First Run Features // 2004 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 9th, 2006
Separation of church and state blurred.
With God on our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right is a documentary look at how religion has come to play a major role in the Republican party over the last fifty years. Faith and politics seem to make uneasy partners, yet here is a movie that spells out exactly how inseparable the two have become. In a country that prints "In God we trust" on every single dollar bill, it makes sense. Those expecting a Michael Moore Fahrenheit 9/11 style attack on "W" will be severely disappointed in With God on our Side. The film is a British and French co-production for television, and offers a balanced look at the issue that is refreshingly candid and fair. There is no condemnation of Evangelical Christians or political outrage to be found. Instead we get a calm look at how Christians rallied around politics to become a major voice in the process. There are no party boundaries to be found either, since most of the Democratic Presidents in the last fifty years have worn their religion on their sleeve as much as any of the Republican leaders. The real shock to be found in With God on our Side is that religion has always been a crucial part of the political process, and it has little to do with party dogma or posturing. Imagine a Jewish or atheist President; it's not going to happen anytime soon if history is any indication of the future.
Politics in America has never been a pure process, and this documentary is not surprising in what it reveals. There are calm talking head interviews with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham. With God on our Side treats them as intelligent men who have found ways to influence decisions on everything from abortion to women's rights and international policy. It isn't inflammatory or critical, and that's the real shock. I can't imagine that it would be offensive to anyone affiliated with Christian groups. There's nothing critical of the movement. It offers an even handed view of how the Moral Majority and evangelicals hold enough power to sway votes and influence politics.
First Run Features treats the feature with respect. There are two featurettes focusing on the history of the movement, as well as audio excerpts from NPR broadcasts. The radio programs are the only supplemental features that seem to be coming from a liberal viewpoint in any sense of the word. And even then, the public radio programs seem tame given the possible criticism that could have been mined. Text features offer further resources analyzing how religion influences voting and offering research outlets on the topic. The transfer is typical to documentaries with video elements varying with the clips. The sound mix is a mono presentation that is clear and dialogue driven. It's an excellent package for the film, and First Run Features does a commendable job with the DVD.
With God on our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right is an outstanding balanced look at how religion and politics have become intertwined in this country in the last fifty years. Anyone who is supportive or critical of this aspect of American politics will find the film interesting and balanced. It's a truly crucial piece of film that should be mandatory viewing for interested parties. First Run Features offers a superior package for the documentary, and it should please fans as well as detractors of the movement. How many documentaries can say that? It praises God and politics without taking swipes at either side. There's a wealth of social history here, and With God on our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right makes sense of a broad topic without simplifying or blurring the lines of what makes religion and politics so inseparable.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Featurette Politics: A Christian Viewpoint
* Featurette Early Evangelical History
* Text Feature How Evangelicals Vote
* Text Feature More on the Religious Right
* Audio NPR Interview with Filmmakers