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« Where Did that Chair Go? | Main | A New Fall Sitcom We Missed »

October 25, 2006

Try Looking Here

At the start of the 2000 Grammy Awards, host Rosie O'Donnell told the nominees that "I bumped into God backstage, and he said, 'You're welcome.'" The joke, a reference to the many times God is thanked at the Grammys, didn't go over very well with some of the winners, especially the African-American ones, some of whom used part of their acceptance speech to correct O'Donnell.

I thought about this while reading a recent Los Angeles Times story (via Terry Mattingly) entitled "God's Entourage," about the Christian faith of the "African American Elite of Hollywood." Not Kabbalah. Not Scientology. Christian.

The article tells the story of Robi Reed-Humes' efforts to create an audio Bible featuring famous African-American actors and other performers. After services at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, she approached fellow church member Denzel Washington about the idea. He interrupted her and said, "I have to do it." "Washington reads the Songs of Solomon with his wife, Pauletta, for the Old Testament edition, which will be available digitally as early as next year."

Another participant and West Angeles member, Angela Bassett, explained her tears at church to the Times:

Bassett, who has attended services in the West Angeles Cathedral for more than 15 years, talks about the tears: "When you realize that every breath is a gift from God. When you realize how small you are, but how much he loved you. That he, Jesus, would die, the son of God himself on earth, then you . . . you just weep."

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Bassett's husband, Courtney Vance, plays the only -- to my knowledge at least -- overtly pro-life character in prime-time: A.D.A. Ron Carver on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Carver also spoke one of my favorite lines of any television character: when a detective called arranged marriage "disgusting," he replied, "as opposed to our wildly-successful system?")

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but this story reminded me of something else: the way nearly every discussion I hear and/or read about American Christianity seems to forget -- or, most likely, be ignorant of -- the fact that there are millions of African-American (and Latino) Christians out there, many of whom are already doing the work we keep praying for someone to do.

How many times have you heard about the need for a Christian presence in Hollywood? Well, it seems that there is one and we've just been looking in the wrong places. Or churches.

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A. Campbell

I've noted for some time how there's a double-standard in the media when it comes to the religiousity of nonwhite persons. Not only is it overlooked, but when it is portrayed it is dismissive, regarded as simply being part of their heritage, or something like that— not as the conscious conviction of thinking, passionate persons. I find it particularly galling when it comes to African Americans; our cultural attitude seems to be, "Well, black people are just like that." Like you don't have to take it seriously if you're not black.

Roberto Rivera

I wrote about this for Beliefnet after Rosie hosted the Grammys. If you're interested, here's the URL:


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