This article originally appeared in the February-March 1993 issue of Eternal Perspectives, EPM's quarterly newsletter.
Forty to fifty percent of Americans go to church or synagogue. Many people read the Bible and pray. But movie and television characters rarely go to church, pray, or read the Bible.
Hollywood is dramatically less religious and embraces lower moral standards than the rest of America. But Hollywood is no longer content just to ignore or trivialize the Christian faith. It is now attacking it with a degree of bigotry that would not be tolerated if directed at any other group.
Film critic Michael Medved is a voice crying in the wilderness called Hollywood. His new book Hollywood v. America is an excellent treatise on, in the words of the subtitle, "Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values." It has sections on "The Attack on Religion," and "The Assoult on the Family," and "The Glorification of Ugliness."
Medved writes as one who loves good movies, and would like to see Hollywood reform itself. He was warned that if he wrote this book he'd never get taken to lunch in Hollywood again. After reading it, you'll understand why. And if you ever meet Medved, you'll want to take him to lunch.
Listen to Michael Medved recount some recent religion-bashing films:
For Protestants there was At Play in the Fields of the Lord, a lavish $35 million rainforest spectacle about natives and their wholesome primitive ways and the sick, disgusting missionaries who try to ruin their lives. And then for Catholics there was The Pope Must Die, which was re released as The Pope Must Diet. It didn't work either way. It features scenes of the Holy Father flirting with harlot nuns and hiding in a closet pigging out on communion wafers. For Jews there was Naked Tango, written and directed by the brother of the screenwriter for The Last Temptation of Christ. This particular epic featured religious Jews operating a brutal bordello right next door to a synagogue and forcing women into white slavery.
Most amazingly there was Cape Fear, which was nominated for a number of the most prestigious Academy Awards. Last Temptation of Christ director Martin Scorsese also directed Cape Fear, featuring a released convict who is not just an ordinary maniac, but a “Killer Christian from Hell.” To prevent anyone from missing the point, his muscular back has a gigantic cross tattooed on it, and he has Biblical verses tattooed on both arms.
He carries a Bible with him in scenes in which he is persecuting his family, and he tells people that he is a member of a Pentecostal church. When he is about to rape a woman, he says, “Are you ready to be born again? After just one hour with me, you’ll be talking in tongues.”
Medved says this about the level of bigotry toward Christians reflected in Cape Fear:
The most surprising aspect of this utterly insulting characterization is that it drew so little protest. Imagine that DeNiro’s character had been portrayed as a gay rights activist. Homosexual groups would have howled in protest, condemning this caricature as an example of bigotry. But we are so accustomed to Hollywood’s insulting stereotypes of religious believers that no one even seems to notice the hatred behind them.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.