Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2007

Friends of God’ a look at evangelicals

January 25, 2007

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Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi presents the third of her premium cable home movies "Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi" (8 p.m., HBO).

Pelosi's previous works include "Journeys with George," a revealing and largely sympathetic look at candidate George W. Bush on the 2000 campaign trail. Her second film, "Diary of a Political Tourist," chronicled the 2004 primaries and included entirely too many snarky asides from the director.

With "Friends," Pelosi seems to have regained her focus. She visits the ministers and congregations of America's arena-sized churches from Houston to Colorado. She offers a view of thousands of enthusiastic and happy believers. The film opens in a giant church on a Saturday night. She's struck by the number of young people - particularly 20-something men - having a great time.

Pelosi does a good job of letting her subjects speak. She keeps her commentary to a minimum. She visits a church that presents rock concerts for Christ and another that sponsors wrestling matches with a biblical flavor. We meet evangelical standup comedians, owners of a Christian-themed classic-car club, a Christian theme park and a miniature golf course inspired by the Bible.

"Friends" includes interviews with several evangelical leaders, most notably the recently disgraced Ted Haggard. This film was completed before his well-documented sex scandal. In light of recent events, it's impossible not to see some of his commentary about the great sex lives of evangelicals as slightly bizarre.

Like any tourist, Pelosi captures only the surface of her expansive subject. We hear a lot about religious certainty. Pelosi shows clips of familiar faces like Jerry Falwell and documents preachers condemning the teaching of evolution and teaching children that dinosaurs co-existed with biblical characters.

We don't meet with any evangelicals who differ from the image that has become well established in the media. Do all evangelicals worship in these vast arenas? Are they all science-denying lock-step Republican homophobes? It would have been more interesting if Pelosi had interviewed even one evangelical minister who deviated from the stereotype.

This film was completed before Alexandra's mother, Nancy Pelosi, became speaker of the House of Representatives.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ A past transgression at a cat show has romantic repercussions on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC). Amy Sedaris guest stars.

¢ More tricks than treats on the Halloween episode of "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ "Best Evidence" (7 p.m., Discovery) sifts through theories about the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800.

¢ On three episodes of "The Office" (NBC), Angela plays Lady Macbeth (7:30 p.m.), Michael takes grief to extremes (9 p.m.), Dwight hazes Ryan (9:30 p.m.).

¢ The squad uses new techniques to capture a politician's killer on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ Bailey proposes a free clinic on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).

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