Roger Ebert wasn’t bad as a movie critic, but as a historian and critic of religion, he’s apparently not that up to snuff.
A reader directed me to a column Ebert wrote in which he expressed “misgivings” about Texas Presidential candidate holding a “prayer rally”. He begins by rather nitpickingly saying:
A prayer "rally?" I can think of words like gathering and meeting that might more perfectly evoke the spirit. Prayer rallies make me think of pep rallies. Their purpose is to jack up the spirits of the home team and alarm the other side.
I think Ebert needs to check his dictionary: A leading definition of the noun form of “rally” is, “a large gathering of people for a common purpose, especially for some political cause.” Another dictionary adds the qualifier, “A gathering, especially one intended to inspire enthusiasm for a cause.” At best he’s got a bit of that “jack up the spirits” right, but no one seems to think “alarm the other side” is part of the package. In fact, I have to wonder what high school Ebert went to, since as far as I know, no opposing school was ever “alarmed” by a pep rally at the other school – they were too busy having one of their own, as he is compelled to admit (but doesn’t see how that nulls his point).
Now I’ll be the first to agree, as he says, that prayer before football games for victory in a game is not appropriate. But that is because that is not what prayer is for. (Link below.) Public calls for prayer and fasting made in this country were also not as trivial as “let’s win this game” prayers. And they also belie the extreme extent to which Ebert and like minds drag out the alleged “separation of church and state” clause they find in our laws. (I wouldn’t trust Ebert to do any political analysis on this nation in any event; he says, “The separation of church and state is central to our democracy.” Hey Roger….this is a republic, not a democracy. That was ancient Greece.)
In any event, Ebert is apparently paranoid over Perry’s rally, seeing in it some sort of “horizontal prayer” that is directed at “us” – whoever “us” is. It may well be “paranoid movie critics.” He complains about “eagerness to convert outsiders” which he finds offensive, because “[y]our religion is a matter between you and the god of your definition.” Really? So it’s like a movie you review, in other words? I give Islam 2 stars? There’s no objective truth claims involved? How much do you want to bet Ebert couldn’t so much as lay a finger on the most basic apologetic defense for any spiritual truth claims? How much more you want to bet that’s why he wants to say it’s too personal and you shouldn’t evangelize? He says he wants respect, but if you ask me, I smell a closed mind cowering in fear.
The irony is that Ebert himself is showing a distinct lack of respect in his own criticism. In other words, he’s “evangelizing” for his own cause of totally private religion and “respect” for others, in essence showing disrespect for those who don’t agree. He doesn’t like being prayed at, he says, but he expects us to sit still while he preaches at “us”.
Sorry, Roger. I give that performance 2 thumbs down.