused of sexual misconduct with several young men at his church. The scandal rocks the church and parishioners leave in droves to a rival Black church. The first lady, Trinitee, played beautifully by Hall, chooses to stand by her husband and help him reclaim the power and influence he once had.
At times, Lee-Curtis and Trinitee are a walking contradiction-quoting scriptures and cussing at the same time. In “Honk for Jesus“, audiences are taken on a journey as they watch how far Lee-Curtis is willing to go to recapture his church and congregation. “Honk for Jesus is humorous at times and equally disturbing as it sheds a light through satire on the inner workings of megachurch culture.
Lee-Curtis is all about “the look”, the “performance” and “the production” when it comes to his style of preaching. Lost is the teaching of the gospel. Lee-Curtis is more than a pastor, he sees himself as a performer and the biblical teachings become an afterthought as he stands at the pulpit. Sterling K. Brown portrays Lee-Curtis with bravado and commanding charisma similar to many megachurch pastors today. Lee-Curtis is a smooth talker who happens to know how to use scripture to capture his congregation and their pockets. He’s used to the cameras and knows how to perform. With a brilliant smile and nervous laughter at times, he knows exactly what to display to the camera while the film crew follows him.
In contrast, First Lady Trinitee reflects many First Lady. Trinitee focuses on making sure she looks the part of the first lady at all times. She’s preoccupied with finding the perfect church hat and making she keeps up her appearance in order to be pleasing to her husband. In spite of her husband’s scandal and indiscretions, she chooses to stand by his side and support him as he tries to repair his reputation. Underneath the fancy clothes, jewelry, and church hats, is a woman deeply conflicted. She often puts her husband’s needs and desires before her own. While she puts on a brave face when the camera crew is following her, when the film crew leaves, we are left with a woman humiliated by her husband’s scandal and struggling with the state of her marriage and happiness.
Regina Hall plays Trinitee with compassion and empathy. In one of the most telling scenes in the film, an intimate moment between Lee-Curtis and Trinitee exposes the cracks in their relationship and the audience gets a glimpse into the breakdown in their marriage. She’s quietly suffering and questioning her faith, her marriage, and her role as First Lady. Lee-Curtis is oblivious to his wife’s pain and inner conflict often pushing her to more humiliating moments in his attempt to rebuild his empire.
The Chicago Defender sat down with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall to talk about “Honk for Jesus”, why they had to learn the rap song, “Knuck if you Buck” and what they hope audiences gain from the film.
Mixed with moments of humor, drama, and heartbreak, “Honk for Jesus” is religious satire but offers a critique on aspects of megachurch culture that force audiences to ask questions about how we view megachurches and the people who run them. There are moments of powerful critiques about the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, the role of women in the church, and how prosperity theology has affected the effectiveness of the church. Sterling K. Brown and Reginal Hall show Lee-Curtis and Trinitee’s humanity. They are both brilliantly funny and equally tragic.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” is currently in theatres now.