Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"friends of god" his worst enemies?

[this is part 3 of a discussion started here]

"friends of god" is a documentary aired on HBO that explores some of the more visible, as well as lesser known "evangelicals" in america and their message.

HBO describes the show as follows: (its worth reading to get a feel for what the content was)

The estimated 50 to 80 million evangelical Christians
living in America today have become a formidable force
in our culture and democracy.

But the evangelical movement is a big tent. To try and
get a better understanding of the range and diversity
of this community, intrepid filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi
hit the road to meet some evangelicals and learn about
what their influence may mean for the future of the country

Pelosi ventures out over a year-long period for up-close and
personal encounters with some influential members of the
evangelical community, from Joel Osteen, the most-watched
TV minister in America, to pastor Ron Luce, the founder of
"Battle Cry," a concert tour that has drawn more than two
million young people to its events nationwide.

Pelosi also visits with a spectrum of others who embody a
wide range of evangelical experiences, among them visitors at
religion-themed parks, a Christian comic, creationist educators,
Liberty University students and activists in Washington, D.C.

...Pelosi travels to the red states and beyond to meet an array
of open and forthright evangelicals who represent a broad
sampling of the community. Many are pro-life and against
gay marriage, and believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible,
rebuking Darwinism.

Among them is Pastor Ted Haggard, who recently stepped down
as president of the 30-million strong National Association of
Evangelicals - the largest evangelical group in the U.S. - following
allegations that he had sex with a male prostitute and bought illegal
During her journey, Pelosi also visits with Rev. Jerry Falwell,
leader of The Moral Majority and chancellor and founder of
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., who articulates a
commitment to change the country and urges his congregation
to "vote your values" in elections.
"Evangelicals are the largest minority block in this country," he says.
"It's not a majority, but I don't think you can win without them.
John Kerry learned that. Al Gore learned that. And Hillary will learn
that in 2008."

i happened to have the t.v. on while i was reading a book (i know.. i need background noise to concentrate..weird but true) and i heard the intro the program. i happened to have a blank tape in the v.c.r so i recorded as i watched. i sat in disbelief at how foolish it was.
my initial reaction was shock and disbelief, then frustration, then border line anger.

i watched it again about two weeks later after it had a chance to simmer and my reaction was similar, albeit with several audible laughs. it seemed it was better to laugh than throw a perfectly good television through a perfectly good window. fruits of the spirit and all.

you may be thinking that my anger was directed at the filmamker, alexandra pelosi (and yes, she is related to speaker of the house nancy pelosi, alexandra is her daughter-though i must point out that i did not know who the filmmaker was until after the second time i watched the program)

but in truth, all she did was ask people questions about what they believe and filmed them doing what they do. it wasn't the filmmaker that made evangelicals look so closed minded, ignorant, and absurd- it was [a lot of but not all of] the "evangelicals" that were interviewed.

i won't hit (much) on ted haggard as his downfall has been very public and it couldn't be ignored as he was interviewed for the film before the scandal broke (but unfortunately not before it was released with comment).

some of the"highlights" were
* the flagrant mixture of the gospel and "church" with american patriotism to the point where the two could not be distinguished. (this shameful aspect was the most prevalent theme in the film)

* laughable if it weren't so pathetic and shameful "gimmicks" such as a drive through bank window converted into a "drive through church".

* a christian "comic" who bemoans the fact that christians aren't allowed to perform in the broader media while pontificating and stomping his soap box about politics and patriotism and christianity - but not doing what stand up comedians do -namely doing stand-up comedy.

* a pastor, when confronted with a chance to explain the gospel to an unbelieving film crew instead unbelievably chooses to "explain" that christians have better sex lives than non-christians, and takes a random survey about the intimate details of some of his congregants bed room lives.

there are more and perhaps i'll cover them in more detail another time.

lest i be leveled with the charge that i cannot see anything positive, there were some neutral and even enduring moments in the documentary. but overall, if i were an unbeliever and saw this documentary, i would be stupefied that anyone would care what an evangelical thought or believed.

and i say this in light of the fact that scripture clearly teaches that the gospel is foolishness to the unbeliever and is not discerned by the darkened mind. (1Cor. 1:23; eph. 4:18)

but if i were an unbeliever, it wouldn't be the gospel i would reject, because amazingly enough, after an hour of examining what evangelicals believe, what comes across loudly is not that we as a human race are fallen creatures in need of a savior who calls all to accept the gift of eternal life and freely gives it to all who come.

unfortunately and sadly, the message that comes across loud and clear is that "evangelical christians" are mad that the liberals, homosexuals, and pro-choicers have taken over god's chosen country and we want it back.

this is a tragedy and i fear the repercussions could be severe. not because of a 60 minute HBO special, but because if this is really the prevailing view of "evangelicals" in our country...we are in big trouble... and we are failing in our mission as christians.


GtotheT said...

Full disclosure - I have not seen this documentary.
I would not go so far as to say "we are failing in our mission as christians," using this documentary as an example. For the same reasons the local news stories almost always find the least articulate, most obnoxious witness/passerby to comment on the tornado/fire/burglary/shooting/(insert other disaster here), this "documentary" is going to find the "Christian" equivalent. I know that doesn't make the situation any more palatable, but I like to think that a "discerning mind" would realize this. I would also like to think that the typical viewer of such a program has already made up his/her mind on God and is just watching it for the humor/ammunition-for-future-argument aspect and that those teetering on the fence would be intelligent enough to know the concept of editing in regards to film making.

stephen lee cavness said...

welcome gtothet...

while i understand your sentiment and am well aware of the editing process, several of those shown or interviewed were not the random, lowest common denominator "witness/passerby's".

joel osteen, jerry falwell, and ted haggard are/were (for better or worse...) high profile christians.
while i may not agree with them on a lot of things, thht doesn't change the fact that between the three of those names are hundreds of thousands of people who see them as "the" representation of what evangelicalism is.

thats why i had the big "if" in my last statement, "if this is really the prevailing view of "evangelicals" in our country...we are in big trouble... and we are failing in our mission as christians.

i still stand by that statement. If it is the view, then we are in big trouble and we are failing, collectivley, to accomplish our task as christians which is not only "share the gospel", but also "teach them to observe all things i have commanded.."

are there plenty of christians who are doing an excellent job and teh best they an to get the true message of christ out there... there certainly are! and praise god for that.
the point i was hoping to make (and perhaps i failed) was if people can watch that documentary while observing our lives and not see a difference, then we are in trouble!
thanks again for stopping by and commenting!