While promoting his new film, “The Way Back,” Oscar-winner Ben Affleck recently shared about his personal faith and thoughts on Christian beliefs. Speaking exclusively with Beliefnet contributor DeWayne Hamby, the actor confirmed that he had been attending the church he and his ex-wife Jennifer Garner began attending with their children four years ago.
“I go to the Methodist Church, (my) kids (are) baptized and I got introduced to Christianity a little bit later in life,” he said. Four years ago, during the promotion of Affleck’s ex-wife’s film “Miracles from Heaven,” Jennifer Garner revealed she had begun taking her children back to church.
Explaining what eventually drew the actor who starred in the irreverent religious comedy “Dogma,” to Christianity, Affleck pointed to the “beauty” of grace and forgiveness, something that gives hope to anyone who feels too far gone.
“One of the things that I found most beautiful about it, and I struggle with my faith, I struggle with belief, but I do see there's something enormously beautiful and elegant about the notion that we are all sinners, and that it's our job to find our redemption, to find God's love, to redeem ourselves, to live the best life that we can, to love one another, to not judge one another, and to forgive one another.”
In “The Way Back,” Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a broken man looking for hope. That hope comes in the form of an offer to come back and coach basketball at the same Catholic high school he once attended and excelled as a player. But Jack experiences heartbreak that derails his marriage and sends him into the life of an alcoholic. As the title suggests, the film centers on Jack chasing after that newfound hope and trying to establish trust with those he hurt.
The actor, known recently as Batman in “Justice League” and “Batman V. Superman” as well as the Oscar-winning, “Argo” and “Good Will Hunting,” also feels that the world would benefit from more of Jesus’ instructions to forgive and extend grace.
“I think those are extremely powerful ideas and very, very relevant, probably more relevant today than ever,” he said. “Because there's a little bit more of an attitude of like, find something somebody did wrong once and get rid of them. And that to me, feels unnecessarily judgmental. It's that, ‘He without sin cast the first stone.’ I think that is a very wise proverb.”
The character of Jack Cunningham reflects some of Affleck’s own recent history. He’s revealed his own struggles with alcoholism along with disappointment on the end of his marriage with actress Jennifer Garner, and concern for the wellbeing of his children through it all.
"I really don't want my children to pay for my sins," he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a recent interview. "Or to be afraid for me, which is one of the hard parts of being the child of an alcoholic. You think, 'What if my dad gets drunk? What if he does something stupid? What if he ends up on ‘TMZ,' you know? And on my newsfeed and other kids see it?"
Affleck recently hung up the Batman cowl and a new series will now revolve around Robert Pattison’s version of the character. According to some reports, he did it to save his sanity, taking a break to play his favorite role of “Dad” and not miss any of the important family moments. He also admitted to Beliefnet that he had simply run out of steam playing the caped crusader.
“I had an opportunity to write and direct and star in a stand-alone Batman and, you know, just (being at a) point in my life, I kind of lost interest in those stories,” he said. “I'll go see Robert’s version. I think it's gonna be great. He's great. But (“The Way Back”) is the kind of story that I'm interested in telling now.”
The story will resonate with those who have experienced tragedy and addiction, and Affleck hopes it will inspire them to handle defeat and despair with a determination to move ahead.
“We all have pain. We all have challenges of various types and degrees. The question is really, how do we handle that? Do we suffer, fall apart, let it derail us? Or do we pick ourselves up and keep going? That choice is what ultimately defines us.”
“The Way Back,” directed by Gavin O’Connor (“The Accountant,” “Warrior,” “Miracle”), will release to theaters from Warner Brothers on Friday, March 6. The film also stars Al Madrigal (“Night School”), Michaela Watkins (“Casual”), Janina Gavankar (“True Blood”), Glynn Turman (“Bumblebee”), Brandon Wilson, Will Ropp, Charles Lott Jr. and Melvin Gregg. “The Way Back” has been rated R for language including some sexual references.
TOR-01811r | Film Name: THE WAY BACK | Copyright: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. | Photo Credit: Richard Foreman