Last night was Oscar night, an important event for popular culture in America and around the world, since American movies are international. We export more culture worldwide through movies than anything else, and unfortunately that includes the good, the bad and the ugly of pop culture. Many Christians shun Hollywood for this reason, but a more measured response would be more beneficial for the kingdom of God.
Hollywood merely mirrors the good and the bad of human existence, all of which has to be incorporated somehow in the gospel of welcome that we bring to the world. If Jesus Christ took on himself the sins of the whole world (and He did), then we don’t get to pick and choose what we want and don’t want to identify with about being human. Being a Christian does not mean we are sanitized human beings. It means we are saved – saved, but not excused.
We are not excused from the worst that man is capable of because of the cross; we are forgiven. To be forgiven is to be healed; to be excused is to be in denial. You don’t get to skip anything on your way to resurrection power. You have to know death to know life.
Too many Christians want to be excused from too much of life, when what is necessary instead is to be forgiven and healed. We want to present ourselves at our best, when the gospel of welcome is designed to accept us at our worst. Indeed, this is the true power of the gospel; it rides right into the deepest, darkest corner of human existence and meets us there. Without this we would be living sanitized lives full of denial instead of forgiven lives full of hope.
Two Oscar contenders together tell this story, and though I have not seen either one, I know enough about them to know that one is about man’s inhumanity to man (12 Years a Slave), and the other (Philomena) is about forgiveness. In fact, 12 Years, winner of Best Picture, is so hard to watch, that it is one of the smallest box office tickets to ever win such a big prize. But as Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, and winner of Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role said, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.”
This is why stories like this are so important, because we are all connected – connected in our sin, and connected through Christ in our forgiveness, salvation and hope. This is an important part of our message, and why, as much as we might not like it, Hollywood is important.