On November 1, when Alexandra Pelosi (the daughter of you-know-whom) finished editing her second documentary, the first half of Friends of God probably played like a quaint attempt to convince secular folks on the coasts that evangelical Christians can walk and chew gum simultaneously. But the next day, Rev. Ted Haggard—our guide through much of the film—confessed to dallying with a gay prostitute, and Pelosi’s intermittently disorganized doc suddenly gained focus and became an essential snapshot of America’s greatest cultural division.
To be sure, Pelosi spends too long dwelling on Jesus kitsch—Christian car clubs, wrestling meets, etc.—but when she gets serious, watch out. With a detachment that avoids condescension, Pelosi depicts the religious right as a movement that will stop at nothing to make America very uncomfortable for anyone who’s not straight, white and Christian. Pelosi’s greatest achievement is illustrating the success of the most destructive evangelical meme: that liberalism is a plot to abolish religion, marginalize heterosexuals and eliminate individual choice. Her connections seem to have made Pelosi’s subjects relaxed enough to cheerfully hang themselves with the rope she offers, none more so than Brad Stine, a comedian who comes off like Jeff Foxworthy on crystal meth. “Hollywood doesn’t let people like us on their freaking TV shows,” he barks to an audience, blithely ignoring Ned Flanders. “All I’m asking liberals to do is be liberal enough to let me have my point of view,” he tells Pelosi calmly. But when he ends his act by saying judges want to make it “illegal to have a moral [viewpoint]” and that people like him “want our country back and are gonna fight for it,” you realize he really should have been careful about what he asked for. — Andrew Johnston