From his first meeting at NBC studios in 1979 when Larry Poland observed a verbal attack by a young evangelical pastor on a network executive, he’s been concerned by the warfare between his people, evangelicals, and the leaders of media. Drawing on his years of experience consulting quietly inside Hollywood and New York media, he explains the huge gulf between the worldviews, personal values, spiritual perspectives, and attitudes of evangelicals and those holding global media power and influence. From the animus that is felt on both sides to discredit, marginalize, and malign the other, Poland cuts to the heart of the differences. He analyzes how those on both sides “play dirty” in the fight, and he proposes some solutions that could bring rapprochement. With obvious commitment to balance and good humor, Poland focuses attention on what may well be at the heart of the culture war. His real-life stories illustrate his points with fascination.
Despite it’s ponderous subtitle—“Crossing the Divide Between Hollywood & People of Faith”—“Chasm” is a quick and interesting read. Dr. Larry Poland gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at various points of intersection with Hollywood and people of faith. Historically, the relationship between the two communities has been almost entirely adversarial.
Dr. Poland breaks the history of the relationship into three segments: 1900-1950, when the attitude from the faith community toward Hollywood was “isolate and condemn,” when movies were labeled as sin and were to be avoided; 1950-1970 were the years of “separate but equal” following the advent of television, and the attitude was “if you can’t beat em, join em;” this was the beginning of “Christian” movies and “Christian” TV; 1970-2000 was the period of what Poland labels “anger strategies.” This was the era of boycotts, protests and hate mail—from people of faith—and it was largely unproductive.
Dr. Poland is hopeful that going forward there can be something new. He sees the chasm like any other broken relationship, and recommends the action steps for healing that Jesus outlines in the New Testament. Poland himself is torn between hope and despair that a profound shift is even possible, and yet, “If an avalanche of good will could begin to flow between America’s moral conservatives and gatekeepers of the nation’s entertainment and information industries, incredible good could be accomplished. Enlightened media could inspire, inform, edify, encourage, and heal billions around the planet. The vast resources of an additional 150 million people or more supporting rather than fighting the advancement of responsible media would be awe-inspiring.” This is a valuable look at Hollywood, people of faith, and how they can come together.