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A woman quits her job after hearing her pastor’s prophecy. She falls into financial ruin within two months. Who’s to blame? She is—she probably didn’t have enough faith. A man is born with cerebral palsy, and now as a grown adult, he’s still limping on crutches. Who’s to blame? He is, because God never wants Christians to suffer. At least, that’s the teaching of the “prosperity gospel,” a prevalent theology that the documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone tears down using Scripture and real-life testimonies.
In many ways, American Gospel is like an unflinching, theologically rich sermon. And as with any good sermon, there’s an outpouring of urgency, grief, righteous anger, conviction, and (ultimately) joy.
The film weaves together the voices of pastors, theologians, and average Christians to expose the “satanic” lies and distorted truths within the Word of Faith movement. In one interview, Constance Troutman weeps about how these false teachings deceived her into losing everything. In another, Costi Hinn details the perks he once enjoyed traveling with his uncle, faith-healer Benny Hinn: flying on G-IV private jets, blowing $20,000 per night on fancy hotels, chauffeur service in white Bentleys. At some point, Costi Hinn says, he began having trouble sleeping at night, thinking of the desperate parents of dying children giving their best financial offerings to ministers who used it to fund extravagant lifestyles.
The message is clear: False doctrine is dangerous, and now this American-born gospel is spreading all over the world. But American Gospel doesn’t just highlight the problems—it also presents the solution in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ: We are sinners who deserve nothing but condemnation, but Christ absorbed all the wrath of God on the cross and imputed His righteousness to us. That should be convicting to all Christians—after all, how often do we place self-glory and earthly comforts above our Lord?