Patron Pick – Let There Be Light (2017)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Let There Be Light (2017)
Written by Dan Gordon and Sam Sorbo
Directed by Kevin Sorbo

When I was a youth, I fondly remember an hour block of syndicated television on Saturday featuring the adventures of Hercules & Xena. Little did I know over twenty years later, Kevin Sorbo, the man playing Hercules, would be revealed to be such a sanctimonious douchebag, grifting on the current fasci-corporate brand of American Christianity. It shouldn’t surprise me as the “top stars” of the American conservatism movement are washed-up actors (Scott Baio, Dean Cain, anyone?). I guess there’s some resentment about not succeeding in the business, but this isn’t some conspiracy theory about Sorbo’s religious belief; he’s not a good actor, so a cheesy show like Hercules was a terminal point for him. Sam Sorbo, his wife, was a recurring character on the show and is also a mediocre performer. I guess that makes them perfect performers for the Jesus film circuit.

Sorbo plays Sol Harkens, the “world’s most famous atheist,” a phrase said many times over. He is akin to a mixture of Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, smarmy and always with a quip towards his debate opponents. But you see, Harkens is really an atheist because his youngest son died from cancer, and he’s mad at God, not because the overwhelming body of evidence points to the American Christian interpretation of God being an obscene fantasy. His current book, Aborting God (see, so incendiary), has him on a tour that seems to just be in one city? He has a near-death experience after drinking & driving where he encounters his dead boy in a tunnel of light & memories. The child utters the phrase “Let there be light,” and Harkens is awake in the hospital. What could that have meant? Now Harkens falls into a crisis of un-faith.

His ex-wife Katy (Sam Sorbo) is a devout Christian, as are their two older boys who spend some time with Harkens. However, they aren’t comfortable with how y’know atheist he’s being and are starting to pull away. Harkens is told he needs to keep the near-death brush to himself as it will destroy his career, but he just can’t help but tell Katy. Will they end up back together again? (Yes, of course, they will. In this movie, that is what happens). But Katy has a fantastic idea for a smartphone app, LTBL, an app that will shine a light, and then everyone at the same time across the world can point the light to the sky, and then there will be a lot of light, and that will mean they love Jesus or something. But oh no, Katy gets cancer, and Harkens is by her side, getting remarried, and she dies right when everyone points the light up into the sky. Yay, Jesus!

Like all contemporary Christian films, Let There Be Light deceptively presents life as a clear-cut narrative of good & bad. Immoral characters only ever redeem themselves by accepting Jesus and the God-fearing Christians are faultless people. Along the way, the story is peppered with stereotypes and horrible ideologies. Comedic actor Daniel Roebuck plays the foppish book agent of Harkens, whose entire purpose is to say “Dhaling” every sentence and essentially do the gay equivalent of blackface.

You also get a guest appearance from Sean Hannity as himself nodding his head in agreement with everything Harkens says post-conversion. Hannity is introduced when Harkens’ publicist calls him to announce he and Katy have been booked to talk about the app. This is followed by her excited recitation of how many daily views and listeners Hannity’s television and radio programs have. You know, like how people usually talk. They also talk a lot about ISIS in this movie. I think the terrorist organization gets brought up half a dozen times. At first, it’s a talking point of Harkens to show how religion is harmful, but then they become the example of the dark side of faith while American Christianity is the perfect happy good side. 

There’s this underlying theme of shaping Christianity to match some twisted interpretation of Islam, which implies many things about Sorbo and his work here. On the surface, everything is subpar sitcom level, but there’s a grim worldview at work. While white middle-class Christians go about their lives, they are hyper-aware that ISIS is out there, behaving as if the organization is any direct daily threat to these people. Realistically, you have much more to fear from multinational corporations and the banking industry in your everyday life than ISIS. This is just more of the same virus that brought about the symptom of Trump and QAnon. Neither of those things is the root cause; you have to go back further to the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s and 80s. This current cultural war being forced upon us is directly related to the nationalistic fearmongering of people like Ronald Reagan. If you want to talk about ISIS, then you should also be prepared to talk about the destructive policies pushed by Henry Kissinger. Let There Be Light is a brain-dead movie that has nothing relevant to say. It just serves to push the buttons of fear to keep fundamentalists agitated and feeling as if they are already correct in everything they think.

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