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The Message of the Oscars

February 25, 2015

Well, I finally got around to watching the Oscars today.  I enjoy the Oscars but I never watch them live because there is so much I want to just skip past on the DVR and it is really only the awards, and in particular the acceptance speeches, that I enjoy seeing.

I enjoy the acceptance speeches because they can usually be counted on for occasions in which the stars make some sort of political/social commentary part of their “thank you.”  Since Hollywood stars are the only ones who give us evangelicals a serious run for the money on self-righteousness, albeit with entirely different definitions of righteousness, I find watching them soothing.

In any event, they did not disappoint and we as a nation were treated to several fine scolds on the way we ought to act and the things we need to do if we want to measure up to their standards.  Sadly for The Academy, it turns out that a few people were not happy with them.  I am not counting evangelicals of course; that some of us might not be happy is something that would probably thrill them.

They were, however, taken to task for “snubbing” the movie Selma which, in the minds of those who were upset, made them racists.  Denials of racism soon flowed.  At least one voter assured everyone that they were not racists because, after all, they were The Academy, not some “hillbilly cretins.”  Why, you couldn’t even get into The Academy if you were a racist!  Apparently there is no surer way to establish you have no cultural biases whatsoever than to call some other people hillbilly cretins.  Do you see why I love the Oscars?

But there is something to be learned from the Oscars, and in particular this voter’s outrage.  All the political/social commentary and this sputtered response to a critique really make the same point.  They all say “Look how nice and caring I am.  Equal pay for women, care for immigrants, the environment, etc. all matter to me.”  In short, they want us to know that they are really nice people.

This reminds me of, well, me; and also of my fellow evangelicals.  We are quite sure that we are really nice people too; quite sure that the things that we are for, and the things that we are against, make it clear to Jesus that He was right all along to save us.

But the basis for these beliefs, both Hollywood’s and ours, is the assumption that only bad people hold bad beliefs; that my niceness keeps me from being racist, or homophobic, or unloving, or of holding beliefs that are hurtful to others.  Just because I have no particular hard feelings toward others, we think, I have no need to see if the way I act in response to my beliefs is harmful or unjust to others.

So, The Academy, secure in the knowledge that they are not racists, have no reason to wonder why the way they go about their business always seems to end up racially skewed.  Evangelicals, secure in the knowledge that we don’t hate gays, have no reason ponder if our political/social efforts, that always seem to be denying gays the status and acceptance that we have, could in any way mean that we have a problem.  I’m sure with a little thought we could give examples of this type for everyone out there.

Here is the lesson.  I can be good and unjust; kind and uncaring; nice and be hurting people.  I really don’t like to think about that.  You see the problem with this lesson is that it means I actually have to care how my actions and words hurt others even if I didn’t mean to.

That I can be nice and, at the same time, hurtful is hard to swallow.  But somewhere in the back of my mind I have this feeling that, long before the Oscars, I’ve heard this before….something like my righteousness being like filthy rags or something like that.  But I really don’t want to think about that; I am too busy trying to be nice.

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