Lord Save Us From Your Followers (PG-13) **1/2
Dir. Dan Merchant
The question these lefty Christianity docs always prompts is: Who is the audience? You have to assume those nutty religious-righters avoid these things like syndicated reruns of Will & Grace, and there’s something extremely distasteful about the thought of preaching to the converted, of a theater full of self-congratulating atheists patting themselves on their godless backs, grinning smugly at those dumb enough to believe in anything greater than the scientifically observable. Like Bill Maher’s Religulous, Dan Merchant’s Lord Save Us From Your Followers boasts an off-putting, condescending, albeit easier to spell, title, but its tagline — “Why is the gospel of love dividing America?” poses a question often considered by the kinder-hearted breeds of honest-to-God Christians.
The film opens with several talking heads, pitting Maher, Jon Stewart and George Carlin against Ann Coulter, Dubya, and Jerry Falwell, easily proving that all these soundbites aren’t moving us anywhere near a reasonable discussion. Not that any of us, on either side, needed much convincing of that. The stream of headlines that follows is less articulate, and Merchant’s voiceover bio — raised suburban evangelical, watching Pat Robertson and keeping an eye out for the antichrist — reveals that he’s actually playing for Team God, though more hardcore Christians might accuse him of shaving points.
More clips of the back-and-forth snark, and some actual attempts at rational thought, are intercut with Merchant’s man-on-the-street interviews. Merchant, incidentally, is dressed in a jumpsuit covered in bitchy bumper stickers, Jesus fish, and Darwinian amphibians.
These interviews reveal something rarely mentioned when we decry all the Ann Coulters of the world — in off-the-cuff interviews, average people, some of them no doubt decent, goodhearted folk, sound like dicks, too. A gay marriage protest and counter protest outside San Francisco City Hall leads to a direct conflict between one of the milder iterations of the God-hates-fags crowd and grown men dressed as Padmé Amidala, and nobody comes away looking particularly good.
The cartoon comparing the body of Christ to Frankenstein’s monster is the point at which I’m predicting most conservative Christians in the audience (if there were any there to begin with) will stomp out and demand a refund, and most of Merchants more hardcore Christian interviewees aren’t willing to bend enough to satisfy most liberal atheists looking to find common ground. But, as the segment on the Democratic Party’s recent embrace of Christianity reminds us, the nonbelievers are a still in the minority.
Unless hardcore Christians confuse the title for some kind of bible-thumping slasher flick, I expect they’ll stay away in droves, and that’s probably not a bad thing, as far as the film’s stated objective — opening a thoughtful dialogue — is concerned. Lord Save Us is far more effective as a justification of faith to the faithless than vice versa.
After all, Al Franken, even at his most diplomatic, still sounds like he’s being interviewed via satellite from somewhere up his own ass, but Dean Merrill —author of Damage Control: How to Stop Making Jesus Look Bad — comes off as refreshingly levelheaded, and a too-brief segment on some especially joyful-looking Ethiopian Christians is an effective reminder that not everyone who believes in a invisible magic man in the sky is bugshit insane.