I’ve been reading a couple of reviews about Sylvester Stallone’s new film, Rocky Balboa. (I haven’t seen any of the previous Rocky films). Stallone has given interviews to various Christian media sources promoting the film. In them, he talks about the theme of redemption for the central character as he makes his latest comeback.
I am a fan of finding Christian themes in secular films. At the very least it can serve as an excellent conversation starter. Sometimes films uphold Christian values in part of in whole, sometimes they frankly show the consequences of going against them. Many times a totally different world view is promoted, but for each one it is still possible to ask what the films say about humanness and identity, what is sin in that context, and what is salvation.
One of the interesting things to come out of Stallone’s interviews is his talk about his growing faith. Some have claimed that he is a born again Christian. As far as I can see there have been two different responses in the Christian community to this.
Firstly: Stallone cannot possibly be a Christian. He has made too many violent movies, has not lived a Christian lifestyle, and has even made some sort of porn film in the early 1970s. His interviews and talk abotu his faith must simply be a marketing ploy to gain endorsement from the Christian community.
Secondly: After a little skepticism, some Christians have wholeheartedly believed Stallone. Could he now be the new mainstream Hollywood hero for the Christian community (particularly after Mel Gibson’s recent fall from grace)?
Well, is he or isn’t he? It seems quite important to some to find the answer. I have several thoughts on the subject.
1. No-one is beyond redemption. There is no reason why people far worse that Stallone cannot be touched by the Spirit and come to a living faith.
2. I am not the judge, God is. And he knows Stallone’s heart (and mine). As such I must not try and jump to conclusions about who is in and who is out, but keep an open (but balanced) mind. I’m sure we’ll all be in for a surprise when we reach heaven and see who is, and who isn’t there.
3. The Christian community is often too quick to hail certain people as their latest hero. This can lead to an unhealthy culture of celebrity, placing them on a pedestal that they cannot live up to. All are sinful and will ultimately let us down in some public or private way. That belongs only to Christ.
4. The Christian community is also often too quick to take people off the pedestal after some failure. “Ah well, they’ve sinned, I guess they can’t be a Christian after all”
So is he a Christian? Is the film Christian? Does it matter what we think? I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt with the understanding that the ultimate judge is God.
Some Christian reviews are here:
Focus on the Family: