Rainn Wilson calls out "anti-Christian bias in Hollywood"

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Rainn Wilson calls out “anti-Christian bias in Hollywood” following “The Last of Us”

March 14, 2023 - Mark Legg

Actor Rainn Wilson calls out anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. In the photo, he attends the premiere for "Blackbird" on day two of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2019, in Toronto. Wilson turns 55 on Jan. 20. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Actor Rainn Wilson calls out anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. In the photo, he attends the premiere for "Blackbird" on day two of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2019, in Toronto.

Actor Rainn Wilson calls out anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. In the photo, he attends the premiere for "Blackbird" on day two of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2019, in Toronto. Wilson turns 55 on Jan. 20. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Anti-Christian bias in the culture feels pervasive. It seems like Netflix releases documentaries covering church scandals and cults every other day. The Family, Keep Sweet, Pray and Obey, The Keepers, In the Name of God, The Sins of our Mother . . . the list continues.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a 2022 “mockumentary” making fun of African-American church culture. The classics can disparage Christianity too. Samuel Norton, the villainous warden in Shawshank Redemption, believes in “discipline and the Bible.” He murders, launders money, and sins in loads of other ways.

And, of course, most horror movies must make countless biblical references.

The Last of Us is a hit TV show from HBO based on the video game of the same name, putting a unique twist on the zombie apocalypse. The show is brutal, but in terms of character development and story, excellent.

That said, it was no shock in episode eight when The Last of Us turned the evil pedophile/cannibal from the video game into a Bible-quoting preacher and evangelical Christian-sounding cult leader.

In the video game, he never used the Bible or claimed to be a Christian.

Go figure.

Rainn Wilson on “anti-Christian bias in Hollywood”

This prompted The Office actor Rainn Wilson to tweet, “I do think there is an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. As soon as the David character in ‘The Last of Us’ started reading from the Bible I knew that he was going to be a horrific villain. Could there be a Bible-reading preacher on a show who is actually loving and kind?” Wilson follows the Baha’i faith, which says all religions fundamentally worship the same God.

Wilson’s tweet aside, when a character quotes the Bible or says they’re a Christian in a movie or TV show, most of us probably twinge and think: “This is going to be bad.”

Do Christians have biases?

Plenty of movies and shows reveal the anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. The main message seems to be “too much religious conviction means you’re probably compensating or covering something up.”

The thing is, Hollywood misrepresents people all the time.

In the early days of Westerns, Native Americans were generally depicted as savages (aside from the occasional team-ups with the main cowboy). I heard a story of an older Asian couple who came to the US and assumed all Black Americans were in gangs. (They learned about American culture through movies made in the ’70s and ’80s.)

Or take therapists. My wife and father are in the field. They both groan when a psychologist appears on the screen. Nearly every Hollywood portrayal makes counselors seem like insensitive, poor listeners who throw cliché advice at their clients until something sticks. If that were accurate to counseling, no one would go.

The point is Hollywood misrepresents people. Of course they do—they make movies. Hollywood uses Christians as a foil because their worldview leads them to believe pluralism is good and Christianity is bad, but also because it’s low-hanging fruit.

As Dr. Ryan Denison pointed out to me, the fact that Hollywood still plays on the trope of an evil priest means they recognize Christian leaders are, in theory, supposed to be above reproach.

Hollywood doesn’t care about accuracy

Two things can be true at once: Hollywood seems to disproportionately show Christians as untrustworthy, corrupt, and hypocritical and Christians are sometimes untrustworthy, corrupt, and hypocritical.

In the case of Netflix documentaries, while they sensationalize stories, the events actually happened. I, for one, appreciate those documentaries because they show the dangers of legalism, cults of personality, and how people misuse the Bible for wicked ends.

Netflix releases plenty of documentaries revealing evil of all kinds, religious or otherwise. They’ve done documentaries on serial killers who were homosexual—that doesn’t mean they’re anti-LGBTQ, far from it. As for comedy, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re probably stuck in pride.

By the same token, does Hollywood highlight the good Christianity does? No. Perhaps that’s why the youngest generation continues to distrust established religion: they don’t see the good.

I’ve said elsewhere that institutions must justify their existence to young people. We don’t accept them prima facie. Recently, Dr. Jim Denison discussed the purely economic benefit of religion. Consider the countless hospitals started by churches. Nearly every charitable organization for the poor is connected to a church. Studies show highly religious people are more likely to spend their time in civic engagement and give more charitably, despite our culture’s message.

Thankfully, The Chosen and Jesus Revolution prove that entertaining shows about Christianity succeed. Director of Jesus Revolution Jon Erwin shared his conviction with us on The Denison Forum Podcast that Hollywood will start opening up to more Christian films, especially considering that Jesus Revolution surpassed all expectations with its box office totals nearly reaching $40 million this weekend.

Are you above reproach?

While we’re thankful for pioneering Christians making excellent, high-budget films in Hollywood that stay faithful to the Bible, an awakening (probably) won’t come through movies.

We should take note: Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the religious leaders of his day. He calls the hypocritical priests a “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 12:34; 23:27). Jesus’ brother James later writes, “We who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). We should welcome good-faith criticism and recognize that religious belief is powerful and prone to be abused by charlatans.

Bias against Christians exists in Hollywood; that’s pretty well established. But we are promised persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Christians don’t face harsh persecution in the US, but we do face “soft” persecution, where we’re slandered and mischaracterized. The feeling of discrimination can help us empathize with others who are discriminated against.

Let’s do our utmost to prove the stereotypes wrong in our personal lives.

Admitting to our failures and living well will stave off hypocrisy.

That is how the light of the gospel will spread, through love and its proclamation by you and me.

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