Crappy new Christian movie slammed
Persecuted is ‘an overwrought mess’ and ‘an act of contemptible irresponsibility’.
THERE’S a very silly cinematic trend developing, and it’s being driven forward by the “persecuted” Christian brigade who imagine that increasingly secular societies in the West are out to get them.
Persecuted, the latest example of this rampant paranoia which hit screens in May, follows that bucket of bilge, God’s Not Dead, and has so far earned a big fat zero rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and some very damning reviews.
Wrote Neil Genzlinger, of the NYT:
The title — Persecuted — and the presence of the Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson in the cast are really all you need to know. This terrible attempt at a political thriller for the religious right is aimed not at Christians in general but at a certain breed of them, the kind who feel as if the rest of the world were engaged in a giant conspiracy against their interpretation of good and truth.
James Remar plays John Luther, a television evangelist who is holding out against a vaguely defined piece of legislation that somehow mandates religious equality, whatever that means. Just why one particular TV preacher is so all-fired important isn’t clear, and neither is anything else about this overwrought mess.
Luther is told by his father, played by Fred Dalton Thompson, the actor and former senator:
Those who believe in nothing must bring you down, must destroy you, to achieve their own goals.
What are those goals? No need to say, because all that this film, written and directed by Daniel Lusko, is really trying to do is push the ‘we are persecuted’ button of its intended audience. In the movie, as in real life, that narrative needs no specifics about who is doing this persecuting or why or how.
Anyway, Luther is framed for a murder with overtones of under-age sex; he vows to clear his name; and the plot degenerates into incomprehensibility.
Variety’s chief film critic Justin Chang wrote:
Four months after God’s Not Dead depicted American academia as a seething hotbed of liberal atheism, along comes Persecuted, a Christian-themed minister-on-the-run thriller bent on exposing the government’s insidious multifaith agenda.
Straw-man cinema doesn’t get much more ludicrous than this foolish and heavy-handed drama about an uncompromising preacher who finds himself the Job-like target of various crooked politicians and corrupt religious leaders, all bent on watering down the gospel for their own wicked gains.
Luther is the founder of Truth, a well-funded, highly influential evangelical ministry that appears to be the lone upholder of Christian values in a dangerously tolerant, increasingly secular age.
Chief among those human serpents trying to tempt Luther into weakening his rigid ideological stance is Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison), who asks him to endorse the Faith and Fairness Act, a vaguely worded religious-reform bill that will not only guarantee equal treatment and recognition for all systems of belief (something already provided for by the Constitution), but also demonstrate that the US ‘is no longer a Christian nation — in fact, it never has been’, in Harrison’s words.
But Luther refuses to cave in to either political pressure or the will of the masses, continuing to preach his own conviction that
Only the Word of God can bring peace.
There is, to be sure, an intelligent and provocative film to be made about how the language of tolerance can itself propagate a form of intolerance, and also about the very real tension that so many followers of Jesus (this critic included) often feel between their personal beliefs and the values of the postmodern world — a tension that the Bible itself understands and allows for.
But that film would have to be framed as something other than a paranoid thriller, and it would have to translate its discourse into something more sophisticated than the crude, well-worn grammar of the American action movie, with its routine shootouts and fisticuffs. It would also have to accord those characters at odds with its message — atheists and agnostics, prostitutes and politicians — at least a modicum of motivational complexity, if not something approaching the level of compassion that Christ implored His disciples to show their enemies.
At a time when the world offers us no shortage of examples of what actual religious persecution looks like, for a film to indulge in this particular brand of self-righteous fearmongering isn’t just clueless or reckless; it’s an act of contemptible irresponsibility.
But, hey, it’s not all bad for Persecuted. Here’s Movieguide’s take on it:
All in all, MOVIEGUIDE® commends writer and director Daniel Lusko for making such a provocative political thriller from a strong Christian, and somewhat conservative or libertarian, perspective. The positive values expressed are not only Christian and biblical but also American and pro-liberty values. As noted, the movie isn’t too preachy, so Non-Christians, moderates and liberals should be able to enjoy the movie as well.
Want to see what REAL Christian persecution looks like? Just follow this link.
Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk (Iraq report)