Ladies and gentlemen, dear readers and interested lurkers, I’d like to introduce you all to a group that holds a unique place in my memories: the ChildCare Action Project, or CAP for short.
I mentioned in a previous post, A Personal Journey to Atheism, that one of the last things I did before confirming myself as an atheist and humanist was to seek out an evangelical Christian group and invite them to present their best case to me. Well, now you know the other half of the story: CAP was that group. They are one of the principal reasons that I am an atheist today, and for that I thank them.
CAP’s major mission is to review movies from a fundamentalist Christian perspective. I was aware of them before becoming an atheist, primarily because of several humor sites I used to visit that poked fun at them. I can safely say that that mockery was not undeserved. As anyone who visits CAP’s site can see for themselves, their defining traits are extreme paranoia about anything and everything having to do with sex, constant demands for blind and absolute submission to authority, and highly selective use and application of the Bible that is, paradoxically, combined with an extremely rigid and dogmatic interpretation of scripture, almost to the point of self-parody. I can assure readers, however, that they are utterly serious.
I could spend most of my time mocking them myself, as it is so easy to do. Witness the following gems from some of their extensive list of reviews – each listed item is something about that movie which they found objectionable:
The Apostle: “talk of ‘being human’ to excuse sexual desires” (Do the CAP reviewers believe that this is inaccurate, or do they just resent it being pointed out? Do they teach their children that real Christians do not experience sexual desire?)
Inspector Gadget: “I’m gonna kick some b–t.” (Yes, that is an actual quote from the site. You may compose your own joke about the Victorian sensibilities of people who think the word “butt” is a profanity.)
George of the Jungle: “animal urination”
The Incredibles: “marital discord”
Elektra: “question about intercourse”
(Although every single married couple in the history of humankind quarrels from time to time and every living thing that has ever existed on this planet excretes, evidently we must pretend that these things do not exist in order to raise good Christian children. And heaven forbid that people start asking questions about sex!)
Parent Trap: “hidden adolsecent [sic] nudity”
The Aviator: “mammary display, clothed”
(How dare those depraved filmmakers show people who were naked under their clothes!)
The Matrix: Revolutions: “extensive revelry” (Everyone knows that real Christians don’t have fun.)
Office Space: “pornographic background music” (This guy must spend way too much time obsessing about sex if mere background music makes him uncomfortably hot under the collar.)
Pleasantville: “talk of skinny dipping as acceptable” (I hear real Christians don’t shower naked either.)
Scooby-Doo: “punk dress”
Bowling for Columbine: “goth dress”
(Real Christians know that what a person chooses to wear is an infallible indicator of their inner character. That’s why we have the old saying, “You can judge a book by its cover.”)
Ice Age: “‘An eye for an eye’ as justification for revenge” (This is really too much. Have we now come to the point where Christians are criticizing movies for teaching morals that come from the Bible, or is CAP not aware that “an eye for an eye” is a biblical verse? [Exodus 21:24])
Cars: “male car exhibiting rear underside to female car” (There must be some severe repression going on in the mind of anyone who worries about this. What bad end, exactly, is the reviewer worried this will lead to? People becoming mechanics? The attitude expressed here bears more than a little resemblance to those prudish Victorians who allegedly made sure to decently dress up their tables’ legs, lest people get the wrong idea.)
I will have more to say about CAP in future posts, but for now, allow me to focus on one especially disturbing aspect of their beliefs: their apparent advocacy of the idea that authority figures should always be obeyed, regardless of who they are or what they command. At first glance, CAP might object that this is an unfair depiction, pointing to passages such as the following, from their review of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) is a half human, half robot dictator who rules with religion, portraying the people just like the adversaries want people of faith to be portrayed — regimented, unthinking multitudes in mechanical servitude.”
But while CAP’s left hand makes claims such as this, their right hand says something completely different. In other reviews, they have deducted points from movies for things such as “portrayal of authority as stupid” (Final Destination), or “dissidence among troops” (Doom). The latter is particularly disturbing, given that I saw that movie and the incident which I believe the review refers to is one in which a commander orders his heavily armed soldiers to massacre a large group of civilians. Evidently, the CAP reviewer has no objection to that command, but rather, objects to the idea that the soldiers balk at following it. The other comment is similar: apparently any portrayal of any authority figure as ignorant or mistaken is unacceptable in his eyes. And yet he complains that atheists try to depict people of faith as regimented, mechanical automatons? Look to the beam in your own eye first, sir.
But those reviews do not even reach the height of hypocrisy. One candidate for that position is the review of the dark comedy Saved!, which contains the following line to shock the hearts of good Christians everywhere: “The ultimate rebel – Jesus”. Clearly this is a vile smear, because as we all know, Jesus was a clean-cut conservative who wore a suit, kept his beard neatly trimmed, and was scrupulous in obeying the religious authorities of his time. Any depiction of him as in any way shocking, unconventional, or rebellious could only be inspired by hatred of God.
And then there is CAP’s review of Meet the Fockers (the full name of which they refuse to print on their site). That movie contains the following heretical piece of dialogue: “Always question authority”. Given that the CAP reviewer deducted points from the movie for this, one can only assume he believes that there are some authorities which should not be questioned, but should be obeyed absolutely, without dissent or independent thought. And this is the person who has the gall to complain about depictions of Christians as “unthinking multitudes in mechanical servitude”. His own words show that this is exactly what he himself believes and advocates.
The intriguing question is which authorities CAP believes should be exempt from questioning. Presumably, they mean that category to include God; except, of course, that God is not manifest in this world, giving orders from a glowing white throne. Instead, one assumes, CAP intends that Christians should not question whom they believe to be God’s surrogates in this world, such as the Bible. But again, there is the problem that there are many dueling interpretations of the Bible, and it is nonsensical to believe them to be saying that interpretations of the Bible which they disagree with should not be questioned. The logical conclusion is that CAP believes that their own interpretation of the Bible should be believed without questioning or argument.
This attitude parallels other expressions of the same idea in religious thinking, such as C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, which views both this life and the afterlife as a rigid hierarchy of dominance and submission and praises obedience as “intrinsically good”, regardless of its content. No matter what sophisticated language is used to dress it up, this is the morality of a child. By contrast, a freethinker whose mind is not blinded by dogma knows that every authority should be questioned. The ones worth following will be able to answer those questions.