Thursday, August 23, 2012
"Friends of God": A. Pelosi records evangelical Christianity as it "happens" for HBO
Before her well-known bio of Ted Haggard for HBO, Alexandra Pelosi had directed an earlier “live in” hour with the religious right got HBO, in 2006, “Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi”.
Pelosi lets the worshippers speak for themselves, as the film has almost no direct interviewing, except for a couple little spots by Haggard (before his fall) and Joel Osteen.
It’s striking, and disturbing, how many of the people accept the “rules” as given down by God, and don’t believe they need intellectual rationalizations. They join in on group singing and collective experience. They let themselves go in ways I would not.
One of the most remarkable moments comes when a woman (in what looks like Mennonite dress) says she gave up her dreams of becoming a lawyer in order to do what God wanted, that is, give herself to a husband and bear and raise eight children. She doesn’t “choose” a life; her family is her life.
Others explain their faith in creationism with lines like “you won’t find the word ‘dinosaur” or ‘computer’ in the Bible. Another, at a religious revival (this may be Assembly of God) saysm “You won’t get AIDS here”. Another man celebrates the idea that married men get the most sex.
There is a scene inside a service in the white-painted sanctuary Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg VA. I actually went to such a service myself in May 1989, and revisited the area in 2005. I also heard Falwell give a sermon-rant about “herpes and AIDS” in a southern Baptist church in Irving, Texas in late 1983, when I was living in Dallas.
Toward the end of the film, a gay man, standing outside the Lynchburg church after attending a Falwell service, celebrates the idea that he has the freedom to attend a meeting of those who want to impose on his own life, out of the own sincerity of their beliefs (not for money or power), however wrong.
Falwell died of a heart attack in 2007, at age 73, after the film was made.
The idea that certain obligations can be imposed on everyone, outside of their capacity to make choices and then be held responsible for these choices, is very important to me, and it really affects those of us who are “different”. Like it or not, sustainability does imply some sort of individual “duty”, even if the external loyalties change with time as society becomes more global (and more asymmetric). But duty here seems not to come from any rational perception of the common good (even in Santorum's sense), just from what some people interpret as God's commandments.
HBO’s official site for purchase is here.