For those who'd missed the recent UT/Texas Tribune poll, 30 percent of Texans professed to believing in the literalism of the Bible. That's nearly eight million of those in our state who believe that God naturally demands the tip of babies' penises(!), and that it is a sin to eat lobster or wear a shirt made of both cotton and polyester, and that Jesus decided not to inform dozens of generations of Vietnamese, Aborigines, and Native Americans of his presence. Millions of people believe this stuff. Millions of people believe this as fact, as much as they believe that Rick Perry is our governor, or that the Miami Heat are NBA Champions.
And, whatever. They can believe anything they'd so desire. None should begrudge them the opportunity. Their demographic is shrinking, and their political inroads are breaking, and the Religious Right is fading in a stretch of fit and vitriol. (Look no further than last week's "Daily Show" segment on the anti-religious "bigotry" to get an idea of the jitters the Billy Graham brigade feels when they study demographic trends and political realities.) Their political power is eroding under the weight of tolerance and humility.
But it's a road yet. And along the road will be logistical setbacks -- say, Illinois's failed attempt at passing gay marriage this spring, or the continued struggles on climate legislation -- as well as figures fighting with all their worth for the literalism and paternalism with which they thump their Bibles. And these frightened, fearful figures will attempt to gather the forces of the faithful, cobbling the 30 percent of those who live with certainty unhealthy and worlds unexplored. These figures will attempt to channel those flailing, fading biblical literalists into their camp for one final political stretch before the demographic, secularist wave runs them out.
And those eight million who still view the world through such a reductionist prism have just received good news. No, not that Good News -- though those eight million still believe such resurrection will likely happen in their lifetimes. Rather, they've received the news this week that one of those figures, one of those who believes God murdered all those outside Noah's clan, will be working within Texas on a permanent basis, ready to expound his Bible-pounding diatribes for those eager to lap it up. These eight million have heard that, beginning this week, Texas's largest Christian film production company, EchoLight, will be headed by none other than Rick Santorum.
Needless to say, Rick will receive a welcome audience within Texas, at least for the time being. Those eight million are as steady and dependable of a crowd as those who continue lapping up Judd Apatow's offerings. (Side-note: "This Is The End" is easily one of the funniest films in the past half-dozen years. Not so sure Santorum would enjoy it to quite the same extent.)
In 2013 alone, EchoLight's commitment to upcoming filmmakers shows in impressive numbers:
● a $250,000 commitment to produce and distribute a new work by the winner of the Short Film category in the 2013 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival
● a multi-year, multi-million agreement to produce films from Liberty University's Cinematic Arts program with production wrapped on the first film from that effort
● up to $1 million pledged to produce and distribute a new work from the Best Film winner in this year's 168 Film Project.
As it is, we're not sure whether or when Santorum will be promising films based on his bizarro, terrifying ideas. We're not sure if he'll decide upon a Robert Rodriguez-style two-in-one set, allowing us to compare gay sex and bestiality that Santorum so blithely equates. We're not sure if he'll put out a film in which intelligent design, which he's termed a "legitimate scientific theory," is, for once, not struck down as unconstitutional. We wonder if he'll attempt to translate his War on Porn to a theatrical audience. (Just imagine how Apatow's guys could spoof it, and you almost wish it would happen.)
But that remains to be seen. As of now, we only know that Santorum will be hitching over to Dallas, setting up shop among the eight million of us who believe God sent a pair of "she-bears" to devour a pack of children making fun of Elisha's receding hair-line. (No, seriously.) We're looking forward to the opening of his cinematic oeuvre. Here's hoping he'll take those tales of Zombie Jesus as literally as the rest of us.