The Gospel according to Hollywood

Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya on Unsplash

A theme of salvation runs through several Hollywood movies. From Maleficent to Snow White and the Huntsman to Independence Day, there is a common story. In spite of the different plots and characters, one finds an unmistakable unifying theme which basically goes like this:

Something is wrong with the world. It could be a spell cast by a powerful witch, an alien invasion, or a social problem. Things are simply not the way they should be. At some point, a Saviour or Deliverer emerges. This might be a superhero, another powerful (but good) creature, or some new technology. It (or she) meets the challenge, there is a battle or conflict, and the Hero wins. Evil is defeated. Once more the beauty and goodness of the world is restored and humans live happily ever after (or something like that).

This is probably oversimplified, but I think you get the gist. The theme is compelling. It reveals that deep awareness in the human heart that life is not as it should be. We observe the brokenness in homes and families, crime and violence in our cities, heartbreak and pain in relationships, greed and corruption in business and government. We sense intuitively that life ought to be better. And so we long for deliverance, for change and, let’s face it, for Salvation.

Because the problem is seen as social, cultural or environmental in nature, we often seek the change from the Government. And we see them as issues that can be resolved either through legislation or some act of executive courage. Bribery is wrong; deal with it by sentencing offenders to 10 years in jail. What about robbery? Possibly a jail term of 6 years with hard labour. Perhaps we could even trace the problem to the influence of some powerful individual. Maybe a king or an emperor. The solution? Change the leader. As a good and powerful king attains power, the fortunes of humanity are reversed and the world is saved.

The problem with the story as told by Hollywood is not that it is entirely untrue. Far from it. Much of it is. The evil in our world is complex, with physical, cultural and environmental dimensions. And this sickness has been on for ages.

Also, there is no doubt that leadership (good or bad)  is a significant factor in the course of human history. What would our world have been without people like Moses, King David, Constantine, Charlemagne, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King Jr? Or who can ignore the negative impact that men like Hitler (Germany), Stalin (the USSR) and Idi Amin (Uganda) have had on their respective societies?

The problem with the Hollywood story is that it is incomplete and one-sided. And because of its deficiency, it is inadequate as a story or worldview. Rarely does Hollywood consider man as a spiritual being who must maintain a relationship with his maker, a personal God. When it does explore man’s spiritual nature, it often leans toward some form of nature worship or pantheism.

The defect we perceive in the world is the flowering of a sickness in the human heart. The Christian worldview recognises that every human is at heart corrupt and sinful. This belief itself is derived from the Bible and is validated by our own experience. We can perceive unkind and unloving thoughts within ourselves. We sometimes make mean and cruel utterances. And we often act selfishly and arrogantly. These are not behaviours induced by our environment or forced upon us by society. They emerge from our very hearts and are reflections of a deformed nature. If this is the problem, then the solution must be to get that deformed nature corrected. And this is what the Christian worldview offers in the gospel.

God transforms our hearts through His Spirit, reconciling us to Himself through faith in Jesus. As many more people experience this change and allow it to alter their thinking and their lives, society is affected. Selfish husbands and fathers become loving and caring. Greedy employers and bosses are transformed into godly mentors and leaders. Corrupt government officials begin to use public funds properly in promoting the well-being of their constituents. In this way, society is gradually but truly changed, for it has first been renewed at the source. And it begins to take on the shape which God intended when he declared the universe to be ‘good’.

Hollywood tells great stories, but they are stories which can be made even better (and truer) when told in light of the true gospel.



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