Smack Dem Christians Down
Directed by Jay Spears
Here is a short film about those “whacked out Christian fools” that were the inspiration for this racy, tongue-in-cheek musical created by Jay Spears. Smack Dem Christians Down premiered this past weekend at the DC Shorts Film Festival and was received with roaring laughter. Spears constructs a piece of modern-day satire filled with humor, hypocrisy, and a few historical reminders which all contribute to answering the question presented at the beginning of the film: “Who baptized Uncle Sam?”
The film essentially functions as a huge joke and manages to sustain our interest by treating and presenting the joke in continually absurd ways. The introduction portrays a Christian preacher as a perverted, money-laundering ideologue blindly supported by members of his church. By the time we get to the end of the film, these same Christians have now turned on the preacher and are smacking him down. Included in the beat-down are also some Founding Fathers like Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.
Spears presents a factual and compelling historical argument that should nevertheless be taken seriously. His primary argument is that the United States was never intended to be a Christian country, that it was not created by Christians, and that Christians cannot justify any sort of theocratic law in the face of the US Constitution.
To highlight the idea that the United States is not a theocracy, Spears uses the court case Loving vs. Virginia which outlawed interracial marriage. The case was overturned by the Supreme Court. What Spears is trying to say is that since the Founding Fathers introduced the idea of separation of church and state, and since the Supreme Court has upheld this notion more often than not, that there is no legal reasoning with which religious extremists can impose their beliefs into law. And this concept is expressed later in the film as Abraham Lincoln beats the preacher with the US Constitution. This can easily be interpreted as a metaphor for Spears’ desire for law to continue to triumph over religion.
What makes this film universal to Americans is that there are so many types of religions within the US that it is an alarming concept for any religion to be subjugated to laws which may blatantly compromise their own religion or represent something they do not believe in.
Now because this song is so political and its point so “preachy,” it is valuable to ponder why the film was chosen as the mode of expression. The reason this film is not exclusively a song is because it benefits from the medium of film. Spears presents the judge’s ruling in Loving vs. Virginia as draconian enough to liken the KKK or the Nazis. He successfully produces shock-humor as the bailiffs beside the judge are transformed into KKK members and then swastika-flaunting Nazis with each refrain. Spears weaves these images subtly so that they stick with us long after the film. Other images include a preacher supporting a sign which states, “How would Jesus vote?,” dancing Supreme Court Justices, and a few Founding Fathers beating a preacher with the Constitution. These are all powerful satirical devices wrapped neatly into an historical lesson to remind all Americans where their country came from and why it became.