The new film “42”, about Jackie Robinson, the first black American to play in Major League Baseball, is now in theaters across the country. The movie tells the fantastic story of how Robinson came to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, at the urging and backing of Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. The movie is about the relationship between these extraordinary men, as well as how they changed not only baseball, but the country, paving the way for the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. An amazing piece of American history.
And yet the writers, producers and actors intentionally leave out a key element in both men’s lives- their deep faith in Jesus Christ. As Eric Metaxas of USA Today pointed out in his article, “Jackie Robinson Man of Faith” last week, both men were acting on the conviction that they were doing the will of God. Rickey, a self-described “Bible-thumping Methodist”, believed in civil rights long before the movement grew, and sought out Robinson not only due to his skills, but mainly due to his firm faith. Rickey knew the first black baseball player in MLB would be mercilessly attacked, and would need be to be strong in his ability to “turn the other cheek.” Both men read Scripture and prayed together, seeking God’s leadership in this historic undertaking. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But Hollywood seems intent on leaving out, ignoring, or usually, outright ridiculing the Christian faith in their films. Despite the overwhelming success of movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and the History Channel series “The Bible”, Hollywood cannot bring itself to positively acknowledge the Christian faith, even where it is integral to truthful storytelling. Metaxas points this out in movies such as “Walk the Line”, omitting Johnny Cash’s conversion in overcoming his addictions, and in “Amazing Grace“, the story of how William Wilberforce acted on his Christian convictions to eradicate slavery from the British Empire. There are many others, of course.
Hollywood is at odds with the majority of Americans, who still identify themselves with Christianity. We pay to see their movies, despite how they despise our faith. Hollywood would do well to recognize and acknowledge the Christian faith where it is applicable. They would find a wide, and growing, receptive audience, who will reward their efforts with our dollars at the box office.