4 Stars – INSPIRING
The tension of being a child in a pastor’s family is legendary. From the early experiences with God that imprint one’s soul to the pressure of living in a glass house surrounded by the watching congregation, the pastor’s child struggles with both the authenticity and the hypocrisy they find. When this unique family life is compounded by a father who is absent doing “God’s work” and a mother who is taken from him at a crucial age by death, the child can easily lose their way. This is the story of Rob Hardy’s film, “The Gospel.”
Born within a black congregation with its gospel music and active worship, David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe) is the only son of the founding pastor, Bishop Fred Taylor (Clifton Powell). Immersed in the community of his church family and its powerful worship experiences, David grows to be a musical genius. He is also the pride and joy of his father and mother as he prepares to follow in his father’s footsteps and takes ministerial training in his teen years. But when his mother unexpectedly dies, David’s anger at his father’s absence and anger at God for taking his mother from him compels him to run from his father, church and God to use his musical gifts within the sexually-charged entertainment industry.
Gifted and emotionally intelligent due in part to his experience of growing up in the heart of a loving church, David becomes a superstar and falls into the lifestyle of his success. This causes him to increasingly use his gifts to create music that does not glorify God but himself.
Like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable, David’s fifteen year run comes to an end when his father’s secretary calls to tell him his father is ill. Though his return home is not out of financial destitution as it is in the biblical story, it is out of an empty heart and soul. The reunion with his father is a gracious example of authentic Christian forgiveness and a father’s enduring love. This forgiveness works together with David’s needs to come home, spiritually and musically.
However, there is one who does not welcome David’s return. Like the elder brother in the biblical parable, Minister Frank (Idris Elba) has been the responsible friend who stayed behind to help the church and David’s father. Resenting David’s irresponsibility and immoral lifestyle, Frank complains when David’s father invites him to use his musical gift in worship. It is then that we realize Frank has little faith in God and is instead caught up in a pride that is hypocritical of his pastoral position. His wife Charlene (Nona Gaye) finally tells him directly that he “needs Jesus” which is the heart of “The Gospel” message.
One of the joys of this film is its soundtrack of excellent Gospel music, energetically choreographed. Set within worship services as well as a special concert, we enjoy the music of Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond, Martha Munizzi, and the “American Idol” finalist Tamyra Gray.
- When David’s mother dies, his father is away on “church business” which causes David to resent the church and run. When a father is gone from his children because he is serving God, the resentment has spiritual implications. Have you ever blamed God for your parent’s decisions and lifestyle?
- The use of spiritual gifts for personal gain is common, just as when David used his music to become famous and wealthy. Have you ever known anyone in your life who used their spiritual gift for personal gain? Have you? Do you believe David’s return to gospel music and making an album for God would be a success in our entertainment world? Do you believe this movie will be accepted and become a success since it is so overtly Christian?
- The prodigal son story Jesus tells in the Bible does not explain whether the two sons reconciled. However, when David tells his father’s version of the prodigal son, we watch as the two brothers are reconciled. In this version it was Frank’s humility that brought about the reconciliation. How your humility helped you reconcile with someone?
- When David told Ernestine (Aloma Wright) that he was an entertainer, she responded: “No, an entertainer is what you ran to, it is not who you are.” What do you run to when you are overwhelmed? Who are you really?