With God On Our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right -- Part One: The Early Crusades -- Part Two: The Real Deal 2004
Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Ali Pomeroy/Lumiere Productions, Inc. (for Channel 4)
Directed by David Van Taylor
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Political Science, Religious Studies, American Studies
Date Entered: 12/20/2007Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA
This work is an update and distillation of a six-hour long production of the same title in which one is given a look into the “Religious Right” in America. While such a controversial topic/movement may be impossible to portray objectively, the producers do not seem to be overtly hostile to the subject. One weakness of the production is its lack of historical context. When one hears of the rise of the Religious Right one may think that religion, and to be specific, Christianity, had nothing to do with American public or civic life from Jamestown to the end of the Second World War. While we live in an age in which religion is seen by many in the intelligentsia as quaint if not an outright anachronism, the role of religion in America’s history should never be underestimated. The producers would have done well to note the Religious Right in the context of the Puritans, the religious origins of the Revolution, the various “Great Awakenings,” the national religious fervor prior to and throughout the Civil War, as well as such prominent figures as Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, and Billy Sunday. The first tape covers the years from JFK’s election (1960) through the end of the Clinton administration (2001). Through the use of the popular talking head format and archival film we are presented the ups and downs of the relationship between the Evangelicals and the different presidential administrations through these four decades. Among the prominent talking heads are Charles Colson and the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, among others. One small detail that struck this reviewer as a bit odd was the labeling of Mel White as an “Evangelical writer.” Due to his lifestyle choice, most Evangelicals would not consider him as one of their own. While candidates may have sought out the votes of Evangelicals, as one commentator notes, in one administration the Moral Majority was relegated to the role of advisor and not that of prophet. The Clinton years are quickly passed over and the reason that he was so unpopular with Evangelicals is not even touched upon by the narrator. If Part One is the prologue, then Part Two is the main focus of the production, the life of George W. Bush.
We are given an in-depth biography with a large portion of the film focusing on his work in the Texas oil industry before and through the bust of the mid-1980s and his conversion at the age of 40. To some Evangelical leaders he was seen as being authentically one of them – “the real deal.” Technically, there were no perceived flaws as sound and picture quality were good to very good. As with most, if not all, video productions this should be seen as an introduction to the subject and not the final word.