But it's not just what Hollywood does for Islam that concerns many observers. It's also how Tinseltown negatively portrays Christians, many of whom were offended by the controversial movie The Last Temptation of Christ because of its irreverent and heretical presentation of Christ as sinful and lustful, of the apostle Paul as a liar, and of Judas Iscariot as a hero. But since the release of that film in the late 1980s, Hollywood has arguably become even more militant and disrespectful toward Christianity. Christians are regularly depicted as freaks, serial killers, and sexual perverts. Many films have caricatured televangelists as amoral hucksters. Hollywood is quick to show the pathetically warped "Christian" extremism of neo-Nazi paramilitary groups, not bothering to note fascism's real roots in atheism, paganism, and secularism. Instead, disrespecting sacred Christian beliefs and Christ Himself has become commonplace.
In Where the Heart Is (2000), Natalie Portman plays a pregnant young lady, who, after being abandoned by her boyfriend in Sequoia, Oklahoma, begins living secretly in a Wal-Mart. When she gives birth inside the store with the help of the town's substitute librarian, she gains national media attention. A Bible-thumping fanatical religious couple from Midnight, Mississippi, learns of the child born out of wedlock and travels to Oklahoma to lecture Portman. The crazy couple ultimately kidnaps the infant and then leaves her in the crib of a local nativity scene.
In the 2002 movie Frailty, Matthew McConaughey plays a crazed religious fanatic who tells his two sons that he is on a mission from God to kill demon-possessed people. He then proceeds to go on a murder spree. One reviewer commented, "Some will find it downright blasphemous because Frailty isn't satisfied with just saying 'Christians can be disturbing.' It pushes further to say, at its heart, Christianity can be disturbing." Ed Vitagliano of the American Family Association said the movie sends the message that "those who believe in God and are religious can turn into axe-wielding, murderous maniacs:" He said, "Hollywood seems to only portray Christians in a negative light." "Very rarely is there a movie which shows the Christian faith in a positive light."
Sometimes, according to Vitagliano, Hollywood is even more concerned with making an anti-Christian point than in making money. Film critic Michael Medved framed it differently, but agreed that Hollywood is not always driven solely by the dollar. "The Hollywood community wants respect even more than it wants riches," said Medved in his best-selling book, Hollywood vs. America. "Above all, its members crave acceptance and recognition as serious artists. Money is not the main motivation for their current madness."
Actress Amanda Donahoe gleefully described a scene she played in The Lair of the White Worm. "I'm an atheist," said Donahoe, "so it actually was a joy. Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun." In the movie Misery the lunatic nurse wore a cross, in Eye for an Eye the rapist wore one as well. In Copycat, the serial killer played by Harry Connick, Jr. constantly invoked "Jesus." Even Disney movies are sometimes overtly anti-Christian. The recently released Bubble Boy, for example, was described by Ted Baehr, president of the Christian Film and Television Commission and publisher of Movieguide, as "the most virulently, explicitly anti-Christian film I've ever seen." In this movie the Christian parents of a boy with a deficient immune system are portrayed as absolute idiots with a portrait of President Ronald Reagan prominently displayed in their home. The mother makes cross-shaped cookies for her son and tells him he's fortunate to be trapped in the bubble because the world outside is "so evil." When the boy becomes upset, the mother tells him to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance "over and over." All of this was in just the first five minutes of the movie.
The flipside of this anti-Christian-Hollywood coin is that proChristian movies are so panned by the Hollywood sycophants that they often have difficulty getting off the ground. Examples are Evelyn, starring Pierce Brosnan, and the Civil War epic Gods and Generals. The average moviegoer might be perplexed, if not discouraged, by the critics' rejection of these movies, if unaware that an anti-Christian bias could be coloring their opinions. Roger Ebert, for example, sneeringly opened his review of Gods and Generals saying, "Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy." The movie tells the story of the very serious and brilliant Christian general Stonewall Jackson. According to one reviewer, "It is chock-full of prayers to Jesus Christ." The movie's producer, Ron Maxwell, believes his "unorthodox" portrayal of the South and his unapologetic Christianity clearly turned off many critics who couldn't see beyond their prejudice. "Look, I've had thirty years in the business," said Maxwell. "I've read a lot of reviews, and some of them are funny and dismissive. But I've never seen an effort [like this] to actually suppress a movie, to scare people away from it." Despite the movie's dismal reviews by liberal critics, Michael Medved gave it four out of four stars and said he believed the movie would be one of the best films of 2003. Medved contends that most critics have an ideological agenda.
Actor-director Mel Gibson said he feels an effort was undertaken to suppress The Passion, his film about the last twelve hours in the earthly life of Jesus Christ, centering on His suffering and death. In a news conference announcing the film in September 2002, Gibson admitted he had experienced difficulty in finding a United States studio or distributor for the movie. Gibson has denied that the movie's approach is potentially disparaging to Jews. "This is not a Christian versus Jewish thing. '[Jesus] came into the world and it knew him not. Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that."
Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, National Endowment for the Humanities professor of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, who translated the movie script into Aramaic and Latin, said he saw no hint of anti-Semitism in the film. Fulco added, "I would be aghast at any suggestion that Mel is anti-Semitic." Nevertheless, certain political and religious groups and some in the mainstream press have been very critical of Gibson's Passion. Boston Globe columnist James Carroll denounced Gibson's literal reading of the biblical accounts. "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred," wrote Carroll. A group of Jewish and Christian academics has issued an eighteen-page report slamming all aspects of the film, including its undue emphasis on Christ's passion rather than "a broader vision."
The report disapproves of the movie's treatment of Christ's passion as historical fact. But to ensure the accuracy of the work, Gibson enlisted the counsel of pastors and theologians, who affirmed the accuracy of the script. Don Hodel, president of Focus on the Family, said, "I was very impressed. The movie is historically and theologically accurate " Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the National Evangelical Association glowed, "It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was."
The moral is that if you want the popular culture to laud your work on Christ, make sure it either depicts Him as a homosexual or as an everyday sinner with no particular redeeming value (literally). In our anti-Christian culture, blasphemous works like Corpus Christi and The Last Temptation of Christ are celebrated, while The Passion is condemned.
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