Joe Eszterhas, who wrote the screenplay for “Basic Instinct” and other dark and sex-charged thrillers, has become a Christian in something much like a road to Damascus experience. Again, God breaks into the most unlikely of lives. We should praise God, along with the angels in Heaven.
There is another part of his story that deserves discussion. Eszterhas then looked for a church. Though brought up Catholic, he did not want to go back to that church, due to its pedophilic scandals. But going to a megachurch sent him back. He craved liturgy and the Body and Blood of Christ:
When Mr. Eszterhas visited a nondenominational megachurch, he heard a sensational sermon. But he felt empty afterward, missing Holy Communion and the Catholic liturgy.
“It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals’ sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our megachurch experience taught us that we were captive Catholics,” he wrote.
Mr. Eszterhas told The Blade that despite his mixed feelings over the church and the abuse scandal, the power of the Mass trumps his doubts and misgivings.
“The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It’s almost a feeling of a kind of high.”
He said that living in the heartland, he sees how much Hollywood producers are out of touch with most Americans.
“I find it mind boggling that with nearly 70 percent of Americans describing themselves as Christians, and witnessing the success of The Passion of The Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia, that Hollywood still doesn’t do the kinds of faith-based and family-value entertainment that people are desperate to see,” Mr. Eszterhas said.
Would that he would have stumbled into a confessional Lutheran church! One can be both evangelical AND sacramental; Biblical AND liturgical.
But set that aside. I’d like to pose a question that has long puzzled me. The reasons given as to why churches should adopt contemporary worship and follow all of the church growth methodology generally have to do with evangelism. But how effective are they really evangelistically? Especially in appealing to the hard cases–long-time cynical, intellectually sophisticated, artistically sensitive non-believers like Mr. Eszterhas.
Praise songs, for example, tend to presuppose a level of intimacy with God that non-believers, by definition, simply don’t have. And the practice of keeping everything so simple and downplaying complex theology, in the name of appealing to the common man, can have little to say to the kind of person who asks hard questions and yearns for hard answers.
Isn’t it true that hard-core non-believers mock the megachurch kind of worship? Isn’t it true that the megachurches appeal mostly to people who are already Christians?
I think the “emerging church” is trying to reach people like Mr. Eszterhas, but I suspect he would find the ersatz liturgy, the self-conscious appeal to be being young, and the doctrinal fluidity of such churches bewildering.
Of course where ever the Gospel is so much as mentioned, God can create faith. I’m sure the megachurches have their converts. But it is the megachurch theorists that stress how technique can win people. By their own terms, isn’t there an important place for more historic Christianity and a richer, more substantial and sacramental worship, in reaching at least some people?