Is Denzel Washington Christian?

Is Denzel Washington Christian? May 17, 2023

Denzel Washington
Many people ask, is Denzel Washington Christian?/ Image courtesy of

In 2015, Denzel Washington was the commencement speaker at a Dilliard University graduation ceremony. The first point in his speech is to put God first, and the last point is to pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God every day. The address has found its way into Instagram Reels and Tik Toks and many people have asked if Denzel Washington is a Christian.

Son of a Preacher Man

Denzel was born on December 28, 1954, the son of an ordained Pentecostal minister. His parents divorced at 14. Denzel credits the Boys and Girls Club and a YMCA summer camp as influences in his early life. Despite the rocky start, Denzel explained that he accepted Christ on multiple occasions. His unique spiritual experience in the 80s became a turning point in his life. The Academy Award winner said this about the incident, “It kept me grounded in spite of myself; I mean, I accepted it, I definitely experienced it, but I wasn’t ready to live it. I don’t know how old I was then, but I wasn’t ready to live it then. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s gone through that kind of experience.”

In a GQ article interview in 2012, he explained he reads his Bible daily when asked if he lives by a code. The interview is far-reaching and reveals his strong connection with the Church. Mostly he was connected by his father as a minister, even though the relationship was often strained and distant. He strongly favors his mother, calling her the toughest woman he knows and explaining that his mom constantly kept him grounded and prayed for him. By 2015, Denzel, who had never kept his relationship with God a secret, felt called to make sure he spoke about what God had done for him.

Confidently Spiritual

We cannot know anyone else’s heart. So when considering what they believe, we look to their words and actions. I think looking at someone like Denzel Washington is interesting because he is a talented actor. He has portrayed good guys and bad guys. Some of his roles have been in have been people who believed in God. Those characters refrained from participating in killing or using foul language. Others have been villains of the vilest ilk with penchants for cursing and readily participated in violent acts. But Denzel is not the character he portrays in the movies. But it can be hard to separate iconic roles from those playing them.

So we must examine his life. His words, again and again, point to the fact that he believes in God. You can easily find examples in interviews and speeches that he encourages people to believe, have faith, and trust in God. Denzel calls people to prayer. He especially makes it a point to thank God for the good things they have in their lives. He has been married to his wife Pauletta since 1983, a rare feat, even more so for celebrities. While it is less prominent, you can also find examples where he works to raise funds for Christian causes. And he gives significant funds to the Church he is a member of in Los Angeles. He encourages people to read the New Testament to learn more about God. So with great confidence, it is easy to say that Denzel is spiritual and follows the God of the Bible.

But Is Denzel a Christian?

In my research, I have found that Denzel uses language about following God. He does not often mention Jesus or that he is a “born-again” follower of Jesus. I feel like there may be two reasons for this. First, Denzel is confident in his faith but very hesitant to push his particular view on anyone. Based on the historical realities of the Church,  he may be reluctant to embrace the conservative Christian mantle fully. He resists the label of conservative or liberal, claiming to be a little of both. In the same way, he may resist being forced into the title of being a close-minded Christian by an often hostile liberal Hollywood media. His Put God First speech quotes the greatest commandment. But in several of his interviews, I also sense that he feels like he can speak about God but isn’t a preacher. He feels called even to talk about God or being spiritual, but not necessarily as an evangelist.

Secondly, while the denomination of the Church of God in Christ is the largest Pentecostal denomination, it is not particularly well represented in the psyche of  American culture (by which I mean most people don’t know much about it.) But I think we can lean into the fact that Christ is in the name of his denomination and assume that when he speaks of God, he also speaks of Jesus Christ. His spiritual tradition uses different language and symbolism.

So, while only God truly knows, I think Denzel is a Christian. While filming the last movie he directed, Journal for Jordan, he started every day with the cast and crew in prayer. And when asked, Denzel is ready to give an answer for what he does believe: “God is love,” Washington responded in a webinar for Journal for Jordan. “God is light. He shines his light and his love through us and we share His love with the world.”

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