The cases of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, among others, reveal the contradiction of a worldview and system that does not believe in original sin yet wants to punish those it deems sinners.
In efforts to discount the Bible and its condemnation of sin, disdain evangelists depicted as hypocritical condemners of sins they themselves secretly practice, and churches that dare to talk about “sin”, much of Hollywood and other establishment bastions smirk at the notion of original sin.
Cultural commentator Jeri Ungurean minces no words: “Because morals are not something that those in Hollywood embrace there are no absolutes – no boundaries for actions – no good versus evil. But because these people were also created by God, they are aware of what is right and what is wrong. They may suppress this knowledge, but it’s there, nonetheless. Having good morals gets you nowhere in Hollywood.”
Despite the contradictory efforts by Hollywood to banish sin yet go after the sinners, sin—the recognition of it and its destructive power—is essential for society, which is “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.”
So, no recognition, acknowledgement, and repenting of sin, no well-ordered society.
Isaiah 14 speaks of the destruction wrought by Lucifer’s romp through the world. Among other things, the evil one “made the world like a wilderness... and overthrew its cities.” (Isaiah 14:17)
The polis, or “city” in Greek thought was to be a community of order and security. The fundamental struggle in the fallen world is that of chaos (fragmentation and disorder) against cosmos (order, harmony, peace). Chaos pushes in, looking for weak points in the boundaries of the polis, and the greater the evil the more the cracks in the wall.
Therefore, repentance from the original sin that so many in the Hollywood establishment seek to deny is essential for the “order” of society. If there is no acknowledgement of the existence of evil, neither is there an opportunity to repent and experience the ultimate freedom of grace.
“Original sin is the only doctrine that’s been empirically validated by 2,000 years of human history,” quipped G.K. Chesterton.
The fashionable trend to disregard sin was a concern to Pope Pius XII as early as 1946, when he said that “perhaps the greatest sin in the world today is that (people) have begun to lose the sense of sin.”
The need for the recovery of belief in sin became so evident in the 20th century that famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger wondered whatever became of it. His book, Whatever Became of Sin? became a bestseller. He was concerned that there was a loss of the idea of sin and personal responsibility for harmful thoughts and behaviors both in psychiatric practice and the pulpit.
Without acknowledgement of sin there is no opportunity to receive forgiveness and move in a new, healthy, direction.
Scott Peck, another psychiatrist, believed that in many cases healing could not come until personal evil was faced and acknowledged, as he detailed in his bestseller, The Road Less Traveled.
“There really are people and institutions made up of people, who respond with hatred in the presence of goodness and would destroy the good insofar as it is in their power to do so,” thought Peck.
Hollywood tells us there is so much violence and graphic sex scenes in films because of the demands of “honesty”. The greater need, however, is for Hollywood to get honest with and about itself.
If there is any “silver lining” midst the #Metoo exposures, “it’s that the pleasant Disney-esque mask that has hidden this evil is slipping off, exposing the rot and stench, and the vast emptiness, beneath, “says John Paul Meenan in Catholic Insight. But we the consumers of the worst as well as the best of the Hollywood product, are also to blame. “The Weinsteins of the world had power because we, the audience, gave them power,” Meenan writes.
“The glitz and glamour of Hollywood and its highly polished products are suffused with a lot of sulfurous fumes.” All who comprise Hollywood’s audiences “are to some degree complicit in the whole hyper-sexualized enterprise,” says Meenan.
Thus, if Hollywood is so schizophrenic about sin that it seeks to deny it while condemning sinners, the fault is not only shared by its consumers, but especially churches that no longer preach sin and the need for forgiveness.
In the decades I have been writing about religion in both secular and religious media, I have never heard of more moral failings among Christian leaders. It seems we are living in a “Luke 8:17 moment”. There, Jesus says: “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be brought to light.”
Thus, if the popular culture and its promoters and advocates are so confused that they want to punish sinners while not believing the Bible’s teachings about sin, then we must ask, with Dr. Menninger: “Whatever became of sin?”
Sadly, the answer is that pulpits have largely lost the message of sin, judgment, and repentance to the socio-cultural demands of our brief moment for happiness, security, and mental and emotional well-being in a world collapsing into Lucifer’s chaos.
Hollywood and other socio-cultural institutions won’t get the message until the church proclaims it once more.
Don’t expect the voice of the culture to get a more doctrinally correct understanding of original sin if the voice of the prophets does not flame with the hard truth of the reality and consequences of sin and hope of forgiveness.
Wallace B. Henley’s fifty-year career has spanned newspaper journalism, government in both White House and Congress, the church, and academia. He is author or co-author of more than 20 books. He is a teaching pastor at Grace Church, the Woodlands, Texas.
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