Hope for Hollywood

  • October 10, 2008
{mosimage}In Hollywood, the mission field is as fertile as the wheat fields in Saskatchewan — or so you might hear from Mark Matthews, the founder of Bibles and Brew.

Bibles and Brew is a group of about 15 men who meet bi-weekly in the throes of Hollywood culture to discuss what it means to be Catholic and to support each other in the faith.
“There is a real need for the call to holiness,” Matthews, 32, told The Catholic Register. “Down here, in the thick of Hollywood, life feels really big. There is a lot of goodness riding on ego and the pursuit of self has become really strong.”

Matthews, who is from Saskatoon, moved to Los Angeles to work for Dreamworks as a research and development engineer in 2006. You might have glimpsed his name on the credits of a movie or two.

However, Matthews said he has it easy working on family entertainment, because for many of the men in Bibles and Brew, the story isn’t as rosy.

“I feel bad for the actors because it seems like a lot of the lower entry level roles (in Hollywood) are questionable,” he said. “There are a lot of situations that can be compromising.”

As example, he cites a friend who was working as a copy editor for an advertising company.

“After a while, he realized it was deceptive and went back to a lower-paying job just to pay the bills and we were there to support him,” he said. “It is really hard to get work (in Hollywood), but every guy had a story about something they had to turn down.”

In Hollywood, he said, bad content is reflective of bad ideas, from people who have not encountered the truth. The desire to share the Christian truth is one reason for his initiative, which first used a faith study format he had led before as a campus missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach at Carleton University in Ottawa.

But in a creative twist, he encourages people to take turns in providing the “brew” of choice for that session — whether it be tea, coffee, even beer.

Lately, the  group has been studying Wild at Heart, a book about discovering authentic masculinity as a Christian — although it makes a point of discussing the book through a Catholic lens.

Matthews is quick to emphasize that the hope for Hollywood is strong, as is evident in other Catholic and Christian programs taking root or continuing to grow. This includes Catholic Underground, a recent monthly initiative which has offered talks and eucharistic adoration; Act One, a program which offers professional and spiritual training to Christians pursuing careers in mainstream film and television since 1999; and Hollywood Project, an initiative that aims to pull together existing Catholic efforts in Hollywood and establish a committed ministry presence from the church.

Matthews met several of his Bibles and Brew comrades, including aspiring director Joshua Kingdon, through another venue, Family Theatre Productions, which hosts several outreach projects for Catholics as well.

Kingdon, who said he particularly enjoys the fellowship that Bibles and Brew has created, said that faith in the midst of Hollywood needs to increasingly be addressed.

“Wherever you go, faith is an issue,” Kingdon said. “I think there is a greater need for evangelization in Hollywood because of the social and cultural reach that TV and media has.”

Kingdon said meeting strong Catholics in Hollywood helped inspire him to develop a teachings series last year for people in Hollywood on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with reflections and points from Catholic writer Christopher West. Kingdon incorporated movie clips that illustrate the points discussed.

“As an artist, you’re searching for the truth and as a Catholic you’re searching for God, who is the truth,” he said. “As an artist, your Catholic faith should enhance you.”

George Sarah, an established musician and composer who recently composed music for parts of the Beijing Olympics ceremonies, has also participated in Bibles and Brew.

“Mark is a super cool guy and he is so solid in his faith, which is important,” he said.

Sarah said he became a baptized Catholic nearly a year before meeting Matthews. He experienced a miraculous cure which led him to a radical conversion from atheism.

“I think he’s doing a great thing and he makes sure (the faith study) stays on the right track,” Sarah said.

Sarah added that as Matthews had said, there is hope in Hollywood, evident in all sorts of productions, including Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the TV series Joan of Arcadia and a more recent movie production called Henry Poole Is Here.

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