The Tricky Theology of Dealing with Brilliant Eccentrics.

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

I am a documentary geek.  I raid the vault at Netflix on a near weekly basis for obscure, low-budget films about over-the-hill metal bands (Anvil: The Story of Anvil!), outsourcing (Roger & Me), western assimilation (God Grew Tired of Us), B-moves (The Best Worst Movie Ever), sports (Hoop Dreams), etc.

But my favorite documentaries focus on eccentric men and women and their obsessions.  For example, Grizzly Man is the story of an odd, out of work actor who lives among grizzly bears convinced he has a spiritual connection with them and is protecting them from hunters.  It is a fascinating, albeit at times disturbing, look at a person on the edge of sanity.  

Recently, two documentaries have dropped at Neflix that are well worth your time and attention.  The first is Winnebago Man and the second is Collapse.  The former focuses on the Youtube sensation Jack Rebney, also known as “The Angriest RV Salesman in the World.”

Rebney is a clearly a highly intelligent, well-read, articulate man who nonetheless loses his temper easily and vents his anger through a string of profanities that would have offended Richard Pryor.  Yet, there is something inexplicably funny about Rebney’s tantrums and, as such, a Youtube video of him attempting to make a series of commercials for Winnebago back in the late ’80’s but only succeeding in voicing streams of vulgarity have had millions of hits. 

The documentary Winnebago Man tracks Rebney down finding him living as a hermit in norther California and mystified by his fame as a viral video sensation.  Rebney is still angry (at the Bush administration at the time of filming) and barks incessantly about Dick Cheney and how Wal-Mart is ruining America.

Speaking of barking incessantly about Dick Cheney, the documentary Collapse is easily one of my favorite films of the year.  It is nothing but a 90-minute soliloquy by a truly eccentric former L.A.P.D. detective turned conspiracy theorist named Michael Ruppert.  The chain-smoking Ruppert claims that the world economy is on the verge of collapse because we are wholly dependant on oil and we are only a few short years away from completely running out.  Ruppert does not believe that any other energy source can allow us to continue to live as we have been living and that we are in danger of lapsing into another medieval dark age.  Ruppert believes that individuals like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield know this but are attempting to cover it up…of course, he also believes that the CIA has been trying to kill him for 30-years but that thanks to his training as a cop he has been able to elude them!

My father often says that eccentrics are the only interesting people left.  Perhaps that’s why documentaries like Grizzly Man, Winnebago Man and Collapse are so compelling.  They are safe in the sense that we don’t have to interact with nut jobs like Rebney and Ruppert but are close enough to see the sideshow.

This all may sound a bit mean and, as a pastor,  I have thought quite a bit over the last few weeks over what to do with folks like Ruppert and Rebney–i.e., angry and paranoid but brilliant people who don’t listen so much as wait to talk.  I know quite a few of them and I feel guilty enjoying their rants while secretly rolling my eyes as well as modifiers in my head like, “crazy,” “insane” and “nuts.” 

Can Christians pull a Tim Keller and simply undermine their theories to open them up to Christ? If we befriend them (and I think we should) then is there any chance of breaking through their worldview of paranoia to reach them with the Gospel?

In the end, people like Jack Rebney and Michael Ruppert are easy to watch but hard to love but then again many of us are not as fun to watch and just as difficult to truly love.  I pray that as the internet fuels the fire that drives men like Rebney and Ruppert to gather and dispense twisted truths and theories that the people of God will seek wisdom from heaven.  We will need such wisdom to know how to reach those who spend so much time suspiciously looking over their shoulders that they miss the truly great revolution spreading right before them.  May they all reject the search for enemies and embrace the Kingdom.

  1. Thanks a million for this, I appreciate the info

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