‘This Christianity Thing Could Catch On’

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“So it’s not just Kirk Cameron and Stephen Baldwin and the kid from Two and a Half Men.” With A-list stars backing Jesus, who knows? This Christianity thing could catch on.”

Those two sentences ended an article that ran in the New York Post back in June. Film critic Kyle Smith had just finished highlighting six individuals that, according to him, “are talking up their Christian faith.” He listed and offered some modest proof regarding the spiritual beliefs of Matthew McConaughey, Gwen Stefani, Mark Wahlberg, Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Chris Pratt. Whether any or all six are truly Christ-followers is known only to them and the Lord. Given time, as Jesus said, we will know more by their fruit. But in the meantime, I rejoice when individuals with media clout use their platform to share their faith … or at the very least, have been outspoken regarding the idea that there’s a loving, transcendent God.

Quite frankly, it must be very hard to be a professing believer in Hollywood. I think there are many more believers in Tinseltown than we know, but a number haven’t come out of the Christian closet (yet). But some have.

Take, for instance, Kathie Lee Gifford. For 15 years, she shared hosting honors on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. Gifford was nominated for 11 Daytime Emmys and won her first in 2010 as part of the Today team. It was on the Today show, following the death of her husband Frank last month, that she shared a powerful, no-holds-barred, explanation of her and Frank’s personal faith, and told her viewers (“those who are hurting today”) that the Lord could be their answer to life, too. If you haven’t yet seen it, check it out here. What a great message, especially during such a time of grief! On an unrelated, but extremely interesting note (at least to me), I read on Gifford’s Wikipedia page that it was a faith-based film that brought her to Christ in the first place (the Billy Graham produced, The Restless Ones at age 12).

A sermon I heard years ago described the journey to Christ as a numeric point somewhere on the common 1-10 scale. Hardcore atheists rank a zero; committed believers a 10. Many, this pastor explained, are somewhere in between. He encouraged all of us to be used by the Lord to move a person, let’s say, who’s a four to perhaps be more open to the Lord and become a five, six or even greater. I guess that’s why I appreciated the sincerity of Jimmy Fallon’s story of almost losing his finger several weeks back.  While in an intensive care unit for 10 days, he decided to read Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Now, Fallon, who once thought he might become a priest, doesn’t say the book helped him become a follower of Jesus. I don’t know where he’s at in that regard. But it’s quite clear that the book moved him on the spiritual 1-10 scale. When he tells his audience that this incident with his finger motivated him to read Search, they believe he’s joking (lots of laughter). But he makes it clear, he’s not. A risky career move, in my opinion. Let’s be praying for Mr. Fallon.

And lastly, I’d like to highlight writer-director Randall Wallace. Wallace wrote the screenplay to the Academy Award winning Braveheart. Plus, you’ll see his credits on films such as Man in the Iron Mask and Pearl Harbor. But it was during the making of Heaven Is for Real, which he wrote and directed, that I personally heard his heart for Christ. I was in Winnipeg for a couple of days of filming and Wallace was on the schedule to address a group of us “press.” I came away with this thought: Randall Wallace is the real deal! This Q&A excerpt from a Christianity Today article lends credence:

I am a Christian, no matter what else I do. I could change my name to something else, but I would not become someone else. My Christian identity doesn’t depend on my earning the title; the start of my journey as a Christian is my certainty that I don’t merit the love of God and I have it anyway—just as I am, without one plea. … I believe that the death of Jesus of Nazareth opened a door to love and life that are, quite literally, a union with God. I don’t understand it, but Jesus didn’t ask for my understanding. He just said “Follow me,” gave up his life, and rose from the dead. So I try to follow. I’m not trying to spread my dogma. I’m trying to live my experience that God loves me, and the only way I can follow is by loving others.

Whether this “Christianity thing” catches on in a big way or not, I deeply respect those who live and share their faith. In addition, I respect those who are truly seeking. When those happen to have a large platform because they’re part of the entertainment industry, I can’t help but smile a bit inside.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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