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The Oscars 2016

I like movies. I like them for the escape they provide from the ever increasing demands of my job. For two hours on my day off I can lose myself in a story and enjoy all of the joys and pains of someone else’s life that does not require one single thing from me! So it was only natural for me to expect a similar experience from the 88th Academy Awards last night. This year’s Oscars were, instead, surprising in ways that may require more from me than I was prepared to offer. The surprises were not about who won the awards – I actually predicted Mad Maxx would go on an early run! The surprise was the breadth and intensity of the focus on social issues. From racial equality to climate change to sexual abuse the spotlight (no pun intended) on social issues was everywhere. Several questions came to my mind as I watched and then processed the show. Why was I surprised? Was it appropriate? What was the outcome the actors hoped for? What should be the response from the body of Christ? The answers to these and other questions may not be obvious or easy to attain. Here are some thoughts that have pointed me (I hope) in the right direction.

If you did not see the show let me briefly highlight the particular issues that were raised. From even before the show started the issue of racial equality was front and center because of the lack of any black actors nominated in top 4 categories. This topic was addressed head on by the host, Chris Rock, and throughout the show by poking fun at the topic. It did leave you asking if the the joking was supposed to make us feel better or worse about racial prejudice. The focus on abuse victims was powerfully raised by a Lady Gaga performance in which actual victims were highlighted on stage. This issue was supported by the Best Picture winner, Spotlight, that tells the story of sexual abuse and cover up in the Catholic Church. Best actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio used his speech and his movie, The Revenant, to ask for us to focus on global warming and environmental responsibility. There were other issues raised but these were the most prominently displayed calls for justice.

Is that what they were? In some ways I think yes. Each of these topics has a core issue of justice that must be taken seriously. Injustice is wrong wherever its found and regardless of who points it out. The scriptures could not be more clear on this point; God hates injustice. Jesus proclaims at the onset of his public ministry that part of his mission is to address oppression and abuse of power. But it just sounds different coming from Chris Rock or Lady Gaga. I found myself wanting to discount the call for justice simply because of my judgment of the worthiness of the spokesperson. Why instead wouldn’t I applaud the enormous stage from which these issues, which admittedly represent the heart of God, were raised? Was I looking for an excuse to avoid the issue? Was I jealous that I did not have the same stage from which to raise the issue? Was I feeling convicted that a bunch of people whom I had judged “not as Godly as me” were doing something I had not? Or was I just annoyed that they did not allow me to escape – because that’s why I like going to the movies? More questions than I have answers for right now but the journey seems important, so I’ll keep asking.

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