Because it remains too hot to work in the garden, I’ve been holed up indoors watching movies. Some are so forgettable that they’re just background noise while I work on other projects, however lately I stumbled upon two in a row that addressed how easily people suspend reason for blind faith. First, I should say that my spiritual beliefs are based on personal experience and would probably shock my agnostic and atheist friends but I keep them to myself. Nor do I want to discuss anyone else’s beliefs – unless they want to tell me about a UFO or BigFoot sighting, of course.
Now to the movies I saw. The first was simply called Bernie. I’d seen clips of this movie before but wasn’t interested because of the synopsis: “A Texas town comes to the defense of a mortician’s assistant who shot an heiress in the back and then stuffed her body in a freezer.” Sounds like a slasher movie, right?
Actually, it’s based on an incident that took place in 1998 in Carthage Texas. Because I knew that going in, I assumed that all of the interviews in the movie were interviews with the townspeople of Carthage. Then I recognized a couple of famous actors. Whoops.
The story’s a familiar one: a young man becomes the companion of a wealthy old lady. Eventually he gains access to her finances, then grows tired of her clinginess and shoots her in the back. However, there’s a twist. After the murder, he uses her money to become the town’s most popular philanthropist. They all love Bernie! Even when the body’s found and Bernie confesses, they refuse to believe he could have actually committed murder. Perhaps because no one liked the old woman, or perhaps because they’ve benefitted from her murder. One by one they look into the camera and say things like: “It’s up to God to judge, not me” and “I don’t think even Jesus could change my mind [about Bernie’s innocence].”
The case became the first in Texas history where the prosecutor requested a change of venue because of bias in favor of the defendant. (BTW – he was convicted in a different county)
The second movie was Inherit the Wind, a fictionalization of the Scopes (Monkey) Trial of 1925. A teacher is arrested and put on trial for teaching evolution to a group of southern high school students, igniting a wave of hatred and threats of violence. The defense attorney, played by Spencer Tracey, attempts to argue to the court and the town that God’s greatest gift to mankind is the ability to wonder and if children are told it is a sin to wonder, civilization will spin in reverse.
Seeing these two movies almost back to back answered a question that has bothered me since the election. How can so many people who claim to be Christians back a man who espouses a doctrine of isolationism, mocks handicapped people and brags he can shoot people on Fifth Avenue and still be worshipped? And not just support him, but with a blinding certainty that is frightening to those of us who want to retain our freedom to wonder.
It’s like a character in Bernie said “I don’t even think Jesus could change my mind. . .” Not even Jesus.“Darwin had it wrong. Man’s still an ape,” Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald to Spencer Kelly in Inherit the Wind.
14 thoughts on ““I don’t even think Jesus could change my mind. . .””
People’s professed reasons for belief never fail to leave me amazed.
The phrase “suspension of reason” came up in conversation just yesterday, in regards to 45’s supporters. Hubby claims that in part, it’s because “life imitates art” or in this case, a reality show star imitates a reality show. I added that his supporters are starstruck.
A friend told me about Bernie some years back – she was quite impressed with McConaughey’s performance. I must add it to my list.
People do not want to be confronted with reason (or their own professed values) when it comes to their heroes. In Bernie, McConaughey is the voice of reason. There was an implication by some of the townsfolk that God would pardon Bernie so why not the state? It’s a thought provoking movie which underscores the need for the separation of Church and State. I also think your hubby is right (smart man).
I caught Bernie on HBO and Inherit on TCM.
I’ve seen Inherit the Wind, but I haven’t seen Bernie. I’d never even heard of it, so I thank you for the introduction.
Belief is a tool like any other.
They’re both alarming movies (though Bernie is called a “dark humor”) I thought similarities in both to what’s going on today.
I haven’t seen “Bernie” but I think I will!
A lot of the beliefs expressed by Christians in Inherit the Wind, I think are products of the Charismatic Christian Revolution taking place just prior to that time. One of the strongest products of that Revolution or movement are the Evangelical and Prosperity “Gospels.” Before the charismatic Christian Revolution or movement any member of a congregation speaking out and interpreting theology was denounced as a blasphemer. Any religious pronouncements from any congregation had to be scripted and approved by the church. Of course there have always been exceptions especially for the rich who were able to endow their churches.. Considering where we are today with our self service, buffet-style Christians… the old way was much better. I think if the Baptist Church brought back its 19th century authorized prayer books and rules for Christian Public deportment would return Christianity to a studied devotion rather than the part-time interpretive experience that it has become today. I am a secular humanist because it does not include merit badges and a reward system for acts of kindness, generosity, charity and decency.
Interesting comment – thanks. I think “part-time interpretive experience” says what I wanted to better than me.
Thinking about Trump, I am appalled, constantly and every day nearly shake my head off!
About religion, it confuses me how one or two issues are like throwing the baby out with the bath water. We are our best in our country and personal lives, I feel, by caring about our neighbors, schools, children, poverty and hunger. If someone thinks planned parenthood and abortion are evil, I think they may have lost their faith and focus on what messages are easy to follow.
My Swedish grandpa was an agnostic but was one who felt we all should care about others. He knew how to repair furnaces, was an engineer but helped his neighbors. My German grandma was a Catholic who was very giving towards others. I don’t think faith has anything to do with niceness either. This was kind of a combination of a rant and commentary. 😊 🙃
I could never say “Not even Jesus could convince me,” and then claim to be a Christian. I guess that’ s my point. I do feel that’s happening in the US today. “Not even Jesus could convince me that Trump is not my savior.” It’s a confusion
Maybe my comment mentions religion but it is not what rules my voting decisions. As I led off with the main rant: “I am appalled. . .”
I care about my world and I have diversity in my neighbors and among my friends. Sadly, those for Trump are not diverse nor caring about their world.
Bay Area’s having a hot spell, I’m in it too, Jan. Don’t watch too many thought-provoking movies in a row, it’s too hot for that. Here’s a good one: “Winchester 73” with Jimmy Stewart, directed by Mann.
Thanks Jet – it’s been decades since I’ve seen that movie but you can’t go wrong with a Jimmie Stewart film.
Excellent twist, J! At first I laughed at the craziness of the town refusing to indict Bernie (shot her in the back!). But you nailed it with the summation. Goodness. America is the planet of the Apes.