Religion postsThursday November 09, 2017
Sean Hannity's 'Let There Be Light' Makes Me Almost Believe in God
I'd kinda forgotten about “Let There Be Light” until Dan Piepenbring wrote about it for The New Yorker. Brave man. He watched it so we wouldn't have to.
Movie doesn't ring a bell? It's that Kevin Sorbo-directed thing about a famous atheist who sees the light.
Oh, Kevin Sorbo doesn't ring a bell? Nice! I wish I were you. He's the guy who played “Hercules” on TV in the 1990s and is undergoing his second act (or third, or 12th) as the go-to actor/director for conservative Christian movies.
In “God's Not Dead,” for example, he played an atheistic philosophy professor who forces every one of his students to say “God is dead” ... until one brave young man shows him the light. In this one, which he also directed, and co-wrote with his wife, he plays an infamous atheist who has a near-death experience and sees the light on his own.
In “GND,” his character became an atheist because his mother died of cancer when he was 12 and he couldn't see how God would let that happen. In this one, he becomes an atheist because his 8-year-old son dies of cancer and he can't see how God could let that happen.
This latest is getting some attention because Sean Hannity co-produced it and makes a cameo as himself. Once the “seen-the-light” Sorbo goes on Hannity's show, we get the following back-and-forth:
Hannity: You're literally going to try and convert kids to Christianity. What about diversity? What right do you have to impose your religious values onto somebody else?
Sorbo: Well, what right does ISIS have to cut people's heads off?
Hannity: That's a powerful point.
I love that Hannity portrays himself as a man interested in diversity.
These types of conservative Christian movies have been a minor thing for a while now—I guess since spring 2014. That's when “Son of God,” which merely took episodes of the TV series “The Bible” and repackaged them into a movie, grossed $59 mil at the U.S. box office. “God's Not Dead,” released a month later, grossed $60 mil. Less than a month after that, in April, “Heaven is for Real,” starring Greg Kinnear, was released and grossed $91 mil.
And conservative Christian movies were off and...
Actually, that was about it. Only three CC movies since have grossed north of $50 mil: “War Room” in August 2015 ($67.7), “Miracles from Heaven” in March 2016 ($61), and “The Shack” in March 2017 ($57). Even Jesus Christ Himself, Jim Caviezel, playing a football coach in “When the Game Stands Tall,” couldn't get them off the couch in August 2014 ($30).
So did conservative Christians begin to see the con? Did they get tired of, oh I don't know, storylines in which men become athiests because so-and-so dies of cancer, but then they see the light? Who knows.
Now we have “Let There Be Light,” which not only has Hercules Hercules Hercules, but Hannity, who can promote it to his heart's content on his radio and Fox-News shows. And his heart is content. Christian news sites have talked up the movie's success. After its first weekend, Hannity himself tweeted this message:
“On a per-screen box office average, ”Let There Be Light“ is the No. 2 movie in the country! Amazing for an independent film! Thx to all!”
As a result, for its second weekend it doubled its theater total: from 373 to 642. And as a result of that, after nearly two weeks, “Let There Be Light” has grossed a total of...
Makes me almost believe in God.
My First Meme
I created this a few days ago because these types of memes seem the lingua franca of the internet. I'm forever a late adopter.
It's a pretty simple message. It's actually a two-fold simple message: 1) Sinatra's, 2) How many steps backward some of us have taken since 1945.
Al Franken: 'To Me, That's Where God Is'
This is from a speech in 2010 at June 27, 2010, to attendees of the 2010 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
He talks about his father, the death of his father, his kids, and his coneception of God. It's funny and beautiful:
The Pepsi Challenge in Syria
Two Sundays ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story on and by Theo Padnos, an American who was captured in 2012 by Nusra Front, a Syrian al Qaeda organization, tortured for months and months, and eventually let go this fall. He's writing a book about the experience. There are interesting sections throughout the piece, and I recommend reading it all, because we rarely get such firsthand accounts from the War on Terror, but the section below stuck out for me in trying to parse the difference between the various groups in Syria, and for the humanity on display:
I was curious about the futures of the five people now responsible for looking after me. What if they retired from military life, I asked, went home and promised to obey the Islamic State in the future? Would the group still wish to kill them?
“Of course,” they said.
“Really?” I asked. “But why?”
“Because we are Jebhat al Nusra,” they replied.
I knew the answer to the next question but asked it anyway. “Your practice of Islam is exactly the same as ISIS — you admire the same scholars and interpret the Quran just as they do?”
“Yes,” they agreed. “All of this is true.”
“And it’s true,” I said, “that when you joined Al Qaeda, in the early goings of the revolution, ISIS did not exist?”
“Yes, this is so,” the fighters agreed.
“And now they’re hoping to kill you?” I asked.
They shrugged their shoulders. “Yes.”
“But the situation is absurd,” I said. “You’re like a guy on the street drinking a bottle of Pepsi. Along comes the Seven-Up salesman. ‘Wicked man!’ says the Seven-Up salesman. ‘How dare you drink Pepsi? You must die.’ Under the circumstances, it ought to be O.K. for you to reply: ‘I’m quite sorry, sir. But when I went into the store, there was only one brand of soft drink available. Pepsi. That’s what I bought. Where’s the problem?’ ” The foot soldiers, all in their 20s and early 30s, were regular cola drinkers and were happy I had put the matter in everyday commercial terms. Everyone laughed.
The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that their commanders, former friends from Iraq, were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered.
What lessons do we get reading this piece? Some of them: 1) People will find any way to justify any behavior; 2) we don't know how good we have it in the U.S.; and 3) everyone wants a Western girlfriend. Also this: 4) even when they say it's about religion, listen to Deep Throat: follow the money.
Reader Comment of the Day: Who Put the Conservatism in Christianity?
A reader named Kersy said the following following my review of “Noah”:
The co-option of Christianity in the culture by conservatives is the worst thing to happen to it since, what, the witch trials? The people who make noise about this movie for embellishment are the same ones who have never put real, deep thought into their faith and beliefs but who think and feel and see what they're told by a group of self-appointed arbiters of what is actually a wildly diverse religion. They don't want to be challenged or engaged; they only want comfort and affirmation.
“Noah” doesn't completely work, but it's a shallow faith that prefers “Son of God” and “God's Not Dead.” ...
And sorry for the rant! I'm just a Christian who is consistently insulted by the pandering crap I'm “supposed” to support because it “shares my values” even though it rarely does (unless we're getting pro-gay marriage, pro-choice Christian film? Anyone? Bueller?). I was thrilled to see “Noah”'s creation montage be all about evolution, and I'm not looking forward to the fresh hell that “Heaven Is For Real” appears to be. Ok, I'm done.
Unfortunately, I'm not. My review of “God's Not Dead” up tomorrow.