What if the Road to Redemption Passes through Hollywood

james-dean-397027_640I don’t know about you
but I worry about people
who haven’t heard the truth of Jesus Christ
presented well.
But recently I’ve come to see that
our culture proclaims the gospel every day in a million ways
unwittingly, yes, but it’s there.
Which confirms what it says in the book of Romans
that what can be known about God is plain to them (us),
because God has shown it to them (us).
God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
So, they (us) are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20
But when I read that, I feel confused
 because what the Bible says is plainly clear
is missed by so many people I love.
Still, I have to admit, it is there.
God has made Himself obviously evident through His amazing work of creation,
and I can even see that our own fallen creative minds
retell the truth of scripture
again and again
in our stories, our songs, our movies, our media.
Not just on PBS but everywhere.
Every drama, even our comedies, center on a character
in conflict with either him or herself
or others
or the elements
or unseen forces.
As if every storyteller from Grimm to Hollywood, knows the truth of Romans 5:3-5a “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame”
We accept, even in our fiction, that conflict is necessary
to bring us to our greater selves.
We affirm the truth of scripture when we say that without conflict, there is no story.
And then, the characters of our fictional culture frantically search for love and redemption.
In story after story,
our creative minds (or hearts?) retell the horror of the Fall,
the subsequent bondage of slavery to sin,
the attempts to create our own escape, to manufacture our own salvation
and our need for a hero
be it Batman, true love, acquittal, or a band of brothers.
We know we need to be rescued and our hearts long to find that place we can call home.
No one imagines that Hollywood or network television execs are trying to express a Biblical worldview
but still it emerges from our creative soup like truth that is so powerful
it can be masked, twisted, suppressed, oppressed, submerged, denied, and rebelled against
but it cannot be confounded
as surely as Gibbs and Monk aren’t confounded by criminal minds,
and it cannot be destroyed
anymore than Inspector Javert can destroy Jean Valjean,
it seeks to be heard as desperately and as persistently
as any American Idol
and it will infiltrate enemy lines more expertly than the team of Argo.
And a believer who is paying attention,
can use these stories
just as Paul used the statue to the unknown God in Athens
to point out to those who are lost
that what they seek is nearer than they thought;
like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tinman
what they need is within reach,
the truth has been with them the entire journey
only hidden
and masked
from eyes that would not see.
Are you paying attention?
In martial arts, we learned to use
not just our feet and fists in a battle
but also our minds,
our opponent’s weaknesses
and our environment.
Believers are in a battle for souls.
Look around.
There is a lot of trash out there
masquerading as art and literature
but before you toss it aside,
ask God how
even the work of fallen creative hearts
can be used in the war
for souls.
What it reveals of our shared longing,
our desperation for redemption worked into a stand-up routine,
our confessions disguised as fiction,
our search for a savior expressed in poetic form,
our bondage to a merciless evil one screamed out in the chords of electric guitars,
the SOS of our drumbeats, our heartbeats, our secretly coded cries from within imprisoned hearts voicing the truth that we know we’ve taken a wrong turn
and we need a hero to guide us home.
Turn over the soft underbelly of our creative culture
and you will see the racing heart of a needy people
who only need to hear
the name of the hero they seek is
Jesus.
What if our stories have already revealed our sin, our shame, our longing for something we cannot name?
What if all you have left to do is to tell them what (who) that is?
I challenge you to look at the plots of the big box office movies this week-end, the most watched shows this week, the songs that top the billboard charts and ask God to show you what they reveal about what His lost children are seeking
then ask Him how He wants you to respond.  Then, do it.

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