Reading the Media Tea Leaves
This hasn't been a very good month for actors. No more had the news about the passing of 25-year-old actor Brad Renfro begun to fade when news came of the tragic death of fellow actor Heath Ledger at the age of 28. Both deaths are under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.
No doubt what I am about to say will raise some hackles, but they need to be raised. Has anyone noticed the difference in coverage these two deaths have received? Brad Renfro's death noted a story or two, yet the death of Ledger has been covered wall to wall. While some might want to say it's because Ledger was an Academy Award nominee, I suspect it has more to do with something else. Not from the vantage point of his family or close friends, but from the vantage point of the media.
If Heath Ledger had not played a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain -- a film celebrated by the media and activists as a benchmark in normalizing and sympathizing homosexuality -- this would not have gotten near the amount of coverage. Brad Renfro had plenty of accolades as an actor beginning with his first role at age 11 in "The Client." Everyone talked about what promise there was for him. Yes, he was troubled, but so are many celebrities.
Aside from this issue of the media coverage, I find these deaths heartbreaking from a number of angles. From the perspective of Ledger, to die at such a young age, leaving behind a young daughter and a grieving family. From the scope of eternity, having to face God after taking part in a film glorifying something God calls an abomination. I don't know Ledger's heart or spiritual condition. Only God does. I think it's fair game to question it. And on that note, I grieve at the media attention that will now be given the bogus "church" led by Fred Phelps as they protest at any memorial service for Ledger. These clowns aren't concerned for souls. They're consumed by hate, and yet the media (with few exceptions) will lump them in with mainstream Christians. And how like the enemy. Take what is true -- that homosexuality is sin and people need to repent, but also with the hope Jesus heals, delivers and forgives -- and draw attention to a bogus group calling themselves Christians who leave out the latter part of the message. And they do more than that -- by their false, distorted presentation they turn the hope of the Gospel into a false Gospel. These clowns will be held accountable by God for bringing shame and reproach on the church.
Now, what about Renfro? I find his situation doubly heartbreaking because of something I read shortly after his untimely passing. In an interview, Brad was speaking about the troubles he'd had with substance abuse. The story mentioned that Brad's grandfather (if I remember correctly) had been a pastor, and that Christianity was in Brad's background. He himself still clung to the spiritual things he had heard growing up. Brad was quoted in this interview as saying "Jesus said it was the sick who needed a physician."
That gives me some hope for Brad's eternal destiny. Only God knew his heart, and who knows if Brad called out to Him in his final moments. Perhaps Brad did indeed know Christ, but was weak and often erring. At least Brad didn't mock Christians or the Christian faith. He knew he needed help, as do all of us.
My hope is that these deaths will cause some genuine reflection in the entertainment industry. Man knows not his time, and all will stand before God to give account. So rather than taking the wrong message and learning the wrong lessons, how about honestly opening the eyes and ears to hear what God is saying?
In the meantime, two promising young actors are dead -- the latest in a long list of young men and women cut off in their prime. Who will be next? And for some, will this be enough to stop it from happening to them?
I hope and pray so.