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Hollywood Doesn't Get It

by Christopher Chantrill
May 21, 2006 at 8:48 am

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WHY IS IT UNTHINKABLE to imagine mobs of Catholics, carefully taunted into a fine rage, rushing out and burning a couple of multiplexes in defiance of a Hollywood that just doesn’t get it?

After all, Hollywood just put out a movie that denies the divinity of Christ, and you can’t get more blasphemous than that.

Hey, it’s just a movie. But can’t we at least feel some compassion for the PR guy at Opus Dei, Jack Valero, who, according to Mary Wakefield, left a press preview of The Da Vinci Code “for once without his trademark grin.”

“It is gruesome to see my brothers and sisters represented in this awful way, it bears no relation to reality,” he said.

The really gruesome thing is that the Hollywood guys don’t trash religion out of any particular malice. They are just picking up what is in the air, breathing an elite culture that experiences Christianity as a backward superstition, a bigotry that is standing in the way of the flowering of creativity and enlightenment. The Puritan Ethic was all very well in the pioneer days of the nineteenth century. But now it is time to replace it with the compassion and caring of the welfare state and a commitment to creativity and diversity. Said Tom Hanks in Cannes: “People who think things are true are more dangerous than people who ponder the possibilities.”

Easy for you to say, old chum. And dishonest too—or at least dishonest in the government-funded professor back up the ideological food chain whose single truth is that more funding is needed to ponder the possibilities, and that anyone who challenges that right is a McCarthyite enemy of academic freedom.

And yet, of course, Tom is right. Christianity is based upon the breathtaking truth claim that God loves the world, and every sinful human in it. To the favored child of the middle class, loved without question throughout an indulgent childhood, that might seem weird. But down in the trenches it is nothing short of miraculous. When you tell drug addicts that Jesus loves them, they don’t believe you. If they had the words to say it, they would echo Tom Hanks: Never mind about truth, just ponder the possibilities of the next score. But the magic of Christianity is that lives are transformed every day when people in the depths of degradation accept the love of God. It begins when you stop pondering the possibilities and take a leap of faith into the truth of God’s love.

Let us not deny Hollywood’s own truth, its celebration of youth and sex, of beautiful bodies and artistic creativity. It marks the central moment of life, the spark of generation. Everyone is in favor of that.

What Hollywood doesn’t get is that the real mystery of life begins in the next moment as the consequences of generation begin to spin themselves out. That is when you really begin to ponder the possibilities.

If you are a creative artist who has set aside the inconvenience of the bourgeois family—perhaps by buying into the Freudian family model and its castrating father, always a problem for the artistic type—then you can afford to ponder the possibilities forever. You can introduce them one by one into your creative life work as the mood, or the Muse, takes you.

But if you direct your creativity towards the creation and the rearing of children you find that you have to come to a decision about all the great philosophical problems, and do it right now. You cannot airily declare that you are a seeker on a spiritual quest. You must raise your children and conduct your life according to your lights. But how good are your lights? The practical thing to do is to come to a decision about spirituality and religion, and go with the best thing going. This is called growing up and becoming an adult.

There is one thing about having children. Every child is a miracle, an astonishing creation, and every parent makes a measurable and valuable contribution to the futurity of the human race. And even if your child is a disappointment, there is always hope in the grandchildren. With the movies, you never know. You could be a genius, with a great idea, a great script, the best actors and directors, and the whole thing could turn out to be a bore.

In that case the only thing that could rescue your movie would be a mob determined to be outraged.

In the Islamic community there always seems to be a gang of young men not otherwise employed who are available to revenge outrages and acts of blasphemy. But for the Christian convinced of the reality of God’s love, what would be the point?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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