DIRECTED BY: Al Levin & Marc Levin
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Mark Benjamin
Part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art
PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN ZEALOT (1982)
Dubbing himself a religious political activist, Ed McAteer resigned from a successful corporate career to devote his marketing expertise to promoting conservative Christianity. As president of the Religious Roundtable, McAteer is seen meeting with black and white religious leaders of different faiths to mobilize their efforts in the service of God and country. Through snatches of his conversations with U.S. senators, viewers hear McAteer lobbying against abortion; his opinions on school busing, ERA, sex education, and eternal life surface when he addresses public groups, converses with Jerry Falwell and other associates in the movement, prays with his family, or privately reflects in voice-over. Controversy over the conservative right's stand on poverty and on nuclear proliferation is alluded to by one unaligned minister, while the movement's purported embrace of Jews and Israel is laid open to skepticism by Reverend Bailey Smith's contentious remarks. The support and backgrounds of two leading financiers of the cause are noted, and viewers are impressed with the increasingly aggressive role of the media in bringing the gospel to the people. Traversing the country with the influential, indefatigable McAteer, the camera match the subject's drive with their own verve and ingenuity, while hymns and gospel rock augment the tempo and flavor of the coverage. This adeptly executed, objective study of the power, platforms, and people of the conservative right will be revealing for supporters and detractors alike in public libraries, community and religious groups, and schools.