Documentary “Father’s Kingdom” examines legacy of Rev. M.J. Divine

ST. LOUIS - Associate Professor Lerone Martin from the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics visits KPLR 11 News at Noon to discuss the documentary “Father’s Kingdom,” premiering at the St. Louis International Film Festival this weekend.

In the early1900s, a son of emancipated slaves began a religious movement that would reach more than a million followers at its peak, crossing racial divisions and advocating for gender and economic equality.

Preaching that he was an incarnation of God, Rev. M.J. Divine insisted that his adherents could live forever in 'heaven on earth' by following his rules of purity and celibacy. His movement, dedicated to integration and communal living, was an innovator in desegregating neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and the ballot box in the 1930s and 1940s through his radical program of empowerment. But scandal, suspicion, and racism led to clashes with the law.

Though he was once a celebrity and was decades ahead of his time in fighting for civil rights, he has largely been written out of history because of the audacity of his religious claims and doubts about his motives.

The film “Father’s Kingdom” both relates this fascinating history and documents the efforts of his last few remaining followers to keep Divine’s legacy alive.

“Father’s Kingdom”
Saturday, November 11 at 1 p.m.
Missouri History Museum

The 27th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) runs November 1 through November 11. This year there will be screenings of 413 films: 88 narrative features, 77 documentary features, and 248 shorts. For more information on other film festival events, visit cinemastlouis.org.