The documentary 2016, narrated and written by Dinesh D’Souza and produced by Gerald R. Molen (producer of Schindler’s List) is making the circuits in the theaters for the pre-election season. It finally came to Syracuse, so my wife and I went to go see it last night. The movie is the film version of D’Souza’s 2010 book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”. D’Souza, a former policy analyst in Reagan’s administration and graduate of Dartmouth College, is currently president of King’s College in New York City. In short, this is not Michael Moore doing the conservative version of Fahrenheit 911. D’Souza is a respected author, scholar, administrator and policy maker.
The movie is respectable and academic in its approach. D’Souza has clearly done his homework. The premise is well known: President Obama can be best understood as an anti-colonialist. His biological father was a Kenyan anti-colonialist, his father’s friends were anti-colonialist, his mother was anti-colonialist, and his mentors were all anti-colonialist. Some in the Tea Party try to understand Obama as a closet Muslim and his anti-colonial presuppositions might easily feed that stereotype. However, D’Souza’s thesis seems to be accurate. Obama’s decision to return the bust of Winston Churchill to Great Britain when he became president suddenly makes a lot more sense.
I found the cinematography to be poor with some of the graphic work looking like an attempt to make D’Souza look like a cool, funny and interesting guy. There’s no need in a documentary to try to win friends and influence people with goofy graphics and weird b-roll footage of D’Souza doing some touristy group Hawaiian hula dancing in order to establish credibility. If anything, this kind of stuff has the exact opposite effect in the context of a film like this one. Now if there was some nifty footage of Obama in a grass skirt, that would be another story. I think we’d all enjoy that.
The middle portion of the movie drags along. The guy in front of me fell asleep and I nearly followed his lead. By that time, Obama’s anti-colonialism was pretty well established and I found myself waiting for that dead horse to be left alone and wondering what would come next. If conservative Republicans want to convince anyone they have to communicate crisply. Otherwise the effect is reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the old TV renditions of the cartoon.
The punch line of the film was meant to be what America will look like in 2016 if Obama is re-elected. This portion of the film may have covered a grand total of two or three minutes. But the real punch line is the idea that if Obama gets what he wants in a second term, there will be a United States of Islam stretching across the Middle East . D’Souza extrapolates this from his success on some previous educated guesses regarding specific policy moves by Obama. Is it possible? Anything is possible. Should we hit the “panic button”? No. More on that in a moment.
As a Christian who is learning to practice a consistent Biblical worldview, there are elements of what Obama believes that are disturbing, elements of what he believes that ought to make us stop and think, and elements of what D’Souza is putting forward that miss the point altogether.
What We Ought to be Concerned About:
One main feature of anti-colonialism wherever it is found, is the idea that the Christian missionary enterprise is somehow in bed with politicians in order to secretly spread western civilization. Every plausible lie has an element of truth to it. In some cases, missionaries have unwittingly spread their culture by simply being American or British or what-have-you in a different culture. As people convert to Christianity, the converts equate the culture of the messenger with the culture of the Kingdom of God, and impersonate what they see. In some unfortunate cases, the missionaries purposely teach that western civilization is sanctification and it is from these misguided souls that the anti-colonialists get their ammunition. I know of one missionary in the former Soviet Union who teaches his converts English so that they can read the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. I am sure that this missionary is sincere, but teaching people English so that they can read the Bible in the “inspired language” of seventeenth century English is foolish and begging for a colonial interpretation.
Yet this is patently untrue as a whole. The primary reason why Christians evangelize and do missionary work is not political; at least not in a “of this world” sense. We take the gospel to the nations because God is moving all of history towards a close when His redeemed from all nations will worship around His throne (Revelation 7:9-12). While anti-colonialism serves its purpose well, those who hold to the ideology ought to have the intellectual integrity to admit to the real motivations behind the missionary effort, even if they disagree with the message of Christianity.
Anti-colonialism is a political philosophy. It is a tool that can be used to not only inspire effigy burnings, but the martyrdom of sincere missionaries. Any time an American president gets offended at the freedom of religion (which would include the freedom of adherents to proselytize) we ought to be a little bit nervous. We might also ask where is Obama’s concern for the Islamic colonization that we are seeing in places like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Dearborn, Michigan? Is it possible that Obama is really against only certain brands of colonialism?
What We Need to Think About:
Our role as believers is not to spread the good news of the United States of America. Reagan caught some heat in his day for making the United States out to be a “city on a hill.” The United States is not the Kingdom of God, but to hear some tell it in the Tea Party camp, it is. The Kingdom of God will subdue all kingdoms one day, including the USA (read the Book of Daniel). Perhaps one reason why some interpret evangelicals as being colonizers is their blind allegiance to a political party which has been too quick on the trigger to send our troops out to every corner of the world to “protect our interests.” The evangelical tendency to wrap ourselves in the American flag misses the obvious fact that the Lord’s Kingdom is made up of all nations. Whether we want to admit it or not we have probably helped create the political philosophy that helped create Obama.
The Point D’Souza Missed:
D’Souza’s fear mongering regarding a potential United States of Islam misses an obvious point. God is Sovereign. Don’t go to this movie expecting to hear much of anything from a Christian perspective. The gospel, and for that matter—a Sovereign God—are not presupposed in this movie. In fact, what we have here is humanism. The savior of our civilization will be the American voter. If we choose well, we might have a chance. If we do not, we are doomed. This will play well to the Republican party and the “anyone but Obama” crowd. It does not play well amongst principled voters.
For a man who wrote a book called, “What’s So Great About Christianity?”, Christianity does not show up as a blip on the radar in this film. Point of fact: God is Sovereign. Christians should vote for principles and not panic. We should not buy the lie that all of civilization hinges on this election, which is what Romney and company would have us believe. If evangelicals voted principle above pragmatism we would begin to think long term by voting for third party candidates in spite of their not being “electable.”
In the worst case scenario, the United States becomes a third world nation. Our hope is not the United States. It is Jesus Christ and we are part of His Kingdom. If our nation collapses, we can rebuild it using Biblical principles of government and not humanism. This is one of many things that are truly great about Christianity. The gospel has something to say to governments. Whether or not they, or the governed, listen is another issue.
Jon Speed is the Pastor of Christ is King Baptist Church and the dean of The Log College.