Speaking with Joy
Speaking with Joy
Joy Marie Clarkson ☀️
Finding God in Hollywood with Nathan Clarkson
10 minutes Posted Mar 25, 2023 at 2:50 am.
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Dear Friends,

Good morning and happy Saturday! Today I have a little treat for you: a conversation I recorded with my brother Nathan Clarkson about his recently released book Finding God in Hollywood: Discovering the Divine in Films, Movie Stars, and Stories. Myself, Nathan, and Joel have all spent significant periods of our lives in Los Angeles. Ask any of us and you’d hear something similar: it can be an arid place, a dry and spiritually challenging landscape. In many Christian circles there’s an idea that Hollywood is “godless”, a place of egos and propaganda and materialism. And there is much of that. But, as Nathan argues in his book, the act of story telling, of weaving together patterns and imagery in an effort to find some semblance of meaning is something close to the heart of the search for God. So, Nathan tells stories of finding God in Hollywood in unexpected places.

The Bible itself is primarily narrative— yes, there are laws, pastoral exhortations, and theological ideas expounded, but the great majority of it is a story. Adam and Even in the garden, Abraham searching for a home, Joseph and his jealous brothers, the miraculous Exodus overshadowed by bloody signs and wonders. Human beings are drawn to narrative, we feed on myths (religious and national) to make sense of our identity, our place in the world, our hunger for meaning. This is all profound, but also quotidian. When we meet a new person and get past the hello’s and where do you work, one of the subjects we tend to stray into is stories: what books do you like? What movies? What TV are you watching?

In America, some Christians have tried to capitalise on this by creating “Christian Films” which, if you’re a snob like me, tend to be pretty uncomplying unless you are already a part of the in crowd that they’re made for. What I am about to say may seem harsh; I am glad for every good effect a film might have, and I do believe there are some good “Christian Films” (The Chosen, for instance seems to be universally loved amongst both my Christian and non Christian friends). But many of these films amount to nothing more than propaganda; they are good because they underscore an idea of conviction already held with emotional manipulation. And in this way, they tend not to be very good films. They are not created to be beautiful or interesting, but to convince and evoke emotion.

This is one of the secondary ideas Nathan and I talked about: trusting that there is something worth while in creating an excellent work of art, whose aim is beauty, artistry, and craft, not merely communicating a message. This is something Nathan is passionate about is trying to do in his own artistry. For instance in this film he wrote and produced and released earlier this year:

Our conversation is a little tidbit, not long, but I hope you enjoy it on this fine Saturday morning. And I’d love to know what movies you think are excellent works of art that help you find God, and dwell on what is meaning and spiritual.

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