The Hollywood War On Religion That Isn't

Even I haven't downed enough L.A. Kool-Aid to believe that somehow Hollywood movies are an overt instrument of morality. But according to a recently released survey conducted on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, 43 percent of the respondents thought that Hollywood and the national media are waging an organized campaign to "weaken the influence of religious values in this country."

"Organized campaign?" Really. If there is one, my Evite to that gathering must've gotten dropped in my junk mailbox.

Of course, since Hollywood knows I've got this massively read blog on the NPR Web site, they probably don't trust me with their secret "down-with-religion" meetings.

But if Hollywood is so systematically anti-religion, how do you explain films like The Passion of the Christ? How do you explain The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? How do you explain TV shows like Touched by an Angel, Highway to Heaven, 7th Heaven, Saving Grace (with its angelic visitations) which are TV staples going back to when that certain nun learned how to fly?

If anything there's a lack of diversity of religion in entertainment. Where are the TV shows that feature families who are practicing Muslims or Buddhists? Meanwhile, Hollywood's got no problem making light of, say, Hindus in films like The Love Guru.

And if the American public is so into morality in movies, why don't they throw more of their disposable income at religious-themed entertainment? For every Passion of the Christ there's a Fireproof that comes and goes with no notice. While The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a monster hit, the follow-up — Prince Caspian — was a relative disappointment at the box office. And as I'm so often hectored by the wildly "open minded" when I note the lack of diversity at the multiplex: Show business is a business. People need to vote with their dollars.

The truth is, Judeo-Christian ethics abound in entertainment. No, you're not going to find them in Saw IV. Or Saw V, or whatever number they're up to. But you can find such values in family fare such as Wall-E or historical dramas like The Express (another film that went underappreciated by all). Heck, you can find them in any romantic comedy that giddily espouses the bromide that "love conquers all."

Even "may the Force be with you" is nothing but a spiritual blessing.

So, is Hollywood anti-religion? Not in my opinion. But unlike, say, politicians and preachers who talk faith before going off to speak in tongues to their mistresses, Hollywood just doesn't wear its faith on its sleeve.

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