None of us are really surprised when a very fervent, gung-ho fundagelical Christian gets caught doing something hugely hypocritical. The only real questions are when the discovery of wrongdoing will be made, and how many innocent people got hurt by the hypocrite before he or she is caught and stopped. And if it’s not an internet law by now that whatever “sin” a Christian is most interested in policing in others is probably the “sin” that Christian is him- or herself most guilty of committing, then it really should be. I’ve mentioned before how astonishingly masterful Christians are at the art of projection, and I probably won’t ever have reason to stop saying it.
To understand their own hypocrisy, Christians would need a measure of self-awareness–or at least a willingness to listen to what other people have to say about their words and deeds. But the ones who most need that feedback are least likely to seek it or hear it. Long ago, in Rome, citizens made their displeasure known by the use of, among other things, “talking statues”–for many centuries, they’ve been plastering critical notes, poetry, and tirades to the bases of these statues, and if a leader was wise then he’d pay attention to the stuff people were saying about him. But we don’t have that custom in the States, and certainly Christians wouldn’t care or listen if we did.
So when we see that Ray Comfort‘s entire supposedly-foolproof evangelism guide for fundagelicals insists on badgering his victims into admitting that the rather unremarkable fact yes, at some point in their whole lives they might have told a lie once for whatever reason (“Way of the Master,” a series he did with Kirk Cameron), then it’s probably not going to be surprising for us to learn that this guy’s particular sin of choice is, well, playing fast and loose with the truth.
Recently I mentioned that evangelicals have no understanding whatsoever of what makes a movie a good one or a bad one. Moreover, they’re pretty much incapable of criticizing a movie that they think is doctrinally on-point and theoretically capable of converting anyone.
If anybody at all disagrees, then there are only two alternatives possible in fundagelical minds:
* The critic in question is compromised somehow–compelled to be critical of All Christian Movies Forever regardless of how amazing the movie in question might be.
To hear fundagelicals tell it, the main source of income that movie reviewers earn is from some shadowy conspiracy of evil, nasty gay people who want to squish any movie that trumpets a fundagelical point of view. I’ve written a lot of reviews–for real live money!–and can tell you that not once has any shadowy figure ordered me around about what to write in any review I’ve ever done. About the only thing I ever heard was “I need this shorter.” (I know that’ll shock y’all.)
No, if I want to see some major policing in journalism, I don’t look to the unwashed heathens. I look to Christians. I suspect they’re feeling stung over constant criticism over their string of homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist gaffes and foot-in-mouth moments, but rather than examine the detestable culture they’ve created that fosters, condones, and causes these gaffes, they’d rather focus on the process of being criticized. They are being criticized for saying something someone didn’t like, so obviously anyone criticizing them is doing it because of that hated specter of political correctness and for no other reason whatsoever. Fundagelicals are desperate to believe that critics are being directed or controlled somehow, or that they secretly totally sympathize with the fundagelical cause but are terrified of speaking their minds because of the Fabulous Gay Mafia.
* The critic is secretly feeling guilty, “hates God,” or is otherwise speaking more about his or her personal dislike of Christianity than anything else.
There’s obviously no reason why someone might criticize a shitty fundagelical movie other than terror that the fundagelicals are right. Their worldview is so marked by fear, manipulation, and coercion that if a critic of their efforts can ever demonstrate to their satisfaction that the money in their wallets isn’t tainted by rainbow-colored glitter, then the only alternative is that the critic is actually upset about being told THE TRUTH™.
It’s negating and insulting for a non-believer to give a series of reasons why a fundagelical movie is total crap, only to have the fundagelical smile patronizingly and say, like a lawyer issuing a thunderous denouement in a courtroom drama, “Aha! You were convicted by it, weren’t you? ADMIT IT!”
At no point is a fundagelical willing to concede that a Christian movie that is doctrinally on-point to them could be bad simply because it is a bad movie, objectively speaking. That’s why reviews from them of their peers’ efforts will run either 10/10 or 9/10, but rarely lower–and will be full as well of hypocritical accusations about critics’ dishonesty and allusions to this great conspiracy they think exists,* all to try to shut up critics or at least get fewer people to listen to them.
Christians who are that lost in this persecution fantasizing and martyr fetishization aren’t going to accept some little detail like my insistence that I’m being perfectly honest about why I didn’t think something of theirs was good. It’s insulting and hateful to be called a liar to my face, but when it happens I remember the projection principle: people who are dishonest suspect everyone around them of lying because that’s what they’d be doing in that situation.
If I can’t have perfectly valid reasons for my opinions of a Christian’s behavior or efforts, then they might not have valid reasons for having their own opinions about non-Christians’ behavior or efforts. If they think I have some ulterior motive for criticizing or praising something, then maybe they are the ones with ulterior motives for the same.
The Big Problem Here.
The big problem here, however, is that reviews help consumers decide what they’re going to buy, so it’s very much in Christians’ interest to make sure that their efforts garner as many positive reviews–and as few negative ones–as possible. Positive reviews have slightly less impact than negative reviews do on readers’ decisions and opinions, but they’re all of vital importance especially to an independent venture or business. One way to make their ventures seem more favorable than they really are is to silence critics so negative reviews either don’t get made or are disregarded, but Christians are less and less able to do that nowadays. So their other option is to bury negative reviews in glowing–if false–positive reviews.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Even if you have to cheat.
A year ago, Mark Driscoll spent a lot of “the Lord’s” (read: his hardworking parishioners’) money to get his shitty marriage-advice book onto the New York Times Bestseller List. It wasn’t actually that shocking to hear that he was doing it, nor to hear Christians defending the practice of manipulating sales figures like that by saying that it might have been “unwise,” but certainly was not “uncommon or illegal.” (One wonders if they’re planning to quit preaching against premarital sex, since ultimately that’s not uncommon or illegal either, but no, I’m guessing they restrict that allowance only to their leaders acting sketchy as hell to “advance the Kingdom.”) Certainly it wasn’t the first time Christians have gamed a system or cheated to get ahead, nor the last.
Indeed, last Christmas Kirk Cameron astounded the world by requesting–without even a hint of shame–that his fans go to Rotten Tomatoes, an aggregate movie-review site, to leave positive reviews of his latest movie to increase its overall ranking there. It’s worth mentioning that other moviemakers don’t make such requests of their fans–and don’t need to do so, because fans generally are very loud about liking stuff. Just the attempt speaks to how unwilling Kirk Cameron is to play by the same rules everybody else does.
The results of this request were both hilarious and predictable: the internet promptly not only destroyed his movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but went on for good measure to IMDB (the Internet Movie Database, a huge repository of information about movies, TV shows, video games, and documentaries) to vote Saving Christmas the worst movie of all time, rating it right below Birdemic.
As you’re watching this review of Birdemic, think about how IMDB’s community thought this movie was better than Saving Christmas.
The sheer audacity (HAHA) of Kirk Cameron’s request–and his blithe lack of awareness about why it wasn’t acceptable–shocked people. It seemed impossible for anyone to even make him or his supporters realize that he was basically asking people to game ratings systems in his favor. A Christian who trumpeted Jesus to the skies wanted his friends to help him manipulate a review site. A guy whose entire proselytization strategy hinged on shaming non-Christians for being dishonest at any point in their entire lives was, himself, acting in a decidedly shady and dishonest-seeming way–and saw nothing wrong with doing so.
So yes, a lot of Christians did show up on review sites to compliment this awful movie.
And a lot of non-Christians showed up just to talk trash about it or insult Kirk Cameron.
Some of the negative reviewers clearly hadn’t actually seen the movie, just as most of the positive reviewers clearly hadn’t. But a lot more people of all religions showed up to discuss exactly why they hadn’t liked the movie. They’d actually seen it, and they gave a lot of reasons for disliking it. It seems like all they’d been waiting for was an invitation to speak, which Kirk Cameron had inadvertently offered them. They might never have said anything, but when he asked people to game the system, they decided to speak up so the movie didn’t get an unfairly positive ranking.
The backlash didn’t even faze him; as that link to CT proclaimed, he was “still joyful” about his spanking at the hands of the internet, and still totally unaware of why anybody would ever have had any kind of problem with anything he’d done.
There is no way whatsoever that any Christian provacateur with any sense could look at what happened with Saving Christmas and come out of it with anything other than a real appreciation for how dishonest it had come off as to so many people–and an even greater appreciation for how badly such a request is likely to backfire.
At least you’d think so.
If so, though, you’d be wrong.
Ray Comfort recently made a ridiculously stupid movie called Audacity to encourage anti-gay bigots-for-Jesus to keep being anti-gay bigots-for-Jesus because that’s totally what Jesus wants them to do. The movie’s a nonstop caricature of gay people and a rehashing of Ray Comfort’s favorite standard-issue beliefs, super-manipulative distortions, shitty arguments, ineffective proselytization techniques, and nonsensical talking points regarding LGBTQ rights, all aimed at Christians to encourage them to keep harassing gay people. Here is an excellent skewering of it. We might do one too at some point–it’s that bad on every single possible level.
Inquisitr.com has noted that Audacity may well be sprinting to the bottom the exact same way that Kirk Cameron’s movie did (and also points out that the movie’s title has special relevance to its astronomical price to download–almost USD$20!). Though Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have a listing for the movie because it’s that inconsequential, IMDB sure doesn’t seem impressed. While Ray Comfort whines to anyone who’ll listen about the conspiracy he is positive at the heart of criticism of his movie, reviews trickle in** and are anything but positive.
Ray Comfort is actually hopeful that his movie will bring “some sort of peace between the church and the LGBT community,” showing LGBTQ people that oh no, Ray Comfort and his gang of cutthroats don’t hate gay people… they love them. Totally. They love them so much that they are working night and day, endlessly, fiendishly, dedicatedly, to harassing gay people, making their lives totally miserable, and denying them basic rights and protections. Audacity will make that all better. Yep. Totally. All that viciousness, brutality, and cruelty will just wash away because of a movie Ray Comfort made that actually hardens Christians’ hearts against ending that campaign of hatred and reinforces their already-terrible ideas.
So far, it doesn’t look like LGBTQ people are fooled.
Jesus is not blessing Ray Comfort in this venture, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Claiming that “atheists hacked IMDB” to make its score tank, he asked his followers to go write some glowingly positive reviews.
Is this tribe not capable of learning anything? I’m, um, asking for a friend.
It was already a really sketchy idea, but if he’d been paying attention at all to his sidekick’s stunt last year, he’d already have known what an idiotic idea it was as well. Christians like him ache for our respect, obedience, and reverence, but what is there to respect and revere here and why should anybody listen to someone that decidedly skeevy? Mockery is the only real response one can make to such demands–and condemnation. I’m really not surprised that our culture as a whole considers Ray Comfort and his self-righteous, sanctimonious ilk so contemptible that they’ve become punchlines and laughingstocks. And they not only have stripped from themselves the ability to acknowledge or accept feedback, but have gone on to decide to blame everyone but themselves for the criticisms leveled against them. They’ve robbed themselves of any ability whatsoever to learn–or even recognize–their mistakes. They’re leaving nothing to chance here; there’s no other way this situation could play out.
Audacity is now sitting at about a 3 (remember, Birdemic got a 1.8 and Saving Christmas got a 1.6). Yesterday when I began this post that score was a 2.6 or so, so I’m sure a few dozen or hundred fundagelicals showed up to inflate the score with some 9s and 10s. Notably, very few of the thousands of people clearly rating this movie highly have bothered to write formal reviews of the movie, and nobody who rated it highly wrote anything between yesterday and today.
The people who did write actual reviews on IMDB have uniformly rated the movie at 1 star and have for the most part given perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so: poor characterization, one-dimensional stereotypes, dishonest-looking editing of its numerous street-proselytization interviews (Ray Comfort adores these cringe-inducing spectacles), weird pacing, contrived dialogue, nonsensical directorial decisions about plotting, and a wildly implausible storyline.*** It’s almost funny to see the spiral finger of karma center on the metaphorical bulls-eye on Ray Comfort’s forehead, but–no, wait, sorry, it’s actually really funny. Never mind. What’s even funnier is that he’s just going to splutter in outrage the whole time he gets his spanking without recognizing why it’s happening or learning how to avoid it in the future.
Once again we see that Christians aren’t any better than those they seek to proselytize and convert to their own way of thinking. A pity Ray Comfort doesn’t seem to take anything in his holy book seriously, any more than Kirk Cameron and Mark Driscoll did. While non-Christians don’t tend to need threats of eternal torture to try to live decent lives, he clearly needs something a little more compelling than basic human decency to motivate him to behave himself.
* You can even use this tendency as a test. If a Christian thinks that Left Behind, God’s Not Dead, or one of those other objectively-awful Christian movies is actually fantastic, and especially if that Christian thinks there’s some massive conspiracy to push down the movie’s review scores because there’s no way that honest reviewers could ever find anything to criticize about it, then yep, that person is almost certainly a toxic Christian.
** That review is by a Christian, and he’s right: Christians like Ray Comfort treat LGBTQ people like “problems to be solved” rather than as people to be embraced. I also liked his attempt to stop his peers from sharing false stories. Come for the semi-sane Christian attempting to talk sense into his peers; stay for the comments from his “loving” tribe screaming at him in total outrage for daring to soften the fundagelical Good News of hatred, exclusion, abuse, harassment, and lies-for-Jesus.
*** One reviewer mentioned that a Christian actually paid for him to download this movie and watch it to help him “stop acting on my gayness and go to heaven.” I guess Christians would rather stop a gay person from being gay than to feed the hungry. I can see why, though; Jesus after all never said anything about feeding the hungry, but he talked all the time about how Christians need to do to hassle LGBTQ people as much as possible. It’s right in the Bible. You can check if you don’t believe me.