Being a self-declared movie buff, I have a penchant for the Oscars. As a pastor who is trying to be culturally in-tune, I have viewed this event as a window to the popular culture. From year to year, you never know what you might pick up. So, here is my take on this year’s red carpet affair.
First, if you watched it, did you notice how honor was extended further than ever before? Not only did award recipients acknowledge the other nominees as equals, or in Daniel Day-Lewis’s words, “bettors,” even those not nominated were honored verbally. Honor is on the radar of today’s culture. I believe it is on the radar of the church as well, in at least some circles. On the outside, however, the church has an all too familiar failing grade. Unpopularly, we are known for putting down and dishonoring other people, cultures, creativity and beliefs. As proof, when a Wizard (Daniel Radcliffe) and Vampire (Christen Stewart) were introduced as presenters, did you hear the MC’s verbal jab at the Christian Right’s opposition? (lol with tears). When it comes to influencing people, we shoot ourselves in the foot because we don’t understand how to use honor as a step stone. The temptation to find fault, or to point out anything unchristian, or to reject what is different is just too much. Again, sadly, the world is running ahead of the church when it comes to honor.
Second, there was a statement made from one of the Life of Pi award recipients that I found to be quite telling regarding philosophic positioning. By the way, Life of Pi was one of the most visually striking films I have ever seen. Holding his Oscar, film composer Mychael Danna, described it as a “beautiful story that transcends culture and race and religion.” I found this particular line to be the golden nugget of the night. Take a moment to consider what an exalted statement this was. To be in the place where you transcend culture, race and religion. How awesome is that! How appealing to transcend even that which is meant to be transcendent? In context, Life of Pi delved into religious searching, and even has some solid truth statements that people should reckon with like the father who tells his young boy that embracing all the religions only indicated that he understood none of them.
Yet perhaps the movie with its Hindu-pantheistic backdrop and interpretive storyline shinned the greater light for irreligiosity. Research tells us that a movement is taking place in the direction of being “non-religious.” One large ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) sampling showed that the percentage of people declaring themselves this way has doubled in the last two decades. This trend is happening across the board in all states and across many sectors of society. Though there can be innumerable undergirding factors, the philosophy of transcending the religious mantle with all its divisive muck, has appeal. For shallow thinkers, it doesn’t take much to create a street-level stance under the guise of a loftier spun-up philosophy.
I am not saying that everyone in the worldwide audience who heard those words abandoned their faith. Nor is God stopped from reaching those who drift into new ideologies. But culturally astute philosophy has power. In my view, that statement reflected something that is gaining in magnitude. Perhaps, it will be one of the starting points that the church must be sensitive too, and be able to address effectively. And we should be able to do this, if we learn to honor them first.