Review of Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo (2019)
Seen in 2019.
The charismatic Christian movement of Tony and Susan Alamo from its foundation in 1969 up through 2018.
More of a “true crime” show than a proper documentary, so there is no effort to point out where the Alamos are right and wrong about The Bible (ca. 110 CE). For example, the book does tell you to beat (your own) children (e.g. Proverbs 13:24, 20:30), live in poverty (e.g. “1 Timothy” 6:8) and donate everything you have to the church (recurring throughout the New Testament). While The Bible doesn’t explicitly authorize polygamy or pre-pubertal marriage, those are sound interpretations of the unsound book. For example, there is a logical deduction from Rabbi Rashi that says Rebekah married Isaac at age three; a range of more plausible traditions put her age anywhere from 10 to 14, which was probably quite common in the misogynist Hebrew communities of the Iron Age.
The Bible is compatible with and conducive to the Alamos’ abusive charlatan lifestyle. On the other hand, it’s clear that the Alamos did not study the book very closely. At one point, Tony tries to justify his paedophilia by referring to the “Book of Jasher” for the age of Rebekah, a part of earlier bibles that didn’t actually make it into the modern canon and is now lost, but nobody calls him out on this, not even the filmmakers. Similarly, in its four-hour runtime the series does not compare or contrast the Alamos’ church against similar organizations. The makers were in this for the marketable spectacle, not a healthy skeptical agenda.