Filmmaker tracks pilgrims' encounters on 2,500-mile trek across America

December 6, 2007

Directed and edited by Scott Griessel
Distributed by

No single word on a page can communicate the personalities of men like the Rev. Carlton Pearson or Mark "Perfesser Creek-Water" Dorazio.

In "Asphalt Jesus: Finding a New Christian Faith Along the Highways of America," published in 2006, Eric Elnes wrote about the purpose and events of one group's 2,500-mile trek from Arizona to the nation's capital. Talented as he is as a writer, he could not capture everything about these ordinary people who left their homes, jobs and families on Easter 2006 for a journey on foot into the heart of America.

But the film version, "The Asphalt Gospel," offers graces all of its own. It is an excellent documentary about the path from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., taken by a group of progressive Christians concerned about the increasing intolerance displayed by the Christian right.

The group, vowing to live Elnes' Phoenix Affirmations, which includes openness to other faiths, to peace, ecology, and authentic inclusiveness, set out to meet and talk to Christians, face to face, along their way.

Whereas Elnes, a minister at Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ, set the pastoral tone of his book, Scott Griessel helmed the movie. The two media differ significantly in that in the film, the walkers, like Meighan Pritchard and Rebecca Glenn, who traipsed the whole of the route over four months, are given voice equal to Elnes'. Griessel alternates moving pictures, in rain and egg-on-pavement heat, with "talking heads," interviewed on theory and practice and commenting articulately on what's going on out there.

At the end, the walkers, which include retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong and his wife, Christine, describe compromising and orneriness, accommodating and praying, and the surprises and welcomes and blisters along the way.

Both the book, "Asphalt Jesus" and the film, "The Asphalt Gospel," form a good couple for any church's discussion forums.

To learn about scheduled showings of the film, or to make arrangements for one in your community, go to

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