Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Matthew McConaughey: Man of God?

     I've been hearing a lot about Matthew McConaughey over the last few days. Apparently there is some annual event called the Oscars, where the pretty, rich people give each other awards for being rich and pretty and for making movies that show how bad life is for those who aren't pretty and rich. Mr. McConaughey won one of these awards. I guess it was the first time for him, and so he got to give an impassioned acceptance speech. My understanding is that this is standard operating procedure. What McConaughey did that caused such a stir was to start his speech by saying, "First off, I want to thank God, because that's who I look up to."

     This simple statement caused a flurry of activity on the internet. It offended most of the pretty, rich people and their worshipers, because if you are rich and pretty, you aren't supposed to believe in God. ( I think it was only the 15th time in the last 35 years that someone had thanked God during one of these Oscar events.) It made many Christians very happy because a pretty, rich person was admitting that he believed in God. It mostly left me a little perplexed as to why this made such a big news story, but I've had a day or so to think over things, and I think there may be a little bit of a take home lesson for me.

     It is obvious to anyone who has ever had any contact with a television or magazine, that God is not cool in our culture. Spirituality, that's cool. Self-empowerment is really cool. But old-fashioned belief in a traditional God of the Bible: totally not cool. I did hear a clip of McConaughey's speech on the radio. In the awkward silence that followed his mention of God, you could almost hear the confusion. It was like the man had said he wanted to thank Adolf Hitler or Sarah Palin. These people have no concept of God in their philosophy. (Sure, I'm generalizing here.) I don't know if they consider themselves too enlightened to believe in "fairy tales" or if celebrity has infected them so much that they cannot conceive of a higher power than themselves. Perhaps is a bit of both. Whatever the reason, the entertainment culture has increasingly become more anti-God. In fact, the cool thing now seems to be for celebrities who came from Christian backgrounds to go out of there way to prove that they are no longer affected by that whole Christian thing. Thus you get Katy Perry saying she no longer believes in Christianity while she performs a Satanic ritual on stage and I don't even need to comment on little Miss Hannah Montana.

    For those of us who are Christians, it is demoralizing to see our faith continuously derided. With so many voices speaking against us, we long for a voice to stand up for us. We want one of the people the world deems acceptable to side with us, as if that would make us acceptable to the world. While this is understandable, we have to be careful about throwing ourselves at every celebrity that claims to represent God.

     Which brings me back to Matthew McConaughey. I think he's a good actor, from what little I've seen of his work. He's the good-looking, bad-boy type with the smooth southern drawl that makes him seem like someone those of us in the middle of America can relate to. Christians got all excited, because this would be someone who could represent our faith and we could feel good about. In the speech I heard though, he used a pretty generic god reference. He didn't mention Jesus Christ or Christianity. Let's however, for the sake of argument, say that's what he meant. I have no idea what he is like in person, but the people he portrays on the screen are pretty depraved.  Maybe that's just acting, but I have a hard time understanding how a follower of Jesus Christ could participate in such a sinful lifestyle, even if it's just acting.

     That is the core problem I see with Christianity in the modern era. We believe that we can separate our faith from our lives. We want to live a life contrary to the teaching of Christ and the Bible, and then give a "shout out to God" every once in a while to make it all okay. We like to pick and chose Bible verses that make us feel good about ourselves and quietly ignore the ones that make us uncomfortable. We opt for the "Christianity Light" free trial version, but are unwilling to pay for the full program. We want to have enough faith to assuage our guilt, but not so much that it makes the people around us uncomfortable.

     I'm not here to knock Mr. McConaughey. I hope he truly has a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It did take courage to stand up in the middle of one of the most godless groups of people in this country and say he puts God first in his life and I doubt many Christians would be nearly so bold to do even that. I just think that placing our hope in people like him to represent us to the world is foolish. If you want to follow Christ, you have to give up any hope of popularity. Jesus said it himself, "If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you." (John 15:18-19) We need to get over the fact that people might not like us if we claim to be followers of Christ. 

     I also am reminded of the statement from Revelation 3:15-16 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth." I am tired of being one of those Christians who like to  play church, but don't want to let it affect their life too much. Jesus never called people to follow him half way. It was all or nothing. He never spent much time worrying about if this offended people. He didn't woo people. He made difficult and unpopular statements about sin. He told people if they gave up their sin and followed Him, they would be freed from the burden of sin, and then He died to pay for their sin. He went all in, giving everything for us. His followers throughout the centuries have given their lives to spread that message. Where do we get off thinking that a "Jesus is my copilot" bumper sticker on our car is all that we owe Him? We who claim to be Christians need to seriously consider if we are followers of Christ or not. I can't judge anyone but myself, but if I am worried about whether or not people will be offended if I talk about Jesus and salvation, then chances are I'm not really following Him all that closely.

     Maybe rather than getting our hopes up when a celebrity says he wants to thank God for the opportunity to portray sinful lifestyles in movies, we as Christians could share what God has done in our lives. Maybe rather than waiting for a celebrity voice to represent us, we should find our own voice and represent Christ.