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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Professor premieres free film: ‘Steve Holland: Jesus Was a Democrat’

Courtesy Photo | Rex Allan Jones

The Mississippi State University Department of Communication will host the award-winning film “Steve Holland: Jesus Was a Democrat” in the McComas Hall Theatre Wednesday at 3 p.m. This will be the film’s second-ever showing and its premiere showing at MSU.

The 30-minute film, open to the public, captures Mississippi Legislator Steve Holland at the conclusion of his 36-year tenure in office. The film shows Holland, who has also been an undertaker in Tupelo for over 50 years, cleaning out his desk in the capitol. 

MSU Assistant Communication Professor Rex Allan Jones, the film’s creator, says that Holland’s dual roles foster a theme of loss throughout the production.

The film’s title stems from Holland’s heavily expressed conviction that Jesus’ compassion for people strongly aligns with Democratic values. Holland says that his work has always centered around caring for people in his time as both a “southern undertaker” and Mississippi legislator.

“If Jesus were here today, I think he would be a Democrat, and that is where he got the title. Jesus was a liberal by all standards, by hell he hung out with whores and lepers and tax collectors and the least and the most vulnerable amongst us,” Holland said. 

The film premiered to a packed house in the legislator’s funeral home in Tupelo earlier this year. So far, the film has received an award of merit from the Mississippi Historical Society. The former legislator joked in a deep southern accent that he wishes Jones had changed the title.

“I wish he had said ‘Was Jesus a Democrat?’ and put a question mark that it would not be so offensive to the three Republican friends that I’ve got in the world but anyway, he named it and so there you have it,” Holland said.

Holland “involuntarily retired” after his defeat in the 2019 legislative elections, claiming gerrymandering by his Republican colleagues is the reason he is not in office. However, he realized the timing was right for him to leave the legislature.

“If they hadn’t redistricted I’d still be in the damn legislature right now down there,” Holland said. “I left at a good time because I’m just, I’m not a Republican, there’s nothing Republican about me except in my business. I am so frugal I can squeeze the oil out of George Washington’s hair.”

Holland’s character, as described by Jones, is contradictory. While Holland is known to be a “red letter Christian,” he is also recognized for his passionate, unfiltered speeches and colorful language.  Jones said the film aims to depict this and other aspects of Holland’s personality as a man and legislator. 

“It mainly just delves into this character, Steve Holland, who is this incredible mix of the sacred and the profane, and you never quite know which one you are going to get at any particular time, but he is completely earnest in both of these,” Jones said.

“At times over the years he has been which has both, you know, highly amused people or highly offended people, depending on which side you sat on there,” Jones said.  “And so he’s very genuine I think in both of those areas there as far as both having that spiritual core, but also having that side where he might use some salty language to describe something or something like that.”

Ivy Rose Ball

After the screening, there will be an open conversation between Holland and MSU alumnus Marty Wiseman. Wiseman and Holland met during Wiseman’s frequent visits to Congress in his time as a professor of political science and the director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government. 

Jones said Holland and Wiseman’s experience within the Mississippi government will offer an interesting look at the legislature’s inner workings. 

“I think a great part of the show will be sort of Steve Holland, unfiltered as he always is, Steve Holland in conversation with Marty. That’s when I think people will be able to hear a lot of really fascinating things about Mississippi politics and Mississippi political history that not a whole lot of people walking around today have,” Jones said.

After the conversation between Wiseman and Holland, there will be an open Q&A session. Jones said Holland is an impassioned speaker and that today’s audience will see his charisma firsthand.

“He’s really in his element when the lights come on when he gets a microphone there and he has a crowd, so it should be pretty fun,” Jones said.

Wiseman describes Holland as one of a dying breed of populists who pushed selfless legislation to support things such as early childhood education and health care.

“You found him being at his legislative best when he was dealing with legislation that would help the least of these so to speak, and folks that probably would have never met him personally,” Wiseman said. 

Holland said that he was raised to help people by his mother who retired at 88 as a justice court judge in Lee County. 

“I’ve had a remarkable life in the sense of not only earthly accomplishments, but you come up here to Lee County and ask anybody about what Steve Holland will do. He’ll bury you for free if you haven’t got any money and won’t ask any questions,” Holland said.

About the Contributor
Ivy Rose Ball
Ivy Rose Ball, Editor-in-Chief
Ivy Rose Ball is a junior communication major from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. She currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief and served as the Photography Editor from 2023 to 2024. [email protected]
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