Frank Rich on Gullible Christians Getting Duped

A rather arresting commentary from the notorious Frank “I Still Hate The Passion of the Christ” Rich.

The sad thing is that this time, he right about a lot of things.

Problem is, it’s on NYTimes Select, so you may not be able to read it.

Here’s a snippet:

The Machiavellian mission for the hit-deprived Sony studio was to co-opt conservative religious critics who might depress turnout for a $125-million-plus thriller portraying the Roman Catholic Church as a fraud. To this end, as The New Yorker reported, Sony hired a bevy of P.R. consultants, including a faith-based flack whose Christian Rolodex previously helped sell such inspirational testaments to Hollywood spirituality as “Bruce Almighty” and “Christmas With the Kranks.”

Among Sony’s ingenious strategies was an elaborate Web site, The Da Vinci Dialogue, which gave many of the movie’s prominent critics a platform to vent on the studio’s dime. Thus was “The Da Vinci Code” repositioned as a “teaching moment” for Christian evangelists — a bit of hype “completely concocted by the Sony Pictures marketing machine,” as Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun and current Hollywood screenwriter, explained to The Times. The more “students” who could be roped into this teaching moment, of course, the bigger the gross.

Ms. Nicolosi remains a vociferous opponent of the film. On her blog she chastises Sony’s heavenly P.R. helpers for coaxing “legions of well-meaning Christians into subsidizing a movie that makes their own Savior out to be a sham.” But you do have to admire the studio’s chutzpah, if the word may be used in this context. It rivals Tom Sawyer’s bamboozling of his friends into painting that fence. The Sony scheme also echoes much of the past decade’s Washington playbook. Politicians, particularly but not exclusively in the Karl Rove camp, seem to believe that voters of “faith” are suckers who can be lured into the big tent and then abandoned once their votes and campaign cash have been pocketed by the party for secular profit.

Nowhere is this game more naked than in the Jack Abramoff scandal: the felonious Washington lobbyist engaged his pal Ralph Reed, the former leader of the Christian Coalition, to shepherd Christian conservative leaders like James Dobson, Gary Bauer and the Rev. Donald Wildmon and their flocks into ostensibly “anti-gambling” letter-writing campaigns. They were all duped: in reality these campaigns were engineered to support Mr. Abramoff’s Indian casino clients by attacking competing casinos. While that scam may be the most venal exploitation of “faith” voters by Washington operatives, it’s all too typical. This history repeats itself every political cycle: the conservative religious base turns out for its party and soon finds itself betrayed.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • Mo

    (I meant to hit ‘other’, not ‘anonymous’.)

  • Anonymous

    What a depressing interview that was! How has this man managed to live 70 years? It made me very sad for him. Wow.

  • Thom

    On the other hand, Gibson was no passive, turn the other cheek victim. He responded in kind to Rich. Two played that game, and Gibson’s less than decent responses clearly egged Rich on.

  • Christian

    Franks more right than wrong on this, but he’s forever tarnished by running column after column after column denouncing Mel Gibson and “The Passion of the Christ.” He takes an obvious delight in skewering people of faith, especially when they invade largely secular territory. Whenever that happens, Rich turns into a Fraidy Cat with a poison pen.

  • wngl

    This history repeats itself every political cycle: the conservative religious base turns out for its party and soon finds itself betrayed.

    I’m a fan of Frank Rich, and his summation here could not be more appropriate. Render unto Caesar and so on, but the dialogue of Christian faith is not with powers (or bad movies) of this world.


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