"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" -Matthew 16:26
I believe that Christ’s words in Matthew 16:26 could not be more appropriate to describe the cultural cesspool of Hollywood. On the surface, Hollywood is a sparkling city filled with talented artists and actors who make us laugh and make us cry. Yet, beneath the surface, it’s really a culture mired in corruption, moral relativism, and evil. It’s sad, really, that those who by all accounts are on top of the world, are really at the bottom of the heap.
It’s a deep pity that an acclaimed actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman chose to succumb to his addiction rather than triumph over it. He put his own selfishness over the well-being of his children, his family, and his friends. What could have been a long and prosperous career ended tragically.
I’m a strong believer in personal responsibility and choice. Assuming the reports of an overdose are true, Hoffman died at his own hand, there’s no doubt about that. However, the culture surrounding his peers cannot be brushed off. Addictions are hard enough to overcome, let alone those fought in streets of Hollywood where such illnesses are not only accepted, but glorified. I wish that more in the entertainment industry would learn to fight the prevailing cultural norms and reject the culture of drugs and immoral behavior rampant in Hollywood. Yet time and time again, we see celebrity after celebrity fall victim to addiction.
It’s easy to compartmentalize Hollywood; label it a morally corrupt cesspool and move along. Yet, I find it hard to believe that’s what we’re being called to do. Many of us will probably never be in Hollywood, won’t ever have the chance to minister or counsel to a Hollywood star, but to act as if Hollywood is something “other” that we can just push to the side is ignorant.
The bright lights of Hollywood magnify and amplify some of humanity’s deepest issues. And it certainly doesn’t help that drug use, promiscuity, and the like are praised by many whose names grace the Walk of Fame. Yet, celebrities are far from the only people who suffer from addictions and mental illness. As Christians, we are called to minister to those who are suffering and stumbling.
If you know anyone suffering from depression, addiction, or mental illness, reach out. Their names might never be up in bright lights or in the credits for an Oscar-winning film, but that doesn’t make their life worth any less.
It’s too late for Philip Seymour Hoffman. He exchanged the worldly pleasures of the flesh for his soul, but he’s certainly far from the only person to ever struggle in this way. If you have the option to minister to someone struggling with addiction, the time to act is now. Hoffman struggled in the spotlight with addiction, but many suffer in silence. Only the light of Jesus Christ and Christian compassion can light the way and persuade others to walk the path of life, not death.