Tag Archives: Dan Partland

Holy Sanctimony

God & Country

by George Wolf

When Rob Schenck was a young pastor, he was told never to prepare a sermon without consulting the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel.

Years later, Schenck learned that Kittel was also the man who gave Hitler a Christian blessing for his Final Solution.

“That was an eye opener,” Schenck admits. The point—that there is no limit to what radical Christianity can be used to justify—is what drives God & Country. And much of the film’s success comes from how it combats that fanaticism with a measured, confident deconstruction.

Director Dan Partland doesn’t insert himself into the conversation, but has no problem crafting a spirited one. Yes, he has a clear agenda, but includes enough footage from news reports, political speeches and televangelist messaging that the film’s worldview becomes the “other side” getting a chance to be heard.

Partland relies on historians, authors, and theologians to trace the rise of Christian Nationalism, it’s deviation from actual Christian teachings, the quest for power over values that earns a rebranding as “White Religious Nationalism,” and how the true believers have been convinced that America has a God-ordained role in human history.

And if democracy gets in the way? See January 6th, 2021.

The attack on the Capitol is what bookends the film, and in between, Partland actually elicits sympathy for the attackers, who have been fed a calculated diet of lies, fear and outrage. The resulting echo chamber creates an alternative reality bubble, one that was always designed to burst.

If you noticed the proudly theocratic ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court last week, you know that the threat to democracy is only becoming more dangerous. Partland makes it clear that the biggest hope is awareness, so that those led astray by the fervor (like Schenck) can experience a new awakening.

Christian Nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. And God & Country finds a useful tone between sermonizing and condescension that can help us see that light.