Sunday, July 19, 2009

Entertainment Tonight Meets Pop Apologetics

Christian apologist Richard Abanes has written an interesting book on the religion of some Hollywood's most popular and influential personalities call Religion of the Stars. He covers the spirituality of Oprah; the Mormonism of Donny and Marie Osmond, the Buddhism of Richard Gere, Calvin Klein, Tina Turner and Keanu Reeves; the Scientology of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Lisa Marie Presley; the Kabbalah of Madonna, Demi Moore, Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbra Streisand; and the Wiccan and occultism of Cybil Shepherd and Olympia Dukakis. The list reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood and this is just some of the names that come up in the book.

The format of the book is fairly simple. Abanes introduces the religion and the stars that are associated with it. He describes the religion and offers a critique from a Christian viewpoint. Along the way the notes how the level of popularity a particular star enjoys affects the increased interest among lay people who want to emulate their Hollywood idol.

I thought it was interesting that Abanes ends his chapter on Oprah with an open letter to her but ends his chapter on Scientology with a "Legal notice to Scientology." (Scientology is noted for their frequent litagations against those who have ventured to critique them.) His discussion of Scientology is one of the best I've read. If you've ever tried to read anything about it you know how quickly you can be confused and left scratching your head saying, "I still don't know what they believe."

Also Abanes notes just a bit of duly-earned vindication. For years he has said that the Harry Potter books may influence some children to become involved in wicca or the like. Skeptics (many in the Christian community) said he was overreacting. In his chapter on "The Magick of Hollywood" he says, "The polls have been taken. The data is in. The kids raised on Harry Potter have grown up. And the facts are irrefutable. Some children/teens have been pulled into occultism thanks to the Harry Potter series of books and the Harry Potter movies." He gives a quote from none other than MTV which stated, "A surprising number of young witches MTV News spoke with also said that they became curious about their faith through misguiding pop-culture fare like the camp Neve Campbell vehicle "The Craft" and the "Harry Potter" series. (Guess a few conservative Christian groups were right about that one)."

This is a quick read and would be a good book for a youth group to read together. Today's youth are tied to Hollywood in ways we sometimes don't care to admit. Rather than stick our head in the sand let's take a good hard look at it and know we have nothing to fear. We have something better to offer. The book is full of footnotes but I would have liked to have seen a "for further reading" segment at the end of each chapter.

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