Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Denzel Washington tells it...

I was taking a little break from my prelims studying a few minutes ago to make some rice and gumbo to eat for the rest of the week, and I turned on NPR to listen to the news, while I was cooking. After the news, Fresh Air with Terry Gross came on. She was interviewing Denzel Washington about his new film The Great Debaters. You can listen to the interview here.

At one point in the interview (around time code 27:10) , she asks him about growing up with a father who was a Pentecostal pastor. Then she asked him if he still belonged to the church (Church of God in Christ [COGIC]), which he affirmed.

Terry Gross then says (around time code 29:00), "I'm wondering if that has even more meaning because you were so brought up in it... since your father---""
And he says, "No it has meaning because it has meaning. Because I believe in the scriptures. I'm a God fearing man who believes what he reads in the Bible, and that has meaning. The meaning that it has is the effect that it has on me, on him [his father] and has on thousands if not millions of other followers. It is our faith in God and our belief in these commandments and in the stories in the Bible...I've read the Bible a couple of times, and I'm working through it again.... I'm now in the book of Romans and listening to the examples and teachings of Paul. The perserverance and the faith that he had in spite of what he was up against... And I'm inspired by those teachings of Paul, of Luke, of all of the apostles, and the great leaders of the Old Testament, as well, obviously, Abraham, Moses..."

Later he says, (around 31:00) "You have to understand. Everything that I've done in my career, and hopefully in my life, is a reflection of my spiritual upbringing and cultivation. I'm not saying I've been an angel all my life. Heaven knows, I haven't.... But you learn. Because I had to go to church, I rebelled against the church, and probably many people out there have gone through that based on whatever negative experiences they may have had. But I can say this to you, whatever success I have, has been a direct result of my faith and the grace of God in my life. period. It's not hanging out with the right people, and it's not studying at some school, or training at some acting school. It's a gift from God, I recognize that. We all have it.

"So, the question is not what you have or what you're going to do with what you have, but recognizing that we all have that gift. It is the grace of God and the gift of God. For some it's acting. Some, it's radio. Whatever your ministry, as they say, is. Understand where it comes from and don't be ashamed of it. If you've had negative experiences in church, (because I'm talking about spirituality and not religion. You know, religion is where man gets ahold of it, and, Lord knows, that's where the problems begin), but if there is something still tugging at your heart, and you're not satisfied, and you feel that there is something there, there IS something there. And don't be ashamed or afraid to continue that search. It led me through all kinds of religions.... One of my favourite books is Siddhartha, you know Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, because it is the journey. And the journey has led me back to the Bible[....]"

Because I need to get back to my books, I won't transcribe the rest of the interview here, but it's a great listen. If you're interested, you can go to the website and listen to it.

What an unexpected blessing and encouragement in a long day of studying!
(And I'm planning to stay away from blogging for the next couple of weeks before my prelims, but I was so touched by this interview that I had to post.)
For the photo credit (Entertainment Weekly, 20-Dec-2002, DETAILS: Best of 2002 featuring Denzel Washington as Entertainer of the Year [photo by Norman Jean Roy]) and bio of the actor, see NNDB.


Fred said...

Thanks for posting this! I talked about it with my wife and she agreed: I despise the ideology of people like Terry Gross who think that it couldn't possibly be a valid, logical decision for an adult to believe in God; it had to have been crammed down our throats as children, brainwashed even.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

So what is it about the Denzel interview that you want us to take away: is it his spirituality in general or the evangelical affiliation? I mean are you saying you are what you are because you are evangelical or you are glad that Denzel has a pentacostal leanings like you?

Talatu-Carmen said...


Take away from the interview whatever you want to take away from it. This blog is where I express what I'm thinking and doing, and I posted it because it was meaningful to me--not because I have an agenda to "teach" a reader anything.

It was meaningful to me because I am a Christian. I am not Pentecostal, although the church i attend has its roots in the COGIC, and I am not necessarily evangelical in the sense that it has been bandied about recently in the press. I'm just a Christian, who alternately attends both a Catholic church and a Pentecostal church, and who was encouraged to see someone at the top of his field expressing his faith so openly and giving God the credit for so much of his success. I would likewise say DW didn't have an agenda in saying what he did in the interview. He was rather responding to Terry Gross's persistent questions and maintaining that his faith is not because he is just following the "tradition" of his parents, which she seemed to be trying to get him to say--but because he believes it is true and good and beautiful and has a real effect on the way he lives his life.

And, I hope that I would be brave enough to say the same thing in the same situation. I likewise give God the credit for any successes I have recieved in life. That's it, more or less.

What you take away from the interview is up to you,


Christian Writer said...

Dear TC, I couldn't have put it better to Anon myself. Why is it that when a Christian expresses a view, there has to be an agenda and when everyone else does it, they're just talking, having a discussion? Anyhoo, hope your exams went well. Glad to have you back in blogville.