Israeli-born director and Mideast war veteran Ilan Ziv left his country three decades ago for the United States, to escape life under a virtual theocracy and threats of perpetual holy wars in his native land. But after 9/11, as Ziv regretfully relates in his documentary, Jesus Politics: The Bible And The Ballot, politics entered into an increasingly unhealthy alliance with religion here too, as the notion of separation of church and state seemed to wane.
And as this trend manifested itself in the current presidential election process, Ziv decided to embark on a cross-country journey to observe and record that evidence, as it played out in the recent primaries. Though in an unusual move, Ziv focused, not on the candidates, but on the grass roots voters, and exactly what role religious beliefs were driving their choices.
Ziv’s film uncovers some unexpected revelations about religious influences on politics, not so much among Republicans and their conservative supporters which is already well documented, but in the Democratic race. Among Democratic Party faithfuls, particularly evangelicals across the country, Ziv encounters a religious zeal for Barack Obama, verbalized passionately rather than politically as a ‘divine assignment’ from God, and which the candidate himself hasn’t discouraged. Though as one spiritual academic points out, ‘Any politician who takes on a prophetic role is really taking on an additional burden.’
And while scrutinizing the opposite political camp in his five week, four thousand mile personal pilgrimage of sorts, Ziv visits the Republican Catholic base, and also backwoods fundamentalists in Kentucky still enacting ancient rites. And where the mystified filmmaker reports that ‘I went to sleep in 2008 and woke up at the turn of the 19th century.’
Jesus Politics though, like the feature film ‘W.’ apparently hastened into release before the November election, is hampered by seemingly being cut off in mid-sentence. And with a missed opportunity to include the subsequent appointment of Christian conservative Sarah Palin as vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket.
And though wide reaching in detail as an investigative political road movie, Jesus Politics seems to skim surfaces and lack a satisfyingly in-depth or analytical perspective to address its provocative material. Or for that matter, attain any substantive conclusions as a prophetic secular work in its own right, about what it all means, and where we may be headed as a religiously impacted nation, under the influence.
2 1/2 stars