“You can tell you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott, author: Grace (Eventually)
“Lord Save us from your Followers” is a 2 hour documentary that discusses the “culture wars” happening right now in the Western world, as values that are stable and established clash with priorities that are new and exploratory. Most of us have seen these “wars” happening for some time, and this video is an attempt to bridge some of the gap between the two sides. Dan Merchant stars, and the video works as an exploration of what he discovered in exploring his faith. It is written explicitly from the Christian point of view, and does a good job of trying to portray the difficulties to the wider Christian community. I have three pages of notes: so I’ll describe the general outline here, and make other points with other posts.
First: I enjoyed this DVD, precisely because the author’s experience was similar to mine growing up. I became a Christian later than he did, and always had the background of “struggling” with my gay side, but our observations about the world were similar. I remember very well the “end of days cheese” that was so popular during the Carter administration, and the confused eschatology that was (and is) rampant across the U.S. (Such confusion was, in fact, one of the reasons I went to Bible College: to incorporate sound teaching into my viewpoint.) In spite of a gospel that was streaked with fear in so many ways, I could completely relate to his attraction to the gospel of love.
The guest stars were a little… conservative… but then I guess that was the bent of the DVD. Tony Campolo was interchanged with Rick Santorum. Mr. Campolo is known for his compassion and respect for people in general. Mr. Santorum is painfully less so. Knowing some of his views from the past, he’s either changed them or appeared in this video to try to get some points among the more progressive Christian voting block. Still, it was interesting to see that he has had some connection with the project.
“A movement can exist without a god… but never without a devil” -Tony Campolo. And the church has done a good job of seeing that devil in everything that is not “traditional” or “moral” by their popular (often not historic) point of view. The gospel is no longer about helping people to be who God wants them to be: it has become “the gospel of being right”. The video is a beginning of a change in that attitude.
Dan apparently walked around the country (well, I guess he drove, but the conversations were while he was walking) in a suit covered with classic bumper stickers… making the point that discussion about morals in the West has been reduced to talking points. One of his many questions was what most people (non-Christians) thought of Christians… and the answers were difficult to hear (“hypocrisy” was one of the most minor). But as I listened, I must admit that I had the same reactions as many of the people interviewed.
I loved the point made several times: “Religious liberty and a Christian country mean different things… the opposite, in fact.” The more we angle for our “rights” as Christians to be able to display our symbolism anywhere we want to, the more we show that we don’t understand religious liberty. It’s like the American form of “free marriage”: I was told when I lived in Arkansas that freedom meant I could marry any woman I wanted to. What’s wrong with that? There was obviously difficulty in seeing my point of view.
I think the most telling part of the documentary was where they did a “Family Feud” style competition where they asked liberal (“Liberal Media Elite”) and Christian (“Christian Conservatives”) representatives to try to answer questions from the culture headlines. (eg. “Name a reason someone might want to get an abortion.” “Rape? Survey says… 53%.” There is actually a copy of this on YouTube: the relevant section starts about 2:45.) Apparently those on the more “liberal” side were better able to see the general perspective: the final score was 247-48. So then the authors of the documentary thought it might just be an “age”problem, so they tried the younger generation. The “Agnostic Scholars” went against the “Young Believers”. The result was even worse: 327 – 0.
So it seemed that agnostics and non-Christians understand Christians better than Christians understand the outer world. As a Christian myself, I could not help but think that this is why our churches are having so much trouble and so many people think they are irrelevant. It’s because, at least in this example: we are. Irrelevant, I mean. We have so boxed ourselves in and protected our families from the outside world that we have lost our ability to reach out and touch… anyone. This was one of the major points I took from the documentary. More will be discussed in upcoming posts.