Where are the men of faith in the movies? Women are always praying, trusting, and singing hymns on the silver screen, but men? Apparently they're too busy making things explode.
Think about it. As you survey cinema over the last thirty years or so, what men of faith can you come up with? Eastern religions have a few entries-notably Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. But even there . . . honestly, ultra-blonde Brad Pitt seeking Tibetan enlightenment? Keanu Reeves as the Buddha's latest avatar? (I'm still waiting for "Peter and Paul's Excellent Adventure." Like, preach it, dude.) And Jewish men of faith are, of course, represented by Barbra Streisand in Yentl. But Christian men are rare-unless they're professional Christians. Priests show up often, more as symbols than real characters, and evangelical ministers appear regularly with their hypocrisy unmasked. Steve Martin (Leap of Faith) and Robert Duvall (The Apostle) took their turns recently as Pentecostal ministers with feet of clay.
But where are the ordinary guys who trust in God? The closest we come is the Muslim terrorists in action flicks who say a brief prayer to Allah before . . . uh, making things explode. Wouldn't you love to hear James Bond say, just once, "I'd love to sleep with you, darling, but I need to go to my Anglican church and give thanks"? Or Tom Cruise: "Impossible mission? Nothing is impossible with God." Wouldn't it be great to see Captain Picard gather his crew for a time of prayer before trying to thwart the alien attack?
All right, Woody Allen often brings his Jewish faith into his neurotic introspections (and quite well in Crimes and Misdemeanors), but we're looking for well-adjusted guys. Still, I'm grateful to Allen for one of the great religious lines in cinema, in Manhattan, where ubiquitous best friend Tony Roberts accuses Woody of playing God and he replies, "Well, I have to model my life after somebody."
That's what I want to see, men who are trying to model their lives after God. Every guy on screen these days is trying to get laid or . . . well, making things explode. And the truth is that only two-thirds of the guys I know in real life are like that.
Cinema isn't real life. I know that. It's two-dimensional. What you see is what you get. The invisible things of the soul don't play well on the big screen. Granted. But true faith has a physicality. People make decisions based on faith, and these decisions play out in the events of their lives. And films use the visible to get to the invisible. We have no problem seeing Shakespeare's love or the pride of the gladiator Maximus. We see Kevin Spacey's lust in American Beauty and Tom Hanks's sense of duty in Saving Private Ryan. The evil that Ralph Fiennes displays in Schindler's List, you could cut with a knife, and you want to. All of these are invisible qualities that drive these motion pictures. Then why not faith in God?
And somehow women can be religious in movies. Why not men? Are we back in a wild west mentality, where men curse, gamble, drink, shoot, and make things explode, while the women wish they wouldn't? If so, we've taken a huge step backward.
Come on, filmmakers, dare to show prayer. Let's see some leading man leading a Bible study at his church. Let's watch a guy other than a rabbi reading the Torah. Let's hear some man quote Scripture correctly-and, please, someone other than a deranged lunatic or a serial killer (thank you, Pulp Fiction). Real men worship God. Let's have art imitate life for a change.