EmptyFriends of God
(HBO) 9 p.m. Thursday
Alexandra Pelosi, speaking about her documentary on red state evangelicals, said it's possible for everyone to get along if we can get past the hot-button issues of abortion and gay marriage. After watching her film, though, I think she's overly optimistic.
Pelosi traveled the Bible Belt to bring back footage of fundamentalist worshipers as well as Christian miniature golf courses, wrestling federations, car clubs and theme parks. Her guide for much of the journey was Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals until he resigned in November after evidence of his gay relationships and drug use came to light. The film was completed a week or so before that happened, and Pelosi chose not to revisit the interviews to make points on evangelical hypocrisy, though she might have.
Still, the parts of the film that were most troubling were not about abortion or gay marriage or even the incredibly pathetic attacks on evolution. Rather, it was the willingness of evangelicals, young and old, to accept as figurative and literal gospel anything and everything fed to them by authority figures. They appear as automatons, unable or unwilling to question the pronouncements of their leaders.
Also difficult to watch were those who, despite having elected a born-again president and established giant radio and TV networks and a political power base second to none, still feel they are a persecuted minority. If Pelosi's intent is to show that evangelical faith suffocates reason, the point is well-made.