Denzel Washington

Hey, Los Angeles Times: GOP'ers aren't the only conservatives living under cover in Hollywood

Hey, Los Angeles Times: GOP'ers aren't the only conservatives living under cover in Hollywood

Conservatives in Hollywood are like male calico cats: You know they exist, but they’re tough to find.

The Los Angeles Times recently came out with a piece on what it’s like to be Republican in Hollywood and how -- even during this Era of President Donald Trump -- GOP'ers must remain undercover. You’d think things would be different in 2017. After all, liberals in cinema circles were anything but hidden during the Barack Obama administration.

But Hollywood wanted Hillary; they got The Donald and so there’s still a lot of wrath in La La Land. And so the Times set out to find the folks who are swimming upstream, as it were. Did they see any "religion ghosts"? We will come back to that question.

As an Academy Award-winning producer and a political conservative, Gerald Molen has worked in the entertainment business long enough to remember when being openly Republican in Hollywood was no big deal.
“In the ’90s, it was never really an issue that I had to hide. I was always forthright,” recalled the producer, whose credits include “Schindler’s List” and two “Jurassic Park” movies. “It used to be we could have a conversation with two opposing points of view and it would be amiable. At the end, we still walked away and had lunch together.”
Those days are largely gone, he said. “The acrimony — it’s there. It’s front and center.”
For the vast majority of conservatives who work in entertainment, going to set or the office each day has become a game of avoidance and secrecy. The political closet is now a necessity for many in an industry that is among the most liberal in the country.

The article then touched on Friends of Abe, a conservative organization whose membership of some 2,500 persons is secret because getting outed is a career killer.

Leaders of Friends of Abe said its members have sharply divergent views on the current president.
“There are very conservative people in FOA who are troubled by his rhetoric,” said executive director Jeremy Boreing, a filmmaker and self-described Trump skeptic. “There are others who are very gung-ho and supportive of him. There are people who are cautiously optimistic and others who are just cautious.”
He said it was too early to tell how Trump will affect the organization, but “if Hollywood continues to overreact to Trump and toxify people’s professional lives, FOA will grow. We got started under [George W.] Bush, not under Obama. Hollywood was a more pleasant place for conservatives during Obama’s tenure because Hollywood was in a good mood.”

The reason I’m commenting on that piece for this column is because a lot of conservatives are people of faith, yet religion isn’t mentioned at all.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hollywood discovers God! Again! Seriously, this New York Times piece is worth reading

Hollywood discovers God! Again! Seriously, this New York Times piece is worth reading

I've been around the Godbeat scene so long that I can remember the days when journalists would wait four of five years before they would write the same Big Trend Story all over again.

You know the ones I'm talking about. Things like the whole "Death of the Religious Right" story or the latest update on "Why megachurches are getting bigger." And did you know that interfaith marriages are a big deal in modern Judaism?

Another one of the standards has been the "Hollywood discovers that religious people watch movies" story. Because of my longstanding interest in this topic (hint, hint), I have been watching journalists discover this trend over and over ever since "Field of Dreams" and  "Home Alone." Hey, do you remember Michael Medved? Then in 2009, The Los Angeles Times even interviewed me about the roots of this trend behind the hit movie, "The Blind Side."

You can blame Mel Gibson and "The Passion of the Christ," of course, but there is more to this evergreen story than one or two big-ticket items.

Still, I was cynical when I saw this New York Times headline the other day: "Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful." I expected another quick-turn news feature about this "hot topic."

In this case I was wrong. The basic message of this in-depth business feature was that this is a topic that is not new and that it is not going away, in part because Hollywood has entered an era in which making profitable niche-market films is almost as important as making special-effects blockbusters. And then there is the trend of evangelical churches adding massive video screens to their sanctuaries, so that preachers can spice up their sermons with video clips.

Instead of settling for shallow coverage of the latest wrinkle in this old story, this Times piece went for the deep dive. Here is the overture:

The Rev. Roderick Dwayne Belin, a senior A.M.E. Church leader, stood before a gathering of more than 1,000 pastors in a drafty Marriott ballroom in Naperville, Ill., this month and extolled the virtues of a Hollywood movie.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

New York Times says Pastor A.R. Bernard has evolved on marriage -- but how far?

New York Times says Pastor A.R. Bernard has evolved on marriage -- but how far?

Every decade or two, The New York Times hires a conservative columnist.

There are exceptions to the rule, but most of the time these conservative columnists are what critics refer to as "New York Times conservatives." This means that, while they may be Republicans who lean to the right on economics and global issues, they lean left on the cultural issues that really matter -- such as abortion rights and gay rights.

Is there such a thing as a "New York Times conservative" when it comes to religious leaders, and Christian clergy to be specific?

I raise this question because the Times -- in its Sunday magazine -- has produced a long profile of the Rev. A.R. Bernard, a pastor, author and civic leader who has deserved this kind of attention from the Gray Lady for a long, long time. He is an African-American megachurch star whose clout and fame has completely transcended that community label.

The Times even refers to him as smart and stylish. You can clearly sense this respect in the overture.

One Saturday in mid-September, the Rev. A. R. Bernard took to the blue carpeted stage of the Christian Cultural Center, the 96,000-square-foot megachurch he built 16 years ago at the edge of Starrett City, in Brooklyn, with his usual accouterments: a smartphone, a bottle of water and a large glass marker board that he would soon cover in bullet points drawn from the playbooks of marketing specialists. Mr. Bernard, 63, is tall and slender, and on this day he wore a distressed black leather jacket, a white polo shirt, bluejeans and white tennis shoes -- casual Saturday attire. On Sunday, you would find him impeccably tailored in a light wool suit and tortoiseshell glasses, looking more like the banker he once was than the pastor of a congregation of nearly 40,000.

So why do this piece now? Yes, Bernard has a popular self-help book out at the moment -- "Four Things Women Want From a Man." There are even hints that he is pro-monogamy. Oh my. Hold that thought.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

What would Rene Russo do? Los Angeles Times punts when dealing with Hollywood and faith

What would Rene Russo do? Los Angeles Times punts when dealing with Hollywood and faith

On one level, this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) is about a very shallow, quickie feature that The Los Angeles Times published the other day about a fledgling ministry that is trying to help -- using a very expensive set of weekend seminars -- Christians break into the movie business.

Apparently, the editors who handled this story did not know that the Times had, in the past, actually done solid news features that talked about some of the complex issues linked to religious faith in Hollywood. They even quoted some of the academic and artistic leaders who have been doing this kind of work, as I kept stressing, for decades. It's like some editors in the Los Angeles Times newsroom are not that familiar with, well, Los Angeles.

Maybe there is a reason for that. Thus, on another level, this podcast focused on a problem -- a loss of institutional memory -- that is plaguing the news business right now as so many veteran journalists are being pushed out of newsrooms. Why is that? Well there is a major crisis in journalism, in case you haven't noticed, linked to falling ad revenues and the harsh reality that no one has discovered a solid Internet news business model that will support diverse newsrooms that retain experienced reporters and editors.

Then again, maybe there is a third level to this discussion. You see, there are quite a few people of faith in Hollywood and -- you may need to sit down -- they don't all agree with one another about lots of tough issues. Some of their programs even compete with one another, if you want to know the truth. They take different approaches. Really!

Can you imagine that? Not all Christians agree with one another when it comes time to wrestle with tough, complex issues linked to art, ministry, money, storytelling and many other realities in Hollywood. Should all movies be "evangelistic"? Should they all be "safe" and "clean"? Can Christians work in movies that are not "Christian"? Come to think of it, what does the adjective "Christian" mean when parked in front of the word "movie"?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Guns, the f-word (the other one), Disney, evangelicals and Denzel Washington, oh my

Guns, the f-word (the other one), Disney, evangelicals and Denzel Washington, oh my

What we got here is FAILURE to communicate.

That's a movie reference, you see, to one of the great religion-haunted films in the history of Hollywood. But never mind, I thought that might be a good place to start in a short post about some bizarre mangling of religious language in a piece by The Hollywood Reporter. I've been wanting to get to this one for some time now.

So there is this new documentary film called "The Armor of Light" and the key player behind it is one Abigail Disney. The trouble starts right in the epic double decker headline. See if you can follow this one:

Walt Disney Heiress Courts Evangelicals With Anti-Gun Movie
Well versed in her family's conservative politics, Abigail Disney discusses her new film 'The Armor of Light' (out Oct. 30), which tackles the gun controversy while also reaching out to fundamentalist Christians in a new way: "This film goes to them on their own terms, and they appreciate that."

OK, GetReligion readers already know that use of the term "fundamentalist" is very tricky, for journalists who have any intent of using religious language accurately or, well, paying any attention to the Associated Press Stylebook. As the bible of daily journalism notes:

"fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. ... However, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
"In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself."

Please respect our Commenting Policy

When faith enters the spotlight, should reporters dig into the personal details?

When faith enters the spotlight, should reporters dig into the personal details?

On one level, this past week's "Crossroads" podcast added a few extra layers of information to my recent Universal Syndicate "On Religion" column about the ministry of the late Father Jack Heaslip (video clip above), an Anglican priest who for several decades was the behind-the-scenes pastor to the members of U2.

But there's more to the podcast than that. Click here to tune into the whole discussion.

The key to the discussion is the conflicted feelings that I experienced, back in 2001, when I met Heaslip at a private gathering on Capitol Hill in which Bono address a strategic circle of Hill staffers who shared his convictions about hunger, AIDS and the Third World debt crisis.

The band's pastor asked if I was with the press and I admitted that I was. He said something like, "Well, we're here to hear that man speak," gesturing toward Bono, and slipped away to the back of the room.

I was very disappointed not to "land" a rare interview with this man, yet, at the same time, I admired the degree to which he managed to stay out of the spotlight and do his work without great fanfare. He didn't want to be turned into a "Father Jack Heaslip, secret pastor of U2 superstars!" headline. Instead, he wanted to continue his pastoral support for four men he had known since they were brash young teen-agers in the nondenominational school in which he was their guidance counselor.

So that journalistic tension is what the podcast is about, really.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pod people: Does it matter if celebrities/royals have faith?

As the old saying goes, Americans don’t have a royal family. We have celebrities.

Please respect our Commenting Policy