Written by Chesterton House

January 12, 2008

The recent conference on The Opening of the Evangelical Mind, convened by sociologist Peter Berger, was outstanding. More on that soon.

Among his many memorable formulations, Berger sometimes says that India is the most religious country in the world, Sweden is the least religious, and the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes. This gap between the secular cultural elite and popular religious sentiment is illustrated nicely by yesterday’s New York Times review of “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” a new Veggie Tales feature film.

The reviewer is utterly dismissive. Meanwhile, every single reader review posted in the first 24 hours differs sharply with the reviewer.

“My kids didn’t watch Veggie Tales because of the faith-and-values plot lines,” one reader writes. “They watched them because they’re funny as hell.” As several readers pointed out, the reviewer reveals his ignorance by suggesting that the film appropriates the Pirate theme from Johnny Depp, when in fact the Veggie Tales Pirates debuted in 1999, years before Pirates of the Caribbean. One reader speculated that the review must be a hoax or a farce–after all, “no reviewer could actuallly be so colossally ignorant of a movie.”

I suspect it is only a matter of time until other readers point out that the reviewers’ dismissive description of the plot as “boilerplate” suggests that the genre of hero quests, popular since time immemorial, has somehow suddenly run its course. In any case, if the first 24 hours are any indication, comments may continue to pile up until there is enough material for an enterprising graduate student to write a dissertation on Berger’s theory about cultural elites and popular religion at the turn of the twenty-first century. Another reader writes: “Is [the reviewer] really that jaded that he needs to give a crappy review to a children’s cartoon just because he’s got an apparent issue with faith-based anything?” And another: “I think the Times needs to focus its efforts on being even more contemptuous of the faithful and ‘middle America.’ I’ve begun to enjoy the feeling of them sneering down at me–sort of in the same way I enjoyed passing my last kidney stone.”

Perhaps the readers who sums up the collective sentiment best quotes the head Pirate: “You just em don’t/em get it.”

I have not seen the film. I do not know if it is important or amusing. But the exchange in the Times is certainly both.

Chesterton House Painting