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FIRST-PERSON: The Gospel according to Hollywood

DALLAS (BP)–Christians aren’t the only ones who preach. Hollywood does it too, and with great effect. This was no where more clearly seen than in two men who won Oscars at the Academy Awards March 5. George Clooney and Ang Lee both made a point of saying that movies can and should advocate for causes that the rest of the country may not support.

In the acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for best actor, Clooney celebrated the disconnect between his own liberal views and the views of mainstream America.

“We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while,” he said. “I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch. And I thank you so much for this.”

We can all agree with AIDS awareness and the promotion of civil rights. But Clooney implies that current left-wing causes (like the normalization of homosexuality) are morally equivalent to the advent of civil rights for African Americans. Such a position is in fact “out of touch” with the vast majority of Americans (and contrary to Scripture), but I don’t think it’s anything to be proud of. Clooney is proud to be “out of touch” with mainstream America because he believes Hollywood’s values are superior to those of the “fly-over” states.

In Ang Lee’s long list of “thank yous,” he expressed gratitude to the homosexual characters in “Brokeback Mountain”

“First of all, I want to thank two people who don’t even exist,” he said. “… Their names are Ennis and Jack. And they taught all of us who made ‘Brokeback Mountain’ so much about not just all the gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but just as important, the greatness of love itself.”

In so many words, Ang Lee is very clear that he intends for this story to teach viewers. He aims to teach all of us about the “cruelty” of society’s stigmatizing homosexuality. As far as Ang Lee is concerned, mainstream America still clings to outdated sexual mores and ideas about gender, and he means to change that with movies like “Brokeback Mountain.”

Both Clooney and Lee indicate their intention to advocate in their movies a secularized vision of the world. Make no mistake; they don’t mean merely to reflect culture in their movies, but to shape it.

As Christians, it’s important for us to take note of comments such as these. The Gospel of Christianity is one that tells a story that goes from Eden, to the fall, to redemption, to new creation — a story that is summed up and realized through the work of Jesus Christ crucified and raised.

Hollywood is telling another story, one that simply will not be compatible with that of the Gospel. To the extent that Hollywood or anyone else tries to impose its stories in place of God’s story (the one true story), we have a sacred obligation to speak up with the Gospel.

We don’t need to wait for a Gospel revival in Hollywood to meet this obligation. By God’s grace, let us all resolve to herald the true story whether Hollywood is on board or not.
Denny Burk serves as assistant professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas.

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