Monday, November 03, 2014

"Believe Me": when pimping faith-based "charity" is done for fraud

Believe Me”, a new comedy by Will Bakke, sounds cynical enough.  Four college seniors, out of tuition money and apparently off scholarships at a Texas college, set up a fake charity and manipulate the simple faiths of people.  Sam (Alex Russell) is the ringleader.  Will he or anyone else become redeemed in faith by their own penance?  Maybe that’s possible.
The inspiration for the scam comes from a girl who wants to get her mission trip funded – to Hawaii.  Oh, she’ll go on fasts to prove her pound.
But soon the kids get shown the idea, from a flim flam “cross country” man, of “Get Wells Soon”, of saving kids in Africa with clean water.  They go on a speaking tour throughout the South, throwing all the typical punchlines.  They sound sickening.  They include references to the “God Squad”, the question, “Do Christians have any hobbies other than God?”, “cross dressing” (pun), “God would pick up the phone and tell me what to do?” and finally “Give in a way that reflects the faith you claim.”
Eventually, the scheme will unravel (a singer played by Zachary Knighton figures in).  Sam, repentant, determined to stay out of jail by finding a real charity to give the ill-gotten cash to, tells the parable of The Rich Young Ruler.  But the problem there is that the Ruler hadn’t scammed anybody, and had lived righteously enough.  He just hadn’t learned to love real people.  (Remember, Jesus says, “don’t pander me.  Why do you call me good?”)
Churches that I have attended do send people (including youth) on missions in summer, to Belize and Nicaragua.  They also participate in faith-based programs to send recent college graduates to engineering projects overseas, including water projects.  Matt Damon has been active in the water issue.
I’ve also had people “pander” God to me in the past (particularly when I lived in Dallas) and it could get very personal.  Consider the LDS church, which makes a lot of its almost mandatory missions for college-age adults as “doing something for someone else” but it amounts to proselytizing. 
I have developed a certain distaste for high-pressure selling, including weekend sales seminars, and groupie pep talk.  Remember the 2002 movie “100 Mile Rule” where the mantra was “Always Be Closing”.

The official site for this new film is here from Riot Studios (Austin TX).  
The film is distributed by Headline and by Gravitas Ventures, which has recently emphasized films with moral dilemmas.  I rented it on Amazon Instant play.  It’s also on iTunes. 

Picture: downtown Austin, TX, my visit, November 2011.   

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