Browsing through some news, a story came up claiming Shia LeBeouf’s “faith may not be like mine.” I was intrigued by this because, for some reason that will plague me until I die, I’m interested in how people view their own religious convictions. I was surprised to learn that the faith that Mr. LeBeouf apparently had was a faith in Christ.
Well, maybe it was Christian faith. And then again, there’s plenty of reason to think maybe it wasn’t. Which is more or less my point, here. Apparently I missed the story, but Mr. LeBeouf claims to have converted to Christianity while he was making some movie I’ve never heard of named “Fury”. You can read about it here, but before you click, I encourage you to finish this article.
After all, I don’t want to be a stumbling block for your faith. No, the stumbling block isn’t merely because the link is to Relevant Magazine (well, on second thought, let me think about that); but rather because in announcing to the world that he was a Christian, Mr. LeBeouf used some really terrible language.
As someone who has his struggles with the sin of bad language, I empathize with people who struggle with the sin. In fact, as a sinner who doesn’t deserve to be saved at all, I empathize with all struggles with sin. Also, as someone who made a ton of mistakes in my first few years in the faith, I can completely buy a scenario where Mr. LeBeouf is merely ignorant of the sinfulness of his sin and has many old habits of which the Holy Spirit has not yet convicted him. Surely, we can have grace with new and struggling Christians. Surely, we can remember that we have ‘nothing in our hand to bring, simply to the cross we cling.’
It is, however, when someone actively rejects a hatred for the sin they struggle with and make excuses for it, legitimate to question if they’re in the faith. One may drop a hammer, cry out various curse words and then later realize that their hearts are dark and they need Christ because of it. In doing so they may hate their sin even more and desire to be rid of “this body of death” because they love Christ. But when you’re announcing to the world that you’ve become a Christian and decide to use that kind of language… in a planned and deliberate statement, no less… I think it’s fair for believers to wonder if that person is really saved. I think it’s loving and prudent to introduce the idea that maybe they aren’t.
I don’t know if Mr. LeBeouf is saved. I do know that in that moment, ironically when he was confessing Christ, his actions looked like those of the world, not those of the elect. Maybe he hated himself later for it. Maybe he fell to his knees that night and wept for his sin. I hope so. Because if he didn’t and knows he should have… if he’s fine with it… he’s not saved.
Call me a judgemental if you wish, but that’s the truth.
Preston Sprinkle, the author of the faithit.com article I stumbled upon, tries to make it seem like a call to holiness for Mr. LeBeouf is judgement upon him and therefore wrong. He makes a LOT of assumptions about how God worked in the lives of the Apostles and presumes that their past in rough jobs and from sinful backgrounds would make them into gutter talkers and other worldly things as they went about preaching the Gospel. I disagree with him. I also don’t think that simply because someone is worked up about “mixed bathing” but not smoking, or someone else wears a head covering but drinks wine, that holiness and purity becomes fuzzy and we are better off not being clear about it. The truth is that reasonably objective people can read the Bible for themselves and clearly see the difference between preferential things that bother the conscience (like smoking or drinking) and things clearly labeled as sins (like fornication and swearing). The real danger Mr. Sprinkle seems to ignore is that treating sin like it is merely a different cultural more has much more potential to harm a Christian than treating a cultural more (like mixed bathing) as a sin. Both are wrong conclusions, yes, but in one you’re avoiding something you don’t need to avoid. In the other, you’re indulging something you shouldn’t indulge.
I will agree with Mr. Sprinkle that faith can be messy. But I say that it’s messy because WE are messy. The goal ought to be to make it less messy by making faith less about us. Shouldn’t we also at least acknowledge that a messy faith is messy, and that it is messy because it is sinful? At what point does the messiness become the substance and the faith become the illusion? Isn’t it true that this is possible? I would think Mr. Sprinkle would agree with me that we ought to have grace with people who make mistakes, particularly new Christians. But none of that means that it is good and right to ignore the worst because we want to assume the best.
A final thought: If Mr. LeBeouf hadn’t said those foul words and we all said that he was a fake Christian (because he was from Hollywood or some other stupid reason), the call would be to take him at face value and the criticism would be that we are reading into him what we want him to be. This would be a valid and good criticism. We ought not do that. But since he did say those foul words, the call is now to ignore the face value of what he said and the criticism is that we don’t read into him enough. The claim is that Mr. LeBeouf really has faith, it’s just messy. Welcome to post-modernism. I want no part of it. I’m happy to accept people at face value and not assume something about them I don’t know. To that end, there’s good reason to doubt the salvation of Mr. LeBeouf. Yet, as I type that, I recognize that I am not omniscient and the possibility exists that I am wrong.
I hope I am.