Hollywood & Divine

Hollywood & Divine
Mel Gibson is building a church near his Malibu home to practice his traditionalist Catholic faith. "The Creator instituted something very specific, and we can't just go change it," Gibson (shooting The Passion in Rome with Jim Caviezel) has said.
Nick Cornish/REX

03/25/2004 AT 10:00 AM EST

Lord of hosts, send legions of angels
to the major media centers of the world,
such as Hollywood and New York,
to assist in spreading Your message
and accomplishing Your will.


Granted, it doesn't have the lyricism of the 23rd Psalm, but thanks to the ministry of Mastermedia International Inc., which mails out free "Redemptive Prayers for Hollywood" flyers to 50,000 evangelical Christian subscribers, people can pray those words and perhaps move showbiz types to use their considerable influence only for good. The group also offers a Media Leader Prayer Calendar – available online too – so believers can focus their prayers simultaneously on alphabetically designated targets. On April 7, it's Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. The next day, Eminem. On the 9th, it's the entire cast and crew of Entertainment Tonight.

The calendar reveals what many conservative Christians feel about Hollywood – that it ignores their values. Despite high ratings for Joan of Arcadia on TV, numerous shout-outs to God on awards shows and stars such as Madonna and Mel Gibson speaking up about their religious beliefs, many Americans still feel alienated by the Hollywood studios' menu of coarse language, rampant sex, gay characters and certain Super bowl halftime shows. "Hollywood, at heart, is anti-Christian – the only time you see churches are during funerals and weddings," declares Robert Knight, director of the D.C.-based Culture and Family Institute, who opposes programs like Will & Grace for "promoting a libertine lifestyle."

Don't expect the highly rated show suddenly to be replaced by a prime-time edition of The 700 Club. Still, it's not as if Hollywood execs haven't noticed the power of religious-themed projects, thanks to the monumental success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which has earned an astounding $300 million at the box office so far, defying all expectations. Nearly 45 percent of Americans have either seen the film or say they intend to, according to a March Gallup poll – evidence that the film's appeal extends far beyond evangelical Christians. Producer Frank Desiderio, who is also a Roman Catholic priest, saw the Passion principle in effect when ABC finally aired his long-shelved Judas TV movie last month. Though it fared poorly in the ratings, he says his calls are returned just a little quicker now. He didn't like The Passion for its violence but admits that the film "has raised the profile of [my] company. We've always said there are good stories out there. But it has been hard to make them."

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