Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heaven is Reel


By Bob Ferris

A few decades ago I was fishing along the shore of Donner Lake casting a lure about hoping to fool some unsuspecting trout into filling a waiting frying pan.  During one of my casts I looked up and saw a red and white plastic bobber floating a dozen or so yards off-shore.  My first thought was some careless angler had dropped the bobber and then let it drift away.  That thought stayed in my mind until that bobber moved and "drifted" against the evening's wind.  That caught my attention because I realized that something below the surface was pushing that bobber in an un-natural fashion.  In this case it was a 15-inch or so trout that I was almost able to net after snagging the line below the bobber with the treble hook of my trusty Mepps.

Thirty years later my wife and I were in a movie theater waiting for the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” to start and were subjected to the normal string of movie previews—only these did not seem “normal” as a lot of the previews had some sort of not-so-subtle religious undertone to them.   I remember feeling it was kind of weird and remarking on it to my wife and then moving on.

Since then I have thought of this apparent super-abundance of cinematic spirituality and wondered whether it was real or just a product of my super-sensitivity to things religious.  So I thought that I would just check to see if what I felt was actually happening.  I also wanted to know if the phenomenon existed whether it was driven by market forces such as audience or revenue in which case I was just going to have to get over myself.

My first stop was to an admittedly imperfect source: Wikipedia.  But someone had gone to the trouble of listing Christian movies by year and that was useful for my purposes.  What we see from that admittedly imperfect list is that during the 1960s through the 1990s 19-23 Christian films were being produced in this country every ten years.  But in the first decade of the new millennium that number jumped to 100 and a little more that half-way through the second decade we are already at 77 Christian films or a little ahead of that substantially increased pace.  Okay…why?



Perhaps Christian movies gross more?  To look at that I went to Box Office Mojo and what I found was this: Only one Christian themed movie made the top 100 grossing films list ("The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" at number 73).  I also found that the average gross of the 100 top Christian movies was about $13 million while the lowest gross domestic figure on the general audience top 100 list was well more than 10 times that figure with all the Harry Potter series so derided in the above video making the top 100 list.  So the likelihood of making it big with one of these Christian themed movies is extremely remote and even if you do well within this genre the grosses are likely to be much, much lower other films.  Not exactly what you want for a pitch to investors.
"Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
going on before."
The opening lines of “Onward Christian Soldiers
But then I thought: Maybe these film makers are chasing a legitimate market opportunity, but missed the mark?  I have been in business myself and understand that not every good business idea–even those based on sound logic—works.   The most economically logical reason for making more Christian films than once were made would be that there are more Christians now to watch them—a bigger audience.  For this I went to the Pew Foundation to look at what their studies were showing in terms of trends.  And what I found there was that the number of folks who regularly attended church was in fact dropping—particularly in the younger segments of society (i.e., those hitting the theaters). The audience was not bigger it was smaller and would be shrinking in the future.


Are the above just a bad business decisions or are they “bobbers” moving illogically against the wind with the help of something hidden just beneath the surface?  I find that I strongly lean towards the latter explanation particularly as I learn more about the so-called Seven Mountain strategy created by those wanting a more Christian nation.  I suppose that I should gain comfort that they made it clear that they do not want a theocracy.  I find that denial hard to credit, however, as they want us all to live by the laws of their religion and by their moral code.  This seems a little like someone telling you that they do not want to be the “boss,” but that you have to do everything they say.

Senator Ted Cruz, with his father and so-called historian David Barton all proponents of Dominionism and the Seven Mountains (see 1,2.3,4)  
My tendency to gravitate towards the “bobber hypothesis” is also influenced by this election cycle’s crop of candidates who appeared unable to utter three words in a row without saying “God.”  This strategy also helps make sense of the proliferation of legislation aimed at gay marriage, the LGBT community and those who believe that a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body. That understanding is deepened when you know that the lawyer representing Kim Davis is behind much of this legislative nonsense. It strikes me that one does not fundamentally understand “freedom of religion” when they believe it is a tool for denying the rights of others.


Doubt about the propelled bobber idea evaporates when one watches the above video and repeatedly hears cold and calculating talk of kingdoms and the taking of countries—in this case ours.  In my encounter with the bobber-ed trout three decades ago the fish was freed from its buoyant burden and I enjoyed the ten minutes or so of excitement I gained from greatly reducing my reel's drag and gently trying to coax my dinner ashore. Sure I lost an exceptional fish, but both of us were richer rather than poorer for the experience.


From all that I can see of the Seven Mountain strategy it represents nothing more than a whirlwind of ignorance, bigotry and intolerance from which this nation might never ever recover.  It is an uncompromising pathway towards a theocracy laid out on a white board by someone who does not understand or value what this grand experiment in democracy actually represents or how it functions. When we enumerate the threats to our great country this one deserves a huge red check mark and I truly look forward to the day when we have a President, Department of Justice and a Congress willing to materially defend our country and our founding principles from this danger and these radicalized Americans.

********

(Note: As I have said numerous times, I support freedom of religion up and until that point where the expression of that religion impacts the rights of others, causes physical or mental harm or rips the fabric of this nation (1,2,3,4,5).  

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