Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 5

Hollywood Demonstrates the Folly of Relativism

Did he do the same with the foundation?
Ravi Zacharias, asking his host at Ohio State University about the architect’s design of the Wexner Center for the Arts, which the host said was “America’s first postmodern building” with “pillars that have no purpose,” “stairways that go nowhere,” and no real design or meaning in order to depict the postmodern view of life itself—

 

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Hollywood isn’t what it used to be.

Frank Capra, the great Hollywood director and producer responsible for such classics as It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), once said, “No saint, no pope, no general, no sultan, has ever had the power that a filmmaker has; the power to talk to hundreds of millions of people for two hours in the dark.”


No saint, no pope, no general, no sultan, has ever had the power that a filmmaker has; the power to talk to hundreds of millions of people for two hours in the dark.
Frank Capra


Capra also said, “My films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, that I love them, and that peace and salvation will become a reality only when they all learn to love each other.” Do not let the word salvation in Mr. Capra’s statement confuse you. Salvation—forgiveness of sins and eternal life—come through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It does not appear, however, that Capra was making a theological statement. He was speaking about his own responsibility to provide uplifting films.

Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, best known for his 1956 blockbuster The Ten Commandments, said,

Man has made 32 million laws since THE COMMANDMENTS were handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai more than three thousand years ago, but he has never improved on God’s law. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS are the principles by which man may live with God and man may live with man. They are the expressions of the mind of God for His creatures. They are the charter and guide of human liberty, for there can be no liberty without the law.

These statements aren’t reflective of Hollywood’s attitude today (also go here). Even so, The presentation of the Best Picture award at the 89th Annual Academy Awards ceremony (held February 26, 2017) vividly illustrated what happens when an untruth—a lie—takes hold. In fact, the entire episode showed that relativism itself is a lie.

In a colossal mix-up, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, presenters of the Best Picture award, were given the envelope for Best Actress. This award already had been given to Emma Stone for her performance in La La Land. La La Land therefore was mistakenly announced as Best Picture, but this award actually went to Moonlight. Even as acceptance speeches of those responsible for La La Land were underway, an announcement was made correcting the error. Watch.

An abbreviated clip of the fiasco can be seen here.

We should be aware that because of Moonlight‘s pro-LGBT agenda, Franklin Graham warned his Facebook followers about the film’s being named Best Picture. He wrote, “I warn families and the church–don’t allow your young people to be sucked into Hollywood’s dark plan. We love all people, but we have to be honest about sin’s consequences. Sin is sin—it doesn’t matter if it gets an Oscar or not.”

We certainly should heed Graham’s words. Still, just for a brief moment, set them aside and focus on the fact that Moonlight had won Best Picture, even as La La Land had been announced the winner. Let’s not miss the lessons that even some of Hollywood’s biggest players offered us about reality in and through this episode.

The Lessons Reality Teaches

  1. When a falsehood is at odds with the truth, inevitably, sooner or later, the truth will surface and will carry everyone involved to reality.
  2. Once reality hits, it has to be accepted. Some may come to the truth willingly, even as others are “dragged kicking and screaming.” Regardless, everyone enters. Indeed, everyone must.
  3. Believing something that isn’t true—even believing it sincerely—does not, and never will, make it true.
  4. Notice that no one on the stage of the Dolby Theatre suggested that the La La Land people could have their own truth for themselves and could enjoy having won the Best Picture Oscar in their own world, even as the Moonlight people simultaneously could have their own “truth” and enjoy their Best Picture Oscar in their own world. With relativism so prevalent in our culture, why would no one suggest this? Because intuitively, everyone knows that’s not how things work. In other words, such a proposal wouldn’t—and doesn’t—square with reality. Such a proposal actually is ridiculous.
  5. That said, Jimmy Kimmel did express some wishful thinking. Looking at La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, Kimmel said, “I would like to see you get an Oscar anyway. Why can’t we just give out a whole bunch of Oscars?” Of course, this didn’t change reality, either.
  6. Here’s another lesson. Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway had been handed the wrong envelope—and it wasn’t their fault. Their confusion was understandable, but in the end it didn’t matter. The misunderstanding, misconception, lie, untruth—whatever you want to call it—took hold. If you follow an untruth for any reason or no reason, you’ll be directly affected.
  7. There is a price to be paid for believing something that’s not true. In this example, we can see the confusion and the embarrassment, and we note the awkward efforts to rectify the situation. Falsehoods take their toll.
  8. Moonlight producer and screenplay writer Barry Jenkins said, “Very clearly, very clearly, even in my dreams this could not be true, but…I’m done with it, ’Cause this is true.…And I have to say—and it is true; it’s not fake….”

One is reminded of the Latin phrase Esse quam videriwhich means “to be rather than to seem.” Despite the cultural pull in the direction of relativism, relativism doesn’t work because it isn’t true.

That idea might not win an Oscar, but even if it doesn’t, it’s worthy of our attention and respect.

Even Hollywood demonstrated it for us just a few days ago.

Part 6 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.