Can We—Should We—Forgive Hollywood?
What difference would it make in our lives and theirs if we extended mercy instead of judgment?
Actress Lana Turner once said, “It’s said in Hollywood that you should always forgive your enemies—because you never know when you’ll have to work with them.”
When someone brings up “forgiveness” and “Hollywood” in the same sentence, all that might come to mind is a reference to the 2006 mummy movie, Forgiveness, which was a blip on the radar screen. But actually the two words have more in common than you’d think. And that’s an exciting sign that God is truly moving in Hollywood.
One of the more powerful concepts in our faith as followers of Jesus is forgiveness. In fact, one of Jesus’ last requests was, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Can we forgive our enemies—can we forgive people whom we don’t even know but disapprove of how they act? It sounds tough until we put it in context.
As a Christian and a producer living and working in Hollywood, California, I have been challenging the church for more than a decade to look at Hollywood, not as Sodom and Gomorrah, but as Nineveh, a place that can be redeemed. I ask people to stop boycotting the people making the films and TV shows in Hollywood and pray for them instead. The battle has been uphill, but God has started moving in the hearts of Christians all over the world to see Hollywood as a mission field and not as a mine field.
Parents are starting to allow their young, talented children to come here to pursue a living, and they are starting to pray more for the cultural influencers and decision-makers, asking the Lord to redeem their messages and save their souls. We’re progressing in our attitude as believers, not to try to make people act like Christians but pray for them to become Christians! Now we’re ready for one more step: to forgive the people in Hollywood. Nothing is more powerful than true, heartfelt forgiveness, which can melt hearts and draw people to their knees before Jesus.
We’ve all read about family members of murder victims who have been able to forgive the murderer. We’ve heard of spouses who have been able to forgive unfaithful mates. We’ve even learned that Jesus asked us to forgive 70 times 7! But now I’m asking for the church to forgive Hollywood. And the best role model I have to show the healing power of forgiveness is from a Hollywood insider, an unbeliever, asking his peers in the industry and the world at large to forgive.
It happened late last year at the 25th annual American Cinematheque Awards in Beverly Hills. Robert Downey Jr. was honored that night, and he requested that Mel Gibson present his award. Then Downey used his time onstage to ask Hollywood to forgive Gibson.
“When I couldn’t get sober, Mel told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith,” he said. “I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin . . . in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me.”
That request at one awards ceremony, from one celebrity to another, caused a ripple across every news desk around the world. How could one alcoholic and cultural icon ask the world to forgive another alcoholic and media icon? But he did, and the response was powerful. The conversation of forgiveness came up all over our industry: Could we forgive? Should we forgive? And then the conversation moved to: Let’s try to forgive. It was beautiful.
Downey, who is proudly clean and sober today, isn’t about to judge Gibson.
“Mel and I have the same lawyer, same publicist, and same shrink. I couldn’t get hired and he cast me,” the Iron Man star said. “He said if I accepted responsibility—he called it hugging the cactus—long enough, my life would take meaning. And if he helped me, I would help the next guy. But it was not reasonable to expect the next guy would be him.”
So can we, the church, the ambassadors of our God who asked us to forgive even our enemies, forgive the people in Hollywood who have offended us, put bad messages into our brains, and negatively influenced our children? Can we stop judging them, and pray for them?
Let’s start by forgiving both Mel and Robert for any poor choices they’ve made through the years and then pray that the forgiveness Robert asked for Mel from his peers, would make an eternal difference in both of their lives, in the lives of the industry professionals, and with the public. Then let’s keep forgiving one person at a time, be it Jane Fonda, Madonna, Hugh Hefner, even Charlie Sheen. Our forgiving hearts can trigger freedom in theirs. This is an exciting moment in our mission field! We could change the world by starting to forgive the people in the world’s most influential marketplace.
Karen Covell is founding director of the Hollywood Prayer Network. She is a producer who, along with her family, lives, works, and prays in Hollywood, California. For more information on how to join others in praying for the people in Hollywood, go to Hollywood Prayer Network or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org