With news coming in a constant deluge, even political junkies can find it difficult to think about anything other than the present — and the next presidential election. But the documentary “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel” doesn’t just look at the current situation and the entanglement of government and religion; it illuminates the origins of their relationship with insight, as well as centering on a single state: Oklahoma.
Though more Americans identify as nonreligious than ever before, the Bible Belt still lives up to its name in many ways. However, not every person of faith adheres to the idea that Christians must also be conservative. In the Sooner State, the film follows Bishop Carlton Pearson (the subject of the Netflix drama “Come Sunday”), the Rev. Robin Meyers and the Rev. Lori Walke as theyeach champion progressive causes such as civil rights and fighting poverty, remaining true to their interpretation of the Bible while often coming into conflict with the solidly red base that surrounds them.
“American Heretics” could benefit from a more structured and focused approach, but director Jeanine Butler and her sister and producing partner Catherine Lynn Butler tackle the issue with equal parts intellect, empathy and faith. For anyone interested in politics, religion, American culture or the ever-overlapping space they occupy, this documentary has the potential to move hearts and minds.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7 only, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica