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A Love Letter to Hollywood Part I

Dear Hollywood. You’ve been a bit beat up lately, so I wanted to remind you of your greatness and your purpose.

I love you. I love your magic. I love the movies, the glamour, the legends. You gave us The Ten Commandments and Gone With the Wind. You challenged us with Schindler’s List, 12 Years a Slave, and Saving Private Ryan. We cried, laughed, and cheered after watching E.T., Apollo 13, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy. We got a bit obsessed with movies like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. We quoted The Princess Bride, fell in love with late bloomers like The Shawkshank Redemption and Office Space. We wept openly at the ending of The Green Mile and spent our adolescence trying to have adventures like the kids on Stand By Me and Goonies. All of this was made possible by you, Hollywood.

But we need to talk, because you’ve lost your heart.

 

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Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hollywood-signs-hollywood-sign-1246529/

Hollywood, you wonderful, confused, beautiful, horrendous beast, you are suffering from the sin of nihilism. You’re all glitz and lights and over-zealous joy sometimes, but under that is a deep, deep sadness. Because you’ve achieved everything there is to achieve, sometimes selling your soul to get there, and life is still painful. This is why you’ve come to the collective conclusion that life is meaningless.

But you’ve got it all wrong. The money, the fame, the accolades; they are not everything there is to life. They are cake. They are fluff. They taste great for the time being, but then the sugar high passes, and you realize you’ve overloaded on carbs, and you feel bloated and empty and wanting that next high. That Oscar on your shelf, it’s cake. Enjoy it, yes, but take note of the empty carbs and find something of substance, because your nihilism is bumming me out.

All this other stuff, the sex abuse scandals, the dark and dirty underbelly of Hollywood, it can all be overcome if you realize that your purpose isn’t the aforementioned cake. It’s much greater than that.

Your purpose isn’t to make money. Your purpose isn’t to get an Oscar or a SAG award. Your purpose isn’t to save us from Trump, wars, guns, or scary conservatives. Your purpose isn’t even to “entertain and distract.” Your purpose is to take all the chaos and pain of real life and shape it into something meaningful.

It is a mighty purpose.

When you tell a great story, when you perfect the art you are creating, you tap into a vein that has existed since humans invented language. That vein is, in essence, the story of us, the story of humankind and the hope we have. That vein will carry every story or every form of great art into a natural conclusion, revealing a truth far greater than the narrow truth of Hollywood’s echo chamber. Your mighty purpose is to find that vein, plug into it, and give us a looking forward to that time in life when the veil is lifted, and we see there was always a grand and wonderful meaning to life.

But you can’t do that if you’re stuffing down cake and in the regretful, empty afterwards, worshiping at the alter of nihilism.

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Insufferable Christians Part II – Christianity and Pop Culture

Most people don’t care for Pop Culture, and yet most people adhere to it. It’s impossible to avoid, in fact. Even those who make a point of hating everything that comes from Pop Culture are still affected by it, even ruled by it.

So what is Pop Culture? We know it’s not controlled by an individual or even a group of individuals. There may be record and movie company executives making decisions about what they think people want, but even they get side-swiped by unexpected trends in Pop Culture.

ID-10095402    Mob Mentality With A Fashion Sense

image by sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pop Culture is not a single entity. It’s a collection of ideas and trends, opinions, faiths, persuasions that could come from an individual, but they don’t. No one person controls these ideas. They are moved by emotions, by gossip, by wanting to know what everyone else knows, by wanting in on what everyone else is in on. Pop Culture, in essence, is a mob.

And there is nothing so mindlessly destructive than a mob. They can range from bad to worse, from property destruction to lives lost, to homes burned and physical altercations. A mob is incredibly emotional, incredibly violent, and virtually mindless.

But don’t jump the gun on me yet. Pop Culture isn’t quite the physical monstrosity of a well-inebriated post-super bowl crowd. It doesn’t commit acts of violence (not really), but it does have the same emotional mindlessness associated with a mob. And it makes things happen, for better or worse.

So where does Christianity fit into all this?

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Image provided by luigi diamanti from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Christianity, the religion of old white ladies with pursed lips, disapproving eyebrows, and a long list of DO NOTS (thank you, Dana Carvey) is bound to put a damper on any Pop Culture party. A mob ruled by emotions and basic, animalistic cravings is not going to put up with something telling it to stop.

But Pop Culture doesn’t hate Christianity for that reason. If that were the case, Pop Culture would hate all religions, all calls to self-discipline and restraint. Other religions like Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism also have a strict set of standards and often require far more self-restraint than Christianity. But these religions differ from Christianity in that they have a sense of otherness that’s easy to romanticize.

Christianity does not, however. Why? Because Pop Culture was birthed from Circumstantial Christianity.

What started as a subversive religion eventually conquered the world, becoming a pandemic that spread from nation to nation and–perhaps–suffered from the Bilbo Baggins lament of “butter scraped over too much bread.” Perhaps not. Perhaps it was spoiled by the sinfulness and laziness of its followers. Either way, it is now understood to be something that more closely resembles American prosperity than a radical, revolutionary faith that challenged–and changed–the world.

In place of that faith is Circumstantial Christianity, which has led us to a generation of people who have just enough knowledge of Christianity to own it but never truly understand it.

And like any petulant, overly-privileged offspring, Pop Culture wishes to undo Christianity, to overthrow it, to make up its own religion, one that doesn’t judge its wrongdoings. It has embraced all the forbidden things Circumstantial Christianity condemns and rages against that which brought it into existence. It is the byproduct of Christians of circumstance, the fruit that withers on the tree, the monster we continue to feed.