Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar Night

I imagine many church folks made it home in time to watch Marty finally get his Best Director Oscar for his bloody Boston movie (which by the way is hardly what Southie is like these days). I was interested in Jennifer Hudson's acceptance speech, given her unabashed profession of faith. I have to admit it made me cringe a bit. Not because I don't appreciate whenever public figures are genuine believers (which I understand Miss Hudson to be); it's just that the Hollywood setting for any profession of faith is just so, well, ironic. Given the material and self-serving values of show business, not to mention the showiness, I don't know, I'd just prefer to leave Jesus out of it. Granted, the movies are a powerful medium. And I like when faith is portrayed on screen in un-caricatured fashion, as with the current film Amazing Grace (though we are talking 18th-early 19th century in his case). Still, Narnia and The Passion included (especially once you throw in Mel Gibson's after-antics), movies are still for the most part entertainment more than anything. And I can't help but struggle with making an honest connection between faith and entertainment, given that faith will most times get the short end of the stick. Except in the rarest instances (namely, when the need to make a profit is not at stake), making Holywood out of Hollywood is a long, long reach.


Anonymous said...

Someone ought to hand Jennifer a sweater; she looks a little exposed.

Kristen said...

Well, I fast-forwarded through the acceptance speeches so I didn't see Miss Hudson's speech. However I certainly resonate with the sentiments here.

Except, I keep thinking of Chariots of Fire, where there's this wonderful scene between Eric Liddell and his sister who cannot understand why he's wasting his time with these silly footraces when there are souls to be won in China.

Of course God made me for China, he answers her, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel God's pleasure.

Ummm, wow. May we all live that way.

I shudder whenever the latest marketed-to-churches film comes out. (In fact I find myself hesitating to see Amazing Grace for this reason, even though I've heard from many sources that it is excellent.) But Dreamgirls was hardly in that category. And I can easily imagine Jennifer Hudson saying "When I sing I feel God's pleasure." And that's a wonderful thing indeed.

Show business can be about material and self-serving values. Or it can be about, in the words of one Kermit D. Frog, making "millions of people happy". I like to think that when that happens, a little bit of Holywood is breaking through.

Jonathan said...

Agreed that there is some irony attached to God in Hollywood. But I think it's important to remember that close scrutiny of any overt manifestation of God in this world is going to reveal inconsistencies and ironies - the church included.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but I think the statements made here have an extremely defeatist attitude. It is very disappointing to hear Christians claim a stronger faith over one another, especially when we all believe that God is the only one who has the authority to pass judgment on anyone.

To give background, I am originally from Southern California, went to college in LA, and after graduation, I moved to Boston. I've been in this city for less than 1 year now. I’ve been attending Park Street since I moved.

Southern California, including Hollywood, is a very materialistic, shallow, superficial place. If I move back there (at least any time soon), the only reasons would be because my family is still there, and I miss my church. I needed out of California for all the things I mentioned and all of the things you have discussed. You're right, they're true. That’s why I wanted to leave. As for why I chose Boston, God called me here. He’s slowly revealing why…

While I would never encourage someone to move to California without knowing or tasting the culture there, I must say that it has something going for it that is completely lacking in Boston.

There are Christians living throughout Southern California that see all these things you do – and THEY ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THEM. DON’T give up hope, thinking Hollywood is some lost cause. Right now, it IS the cause. It’s the cause of life all over the news and in media. Hollywood speaks to the world in seconds. It’s difficult for the Christian church to do the same.

The church that I attended out in LA had a remarkable mission. Their mission still is to turn the city of LA to God. Believe me when I say, it’s not impossible. With a LITTLE bit of faith and the power of God behind you, it is NO lost cause. The church is Bel Air Presbyterian. They activity meet and discuss with other denominations of the Christian faith and do things like switch pastors for weekend services. They don’t see Episcopalian, Methodist, Unitarian, Non-Denominational as different people. They see them as a united people with a belief that God is the creator of the earth, and Jesus is our Savior. It’s about putting these differences aside and reaching towards a greater goal, reaching out to the lost souls of LA (and yes, even Hollywood). Bel Air knows that in its audience are directors, actors, producers, CEO’s that live life the Hollywood way, and for very obvious reasons, are afraid to speak out. They encourage one another to grow spiritually nonetheless and pray for their coworkers. And why should they not?

Bel Air also teaches that while Hollywood may not make movies that have overt Christian dialogue and preach the gospel of Christ, there are underlying themes that can strike conversation with even the most atheist believers. Lord of the Rings has Good triumphing over Evil. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 discusses what it’s like to live in Purgatory. Unfaithful discusses the ramifications of cheating on your spouse. Movies talk about drug addictions and characters feeling loss and emptiness. Are these not all things we too talk about in church? Are these not all things we too struggle with?
If I were to go on believing that Hollywood is a lost cause and full of fake believers, soon enough people will believe that too. If I were to have hope and pray that one day that city could see that there is more to life than material items and success, that what we come with into this world is that same with what we take out of this world, then there is still hope. If there is still one person to believe in that hope, soon there can be many more.

Don’t let Hollywood fool you into thinking that this is how everyone thinks and acts. Isn’t that the same thing Satan tries to do on a regular basis? Stand strong, remain faithful. Praying for the lost soul in Boston is no different than praying for the lost movie star on TV. If people 3000 miles away are willing to pass judgment on these actors and actresses, there IS NO HOPE to spreading the word of God to any city. God bless those who are willing to claim any belief in Christ in Hollywood than none at all.

You can say that outside your Christian community, there is no true believer of God. But God teaches us so much more than that; He asks us to be so much more than that. If are not following the Word, what difference does it make if Jennifer Hudson does or doesn’t?