Mike Pence, Woody Harrelson and Me.
On May 9, 2018, actor Woody Harrelson joined Jimmy Kimmel for an episode of his show.
Jimmy asked Woody about his time at Hanover College and his relationship with current Vice President Mike Pence, who was a student there as well. (Here’s a link to the 3:00 minute clip: http://bit.ly/2k5Ksig)
Woody said, “I knew him, yeah. We were both very religious. It was a Presbyterian college at the time, and I was there on a Presbyterian scholarship, and he was involved with the church activities. I was actually considering being a minister and then I just kind of went a different way...I actually quite liked him. I thought he was a pretty good guy. He's, you know, very religious. Very committed.”
Later, Woody concedes his skepticism was a hurdle to a potential calling as a minister.
"I started to see how man made the Bible was and then I started saying, 'I could put this whole thing on hold for a while...Let's just put this whole idea on hold so I can have twenties and thirties of extreme hedonism."
And at the end of the interview, he acknowledges his spiritual views evolved over the last few decades: “I do believe there is a God, but that, ironically, came by reading the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Either Yogananda is what he appears to be, a man of integrity, or just a phony and a fraud. If he’s telling the truth, then there is a God.”
Here’s what I find intriguing: Woody’s primary concern with the Bible is that it was made by men. Yet, he readily acknowledges that Yognanda’s work was man-made. For Harrelson, Yogananda gets the benefit of the doubt, but the leaders of the Nicean Council do not. Why?
I haven’t met Harrelson, so I won’t attempt to speculate on his criteria for determining which concepts are spiritually legitimate.
I appreciate Woody’s candor. I applaud his admission that his motivation to reject his understanding of orthodox Christianity is because he didn’t want to live by its tenets. He readily acknowledges he wanted to pursue a few decades of “extreme hedonism.”
Woody Harrelson admits what many of us won’t.
“I reject this faith system, not necessarily because I can’t believe it,
but because I don’t want to.”
I think one of the most honest statements we can make in our doubt is:
“Even if my intellectual questions were answered, I still wouldn’t do this. It doesn’t look like fun to me.”
More often than not, my faith struggles aren’t conundrums of logic, there are questions of trust.
Do I trust God wants good for me?
That God desires joy for me, albeit on God’s terms, not my own?
That God honors sacrifice and faith?
That God transforms suffering?
That God offers peace and walks with me in my pain?
If the answer is “no”, then no version of the gospel feels like good news.
If the answer is “yes,” then a single day of extreme hedonism will fail to deliver that which my soul truly craves.