Idol Chatter

Full disclosure: I have run to the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, extended my arms, and bounced on my toes while da-da-dah-ing “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme to “Rocky.” I felt ridiculous and, yes, exhilarated, but not for a second was I mindful of Christ’s victory over death on the cross.

My bad, it turns out. According to Sylvester Stallone, who surmounted the museum steps so memorably in the first of his “Rocky” films–the sixth debuts next week–the hard-luck champ was always a Christ figure. And this month, Stallone told a group of pastors that, while still a Catholic, he considered himself born again.

Skeptics have pointed out that the director made this claim in a conference call set up by Paul Lauer, the man who marketed Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” to church groups and helped convince evangelicals that Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” was true to C.S. Lewis’s books. “The call focused on Stallone’s faith more than the film,” wrote one conference-call participant, “and seemed at times to be about establishing his bona fides as a believer.”

Lauer’s firm, Motive Entertainment, has also put together “Rocky Resources,” a curriculum for ministers interested in using the aging Balboa’s last fight to pump up their congregations. The leadership guide assumes a lot of bona fides, suggesting that pastors preach a three-week sermon series based on the film, complete with new clip each week.

It’s no stretch, of course, that Rocky is a Christ figure. Stallone points to his own heavyhanded opening shot of “Rocky,” in which a painting of Jesus looking down on the “Italian Stallion” in the gym. And nearly a third of Catholics now say they are born again. And if Lauer can sell Mel Gibson, director of “Lethal Weapon” and “Braveheart,” as a kinsman of evangelicals, why not Rambo?

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