Back in April, as businesses shut down, beaches closed, and skate parks were filled with sand by government orders, people who had never been to church in their life set foot in one during a service as a thousand more people sat outside a Newbury Park, California, church, ready to take citations so that the people inside could worship, if it came to that. But it didn't—even as counter-protesters carried signs across the street and law enforcement kept watch between both sides, officers weren't willing to arrest worshipers. There was even a sheriff inside, attending the service.
The documentary was directed by Chris Burgard and Jeff Hunt, and stars Nick Searcy as he interviews people from coast to coast about what God has to do with America, and how that's changed since its founding. Although the expedited filmmaking journey felt "like wandering around in a maze with a blindfold and earmuffs," they took that central idea and ran with it, and came out with a timely and topical film.
"They laughed and cried and stood up and cheered and they did everything I wanted them to do," Searcy said of the audience at their initial screening. "Within the first two minutes there's a big laugh."
"That's one of the important things about the film—it's OK to have some fun with this, it's not all boring and we're going to die—we've got to have a little fun even if we think the ship is going down," Searcy said. "It was a labor of love for all of us, and I'm just humbled to have been a part of it."
The film includes many interviews, including with Ben Shapiro, Sen. Ted Cruz, Dennis Prager, Brigitte Gabriel, Alveda King, Ambassador Andrew Young, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and former presidential candidate, the late Herman Cain, a good friend of Searcy's.
"Which turned out to be his last interview," Searcy said. "Herman's been a friend of mine for many years, that interview was very special. It's just an unforgettable moment that I had."
During the making of the film, Searcy found he was having something of a spiritual journey himself.
Founded on Religious LibertyThe very idea of America was founded on the idea of religious liberty.
"These Christians founded America on an Old Testament basis largely," radio host Dennis Prager says in the film. "They took the great ideas of the Hebrew Bible and made them universal."
Many people know this much, but they might not know to what extent religious principles guided the individuals who fought in and led the American Revolution. Interviewees tell stories of the sermons pastors gave before leading men into battle, and what that period of time really looked like.
"The Constitution depends on people to [put it into action]. Why? Because it’s bottom-up governance," said historian Larry Schweikart in the film. "The Puritans who came over here, the Pilgrims, were congregational; their leadership was bottom-up, their organization was bottom-up. And so as a result there is built into the American fabric from the beginning a hostility toward top-down governance of all sorts," he said.
Those same biblical principles and the value of religious liberty drove the abolition of slavery and the subsequent civil rights movement up through modern history.
"Point to the truth that all men are created equally, and that is America," said James “Bo Snerdley” Golden, producer of "The Rush Limbaugh Show."
But, Searcy reminds us, over the years this liberty has eroded, and the film delves into why. There's a reason why even atheists are joining together with conservative Christians, as is shown in the film, to protect churches—they realize what's at stake.
"At the end of the day, it's not even really about religion, it's about liberty, which is what this country was founded for," Searcy said. "That's what's at stake here, that's what we might lose if we're not careful."