Normally tmatt has written about the articles regarding our friend Barbara Nicolosi, but I’m taking this one — the essay “Can Jesus Save Hollywood?” — because of its appearance in The Atlantic. Hanna Rosin travels to Hollywood in this month’s issue to report on Nicolosi and her colleagues at Act One, who are striving to transform Hollywood one talented writer at a time.
And let’s be clear about this: transforming Hollywood does not translate into convincing studios to film higher-budget versions of any of the Left Behind books. To the contrary, Rosin describes three waves of Christians who represent an increasing comfort believers feel about working in Hollywood and being open about their faith. Here’s how Rosin describes the third wave:
They are the cinematic wing of what the sociologist Alan Wolfe calls the “opening of the evangelical mind,” a cultural renaissance among conservative Christians. Though their parents may have taught them to take refuge in a parallel Christian subculture, the movies these people found in Christian bookstores bored and embarrassed them. To be accepted at Act One you have to believe that Jesus is a real presence in your life. But the worst insult you can deliver there is to say that a movie reminds you of such notoriously low-budget Christian schlock as the Left Behind series and The Omega Code, or that the dialogue sounds like “Christianese.”
Rosin delivers plenty of other satisfying quotes from Nicolosi and her fellow instructors. Here’s an amusing illustration of how much Hollywood has changed since the terrorist strikes of 2001 and the box-office earthquake known as The Passion of the Christ:
The movie industry remains affected by post-9/11 national anxiety, and now studio heads want to make movies that “mean something.” At the same time, it’s well aware of what’s known around town as “Passion dollars” — the previously untapped religious audience that made Mel Gibson’s independently distributed movie The Passion of the Christ last year’s biggest surprise. Recently the entertainment TV show Inside Edition invited Nicolosi to be a guest. “When I first came [to Hollywood], I never thought I’d be on Inside Edition,” she confessed to the host before the show. “Didn’t you know?” he replied. “‘Christian’ is the new ‘gay.’”
This is deeply satisfying religion writing, with minimal editorial intrusions, that makes a sometimes foreign subculture more accessible to a wide audience. Two thumbs up, folks — and hey, I mean that.