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October 01, 2008

Shocker of Shockers: NYT Movie Critic Loves Bill Maher's Anti-Christian Polemics in Religulous; the Ones About Other Religions, Not So Much

I knew if I clicked on this review I wouldn't be disappointed.

“Religulous” is directed by Larry Charles, whose credits include “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and many episodes of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And the movie has the same loose, on-the-road structure as “Borat.” Much of Mr. Maher’s film is extremely funny in a similarly irreverent, offhanded way. Some true believers — at least those who have a sense of humor about their faith — may even be amused. But most will not.

In a small journalistic coup Mr. Maher interviews a Roman Catholic priest in front of the Vatican, who laughingly agrees with him that the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church are nonsense that are not to be taken literally. Mr. Maher, unfortunately, doesn’t press him on why he wears priestly vestments and presumes to exert religious authority.

...

His strategy is to coax most of those subjects who are true believers to appear foolish as they offer stumbling, inarticulate responses to his friendly interrogations. The majority of his subjects are easy targets. One such sitting duck is José Luis de Jesús Miranda, a nattily dressed Miami preacher who declares that he is the second coming of Christ and claims that his Growing in Grace ministry has 100,000 followers. Like the fulminating televangelists whose ministries the film glosses over, he comes across as a greedy, self-satisfied charlatan with a fondness for gold.

When Mr. Maher asks Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat and fervent evangelical Christian, why faith is good, he stumbles for an answer. Returning later to Senator Pryor, Mr. Maher suggests that many evangelicals look forward to the end of the world, when it is prophesied that Jesus will return. The senator doesn’t dispute him.

John Westcott, a former homosexual who is now married and the director of Exchange Ministries in Winter Park, Fla., an organization whose mission is to reorient sexuality, can only smile when Mr. Maher reminds him that Jesus never addressed the subject of homosexuality. At a Christian theme park where the passion of Christ is re-enacted in a tacky musical pageant, the actor playing Jesus compares the Holy Trinity to the three states of water: liquid, ice and vapor.

When “Religulous” turns from evangelical Christianity to Judaism and Islam, its tone becomes uncertain and its rhythm choppy. An attitude of glib condescension is inadequate to address clashing religions that have turned the Middle East into an ideological cauldron. Jihadism and Orthodox Judaism are red-hot topics that Mr. Maher addresses too sketchily to convey the same authority he brings to Christianity.

Ah. Such glib condescension was adequate for Christianity, but not Islam. Which must be taken seriously and displayed reverently.

And have no doubt: the author is playing coy here, but it's only the impieties cast at Islam that bother him.


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posted by Ace at 04:04 AM

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