Friday, September 08, 2006

The Gospel According To Ricky Bobby

So, I saw Talladega Nights . Yes, it was funny...and yes, in places it was fairly vulgar. Oddly enough though, it's not the vulgarity that I hear most Christians I know (who didn't like the movie) raising objections to. Instead, they object to the prayer scene. In this scene, Ricky Bobby (a NASCAR driver played by Will Ferral), sits with his family and best friend around a dinner table (of fast food) and says "grace" before the meal. He begins by addressing his prayer to "Baby Jesus" and proceeds to thank him for all of his material possessions and success. He is sure to mention all of his corporate sponsors (some because of a contractual obligation requiring him to do so). As he repeatedly refers to "Baby" or "Infant" Jesus, an argument breaks out in the middle of the prayer. Ricky's wife informs him that Jesus grew up, and insists that it's weird to pray to a baby. Ricky informs her that he prefers "the Christmas Jesus", and since he's saying grace, he'll pray to whoever he wants to. At this point, Ricky's friend Cal starts pointing out all of the ways that he likes to picture Jesus (in a tuxedo T-Shirt, as the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc.) As Cal rambles on with his ridiculous characterizations of Jesus, Ricky's wife Carly interrupts and demands that Ricky finish the "d*mn grace" and that he does it good so that God will let him win his race the next day. Ricky finishes his prayer (making sure to emphasize that it's the baby Jesus that he's praying to), and at it's conclusion everyone gives high fives and congratulates him on how good he did. One of his sons even "compliments" him by saying that he made that "grace" his "b****".

Are you shocked? Are you offended? Are you thinking "How dare they?" I thought it was some of the most brilliant social commentary I have ever seen. The reason that it stings it because it is an exaggeration of the truth. American Christianity can look an awful lot like that, particularly to outsiders. Prayers are performance used to curry favor. We remake Jesus to our liking...or our comfort. It's a caricature of the dissonance between the story we claim and the story we live. We've made "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" about how our kids can win sporting events.

Do I think it was written to be social commentary? Probably not overtly. However, it wouldn't be passed off as comedy if the obviously dissonant situation didn't exist in the first place. Did I laugh? Yes...a lot...probably to keep from crying.


Justin said...

this is the logical conclusion to God is a candy machine/God is Santa Claus theology.

To me, its just the same as when someone says that God protected their house from a hurricane because they prayed and don't realize that what they are saying to those who lost their houses in the hurricane is that God doesn't love you as much as me or You didn't pray right.

Matt Elliott said...

I'm right there with you, buddy. I thought scene that was a brilliant piece of pointed satire.

Mommy of Boys said...

I agree with sounds very pointed...and very hilarious!