Update: I lazily didn’t check to see if the filmmakers had stated what they had in mind with their title. They have. Their statement, however, seems to imply that they are above being on anyone’s side, which belies Smith’s reporting and generally is unlikely (I admit I haven’t seen their film). I also think that even if it isn’t named for the song, the song’s message is operative. But either way, I should’ve checked first. Mea culpa.
I noticed an interesting detail in Lee Smith’s column today on the increasing ranks of evangelical Christians who are stridently pro-Palestinian, in contravention of the stereotype of the Biblically-inspired, gung-ho Zionist evangelical. (It’s a phenomenon Smith partly blames on the main pro-Israel evangelical group, Christians United for Israel: “pro-Israel evangelicals have sent their flock out into the field vulnerable—that is, without an account of the conflict that besets the citizens of the present-day homeland of the Jews,” he writes. “Armed only with a biblical defense of the Jewish state, evangelicals are unprepared to justify it on political grounds.”)
Anyway, the coalition of evangelicals who recently held an event in the West Bank called Christ at the Checkpoint spread their doctrine—which according to Smith borrows liberally from the BDS movement—via a movie called With God On Our Side.
Sorry, but have they listened to the song? “Oh the history books tell it/They tell it so well/The cavalries charged/The Indians fell/The cavalries charged/The Indians died/Oh the country was young/With God on its side.” And later: “Oh the First World War, boys/It closed out its fate/The reason for fighting/I never got straight/But I learned to accept it/Accept it with pride/For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.” (Also, the next verse notes of the Germans, “they murdered six million/In the ovens they fried,” but again I digress.)
Don’t you get it? Claiming God on your side is the wrong way to go about things, is the point of the song. Something, however, tells me that the irony—as well as the irony of naming the film for the words of a Jewish Zionist—is lost on the filmmakers.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.