Religion

Journeys with Ted

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This Thursday, HBO will premiere the latest documentary by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy and director of Journeys with George. Titled Friends of God, it's about the evangelical subculture; according to The New York Times, it "includes a drive-through church, a Christian wrestling federation, a stand-up Christian comic, an evangelical Elvis and a biblical miniature golf course complete with the empty tomb of Jesus." Oh, and the chief voice of the Christians is the Rev. Ted Haggard, who after shooting had wrapped went on to star in a meth-and-sodomy scandal.

Sounds like an hour of blue-state mockery? Don't worry. If the Times piece is any guide, it'll be an hour of blue-state condescension instead:

"I believe in the culture war," [Pelosi] said. "And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war I'll take their side," meaning the Christian conservatives. "Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I'll take Jesus."

Well gee, when you put it that way, I guess I'll have to agree. On the other hand, if you give me the choice of Benjamin Franklin or Fred Phelps, I'd have to take Franklin. If you give me a choice of Solzhenitsyn or Stalin, I'm gonna go with Solzhenitsyn; but if it's Pat Robertson or Picasso, I'll pick Picasso. Boy, I could play this game all day!

Best of all: If it's Mahalia Jackson or the Velvet Underground, I'll take both and let you keep Alexandra Pelosi.

NEXT: The Dream is Over

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  1. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    Does it really need to be either/or? Can’t neither be an option?

  2. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    I’m pretty sure she was referring to her gardener.

  3. I saw the documentary at a DC premier last week and it is better than the Pelosi quote and the Times write-up would seem to indicate.

    It’s fairly short, about 50 minutes, and does highlight some of the sillier things that evangelicals do, like the drive-through church. The interviews with Haggard — still closeted at the time — are pretty funny too now that we know more about him.

    But for the most part it’s a pretty straightforward documentary that lets the evangelicals talk for themselves about their beliefs, motivations, goals, etc. How you will react to the film will probably depend on what you think of them.

    As somebody from a family of fundamentalists, it didn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. My liberal girlfriend on the other hand was deeply disturbed by it.

  4. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    Well, if we’re talking about choosing between the two for a general contractor, certainly Jesus is the choice.

  5. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    Not mentioned, the third choice: “None of the above.”

    On the other hand, at least we can be certain that Paris’s father and his influence are real…

  6. The biblical mini golf course is the best thing ever!

  7. Why is it constantly considered film worthy to make the point that there are a lot of confused and strange people out there? So what? You could make a companion documentary about people in the New Age movement who believe in Pyramid Power and crystals and astrology and other such nonsense. What would be the point other than the fact that people do strange things? I guess that film wouldn’t let atheists feel superior so it probably wouldn’t sell as well, but I don’t see the point of making either movie.

  8. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    Context, context, context. Take them for what? Dating Jesus certainly wouldn’t turn me on, but as noted above He’d be a much better choice if I was renovating my earthly house.

    Politically, even as a dedicated Christian, I’d vote for Paris as POTUS over the Jesus of the fundamentalists. Paris seems to combine the most entertaining features of Bill and George.

    OTOH the Jesus of the New Testament wouldn’t run for President. He’s already faced the ruler-of-the-world temptation and passed on it.

  9. “Why is it constantly considered film worthy to make the point that there are a lot of confused and strange people out there? So what?”

    Yes, and what’s all this I hear about violins on the television?

  10. You could make a companion documentary about people in the New Age movement who believe in Pyramid Power and crystals and astrology and other such nonsense.

    Do it!!!

    What would be the point other than the fact that people do strange things?

    Because THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!!

    While it’s hardly news that people do strange things in a general sense, the specific details are not always commonly known. That’s why they’re called “strange”. And that’s why it’s interesting and, yes, entertaining.

  11. Maybe the outsized influence this particular category of strange, confused people has on our public discourse and the actions of our government makes them paricularly worthy of our attention.

    When New Agey Nancy Reagan was caught bringing her band of crackpots into the White House, she was embarrassed. When people like Ted Haggard go the White House, Rove organizes media coverage.

    If George Bush had said that the planetary alignment had produced cosmic vibrations that propelled him to the presidency, he’d have been put in a straight jacket. When he said that Jesus had chosen him to be president, half the country went into spasms of ecstasy.

  12. “You could make a companion documentary about people in the New Age movement who believe in Pyramid Power and crystals and astrology and other such nonsense. What would be the point other than the fact that people do strange things?”

    They weren’t documentaries but two films come to mind: “Semi-Tough” and “The New Age.”

    I think part of the point is not that it’s interesting to just watch the strangeness of what people do, but it’s interesting to look at why or how they came to make those choices. Like, I don’t know, supporting the latest surge in Iraq. Or thinking that a modern liberal democracy can be forced at gun point on a society that’s still coming out of the dark ages.

  13. “Maybe the outsized influence this particular category of strange, confused people has on our public discourse and the actions of our government makes them paricularly worthy of our attention.”

    What do you plan to do about this ‘outsized influence’ joe? Lock them away in camps? Take away their right to vote? There is something really creepy and sinister about people talking about minorities of any kind having an ‘outsized influence’.

  14. “Or thinking that a modern liberal democracy can be forced at gun point on a society that’s still coming out of the dark ages”

    Yeah or thinking that everyone that is not an American or European is living in the dark ages.

  15. “You could make a companion documentary about people in the New Age movement who believe in Pyramid Power and crystals and astrology and other such nonsense. What would be the point other than the fact that people do strange things?”

    Because George W. Bush and the right have been pushing their social agenda and culture war for years, and the whole idiocy is based on populism aimed at the fundamentalists. We have to go way back to the Reagan administration to talk about wars started by astrology. OK, that’s a cheap shot, but Bush does things that God told him to do, and he tried to steer the country to the Christian right when he didn’t even get a majority of the votes in 2000.

  16. “Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

    Yeah, it’s always better to go with a fictional (or mythologized) person than one who actually exists. This is not, in any way, an endorsement of Paris Hilton. The following Paris description is not originated by me. “Trailer trash, lots of cash.”

  17. Jerry Falwell or Jerry Seinfeld? Seinfeld
    Phyliss Schlafley or Phyliss Diller? Diller
    Ted Haggard or Ted Nugent? Oh, wait…

  18. “What do you plan to do about this ‘outsized influence’ joe?”

    Point at them and laugh.

    Do try to keep the hysteria under control, Gertrude.

  19. Why is it constantly considered film worthy to make the point that there are a lot of confused and strange people out there? So what?

    Because of the influence many of these people have on out political system these days?? When these kooks become a force that causes politicians to pander to them and push their social agenda, maybe some daylight is necessary??

    What do you plan to do about this ‘outsized influence’ joe? Lock them away in camps? Take away their right to vote? There is something really creepy and sinister about people talking about minorities of any kind having an ‘outsized influence’.

    Show them for the kooks that they are and hopefully it can reduce some of their influence?

  20. It is telling that John’s mind immediately went to “put them in camps” and “take away their rights.”

    Such ideas had never occured to me, and I find them repellent.

  21. “Or thinking that a modern liberal democracy can be forced at gun point on a society that’s still coming out of the dark ages”

    Yeah or thinking that everyone that is not an American or European is living in the dark ages.

    John:
    I also doubt that many posters here would consider that Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil, et al, are living in the dark ages. You can find racism anywher if you look hard enough.

  22. Whatever low-income white folks do in this country, there’s always a large part of the upper-middle class that finds it hilarious.

    “Oh my god! Look at those people who aren’t wearing particularly stylish clothes and didn’t have dental insurance during childhood! They’re living in a mobile home rather than a subdivision! And they have accents! I can’t handle it, this is TOO funny!”

    Religion is no exception.

  23. “What do you plan to do about this ‘outsized influence’ joe? Lock them away in camps? Take away their right to vote? There is something really creepy and sinister about people talking about minorities of any kind having an ‘outsized influence’.”

    “Yeah or thinking that everyone that is not an American or European is living in the dark ages”

    We could make a documentary called “The Houses that John Built on Straw.” With the right director I think it could be a hit.

  24. “There is something really creepy and sinister about people talking about minorities of any kind having an ‘outsized influence’.”

    The evangelical subculture a minority?

    John, what planet do you live on?

  25. matt:

    There is NO GOD! Not Jesus, not Allah, not Zeus, not Yahweh, not Shiva, not even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Prove me wrong and you win a new acolyte.

  26. Gee, matt, nice stereotyping there.

    In fact, most fundamentalists are middle class suburbanites.

    Poor little dears, good thing you’re here to defend their honor.

    I love it when people try to play the victim card while stereotyping their adopted victims.

  27. I love it when people try to play the victim card while stereotyping their adopted victims.

    That’s about the only way to play the collective guilt game, though.

  28. “It is telling that John’s mind immediately went to “put them in camps” and “take away their rights.”

    It is telling that you don’t get what I am saying. What does outsized influence mean? It means nothing. If really meant anything, then you would want to do something about it. Of course it doesn’t mean anything and it is just a stock excuse for making fun of people who don’t fit the norm. “These people have an oversized influence in society, therefore it is okay to be an asshole when talking about them.” No I don’t think you want to lock them in camps, but that is precisly the point. And yes it is creepy language. Granted most of the time you do it when talking about the Jews or Neocons but it is no less creepy now.

  29. RC Dean wins the thread. Joe and most of the Reasonites love collective guilt and stereotyping when it comes to people they don’t like.

  30. “Poor little dears, good thing you’re here to defend their honor.”

    Gay people as a group are better educated and wealthier than the average, I guess you think it is okay to stereotype and make fun them to, poor little dears. Face it Joe, there is little if anything you would object to when it comes to the treatment of people you don’t like.

  31. joe,

    Don’t worry, you don’t have to prove your anti-deathcamp creds to us. John has obviously taken his point a wee bit far.

    That said, there’s still good reason to ask what one means by “outsized influence”. Two possibilities come to mind. One is that there’s something nefarious about the group in question such that their influence should be kept under wraps. The other is that everyone should have exactly equal influence to everyone else. Both concepts are problematic for different reasons. I’ll refrain from going into them at the moment for brevity and in the hopes you might see them for yourself.

  32. Again with the “____wins the thread line.” How can anyone win the thread when some of us can’t even vote?

  33. Alexandra Pelosi vs. Ted Haggard
    John vs. joe

    Irrational, hyperreligious statists on the right, nutty, henpecking, statists on the left.

    They deserve each other.

    Now, if they’d just leave me right the fuck alone, I’d be tickled five different shades of pink.

  34. “Again with the “____wins the thread line.” How can anyone win the thread when some of us can’t even vote?”

    Because, quite thankfully, the internet isn’t a democracy.

  35. RC must be so proud. John thinks he’s really kicking ass.

  36. I think I’d rather watch one of the many entertaining “documentaries” on American hot dog establishments. No controversy there, except maybe steamed vs grilled. I’m ok with both methods.

  37. John,

    Slow down man, look down. I think your fingers are bleeding. Maybe take a break, let some other people post a little. Do you rage at the computer from dawn to dusk? Maybe a hobby is in order. I’m worried about your health.

  38. When he [Bush] said that Jesus had chosen him to be president, half the country went into spasms of ecstasy.

    Gee, matt, nice stereotyping there.

    Heheh.

  39. fyodor,

    Is it any great surprise that I find the ideas these people are spreading to be nefarious? Yes, I want them to have as little influence on our politcs as possible. I want them to be discreditted in the public’s mind; I want their loony-toons ideas about science and theocracy to be a laughing stock; I want their leaders held up to scorn and their political beliefs marginalized.

    I think their ideas about governance, rights, and freedom of dangerously wrongheaded. I think they stem from an unhinghed, irrational religious/political movement, and I want to see that movement lose in the contest of ideas, the same way segregation and male supremacy were defeated in the 20th century.

    And I don’t apologize for it.

  40. Most people would have found ther terms “half the country,” “spasms” and “ecstasy” to be indicative of an exaggerated humor. But not our Eric.

  41. Most people would have found ther terms “half the country,” “spasms” and “ecstasy” to be indicative of an exaggerated humor.

    Odd – in my experience, the only people who find “half the country” jokes funny are the people who identify just a little too closely to one of the major parties – devoted Rush Limbaugh fans and the like.

  42. Yes, but Ron Moore or Ron Paul? Please don’t make me choose.

  43. “Is it any great surprise that I find the ideas these people are spreading to be nefarious”

    Who are “these people”? Are you really so narrow minded and bigoted that you think the people in this documentary are representative of religious people in this country or anyone who disagrees with you? It is one thing to object to someone’s ideas, but you ought to at least have some idea what that person really thinks. If you think that the guys at the drive through Bible College or whatever the nutcases they show in this movie are inductive of the typical Republican or Christian or anything, then RC is right. You just engage in stereotyping and collective guilt that confirms your views and makes your feel superior. Which is why I guess they make these kinds of movies for people like you.

  44. John, Haggard, and the church he’s been forced to leave in a cloud of scandal are hardly the minority. Tiny, powerless yet nutty minorities don’t build huge compounds just north of major metropolitan areas. They don’t make phone calls to the president, and they don’t exert political influence that is worrisome.

    Given the recent explosion of evangelical megachurches and the whole “purpose driven…” movement, you can hardly dismiss the evangelical movement as a small group of looney crackpots.

  45. “Given the recent explosion of evangelical megachurches and the whole “purpose driven…” movement, you can hardly dismiss the evangelical movement as a small group of looney crackpots.”

    Hey, maybe they are hoards of evangelical zoombies about the launch a coup to take over the government. I frankly don’t see it, but who knows. Look there are 300 million plus people in the country. It takes a lot of mega churches to make much more than a drop in that ocean. I will be the first to admit that people like Hagard are crackpots, but I have a hard time believing they are worth worrying about. There is another trend going on in evangelicals no one has mentioned; the God sent us here to shepard over mother earth movement. When people like Hagard figure out they can get big bucks and good press by telling their followers that driving electric cars and spiking a tree for Jesus will get them to heaven, I expect folks like Joe to be a whole lot less scared of them. I still won’t care either way.

  46. Is a zoombie like a zombie, only hopped up on speed?

  47. joe,

    Sure, fine, think and say they’re nefarious. But “outsized” seems to have implications other than what you can reasonably criticize them about.

    Well y’know, I’m never quite sure if we should parse the nuances of language down so finely or just default to “you know what he means”. So take the rest with the caveat that I know this might be making a mountain out of molehole. But outsized implies that they’re out of their box, out of their place. When of course one must get out of one’s box before one can say the things that someone else has every right to criticize one about. Note I have no problem with your calling them confused. That’s perfectly fair cause that’s addressing what they’ve actually said (well, with a psychoanalytical bent, but that’s another matter.) But calling their influence “outsized” may very well imply that they should be shut up, or at least put back in their place and that they don’t deserve to be heard as the rest of us do. When who knows, mixed in with what you may rightly criticize may be valid concerns. Oh well, like I say, mountain/molehill, I know what you mean. But if you’re concerned with the implications of the subtle nuances of language, you might consider the potential implications of your own.

  48. David-

    Yes. You can see examples of zoombies in 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead.

  49. FWIW, “outsized influence” is a phrase who’s meaning is in inverse proportion to the number of syllables in it.

    What is “outsized influence?” Is it a voter exercising his franchise?
    Is it that same voter writing a letter to his representatives in government?
    Or emailing?
    faxing?
    Getting a group of likeminded people together in order to move them to political action?
    Would outsized influence be that same group attending a protest or organizing a fundraiser?

    Where does one draw that line?

  50. Fyodor – even worse, noodle the idea of the “outsized” influence of “half the country”. 😉

    (I do like joe stiffly retreating to “it’s just a joke, man,” when he’d never in a million years fail to seize on an even remotely similar remark by one of the Team Red boys. A hoot.)

  51. “There is another trend going on in evangelicals no one has mentioned; the God sent us here to shepard over mother earth movement. When people like Hagard figure out they can get big bucks and good press by telling their followers that driving electric cars and spiking a tree for Jesus will get them to heaven, I expect folks like Joe to be a whole lot less scared of them.”

    not that they still wouldn’t be strange, but perhaps they’d generate less fear because telling their followers to drive electric cars, conserve and the like is not the same or as dangerous as pushing for the infringement of the civil liberties of others, or faith-based foreign policy.

    CHURCH GUY: Followers, you should drive electric cars!
    vs.
    CHURCH GUY: Followers, we must prevent others from spreading teh gay!

    one doesn’t hurt others. another one does.

  52. Yes, but Ron Moore or Ron Paul? Please don’t make me choose.

    I think the REAL question is Ron Paul or Rupaul?

  53. But what if it’s “Drive electric cars over the gays!”? 😉

  54. ha! oh man, now that screws up the works.

    of course, i’d envision a future where defenders of such a position would say fight critics by asking, “what’s wrong with these environmentalists?! i thought the WANTED people to drive electric cars!”

  55. previous post sans “say”

  56. Poor little dears, good thing you’re here to defend their honor.

    I love it when people try to play the victim card while stereotyping their adopted victims.
    ==============================
    Let the record show:
    When I criticize the way lower class whites are portrayed, I’m not sticking up for “them”, I’m sticking up for myself. It gets really damned tiring to bear up under the condescencion of certain snarky film-maker types who. When those people are silver-spoon duaghters of congresspeople, the effect is multiplied. I’m no right-wing fundamentalist, but I do know a few dozen folks who are, and they’d certainly make better neighbors than mmse. pelosi, especially if you factor in property taxes.

  57. My post is also sporting an extra word. LKindly disregard “who” at the end of the second sentence.

  58. “Are you really so narrow minded and bigoted that you think the people in this documentary are representative of religious people in this country or anyone who disagrees with you?”

    No, I think they’re representative of a particular self-defined, self-selected faction of religious conservatives. I know how much you enjoy widening critiques of certain Muslims to smear the entirety of that religion, but please don’t project your own moral and intellectual failures onto me.

    You do love to play the victim card, John, but you suck at it. Nobody in their right mind could read my comments as referring to all religious people or everyone who disagrees with me. The only ones attempting to widen this critique beyond the population shown in the movie are you, John, (who seems to think it is aimed at every religious person and Republican in America) and matt (who seems to think it is aimed at every low-income white person in America).

    If we get any more byproducts of straw combusion in here, I’m calling OSHA.

  59. Speaking of straw, joe,
    ==================================
    Is it any great surprise that I find the ideas these people are spreading to be nefarious? Yes, I want them to have as little influence on our politcs as possible. I want them to be discreditted in the public’s mind; I want their loony-toons ideas about science and theocracy to be a laughing stock; I want their leaders held up to scorn and their political beliefs marginalized.

    I think their ideas about governance, rights, and freedom of dangerously wrongheaded. I think they stem from an unhinghed, irrational religious/political movement, and I want to see that movement lose in the contest of ideas, the same way segregation and male supremacy were defeated in the 20th century.
    ===============================
    You’re playing a little fast and loose with the associations, I daresay. Who exactly is “they”? Christians in general? Fundamentalist Christians? Fundamentalist Christians who involve themselves in politics? Fundamentalist Christians who are aligned with the GOP? Fundamentalist Christians who don’t vote and have been against the war since day 1?

    All of the above? Perhaps you don’t distinguish very well. In fact, you might be distinguishing poorly because of prejuidice. Just a thought.

  60. A little about myself:

    I’ve been an active crusader for peace and liberty for all of my adult life. I’ve been shouted down by Christian Bushies and secular Bushies, too. Their similarities make me wonder if the Christian label isn’t a surface attatchment for them.

    I like me some Jesus.
    Sometimes I like me some pro wrestling too. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll patronize an event that combines the two. I doubt it, since I would probably find said event blasphemous, overpriced, and woefully corny, but I can’t rule out the possibility. Am I the enemy or not?

  61. matt,

    The answer to your question is “the type of politically active fundamentalist Christian depicted in the film,” and there is nothing anywhere in anything I’ve written that remotely suggests otherwise.

  62. The film doesn’t premiere until the 25th. Would I be safe in assuming you haven’t seen it?

  63. matt,

    “the chief voice of the Christians is the Rev. Ted Haggard”

    ’nuff said.

  64. Alexandra Pelosi: the poster child for poster children.

  65. “the chief voice of the Christians is the Rev. Ted Haggard”

    ’nuff said.
    ===============================
    Wow, so it’s just like real life?

    It’s like how neo-cons look at islam. I’m so refreshed. With you here, clarity and evenhandedness shall ever triumph!

  66. RC Dean wins the thread. Joe and most of the Reasonites love collective guilt and stereotyping when it comes to people they don’t like.

    Hello, Pot…

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