When fear spread through the world in March 2020 and little tyrants shuttered schools, businesses, and places of worship all over the country, one group of believers stood firm in their belief on who has the authority to cease gatherings for praise and worship.
The new documentary “Superspreader” introduces us to believers like Sean and Kate Feucht, Pastor Charles Karuku, and numerous others who seeded the Let Us Worship movement. But the film is not just a one-sided version of their story. “Superspreader” is an intimate reveal, taking a magnifying glass, a stethoscope, and, at times, guitar bands on loudspeakers to show differing points of view on politics, mental wellness, health, and spirited evangelism.
As that springtime made clear, to compel some people to heed orders that go counter to the Creator-endowed rights in the Constitution takes as little as a state of emergency declaration. Despite knowing that mingling in communities allows many people to find crucial physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual support, following physical distance mandates was an open and shut case of “go home” for many officials and neighbors. However, for others, threats to religious liberty and the freedom of assembly are damaging, atrocious affronts. To them, messing with their church and the Bill of Rights means “it’s on.”
In disarming interviews interspersed with purpose-led travel across America, director Josh Franer (‘”Homeward,” “Rowan”) reveals the heartfelt sentiments of #LetUsWorship leaders, and the movement’s detractors as well. Kate Feucht confides her dejected feelings when people separated themselves from her, her family, and the prior political organizing they’d done together. Sean, too, lets out the moments of deflation that, along with invigoration and joy, the movement has evoked for him. This scalpel-of-the-heart dimension of “Superspeader” might be considered its reflection of the “man of sorrows” found in Isaiah 53.
The Biblical Precedent of Hearing Out Opposition
As for detractors, the film includes criticisms of the Let Us Worship movement as “uncaring” toward health, superfluous, disingenuously performative, extremist, grifting, unwelcomed, and spreading “misinformation.” Stretches of the documentary allow critics of Let Us Worship, such as Shane Claiborne, Pastor Cue, and Professor Christopher Driscoll, who seem to believe that prolonged locking down of communities from meeting to worship, while deeming liquor and pot stores “essential,” was acceptable.
Even when Claiborne and others excuse the deceit or tyranny behind emptying the halls of prayer, “Superspreader” treats them magnanimously. This makes the film more engageable and adds to it a realization: In the Bible, opposing views are shown the light of day in order to reveal them.
For example, in Genesis, as Joseph’s brothers abuse him, their mindsets are plain to read. Likewise, the ideas of the Pharisees in calling for Jesus to be punished are clearly indicated in the Gospels. Indeed, giving voice across viewpoints is a causeway to the truth. Rising through “Superspreader” is effusive confidence in extending understanding, exemplifying fairness, and defending the freedoms of others notwithstanding their differing ideas.
Physically Living Out the Faith
Amidst ideological collisions, the film explores spiritual truths that underlie, surround, and pervade all we see in the world. Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Pastor Che Anh of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Pastor Jay Koopman, Karuku, and Fuecht share witnesses of Christ for our moment. Seekers and Christians alike take on a new understanding of the relationship between singing out hymns in bold faith — often standing under “No Gathering or Singing” orders — and the Holy Spirit.
The clash for religious liberty and freedom of assembly leads the Let Us Worship movement to the bustle and grit of the street. As scenes explode in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and beyond, Let Us Worship is there in response, on missions to bring hope in God through corporate prayer. “Superspreader” delivers footage of praise songs being sung on portable outdoor stages in protest of lockdown orders, and then violently attacked by rioters.
In addition to riots, a focal interest of the documentary becomes the legal war waged against pastors who came to America to escape tyrannical governments. Pastor Che Anh displays the cease and desist letters from the state government that were delivered to the church where he ministers. These documents pressuring Anh, a childhood survivor of communist North Korea in the 1950s, to close up his faith gatherings become the seeds of Anh’s case that reached the Supreme Court.
When belief in God powers a life, no attacks can claim dominion or submission over it. No alternatives, either, can replace pronouncements of Scripture. Probably more than any other nationally-released film in modern history, “Superspreader” shares the words “our Father,” “the Kingdom,” “revival,” “worship,” and the name of Jesus. The vocabulary of faith poses challenges to politically correct word-replacers, those who don’t yet understand or tolerate talk of faith, and those who are anti-revival. While testifying to a Christian life has been marginalized, “Superspreader’s” bold speech churns audiences to ponder what Let Us Worship speakers are saying, and why.
Perhaps what’s most powerful about the film is its references to actions in the Let Us Worship movement being taken by God. If the doing is God’s, the actions must be taking place outside of and beyond what could be shown to the eye on screen. What’s beyond the screen? The viewer.
When by a call of Jesus we are humble enough to listen and learn from one another, then Jesus is the unshifting common ground on Whom we stand. “Superspreader” shows activism in Jesus’ grace, contrasted with the secular social justice concept of “inner work while promoting change.” “Inner work” without the only One truly worthy, the holy ground where all enjoy the liberty and distinction to speak, is inner work without genuine humility.