Read the reviews of the evangelistically minded among us of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and you might believe that Jolie is part of a vast Illuminati conspiracy to keep the message of Jesus Christ out of the film. After all, the original book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand which sat on the New York Times Best Seller list for a couple of years contained some reference to the gospel and how it transformed Louis Zamperini’s ’s life. It enabled him to forgive his Japanese captors after the War. His life story is a powerful story of how the gospel empowered him to forgive. He came to faith in Christ at a Billy Graham evangelism crusade in 1949, which is when Graham was on the very cusp of his career and he actually used to preach a strong message of repentance from sin.
So why doesn’t Jolie include these important details in Unbroken? To be fair, she does in a sort of typical Hollywood PC sort of way. And honestly, what did you expect from Angelina Jolie? A Ray Comfortable Good Person Test or perhaps a Billy Grahamafied sinner’s prayer tacked on to the end of the film? I get the idea that some of these people wouldn’t be happy unless someone was passing out decision cards as the credits rolled. Even if Jolie happened to be a bonafide evangelical I suspect she wouldn’t do that because she’s a great filmmaker. She’s an artist making art not a preacher making a sermon. Christian filmmakers, take note. God, the original artist, did not include a gospel tract with the sunrise this morning.
To throw out the baby with the bathwater in this instance would be to dismiss the best faith based film of all of the faith based films we’ve been subjected to in 2014. Granted, this one wasn’t on the official list about a year ago. However in this film you have a movie which: 1) presupposes and outright proclaims the existence of God, 2) presupposes and (perhaps unwittingly) proclaims the Sovereignty of God, and 3) presupposes and outright proclaims the truth of Matthew 5:38-48. Bear in mind that this movie came from an A-lister and that it sits firmly behind The Hobbit in box office receipts over the Christmas holiday.
As conscientious, gospel-loving and gospel-driven evangelicals we can react to this one of two ways: 1) we can criticize Hollywood because they didn’t make a typical evangelical film or 2) we can give God the glory because He got glory out of Hollywood. As for me and my house, we’re going with the latter. A lot of reviewers have gone with the former. Take it from a grumpy middle aged man—there comes a time when we as evangelicals don’t sound astute when we critique Hollywood. There also comes a time when we aren’t even correct. If we’re not careful we can come off sounding like a bunch of grumpy old men henpecking politicians at the local diner.
Here’s some food for thought. Is it possible—could it be even a remote possibility—that the reason why Jolie did not give the details of Zamperini’s conversion experience because in the period of time which was covered in the movie he was not a Christian? That’s not “conspiracy”. That’s life. Good literature teaches us something about the human condition. Great literature shows us subtly the hand of God guiding our affairs to His glorious ends but it doesn’t knock us over the head with a plank. It does it subtly. Evangelicals don’t care about art so we prefer the plank routine. Every. Single. Time.
Instead of focusing on that omission, could we focus on the fact that God took one of His elect through a remarkable experience of suffering which resulted in a remarkable answer to his prayer while still an unbeliever? Could we rejoice that God in His Sovereignty orchestrated all of the events of Zamperini’s life to not only bring him to faith in Christ but also forgive his captors? Could we rejoice that this same Sovereign God directed Jolie to produce a movie in 2014 which points squarely at Himself? Could we rejoice that the Wall Street Journal published a substantial article in its “Houses of Worship” section on New Years Day about the Billy Graham connection? Is it possible for gospel-centered evangelicals to forgive Hollywood—not for torturing us with a bad film as most evangelical directors have done this year—but for a completely understandable omission considering the worldview of the director? In other words, lighten up for Pete’s sake.
Lastly, consider the alternatives we have had this year alone. You could have watched a couple of Christian films blasphemously put God on trial, a couple of Hollywood films absolutely blaspheme God with their renditions of events in Genesis and Exodus, some well-meaning Christians save Christmas but do nothing to help Christian film’s stereotypes, half of the evangelical actors guild depict the Reformers as Nazis, and watch Nick Cage stumble through a movie with the same confused look on his face as his audience. In this case, Hollywood unknowingly saved the best for last. Why? Because God is Sovereign.
My prayer is that Jolie, through her interaction with Zamperini in the making of this film and her significant other, Brad Pitt, (through his making of Fury and what appears to be happening with Shia Labeouf) might come to know the Savior in reality. I rest in the power of a Sovereign God who can move heaven and earth to bring His elect unto Himself to do that. The same Sovereign God who moved heaven and earth to bring Louis Zamperini unto Himself. Give God the glory.