"Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths." -2 Tim. 4:2-4
Peggy Noonan is easily one of the smartest and most insightful people in American politics/journalism today (and my personal favorite). She was special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986. In 1988 she was chief speechwriter for George Bush when he ran for the presidency; the best selling author of seven books on American politics, history and culture. She is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a weekly columnist for the Journal’s editorial page website; and Noonan is also the author of the best selling “The Case Against Hillary Clinton” (HarperCollins, March, 2000). Her first book, “What I Saw at the Revolution” was called “A love letter to the American political process,” by Time Magazine. All to say, this and more has made her one of conservatism's most respected thinkers. If you would like to sample her razor-sharp wisdom and cultural acumen you may do so here. (If she was only a Reformed Baptist too. Let me pause...)
Her latest OpinionJournal contribution published on March 9th is about this years Oscars Awards; and in specific, by way of illustration, George Clooney. The subtitle of her article "Boy In the Bubble" reads, "What George Clooney doesn't know about life." Ms. Noonan demonstrates unusual sagacity in her commentary. Before presenting a biblical worldview on this subject, here is a sampling of quotes from her trenchant and articulate pen offering sound reasoning compared with Mr. Clooney's artistic ululating:
"We all like Jack Nicholson not because he's classically beautiful--he's not--but because somehow he signals, in the way he lives his life, in the way he walks into the world, at least as seen through newspapers and magazines, that on some level or to some unusual degree he . . . gets the joke. It is odd to think, as a moviegoer, that you know Jack Nicholson, and yet in a way you do. We watch the young ones coming up. Will Charlize turn into someone who gets the joke, or someone who is the joke?"
"George Clooney is Hollywood now. He is charming and beautiful and cool, but he is not Orson Welles. I know that's like saying of an artist that he's no Rembrandt, but bear with me because I have a point that I think is worth making."
"Orson Welles was an artist. George Clooney is a fellow who read an article and now wants to tell us the truth, if we can handle it."
"More important, Orson Welles had a canny respect for the audience while maintaining a difficult relationship with studio executives, whom he approached as if they were his intellectual and artistic inferiors. George Clooney has a canny respect for the Hollywood establishment, for its executives and agents, and treats his audience as if it were composed of his intellectual and artistic inferiors. (He is not alone in this. He is only this year's example.)"
But Mr. Clooney's remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic."
"In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it."
What Ms. Noonan brilliantly describes is the futility of Hollywood's postmodern message, messenger, and methodology. The Apostle Paul's strong words to young Timothy are profound and stand in strong defiant contrast to the transient ideals of Clooney's superficial media-schooled world-view:
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
This is the eternal, politically incorrect, immutable foundation we need to employ in our daily lives, isn't it beloved? Look at Paul's continued exhortation to Timothy. First to holiness - be an example in in five areas: speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (v. 12); then to the truth of God's Word: reading, exhortation, and teaching (v. 13); accountability to authority: the laying on of hands by the presbytery, don't neglect, take pains, be absorbed, progress evident to all (v.14-15); and then to a circumspect conscientious of life and doctrine (v. 16a); and finally to the work of the gospel: insurance of salvation (v. 16b).
We don't have the luxury in Christianity to be content with "a momentary philosophical whim appealing to the audience for approval by sound bite." Or "cultural change by media engagement." Or Malcolm Muggeridge's timeless, yet inaccurate, assertion, "the medium is the message." No... The message of the gospel IS the message (Rom. 1:18-17; 2 Cor. 4:5-7; and we are "to know nothing among [them] save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." The solution to Mr. Clooney's temporary convictions is the life-changing truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 5-7).
Here is the real question for us today: I'm fearful that "as Hollywood goes, so goes the church" may have more merit than we care to recognize. IOW, a personality driven, pragmatic popularity that seeks to define itself and be measured by cultural acceptance than by eternal canon (i.e. Brian McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy."). With a seeker friendly, politically driven, social gospel, Emergent church, postmodern accommodationalism on the rise, evangelicalism may not be far behind the Left Coast in its methodological moorings. I mean, it's not out of the scope of probability that Mr. Clooney's social/political/cultural agenda could find its way affording him a keynote address at one of many Willow Creek services or conferences to share, by way of interview, his "take on things." (Hybel has bestowed that honor, as well by way of interview, to Jim Collins and to former President Clinton).
May we not look back at the last twenty years of redemptive history and have to face the saddening conclusion that we failed to sound the alarm of the impending danger when methods gives way to worldliness and worldliness to error infiltrates the church and men of God have fallen asleep with their sword in sheath in the darkness of perilous times. To paraphrase Ms. Noonan: "The Church in the Bubble" - What Evangelicalism doesn't know about life, truth, the gospel, and biblical ministry."
Please take time to read to her astute words--it is well worth the investment.
Grace and peace,
2 Timothy 3