Michael Moore documentaries always have an agenda.
That is one of the most prevalent complaints I've heard about the filmmaker's work. His seminal documentary work ranges from condemnations of George W. Bush's War on Terror (Fahrenheit 9/11) to explorations of the underlying causes behind instances of mass violence in America (Bowling for Columbine), and Moore always has a wealth of information and opinion to convey. No matter one's political ideology, no one can deny the amount of time and research that he pours into his films- but the complaints against him rail on.
And some of them are valid. Well, maybe not for the reason I hear most: "Michael Moore documentaries always have an agenda." True, but don't most films? Doesn't most art? Honest filmmakers (typically not your run of the mill, Hollywood blockbuster engineers) make movies because they have something to say in the first place.
Most "Christian movies" (can a movie be saved? No, but I'll write on that some other time) have an overwhelmingly blatant agenda, but the complaints levied against Michael Moore rise largely from American Christian communities. The existence of a goal to persuade the audience can't be the main issue.
No, the issue is one of conflicting political ideologies. Michael Moore is a fiercely left-wing populist. Most American Christians are- statistically and experientially- not. But, as aforementioned, the anti-Moore party does have a valid accusation in their platform: Moore is often unapologetically aggressive in conveying his agenda. Insultingly so, leading some Christian communities to miss his message amongst his antagonism.
Which leads us to his latest documentary, Where To Invade Next. This is the least aggressive Moore film I've ever seen, and its easygoing willingness to be just that gives way to an inexorable compatibility between Moore's agenda... and that of Jesus Christ.
The central conceit of Where To Invade Next does not concern an actual invasion. Moore's jokey framing device is to "invade" other countries around the world- always with an American flag and a camera crew in tow- and discover their best societal ideas to take back and implement in the U.S.
Far more so than in his other documentaries, Moore identifies as an American who honestly wants to help America, rather than its loudest critic. His initial newfound role as a servant really sets the stage for receiving a number of legitimately Christlike ideas.
Turns out other countries are full of them.
Eight weeks paid vacation for every Italian worker, and five months paid maternity leave for every Italian mother. Dietitians help plan healthy meals for kids' lunchtimes at elementary schools across Germany, even in the poorest schools in the country. Norway's prison systems are astonishingly humane- even the maximum security prison for the "worst" criminals is primarily focused on healing the lives of those incarcerated.
These are just a few (of many) examples of the social programs put in place in other developed countries to benefit human wellness. Moore is typically careful to do two things: stress how receptive people are to their country's programs and demonstrate the U.S.' sore lack of such care. You're lucky to get one week of paid vacation in the U.S. Kids learn from a young age to eat and enjoy food that destroys them from the inside. Incarceration rates and prison violence are horrifyingly rampant.
What pays for these programs? Moore never shies away from the necessary trade-off: the small sacrifice of everyone for the benefit of general society, be it an increased dedication to socialist principles or higher taxes.
Assuming there are those who aren't fond of Moore's work due to his unashamed liberalism, alarm bells might be going off. To the conservative elite (I'm using the opposite of left-wing populist for convenience here), socialism and higher taxes seem as unequivocally evil as, say, Jesus violently whipping merchants in The Gospels might seem to one without Christian beliefs.
Whoah, slow down. There's context to that Biblical story. Jesus' intent is important. Well, same with that of the institutions supporting social wellness programs. Let's start over definitionally:
-Socialism is an economic system, not a moral position. Why is it implemented?
-Higher taxes always serve a purpose. What's the goal?
So let's look at intent.
To continue with the programs I already mentioned: why are the Italian bosses ok with giving their employees eight weeks of paid vacation that roll over to the next year if unused? What are their reasons for happily allowing hours of siesta halfway through each work day, supporting months of paid maternity leave, paying for stressed employees to enjoy a week at a day spa and recuperate (seriously)?
Moore inquires of the CEOs of multiple Italian companies thusly: "You know that if you didn't do that, you'd make more money, right?" Their responses are always the same.
"Yes, perhaps, but we care about our workers. We want them to be healthy. We want them to be happy."
This is unarguably a Christlike sentiment. Biblically, Paul calls for the just treatment of servants and workers time and time again throughout his letters to early Christian Churches. This genuine care bestowed upon working Italians is the justification for paying higher taxes to support social wellness programs.
Why do the German people support paying higher taxes to school systems so that their kids' meals are healthy and balanced?
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? For you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Why do Norwegians pour money into their prison systems so that hardened criminals can enjoy comfortable cells, chances to keep pursuing artistic aspirations, and guards that aren't interested in punishing them?
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." -Luke 6:37
Where To Invade Next is full of far more countries with socialistic facets/tax programs/women's health initiatives that were implemented with the intent of loving and caring for others; the intent of valuing human life and protecting all people equally. For the Christians living in these countries, that may line up perfectly with their worldview: for "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." -Galatians 3:28.
If I could summarize Moore's message in this documentary succinctly: it's time to stop condemning political or economic systems by name alone. Every American should keep an open mind to what systems will help and care for the most human beings in all societies.
It's what Jesus would do. Does that mean implementing universal healthcare and free college education in the U.S., even if it means everyone pays higher taxes? Maybe. We should definitely not discount that as a societal response.
The most damning moment of the documentary comes near the end, when Moore asks a female Icelandic politician (Iceland makes sure their government bodies and business powers maintain an equal balance of men and women) what one message she wants to send to America. She looks directly into the camera.
"Your country doesn't care for your poor, your minorities, your women, your people- I couldn't sleep at night knowing my own country failed to care for them. I wouldn't want to be America's neighbor."
"You shall love the Lord your God... You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." -Mark 12:30-31