“I’ll be right out, I’m not done playing with myself” said Brother Anthony, the Ambassador of God – the campest most eccentric, controversial ambassador God could ever hope to land. “There is no God – God is love”, he states confidently. So take that Bible, “read it, get the best out of it and then move on to a better book”. And most of us would agree with him on this one – there are indeed better books out there, though the Bible does have its moments.
I also agree with quite a few of his other strange and questionable notions; it’s his take on historical facts as well as his idea that he was Christ’s best friend in one of his past lives that leave me skeptical. But then again when he says that we have come to earth to discover love and learn as much as we can about it, whether I believe him or not, or whether I agree with him, becomes irrelevant. It’s a great way to look at existence and try to explain the world, so it suits me fine.
The filmmaker, Mark Schwab, has always been close to Brother Anthony. He’s been his student, friend, PR person and now his life’s documentarian. He records his spiritual teacher moving around his home, going about his every day, talking to people, and even getting ready for a shower. Although a friend, he records the good and the bad. He shows him making sense and losing his mind. And he portrays him as both an Ambassador of God and a heavily flawed individual – better yet, he doesn’t portray anyone as anything, it’s Brother Anthony that presents himself as both a peculiar philosopher and a lost soul.
Read at Unsung Films: Jesus Camp.
We see the Ambassador of God being generous and understanding, before suddenly and without warning changing to overly critical and dismissive for no reason. At times he really is what Todd, a student and later a friend, calls a “spiritual bully”. His way of handling his students and people in general is no doubt the result of the horrendous upbringing he had. Brother Anthony was continuously mistreated by his stepmother who would physically and emotionally abuse him to no end. Once he was old enough to leave her house, he dedicated his life to seeking, studying and teaching love.
He has been after truth and acceptance since. Whether he’s found what he’s been looking for is hard to tell, however he does try hard to come across as though he has; as though he’s figured it all out. It’s not until much later that the masks come off and he demonstrates genuine emotional instability, existential frustration, loneliness and pain. It’s then that Mark Schwab sees his teacher in a new light and Todd criticizes him for not practicing what he’s been preaching.
And so little by little what the two filmmakers, Mark Schwab and Francesca Stonum, had originally shown us to be an eccentric philosopher, turns into a heavily troubled man and ends up a tragic figure. The spirituality of love turns into spirituality of money and finishes as spirituality of anger, vindictiveness and even hatred. But there seems to be nothing that the Ambassador of God could do to drive his students against him. They respect and love him to such an extent, that they have only good things to say about him, even when the relationship turns sour. His name has once and for all been associated with love, generosity and a sense of much needed community, and that’s too important for anyone to forget during the difficult times. Nobody who has met him is interested in knocking him off his pedestal or stripping him off his peculiar title. To those who know him, he is and always will be the Ambassador of God.
Watch the trailer for The Ambassador of God here: