Give Me That Ol' Time Religion

I have a confession to make: After viewing Robert Duvall’s The Apostle, I wanted to return—for the first time in nearly 20 years—to the pentecostal church. I realized I miss preaching that overflows with gospel clichés and the strange howl of people overcome with the Holy Ghost. I miss the big hair, the big cars, and the big extravaganzas put on to "win back our city for Christ." For the first time in a long time, I miss feeling the completely otherworldly sensation of being a born-again, Holy Ghost-filled believer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a believer. But while watching The Apostle, I longed to be once again part of a culture of Christians who aren’t the least bit embarrassed that their neighbors think they’re nuts for yelling at God all night long.

The Apostle tells the story of Eulis "Sonny" Dewey, a traveling missionary and the pastor of a successful church in Fort Worth, Texas. While Sonny is singularly focused on winning souls for Christ, he is never one dimensional. Neither really good nor really bad, he is perhaps a lot more like us than we care to admit.

After catching his wife (played by Farrah Fawcett) in an affair with another minister, Sonny—filled with "spirits" of the distilled variety—busts up his brother in Christ with a bat. The preacher then hits the road, stripping himself of all the vestiges of his former life and baptizing himself as God’s apostle. Now calling himself "the Apostle E.F.," Sonny ends up in a tiny town in Louisiana, where he throws himself into building a church.

After a couple of radio sermons to promote the project, the white folks think his preaching is too black and the black folks know from his preaching that he’s white. But the Apostle E.F., with the help of a retired African-American pastor (played by John Beasley), still manages to bring together a small, multiracial congregation that sparks a spiritual renewal among the town’s people.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Subscribe