Digging in Deeper: Grab Bag

Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

This past week, we have talked about the value of staying plugged in to Jesus, hypocrisy, contradictions, God’s sometimes painful efforts to help us grow in His image, and the importance of a response of kindness to provocations rather than one that is merely in kind. And as the week has unfolded, each one of those things have made their way into the national news cycle in one way or another. Now, this doesn’t mean anyone in the media was talking about any of the issues through any of these various lenses, but as careful observers of culture through the lens of the Christian worldview, we can see the connections. In light of this, instead of a review of a recent show or film today, I thought we’d do a quick review of some of the news of the week through the lens of what we’ve spent the last week talking about. Here we go.

The Oscars have fallen on hard times of late. Used to be, Americans tuned in by the tens of millions to see all the beautiful people get together to celebrate themselves. We did this because we were secretly (or not so secretly) thrilled at the chance to see so many famous people all at one time and not just in the context of one movie or another. The other – and probably more significant – reason, though, was that many of the films that were going to be nominated were ones we had seen in the theaters and really enjoyed. It was a little bit exciting to have our enjoyment of a particular film validated by its winning an Oscar for best something or other.

But then Hollywood started to change.

Being an arts community, Hollywood has always tended to lean left culturally and politically. But for many years this leftward tilt was paired with a genuine love for and appreciation of the country that allowed them to do what they loved and live a lavish lifestyle while doing it. Over the years, though, as a more purely progressive worldview began to take a firmer grip on the hearts and minds of the Hollywood insiders club, that appreciation and gratitude began to morph into contempt and belittlement. The Americans who bought tickets and filled theater seats to fund their lavish lifestyles were mostly oafish ignoramuses who were thrilled by base pleasures and simply didn’t understand higher artistic endeavors.

Given that the awards were always about celebrating themselves, as this increasingly ideologically aggressive worldview spread, the films that got nods for the various awards from the celebrities who had come to believe it was their duty to instruct audiences in what to like started to shift from movies everyone had seen and loved to movies most people had never even heard of, and the folks who did see them may have enjoyed, but they weren’t necessarily entertained by them. Not only that, but increasing numbers of winners took the occasion of their victory speech to lecture Americans on the evils of the broadly conservative values that most of the viewing audience held. They took political stabs at politicians unpopular with the Hollywood, liberal elite. They revealed a profoundly ungrateful heart toward the very people who enabled them to be doing the very thing they were doing.

Well, that’s not a lot of fun to watch, and so Americans started tuning out. In droves. To put an actual number on that, last year, viewership was down by more than 40 million people from its peak in 1998 when the Best Picture winner was Titanic, one of the most successful films of all time. Just for a fun comparison, the rest of the top ten grossing films of all time have almost no Oscars in any category to speak of. The whole thing has become a parade of hypocrisy in which individuals who have been phenomenally successful in many respects advocate for positions they not only don’t really live, but which, if followed faithfully, could not create a culture in which anyone could achieve the success they have so enjoyed. And the country is growing increasingly tired of it.

Speaking of hypocrisy, the major reason anyone is still talking about this year’s Oscars doesn’t have anything to do with any of the awards. In fact, without looking it up, I don’t have any idea which film won best picture this year – something I usually know by now. No, the reason everyone is talking about the Oscars is because Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about his wife, Jada’s hair. Now, the whole situation has been analyzed endlessly, but perhaps the observation that most caught my attention was that Smith was filmed laughing at the joke until his wife whispered her anger in his ear. Then he put on a show that was nearly worthy of the Best Actor award he received later in the evening. In the process he thoroughly embarrassed himself, Rock, the Academy, and probably his wife as well as the display has brought a great deal of no doubt unwanted attention on their marriage which is decidedly…unorthodox in its form and function.

Beyond the hypocrisy of that particular moment, though, Smith’s slap was a perfect example of what it looks like to do the opposite of Jesus’ counsel that we talked about yesterday. While he should have in no ways tolerated his wife’s being made fun of on national television, he had several options available to him that didn’t involve striking Rock whose joke, while certainly out of bounds and shameful in its own right, was, by most accounts, not intended to mock a genuine medical condition about which he likely did not know. By responding, not merely in kind, but with a level of force intended to make the point that such comments should not be made again in the future, he not only did not prevent future mocking (at the very least of himself), but made something which would have likely been quickly forgotten become the thing by which everyone will remember this Oscars night for years to come. A response of kindness, on the other hand, would likely have accomplished wonders.

One more series of headlines worthy of a bit of reflection. This past week has seen the Disney corporation reveal rather boldly that its new corporate strategy is no longer primarily to make money, but to serve as the preeminent progressive worldview advocate in the world. They are going to turn the nob on their efforts at showcasing diversity of every imaginable flavor in all of their content – including content aimed at their youngest viewers – all the way up to 11. This has come in response to the official passage of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, successfully dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The ironies here abound. First, Disney made not even a single whimper about the bill until it had just nearly finished winding its way through Florida’s legislative process, and then only because it was criticized by progressive activists for its silence. The company reacted by engaging in a remarkable series of acts of self-flagellation including committing millions of dollars to LGBTQ+ causes, letting loose their full messaging powers in opposition to the bill, and very publicly making commitments to essentially strive to accomplish what the bill prevents from happening in the classrooms of Florida’s youngest students in the homes of those students when they turn on any Disney-produced content.

The second great irony of this is that while Disney has positioned themselves as the nation’s chief warrior for the anti- anti-LGBTQ+ cause, when Americans are introduced to the actual text of the bill, they tend to support it by about a 2-1 margin regardless of their ideological commitments. In other words, Disney is positioning itself against a solid majority of the very Americans on whose support they rely to make the obscene amounts of money they are making which enables them to produce all of the content they have now committed to fighting against the likes of the very bill they overwhelmingly support. The question here is just how long the parents paying Disney’s bills will continue to pay those bills when they know the company has committed itself to pushing a worldview into the hearts and minds of their children that they not only don’t support, but don’t want their children introduced to until they in their parental wisdom have deemed appropriate. In other words, we are in the midst of a battle over who knows best for your children: you, or the pro-LGBTQ+ crowd and their corporate and governmental supporters. The thing is, parents spend the money and cast the votes that have allowed them the power they now enjoy. An overplayed hand could result in those things being taken away.

Meanwhile, while the employees supportive of this cause celebre have been given the loudest corporate megaphones, there are many others who are feeling pressure to conform or pay the price. The followers of Jesus among that crowd may soon find themselves facing an opportunity to be pruned by their heavenly Father. We should pray for their courage and boldness in the trials yet ahead of them. Their courageous worldview consistency would be a rather stark contrast to Disney’s corporate hypocrisy. While Disney boldly celebrates diversity and inclusion and looking out for the supposedly powerless (although given our current culture, the thought that anyone willing to publicly identify as somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum is powerless is laughable), when it comes to their international efforts, the company bends over backwards to avoid upsetting the Chinese government even to the point of actively censoring itself as well as accepting every Chinese censorship in spite of that government’s appalling human rights record (including toward the very LGBTQ+ individuals they are so loudly celebrating here, not to mention their ongoing genocidal efforts toward the Uyghurs) so they don’t lose access to what they rightly believe is a very lucrative market. Worldview advancement here; cowardly corporate greed there. Which is it?

When people cease to believe in God, they do not then believe in nothing. They will believe in anything; anything they think will advance what they have determined to be their own interests. Those beliefs may be wildly contradictory, but as long as they work, who cares? The result of this worldview chaos, which the apostle Paul accurately predicted in Romans 1, is the kind of ideological duplicity that has been put so publicly on display in our nation this week. It’s disgusting. And it won’t last, because eventually people will grow tired of having no foundation to hold them up when things fly to pieces. How much better is it to trust in the one who is truth, and to rely on His wisdom to point us to the life that is truly life for all people. The harder Disney leans into their mantra that right is determined by what we really feel inside, the more they will find themselves sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Let us stand firm in the truth and be ready to lovingly help folks whose lives have been blown up by the chaos of the fantasies swirling around us pick up the pieces and find restoration in Christ.

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