Roger Ebert on truth-telling, religion, politics, and “The Reader”

Ebert has just published one of his most thought-provoking, personal, revealing commentaries. I hope you’ll read the whole thing.

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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.

  • Travis

    Well said, Jeff. Thanks.

  • closerlooker

    Here’s a (slightly revised) version of what I posted at, where a lively exchange began about Ebert’s post:

    I relate to Ebert’s frustration with the way that people in any *camp* then to make sweeping generalizations about “them” and “they.”

    I relate to it because I’m written off all the time for my opinions. I’m written off as being part of some “camp” or “trend” or “party”… and then I get slapped with a damning diagnosis. And when I read that diagnosis, I’m bewildered, because it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s so easy to make ourselves feel superior by generalizing about a group of people and putting them down. I’ve been guilty of that, and I’m trying to get over it. But as I try, I find myself increasingly sensitive when I see others charging ahead with those sanctimonious smackdowns as if they’ve got a direct line to God on these things.

    I can sympathize with anybody — right or left, Christian or otherwise — who has been the victim of cruel generalizations. And I am fighting, as much as I am able, to resist doing the same thing to others.

    Did Ebert make cruel generalizations in his own column? Absolutely. I see that, I understand that.

    But I find Ebert fascinating. He’s got blindspots big enough to drive a truck through. He exists in the culture of Hollywood and liberal celebrity. But he was also raised Catholic, and the conflict that goes on within him as a result is, I think, compelling.

    So I’m not arguing that the column isn’t full of typical generalizations. But neither will I argue with him and pretend that the people who frustrate him are, often, and in very public ways, guilty of cruel generalizations and self-righteousness. Ultimately, he’s talking about the dangers of zealotry and getting caught up in a swell of cultural consensus… in any culture.

    And I agree with his conclusion — which, for all of his own inappropriate generalizations, is still true: It is difficult to stand up for the truth when the majority is against you.

    In my own experience, I have been more often judged (outrageously, and in public), condemned, sneered at, and falsely accused by Christians than any other community. And so I cannot help but sympathize with Ebert on this one, even if I still see the errors in his response.

  • Travis

    His analysis of THE READER is excellent, and actually made me curious to see the film. He never ceases to glean insight from the most surprising places.

    His approach to religion and conservatism bothers me, and betrays his customary thoughtfulness. While he provides ample food for the faithful to ponder, whenever his prose deviates from THE READER, it inches dangerously close to the very ad hominem he hates.

  • Thom

    Wow. Seriously. Wow. Thanks or bringing that to readers attention.