Reading Time: 5 minutes

Making Fury: did Shia LaBeouf become a Christian?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

facebook twitter instagram

Shia LeBeouf as Boyd 'Bible' Swan, in a scene from the new Sony Pictures World War II movie Fury, sits in the turret of a Sherman M4A3E8 tank, similar to the one that the real-life World War II tank crew named Fury (Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/q94n3eWOWXM?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}Fury stars Brad Pitt as the battle-scarred leader of a tank squad fighting in Germany during the last month of World War II.  While a fictional story, it is based on a composite of real-life tank battles and experiences.  I saw the movie recently and was moved by its authenticity and grit.  The film is notable for a variety of reasons.

One: it uses real tanks, including the only operating Tiger tank in the world.  Two: it stars four Jewish actors playing soldiers fighting Nazi Germany.  Three: the movie is remarkably realistic.  Movie critic Rex Reed calls it “intensely ferocious and relentlessly rough on the senses” and adds, “You’ll know you’ve been to war, and not on the Hollywood front.”

Four: the actors went to remarkable lengths to prepare for their roles.  David Ayer, the film’s writer and director, put them through a four-month process that included a week-long boot camp run by Navy Seals.  Shia LaBeouf was especially committed to his role—he pulled out his own tooth, cut his face, and refused to shower so he could better understand his character.

His preparation to play Boyd “Bible” Swan, the crew’s Scripture-quoting gunner, is now the subject of great interest and growing controversy.  LaBeouf told an interviewer that the day after he agreed to do the movie, “I joined the National Guard and became a chaplain’s assistant, shipped out to the middle of nowhere.  I lived there for a month and a half, became a medic, went to gunner school, spent all my time with this chaplain, and found God.”  He says that making the movie “was like becoming Christian—you subject yourself to everything that’s coming.  You relinquish everything.  That’s the cost of working on that movie, and the reward is heavy.”  

Later in the interview, LaBeouf adds: “I found God doing Fury.  I became a Christian man, and not in a [expletive deleted] way—in a very real way.  I could have just said the prayers that were on the page.  But it was a real thing that really saved me.  And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it.  It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control.”

How did he come to this decision?  “Brad [Pitt] was really instrumental in guiding my head through this.  Brad comes from a hyper-religious, very deeply Christian, Bible Belt life, and he rejected it and moved toward an unnamed spirituality.  He looked at religion like the people’s opium, almost like a Marxist view on religion.  Whereas David [Ayers, the movie’s writer and director] is a full subscriber to Christianity.  But these two diametrically opposed positions both lead to the same spot.”

So it sounds as though Shia LaBeouf, under the influence of David Ayers and Brad Pitt, made a commitment to Christ while filming Fury.  Or perhaps not.

Religious News Service‘s Laura Turner isn’t convinced.  Her blog, titled “Shia LaBeouf Fooled Us All,” suggests that the actor’s supposed conversion was part of his method acting, immersing himself in the role but not necessarily making a decision that is personal and genuine.  She notes an interview with Esquire, where director Ayers says of LaBeouf’s approach to acting, “He’s manipulating people.  It’s like performance art.  It’s very conscious on his part.”

Turner thinks that LaBeouf “found God doing Fury” in the sense that he pretended to be a Christian so he could play a character who was a Christian.  When he says “it was a real thing that really saved me,” he means that his character was “saved,” not that he made a personal commitment to Jesus.  She concludes that when the actor announced his so-called conversion after the movie was done, “Shia was laughing his way to the bank over all the hubbub.”

I have two responses.

First, only God knows whether Shia LaBeouf is a genuine Christian.  Or whether you are, or I am.  Only he can see our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).  Only he knows whether our professed faith is real.

I remember when Larry Flynt, the pornography publisher, claimed to have been “born again” after a visit with Ruth Carter Stapleton, the sister of Jimmy Carter.  However, he continued publishing pornography and later declared himself an atheist.  St. Augustine was right: God has some the church hasn’t, and the church has some God hasn’t.  When we get to heaven, we’ll all be surprised by some who are there and some who are not.

Second, whether Shia LaBeouf’s statement of faith is genuine or not has no bearing on the veracity of Christianity.  If he later denies what he is now professing, we will know that he was being untrue, not that the Christian faith is untrue.  I can make a commitment to become a doctor and later repudiate medical science, but neither decision changes the status of medicine.  Philosopher J. V. Langmead Casserley was right: the man who jumps from a 10-story building doesn’t break the law of gravity—he illustrates it.

Tim Cook’s announcement that he is gay changes nothing about homosexuality.  Sylvester Stallone’s reported commitment to Christ, announced by social media in August 2013 but later denied by the actor’s representatives, changes nothing about Jesus.  And Shia LaBeouf’s faith, whether genuine or part of his method acting, tells us much about him but nothing new about our Lord.

I will pray that LaBeouf’s faith is real, or that it becomes so.  For when the Director of the universe finishes the final scene in the drama of the ages, it will be too late for Shia LaBeouf, and for you and me, to turn to Jesus.  Some will hear him say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  Others will hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (v. 23).  C. S. Lewis reminds us, “When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over.”

What if it were today for you?