Celebrities and Jesus

Earlier this year, an issue of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel (4/9/06) featured a cover story which I found of great interest. It was about celebrities and their opinions of Jesus Christ. It’s no great secret that Hollywood has become increasingly Christophobic over the years. Why does Hollywood get it wrong when it comes to who Jesus is and what He taught? We trust celebrities to advise on what products we should buy or where we should shop, but to heed their counsel on spiritual matters could prove disastrous.

Many celebrities dismiss the truth that Jesus is the only way by which man can come to God. Grammy winner Sheryl Crow, once a church youth group leader, told the New York Post in September of 2005 that she believes in Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and”all those that were enlightened.” But Jesus Himself tells us in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Celebrities have also treated the teachings of Jesus with a pick and choose approach – take this principle, leave that one. “I like this. I’ll take it and apply it. But I don’t like these others, so I won’t worry about them.” Mel Gibson, director of The Passion of the Christ, defied that school of thought in an interview for ABC when he told Diane Sawyer that a person either believes the entire Gospel, or they believe none of it. I applaud Gibson’s boldness in making that statement.

Many celebrities have tried to water down the teachings of Jesus, reducing His central message to nothing more than “Be nice to people.” Any idiot can preach that. Jesus did command us to love one another, and to love our neighbors, but He also spoke about sin and redemption. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter defended Gibson’s Passion in her March 4, 2004 column The Passion of the Liberal. Coulter’s response to the “Be nice” message from Hollywood’s Gospel of Christ reminded us that His central message was this: Man is sinful and in need of redemption, and that even though we don’t deserve it, Jesus came to do just that for us.

Many people in Hollywood fail to understand Jesus because they’ve never really been exposed to the truth about who He is and what He did or did not teach. Others may have had negative experiences with church early in their lives. And then there’s the narcissistic environment in Hollywood. Fame and fortune, coupled with acclaim and praise, breeds self-absorption, which ultimately breeds self-worship. Author James Hirsen (Hollywood Nation, Tales from the Left Coast) explains it this way: “Christianity tells you to turn to He who is greater than yourself, and to humble yourself. The teachings of Christ are the opposite of self-worship.”

Now I am not saying that Hollywood is a completely Godless place devoid of anything good or godly. Stephen Baldwin is a Christian who is active as both an actor and a filmmaker. Actors such as Baldwin, Patricia Heaton, Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble have worked in films and television specials which proclaim the message of Christ. Then we have films such as The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia. Both movies did extrememly well at the box office, and both were virtually ignored by the Academy at Oscar time. And we also have production studios such as Cloud Ten Pictures, which has produced the film adaptations of the highly popular Left Behind novels abd Gener8xion Entertainment (The Omega Code films)as well as Visual Bible International, which produced 2003’s The Gospel of John, and now has a distribution deal with Disney.

So, perhaps we should view Hollywood as being more like a modern day Nineveh rather than Sodom and Gomorrah. The presence of Christians in Hollywood today could be viewed as being very much like the arrival of Jonah in that ancient city. It is my prayer that God uses these people and their message to shine a light in a dark place to reach many people within the entertainment industry, and that many lives will be changed by the power of His spirit.

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