As a “Whore of Babylon,” Hollywood has sold its soul to the god of money, and is a tarnished lady; but is she unredeemable?
Vision Forum, the Christian homeschooling and family resource ministry, offers a CD by filmmaker Geoff Botkin called “Hollywood’s Most Despised Villain.” When I listened to it, I was not convinced that Hollywood had ever been the target of Communist strategists, as Mr. Botkin proports. I had been studying Hollywood for over thirty years, and knew of very few American films, besides Warren Beatty’s Reds and maybe The Way We Were, that I would say were sympathetic to Communism. I felt Mr. Bodkin was preaching from fanaticism due to his own conversion from Communism, rather than from facts – much as my dad used to preach relentlessly against the evils of smoking after he had given up cigarettes. People who have been converted from something tend to be the biggest opponents to it, even to the point of fanaticism. So, I was skeptical.
When you read about McCarthyism and the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities back in the 1950s, the evidence is pretty unclear. Neither side seems particularly convincing. The best testimony that I know of that there was subversive Communist activity in Hollywood in the 1950s is from our film-actor-turned-president, Ronald Reagan: he said there were a lot of Communists in his profession. I believe Ronald Reagan.
But I came across another piece of evidence that helps support Mr. Bodkin’s claim. It’s a film called Man On A String, from 1960. It stars Ernest Borgnine who portrays a double agent posing as a film director in Hollywood, and is based on the autobiography of Boris Morros (My Ten Years As A Counterspy) in which he describes his own real-life adventures as a double agent in Hollywood. It’s an interesting little film, and adds credence to the notion that, at one time, Hollywood did play footsie with the Reds. It was shot on location in both East and West Berlin, which alone makes the film worth watching. It is not available on DVD or video, so you’ll have to find out when Turner Classic Movies is showing it again.
One reason this discussion is important is because many think that Communism is where we’ll end up if we continue down the road to Socialism that Obama and his administration have us on. If you look at the definition of Communism, in which all property is controlled and owned by the state, that does not seem so far-fetched, as we watch the government take control and ownership of more and more companies under the guise of “bailing them out.” And Hollywood, along with the rest of the media, seem surprisingly supportive of this. The one group that doesn’t accept Obama’s schemes are the American people – the ones who are supposed to be in control of our government. Remember “of the people, by the people, for the people?” So what’s happened to that? Why, except for the Teaparty movement, are the people so quiet? Have they turned into sheep? Was that a bleat?
In spite of the evidence that Hollywood has always been open to Communist influence, there was still a strong pro-American contingency in Hollywood during the studio era, headed up by director John Ford, his producer Merian C. Cooper, and actor John Wayne. Ford and Cooper, along with Wayne and others in their troop, believed in America and the values that made her great, including Christianity. They weren’t afraid to speak up about them, and you can see the evidence of their convictions in their body of work, which includes close to two hundred films. I seriously doubt if all the films made by all the Communist sympathizers in Hollywood would measure up to that list in quantity or quality. And that’s just one group. There were others who felt the same way.
So, yes, Hollywood has sold us out and is a tarnished lady, but is she unredeemable? Will godly, wholesome, pro-American films ever come out of Hollywood again? Pixar, and occasionally a studio you’ve never heard of, seem to be the only diamonds in the otherwise dung heap that is Hollywood today. Will Christian filmmakers have to go outside Hollywood to produce their films, as Mel Gibson did?
In 2007, my pastor, Randy Pope, taught a series on the book of Daniel called “Standing Up in a Sit Down World,” that dealt with the book of Daniel. His first teaching in the series was entitled, “A Tale of Two Cities,” and in it he contrasted the two prominent cities talked about in Scripture: Zion, the city of God, and Babylon, the city of Man. As he taught, it was difficult not to imagine Hollywood as the modern-day Babylon.
In that first message, Randy talked about how God is God, not just of Zion, but also of Babylon. Scripture is clear that it ticks God off when people limit Him by saying that He is God of this but not of that. God’s sovereignty is over all creation, not just the parts that are obedient. So to say that God is not the God of Hollywood and that Hollywood is unredeemable is almost blasphemy. Hollywood belongs to God, just as Zion does, and both exist for His people’s use and for His glory.
Those who believe in the idea of working “outside Hollywood” aren’t saying, specifically, that Hollywood doesn’t belong to God and is unredeemable; but it is implied. We are all against the World’s systems, and can see how Hollywood fits into those systems; but that is no reason to write Hollywood off because, at one time, we were all part of the World and its systems. Yet we weren’t written off. Someone believed that we could be redeemed, and Someone did redeem us.
I know it’s easier to think about redeeming people than systems, governments, institutions and companies. But I believe God wants us to redeem everything our hands touch and our eyes see. All things should be for His glory, not just some. In his ground-breaking book, Heaven, author Randy Alcorn says that one day all things that glorify God will be resurrected – not just people, but books, movies, buildings, etc. What we are doing now is storing up for that resurrection day. We are saving as much as possible from this present, imperfect world to be carried over into that future, perfect one.
Most people would choose to go off and start a new city rather than stay and save a present one. That’s how Jonah felt about Nineveh. But God is a Savior, not the god of cut-and-run. I wish His people had more of that quality. When things aren’t going well, we’re far too ready to pack up and leave. God wants unity in His Church, not a splintered Body. Yet, rather than trying to reconcile our differences, we find it easier to go off and start a new church or a new denomination. That way, our pride can remain intact. You see the same thing in companies that split, nations that split, marriages that split… and yes, industries that split.
Do we really want two Hollywoods: one inside and one outside; two film industries – one Christian and one non-Christian? I don’t, because God didn’t put us here to entertain ourselves – He put us here to save the lost. We’re not going to find too many lost souls in an all-Christian industry. As my pastor Randy says, go out and mix things up with the unbelievers. You can’t do that while hiding behind the walls of Christendom. You have to go out into the streets of Babylon to find the lost. That’s why I love Kirk Cameron and Living Waters Ministries: they’re out there in LA and Hollywood mixing it up.
Should everyone interested in film move to Hollywood and try to break into the industry? God forbid. Hollywood has chewed up and spit out enough Christians to build a Tower of Babel out of their bones. (See my article, “The Truth about Hollywood.”) As a matter of fact, if you don’t think you can handle it out there in Babylon without becoming a Babylonian yourself, don’t go. Yet that is where the greatest opportunities to impact the Kingdom are. So you should at least want to go.
On the other hand, if you are called, I believe there are opportunities out there right now for young Christian filmmakers that have never existed before. The new trend in Christian films has caused many established film companies to form divisions devoted to making what they are calling “Christian films.” (See my article, “Hollywood’s Leap of Faith.”) They need Christians that know what a real Christian film is to fill the positions in those new divisions. I’m not saying it will be easy; but if Daniel and his friends could do what they did as slaves in ancient Babylon, couldn’t we do as much as free men and women in Hollywood? You don’t have to bow to the gods of Babylon-Hollywood, though you will be tempted to. But with everyone around you bowing, you’re sure to stand out and set some tongues wagging if you don’t. Isn’t that what we want?
There may even be some firey furnaces and lions’ dens along the way. But what else are you doing for the rest of your life? That’s why we’re here: to show a doubting, idolatrous world that God is sovereign, even in a supposedly “godless” place like Hollywood. Are you with me?
Waitsel Smith, May 25, 2007/ Revised June 28, 2010
Text and photo © 2007 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.