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September 13, 2007 |

By Daniel Carlson | Industry | September 13, 2007 |

And I’m back, like a thief in the night, after taking a somewhat accidental but still much-needed summer hiatus. I continue to serve as an ambassador in chains, and I come before you again today to declare fearlessly the truth of the matter when it comes to that unholiest of holies, the mixture of religion and media in modern culture. There’s often much to celebrate about the joining of two such disparate beings, but many of the projects being made are, as always, a minor desecration of the honest faith held and practiced by most American believers. It’s time once again for Jesus, Etc., so without further ado: Let’s God it up.

I Will Go to California With My Friend, Mr. Jesus. Larry Charles has been working in TV for years, though he’s probably best known as the man who helped usher in the unwelcome tidal wave of bad Borat impressions when he directed Sacha Baron Cohen to infamy in Borat. Before showing us what it would look like if two swarthy European dudes almost 69’d, Charles wrote and produced on “Seinfeld” and “Entourage,” among others. Charles is now pairing with Bill Maher for the documentary Religulous, which will take a look at organized religion in America, with a focus on skewering established faiths and a focus on those believers whose fringe practices tend to make everyone else a little nervous. There’s nothing wrong with poking a stick in the eye of those who are perverting what for many is an honest, personal way of life — Jesus Camp is a good example of this — but I’m worried that Maher and Charles will wind up committing a version of Christopher Hitchens’ mistake, namely, transferring their problem with some of organized religion’s angriest or most zealous followers onto religion itself. It’s like demonizing the idea of education in general because you have a problem with No Child Left Behind. Nevertheless, Maher and Charles will be sending up some choice targets, including the Holy Land Experience, a biblical theme park located (somehow appropriately) a scant few miles from Disney World in Orlando. The park re-stages the Crucifixion every afternoon, which is a little terrifying, and makes it the kind of place tailor-made for someone as sharp as Maher to pull apart with his comedy. But here’s hoping the film manages to strike a good balance. “Real Time With Bill Maher” is a great show in part because Maher has the stones to stack his panel with people who hold opposing viewpoints and let them debate each other. Maher disagrees with those who believe in God, but that doesn’t make them stupid. If he can embrace a level of the tolerance he exhorts the faithful to have for their fellow men, Religulous could rise above a standard diatribe against mass religion and wind up being almost worshipful in its desire to unseat the hypocrites who give many Christians a bad name.

I Bet Billy Ray Cyrus is Free. SAT-7, a satellite TV company for the Middle East and Africa, is set to roll out “Mayli Min Kil Aileh,” a sitcom about a Lebanese family that reflects Christian values and doubles as a low-level means of proselytizing to the continent. The family consists of father Youssef, mom Nihad, and kids Tony (?!), Rogee, and Samar. The episodes will deal with, among other things, cheating at school lying, smoking, and sibling rivalry; basically the Middle East is getting a PAX Network version of “The Cosby Show,” which is unfortunate. I respect what the folks at SAT-7 are trying to do, I really do — they are putting more money and effort into living out the great commission than many evangelicals in the States — but I can’t help but wonder how much the citizens of that region also need things like water, and food, and political stability. Maybe we could try and export the whole thing, and not just part of it.

At Least It’s Got Maps of the Area. This week in news that makes me disappointed in America, the South, and the church all at once, I present to you the Soldier’s Bible. More than just a Bible, it’s also got inspirational quotes from sources including George W. Bush. Because nothing expresses the Jesusian methods of nonviolence than a camo green Bible branded with sayings from the president. I mean, that’s what it’s all about, right? The messy, abortive marriage of faith and politics?


Well, after all that, I think we could all use some music to close things out, and today’s selection is a good one. I’m going old school this morning, too. This is Emmylou Harris doing the version of “Wayfaring Stranger” she recorded on Roses in the Snow. Enjoy:

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. All his life he’s longed for forgiveness, but he can never seem to get enough. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

Crucify Your Enthuasiasm

Jesus, Etc. / Daniel Carlson

Industry | September 13, 2007 |

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