What Oppenheimer's Golden Globes wins reveal about our culture

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“Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” win Golden Globes: What their popularity says about our souls

January 8, 2024 -

Cillian Murphy, left, winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a motion picture, drama for "Oppenheimer", and Robert Downey Jr., winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion picture for "Oppenheimer", pose in the press room at the 81st Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Cillian Murphy, left, winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a motion picture, drama for "Oppenheimer", and Robert Downey Jr., winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion picture for "Oppenheimer", pose in the press room at the 81st Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Cillian Murphy, left, winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a motion picture, drama for "Oppenheimer", and Robert Downey Jr., winner of the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion picture for "Oppenheimer", pose in the press room at the 81st Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Oppenheimer won five Golden Globes last night, including best drama, while Barbie took the award for cinematic and box office achievement. But everyone who attended the ceremony won something as well: they each received a gift bag worth $500,000. You read that right—thirty-eight different items were included in the bags, among them Colombian emerald earrings valued at $69,000 and six bottles of wine worth $193,500.

Giving such opulent gifts to such wealthy people seems to say something about the materialism of our consumeristic culture. The two movies pointed in the same direction.

Reviewer Simon Western explained the popularity of Barbie, the highest-grossing worldwide movie of 2023: “It reaffirmed the chosen ideology of our times, i.e. America Dream individualism, which makes us feel that we are filled with individual agency and are in control, and we can choose our futures.”

While I refused to see Oppenheimer due to its nudity and sex scenes, I found a New York Times interview with director Christopher Nolan most interesting. The film centers on scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work in building the first atomic weapon, leading to the bombs that were later dropped on Japan and the atomic age that followed. Nolan describes Oppenheimer as “the most important person who ever lived,” explaining: “If my worst fears are true, he’ll be the man who destroyed the world. Who’s more important than that?”

Perhaps the One who created the world?

“The end of godlessness is anarchy”

Several people suffered gunshot wounds when six or seven shooters opened fire late Saturday night in Abbeville, Alabama. There have been six mass shootings so far in 2024, including the one in Perry, Iowa, that killed eleven-year-old Ahmir Jolliff. Ahmir kept a trunk of toys unlocked in his front yard so anyone could play with them, loved soccer, played the tuba, and sang in choir. Because of his joyful spirit, he was known as “Smiley” around his house.

What explains such senseless, horrific tragedy?

John Piper writes in Taste and See:

The root of all injustice in our urban centers, or anywhere else, is the pervasive human injustice against God. When the rights of our Creator and Savior are daily denied, we should not be surprised that the rights of persons created in his image are denied in a cavalier and selfish way. Until God is given his rights, no human rights will have much significance beyond convenience. And when they are no longer convenient, they will be ignored, whether by violent police, traffic violators, looters, or murderers. The end of godlessness is anarchy.

Piper is right. At the beginning of humanity’s story, we read: “The Lᴏʀᴅ saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Our quest to “be like God,” (Genesis 3:5), to be creator rather than creature, to be the hero of history, explains every sin we commit and every evil we face in this broken world (cf. Romans 8:22).

In Jeremiah 17, God describes our fallen condition: “Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lᴏʀᴅ. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land’” (vv. 5–6).

By contrast, the text continues: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lᴏʀᴅ, whose trust is the Lᴏʀᴅ. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (vv. 7–8).

Who of us would want to be a “shrub in the desert” when we could be a “tree planted by water”? Obviously, then, we should choose to trust in the Lord rather than in ourselves.

Why don’t we?

My father’s heart condition

The next verse answers our question and explains our predicament: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (v. 9). Heart in the Hebrew refers to “one’s inner self, will, inclination.” Desperately sick translates a word meaning “incurable, disastrous beyond repair.”

Clearly, our problem is “heart” disease. I know something about this illness: my father had a massive heart attack when I was two years old. In the years that followed, he did everything he could to manage his condition, but he could not heal himself. The only solution was a heart transplant, but he was too weak to survive the operation. As a result, he died of a second heart attack when I was in college.

Every human being is in the same condition spiritually that my father was in physically. But there’s good news: God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He promises: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). Here’s how: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (v. 27).

If you have asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, God has already put his Spirit within you (1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:9). But you must decide every day to submit your life to this indwelling Spirit. Begin your day by surrendering your mind and heart to him (Ephesians 5:18). Pray through the day ahead, inviting him to lead, empower, and use you.

Make your commitment holistic and unconditional. As Elisabeth Elliot observed, “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Are you “in step” with him right now?

If not, why not?

NOTE: Join hundreds of other believers who are seeking the Father’s heart in our new and free online course, The Greatest Commandment. Over the course of five weeks, you’ll learn why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to both “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31). Discover more in our new and free online course, The Greatest Commandment, today.

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