Hollywood, like it or not, is America’s greatest evangelist around the world. What happens in Hollywood travels around the globe, the good, the bad, and the ugly. No one (speaking in hyperbole) cares about British cinema, Canadian cinema, Romanian cinema. No one outside India and a few niche markets cares about Bollywood. But when a movie comes out of Hollywood, the world notices. When Hollywood announces a new blockbuster thriller, people around the world wait to grab it up as soon as they can, at theaters, in video stores, online through bit torrent. Like it or not, Hollywood, with all it’s flashy immorality, is transforming the globe.
I love movies, I really love movies – big summer blockbusters, low-budget independent films, little-known foreign flicks, I love ’em all, but I’ve had a lot of conversations with people lately that honestly make me really mad at Hollywood and ashamed to be an American.
Hollywood has become America’s most powerful evangelist, but for a counterfeit Gospel of violence, sexual immorality, and selfish pleasure. Muslims in Arabic nations have referred to America as “The Great Satan” partially because of what they see being displayed in Hollywood. I don’t blame them. If all you know of America is Hollywood movies, then we are a breeding ground for every wicked thing ever invented.
Last week, I was telling a student here, George, how things in America are different than in Bucharest. The topic of immorality came up. “In America,” I told him, “you’ll have bad stuff in the cities, but it’s only a few places, and it’s hard to find, covered up. You have to go to Las Vegas or LA or really seedy areas of big cities if you want to get into some of the more gross sins. Here, it’s all right out in the open.” I was referring to the billboards showcasing scantily-clad women, the topless beaches and parks, the sexually graphic advertising in newspapers, the explicit pornography openly displayed in magazine stands, the sex shops every few blocks, the innumerable flyers, posters, and magazine ads for erotic massage parlors and escort services, the prostitutes walking the streets, the advertisements for web cam models… I even saw a brand of bottled water with naked women on the label in order to draw attention to it.
“No,” George told me, “that can’t be true. I’ve seen Hollywood movies. I know how bad America is. Drugs, killing, sex everywhere, prostitution. I know what America is like.”
I told him that Hollywood was a lie. I told him that America was better than that, that what he saw on Hollywood wasn’t reality, that most of America was still very conservative, very moral, not Christian per se, but holding to a level of Puritan morality. But he didn’t buy it. Hollywood had convinced him otherwise.
A few days later, I was talking with Gabi, who confessed, “I used to hate America for everything I saw in movies. I thought maybe the Muslims were right, maybe America was the Great Satan of the world.” Then he got saved, stumbled onto some American preachers, and was amazed that here, in the midst of such great evil (the crime, violence, drugs, rape, prostitution, lust, and pornography of Hollywood), there were actually men of God preaching the Bible. Then he found more and more preachers from America who were really good, and American Christian books and movies that changed his life, and he was confused how such great evil could come out of Hollywood, yet there could be so many good churches and preachers and books and worship music.
Another day, Paula, who will be vacationing with her husband in America next month, told me that she was terrified to go to America. “I will get shot,” she told me. “They will sell me drugs and turn me into a prostitute. I’ve seen it in movies.” She went on to tell me how her whole family is terrified for her and has told her to be careful in America because everyone has guns and sells drugs. Why do they think this? I’ll give you one guess. Hollywood.
Today, I was talking with Adi. He told me, “Many of us here would not have tried drinking and parties and sexual immorality except for Hollywood. It was movies like American Pie that made me think the whole party life was what was normal. I didn’t want to look like a geek and not do those things, so I started hosting big parties in my house in High Schoool.” He reasoned that it was Hollywood that opened many young people in Romania toward sin. He saw immorality and drunkenness presented in such a fun light in all the movies that he started to think that was what life was all about. Many of his friends, he said, modeled their lives after the sexual immorality they saw in Hollywood movies. They assumed all Americans were living in immorality, based on what they saw in the movies, and if Americans were doing it, and America was on top of the world, it must be good.
So Adi and many others were duped into a life of sin because Hollywood was a better evangelist than the Christians.
Is America the Great Satan? I hope not, but if you judge America according to what’s coming out of Hollywood and influencing the nations of the world, maybe the Muslims are closer to the truth than we like to admit.
Lord, bring revival to America. We need it.