April 9, 2009

Film Review: Friends of God

Cover of "Friends of God: A Road Trip wit...Cover via Amazon

I have not had the opportunity to see Religulous yet, but I hope to do so fairly soon. I did recently catch a documentary that I had missed when aired on HBO in 2007: Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi. It was indeed directed by Nancy Pelosi's daughter, but don't let that dissuade you from seeing it. Alexandra was far less annoying than her mother. I think this film is definitely worth seeing, and I'll provide a brief synopsis and review below for those who have not seen it yet.

Friends of God is both a road film and an intriguing documentary about America's evangelical Christians. Pelosi and her crew film their journey across the American bible belt and provide viewers with reasonably fair portrayal of evangelical Christians in this region. What sets this film apart from many others is that it allows evangelical Christians to discuss their beliefs without any sort of mockery or antagonism. In fact, Pelosi's stance through much of the film is that of a good reporter who genuinely wants to understand her subject matter.

The film does a commendable job of including both ordinary evangelical Americans and the famous ones often tasked with speaking for them. You'll see many of the current or former big dogs in the evangelical community, including Ron Luce (Battle Cry), Ken Ham, Jerry Falwell, and Ted Haggard. They explain what they believe and why. You'll also see how they work to mold their flocks of evangelical activists.

Comparisons with Jesus Camp are inevitable, but while there are admittedly similarities, Friends of God is not merely Jesus Camp light. I liken Jesus Camp to a kick in the nuts of the reality-based community. I feel sick just thinking about it. While it was an effective wake-up call that should be required viewing for every American, it was as much about shock than about education. As disturbing as Friends of God was (and it was indeed disturbing), I did not have the same visceral reaction. In fact, the tone was much more one of trying to understand the subject matter rather than using it for shock value. As such, it is probably a better film for the purpose of creating productive dialogue.

I was not previously familiar with Alexandra Pelosi, but it turns out that she is far from just someone with a famous mother who fell into this role. She started out covering politics in Washington, D.C. before serving as a network news producer for several years. She won an Emmy for her first film, Journeys with George (2000), and earned considerable praise from conservatives for her fair coverage of the 18 months she spent with George W. Bush during his campaign. In short, she was well suited for Friends of God and managed to pull it off exceptionally well.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution