Peace Love and Hollywood
by Mary Miller Executive Analyst Koinonia Institute
Ecumenicalism is defined as “concerned with establishing or promoting unity among churches or religions, so pervasive and all-inclusive as to exist in or affect the whole world.” And the mantra of the “whole world” is one in which we all need to just get along.
The ecumenical road to a one-world religion is paved with peace and love and cemented with Holly-wood theology. The advent of the entertainment industry with movies and television has served as a major source of diluting the foundations of Biblical truth. Generations growing up in a sound bite world, texting abbreviations, and a progressive educational belief that man is basically good find it harder and harder to see the Biblical reality of the world in which we live.
Jeffrey A. Smith explains the phenomenon simply in his work Hollywood Theology: The Commodification of Religion in Twentieth-Century Films:1
A motion picture is a product formed by the intricate interplay of film industry forces and cultural expectations. Hollywood must attract audiences and audiences crave gratification, or perhaps, edification… Problems naturally arise when matters as sensitive and speculative as the activity of the Creator and the role of the created become entertainment marketed to a mass audience.
Scholars usually expect mass communication con-tent to conform to prevailing standards of accept-ability, but movies may challenge existing mores in an effort to offer fresh excitement or to position themselves in profitable markets. The portrayal of religion can be widely embraced in its mass-mediated, intellectually degraded forms.
Buried in the entertainment message is one of universalism—a blurred line of good vs. evil, works vs. faith, love and peace vs. sin and death—leaving ambiguous questions of who really goes to heaven.
The Scriptures, however, present a warning to this thought process. Matthew 7:13 reminds us to “enter through the strait gate” and “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction.”
Love and Peace
The marriage between theology and Hollywood was recently exemplified in a question one pastor asked himself while promoting his controversial book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
He tells his audience that he was at a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas [Mahatma] Gandhi. Someone attached a note to the piece referencing Gandhi saying: “Reality check: He’s in hell.” While many of us would have agreed with this sentiment, this pastor asked himself the questions: “Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?”2
Many Believers do know Gandhi’s fate for sure. However, the entertainment industry does play to the human response to root for the underdog, to support the freedom fighter, to sustain the persecuted, to believe a message of peace—regardless of the mortal outcome.
The pastor’s own example of Gandhi is a case in point. Some of you may remember the Oscar-winning 1982 film in which Ben Kingsley played Gandhi as the “greater-than-life” beloved man of peace. Memories of the film role have caused some to stop and think twice about the question of the eternal destination of Mahatma Gandhi.
The truth of the historical Gandhi leaves little doubt. As if on cue, author Joseph Lelyveld announced his book, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India,” 3 complete with the less delicate aspects of his life. Perhaps a look at Gandhi’s own thoughts give hint to his own knowledge of reality versus the movie portrayal:
I do not know if you have seen the world as it really is. For myself I can say I perceive the world in its grim reality every moment.
I deny being a visionary. I do not accept the claim of saintliness. I am of the earth, earthy… I am prone to as many weaknesses as you are. But I have seen the world. I have lived in the world with my eyes open.
For men like me, you have to measure them not for the rare moments of greatness in their lives, but by the amount of dust they collect on their feet in the course of life’s journey.
Joseph Lelyveld gives adequate explanation as to the truth behind the visage of Gandhi:
Of course, any coalition movement involves a certain degree of compromise and occasional hypocrisy. But Gandhi’s saintly image, his martyrdom at the hands of a Hindu fanatic in 1948 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s adoption of him as a role model for the American civil-rights movement have largely protected him from critical scrutiny.
From Lelyveld’s “critical scrutiny,” Gandhi required our Redeemer throughout his life. Scripture clearly defines God’s view of homosexuality, adultery, hypocrisy, and idolatry. Doing such in the name of “love and peace” does not replace a relationship with Jesus—nor does comparing Gandhi’s work on earth to Jesus’ work on earth.
Lionize the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Jon Courson, pastor of Applegate Christian Fellow-ship,4 described the public’s need to “lionize the figure of Gandhi” and other people of history or celebrity. This need is a misplaced emotion. For many, the only Gandhi they know is the one presented on film.
When reality meets an Oscar-winning performance, however, we are reminded that the only personage we should lionize is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah—the only man to walk perfectly. Modern Hollywood heroes may change the impending apocalypse that will one day come upon the earth in the action-packed stories they tell.
Portrayals of Gandhi by Ben Kingsley or Omar Mukhtar (Lion of the Desert / Libya) by Anthony Quinn show men of courage who found a voice in history for the people they represent and the countries they loved. However, a message of love and peace does not change the eternal destination of followers of Hindu-ism, Islam or secularism.
It is our desire as His talmidim (disciples) to walk in His dust and to become more like Him every day. It is the Biblical “script” that will instruct us on that path, not Hollywood theology. In the end, love does win, but the storyline has a different author.
In his interview, the author of Love Wins… said:
I believe that God is love, and I believe that Jesus came to show us this love, to give us this love, to teach us about this love so that we could live in this love and then we could extend it to others.
I agree. But, sometimes, it is “truth in love” that is needed. To extrapolate a message of love into a message of eternal security is not new, and it plays well into the in-creasing spirit of ecumenicalism. Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 11:1-4:
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in [my] folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or [if] ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [him].
Indeed, it is during discussions of topics such as the belief that “love wins” in our eternal destiny, or that Gandhi served as a modern-day Jesus that I take a selah moment to pause and reflect upon the importance of the mission Scripture of Koinonia Institute—Acts 17:11:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
We have been given His Word because He loves us. As Dr. Missler so often reminds us, “God meant what He said and said what He meant”!
Be a Berean—wherever the message is presented!
1. h t t p : / / w w w .j s t o r. o r g / s t a -ble/1123952
2. h t t p : / / w w w .p a t h e o s . c o m /c o m m u n i t y /philosophicalfragments/2011/03/15/rob-bell-interviewtranscript/
4. http://www.jonco u r s o n . c o m /teaching /teachingsm