The 90th Oscars vs. Jesus: Beware Hollywood and Antichrist!
[Editor’s Note: How can Jesus followers approach viewing movies in a way that enlarges their vision of Christ and helps them draw closer to him? After watching the Oscar presentations last Sunday, David Bryant got some new insights on this vital concern. He wants to share them with you.]
“May I have the envelope, please! This year’s Oscar for ____ goes to ____.” Wild applause. Music swelled. Tears and cheers filled the auditorium. On and on it went for four interminable hours at the 90th Academy Awards last Sunday—with the lowest TV viewership ever!
What is really going on here?
Here are two questions I’ll bet you’ve never been asked before:
What might the movies you watch reveal about your relationship with Jesus? Could the professional cinema actually increase your passion for more of him?
That’s the agenda I want to explore with you in this blog post. It’s about a crossroads we can’t avoid right now.
Be sure of this: With over 1.5 billion theater tickets sold in 2017, the $71 billion film and DVD movie industry will either push you deeper into your relationship with Christ or else drag you down into the curse of “antichrist.”
First, Let’s Define Our Terms
OSCAR: This is the muscular (and heavy) 15-inch statue of a guy plated in gold, assuming a humble pose, first awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 1928.
There are 24 categories of nominations that include best actress/actor, best picture, best screenplay, best editing, best score, best lighting, and many others.
The presentations go on and on. But there’s no doubt: The winners definitely comprise a constellation of visionaries and artists and writers and craftspeople and creative production geniuses.
HOLYROOD: No, that’s not a misspelling. It is an old English word.
Five hundred years ago “holy” meant what it does today—set apart as special unto God. But “rood” referenced what we spell as “wood” today. Put together, “holyrood” was first used by ancient Scots to refer to Christ’s cross.
After all, the cross was wood. And because of what happened there it was holy. Therefore, the cross was “Holyrood,” that is, “Holywood.” More about this in a moment.
HOLLYWOOD: Known as the film capital of the world, it is a city near Los Angeles filled with movie studios and film stars’ mansions.
H. J. Whitley, the city’s founder in 1886, said its name came from how nearby Chinese said, “I’m hauling wood.” But to many Christians it seems no coincidence that it appears to be a corrupting (intended or not) of the Anglo-Saxon word for the rack on which Jesus died for the sins of the world: Holyrood. Interesting. We’ll return to more about Hollywood below.
ANTICHRIST: Yes, I know many biblical end-time schemes predict the rise of a world ruler called “the Antichrist” who is modeled off the monster pictured in Revelation 13. But where the term itself is actually used in Scripture is found in 1 John, including where the apostle writes in chapter 4:
. . . every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (NIV, emphasis added).
Let’s break down the word into two parts: “anti” meaning “the opposite of, opposed to, or against”; and “Christ,” the title given to our Lord Jesus meaning “anointed,” which indicates that he has been set apart and exalted by the Father to reign supreme in the universe.
In the context of 1 John 4, it refers to false teachers who had infiltrated young congregations of believers. But anything or anyone qualifies as “antichrist” when what is said or done, promoted or portrayed, encouraged or celebrated defies, diminishes, or diverts us from seeing and savoring the greatness and glory of God’s Son for all he is today.
Six Ways to Discover if Hollywood
Has Become “Antichrist” for You
There’s currently a debate among film critics: Does Hollywood shape culture or simply reflect culture?
After the 2018 Academy Awards, NY Times opinion writer Lindy West commented in “Let’s Get Rid of Bad Movies”:
Hollywood’s reach is so vast, its influence so potent. This is how a great many toxic ideas embedded themselves inside of us in the first place.
This week’s TIME magazine observes in a feature story on the industry:
Hollywood is something that defines us as Americans, for better or worse . . . [movies are also] one of our chief modes of presenting ourselves to the world.
So it is not at all prudish to ask ourselves as Jesus followers: How do movies impact our relationship with the Master of our lives?
From West’s words: Are you watching movies that end up “embedding toxic ideas” into your mind and heart? Do the motion pictures you enjoy (in public venues or in the privacy of your home) inject perspectives, priorities, even passions, that become toxic to your walk with Jesus and your growth in him?
Here are some ways you can search this out for yourself:
1. Of course, every believer is unique in terms of life experiences, spiritual maturity, and fine-tuning of conscience. But any movie (past or present) that causes you as a believer to be diverted from or grow cool toward your pursuit of more of Christ and your adoration of him has become “antichrist” for you.
2. Any film, on a big screen or your tablet, that causes you to think less of or less about Christ defines “antichrist” for you.
3. Whether blockbuster or short independent film, if the production advocates for and revels in lifestyles, life values, and life directions that contradict or assault the supreme place, purpose, themes, and values of Christ’s kingdom, whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, it is in opposition to Christ himself. So for you it becomes “antichrist.”
4. Or let me suggest another approach I use for myself: Could I invite my Savior, the Lord of glory—the majestic sovereign of all creation and the redeemer of my soul—to sit with me to view the feature film I’m going to see tonight, either in a darkened cinema or downloaded on my laptop? If not, then it turns into “antichrist” for me.
Put another way: Would I be embarrassed if Jesus walked into my living room or into the theater and sat down next to me while I was in the middle of this movie? If so, then for me that Hollywood artwork, even if it received a 90% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has become “antichrist” for me.
5. To take it a second step: After viewing the film, could I join Jesus at a table to debrief and process the acting, the cinematography, what was depicted and how, the moral tensions of the storyline? Would I feel comfortable sharing back and forth with him about how it reflected certain truths of his kingdom or how it dramatically reinforced the need for his great salvation? Stated bluntly: Can I imagine myself having this conversation sitting with him on his throne (which Ephesians 2 teaches, in a sense, is where we live daily anyway)?
If my answer to any of these questions is no, then that movie or DVD plays the role of “antichrist” in my life.
6. Allow me to suggest one more investigation: After I take some friends to see a popular flick, am I comfortable discussing it with them? Can I show them how its emphases and highlights point us to Christ’s supremacy—showing them either why he is needed for us to come against the forces of sin and evil the film dramatized, or how the story offers a metaphor of how his reign is often displayed today by acts of sacrifice and righteousness for him? Not only would I be able to do this but also would I be willing to do this?
If not, then that show, however well it was produced and directed, is “antichrist” for me. Of course, all of this can also be applied to programs we watch on TV!
Hollywood or “Holyrood”?
The Crossroads We All Must Face
Going back to the TIME analysis, we learn that an “unprecedented reckoning” is currently taking place in Hollywood in terms of how it portrays sex and power. More than ever, reflects TIME, Hollywood is “actively driving” the cultural conversation, “motivating many to speak out about [positive] core American values in ways not seen before.” The article continues:
This past year it has in many ways come to seem more thoughtful, stable and forward looking . . . a new era largely about self-scrutiny.
Yes, for many reasons (#MeToo is just one of them), Hollywood finds itself at a real crossroads concerning a reconstitution of Hollywood’s message. And this could change our nation, as TIME concludes:
Changes in Hollywood’s thinking have the potential to change American thinking . . . by leading by example it can force a shift in America’s example before the world.
So how about you?
Most likely there are still hundreds of films that will beckon you before you walk into glory. How will you respond to their allure? What example will you set in the investment of your entertainment dollars and in your viewing habits?
Are you willing to bring your thoughts and your affections—but specifically your eyes—to the cross, so that even in terms of movies you can agree with Paul in Philippians 2:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit . . . have the same mindset as Christ Jesus . . .
If Hollywood itself is willing to make changes, how much more should all of us who belong to the Master Storyteller—the one who right at this moment is writing, producing, directing, and starring in the most spectacular blockbuster of all time—be willing to change even our viewing choices for his sake!
Christians have already been incorporated as the cast for the one and only cosmic feature that will break all records as it projects into eternity a full display of the drama the Bible sums up like this:
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people . . . [God] provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth (Ephesians 1, The Message).
Jesus followers have been awarded something more valuable than an Oscar. We’ve been born again by the Spirit of God into the Father’s drama for the ages. Our trophy is union with the Son of God forever and ever. (APPLAUSE PLEASE!)
May I invite you to a front row seat at a unique showing? Spend some time viewing a few of my own “films”—videos that will help you dig much deeper into the Master Storyteller and the magnificent scope of his kingdom story. Visit The Christ Institutes Video Series: Meet Him Again for the First Time. Enjoy!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.