Mr. Matthew McConaughey was awarded the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar Sunday night for his performance in the AIDS-themed movie Dallas Buyer's Club. Almost immediately his acceptance speech sent social media ablaze with condemnation. Why? Because he talked about God too much. Or, he did not talk about God the right way. Or, the fact that he was thanking God for opportunities that may have included acting in raunchy movies.
I am no particular Matthew McConaughey fan. A Time To Kill was a decent turn, though Samuel L. Jackson carried that movie and the supporting cast was very strong. I will never see Magic Mike. I have only seen parts of Sahara, but–cards on the table here–McConaughey will never get my attention when sharing the screen with Penelope Cruz.
In fact I know more about Matt Damon's spot-on impersonation of McConaughey than about McConaughey himself.
Which brings us back to his speech. Part motivational talk, part reminiscence, part gratitude, part strange, it was certainly no further off the rails than most. In a year of decent, on point speeches, it could have been much worse.
But, there was this part about God. Said McConaughey:
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this-all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn't see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.
There's a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. 'Cause that's who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, "When you've got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you."
Listen, I have no idea at all what that last part means. I doubt MM does either.
Here are a few thoughts.
Only Matthew McConaughey knows where he is on his spiritual journey. I know not whether MM is a new believer, a seeker, someone returning to faith or just someone acknowledging a God he knows nothing about. Until he talks about it at length all of us are guessing. Since we are guessing a little grace is in order.
Christian apologist Lee Strobel tweeted this 2007 picture of MM reading The Case for Christ.
@Lee Strobel "Here's Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey reading my book Case for Christ while working out.
He spoke of God in personal rather than philosophical terms. "That's who I look up to." "He has graced my life." "He has shown me." These are personal terms. However incomplete his expressed theology, McConaughey is no deist. His "confession" was more aligned with the Bible than the vague, generic "I'd like to thank God, my mom, and my 3rd grade art teacher" kinds of acknowledgements common to such scenarios.
Jesus showed grace to people who were humble, i.e., who didn't have it all figured out yet.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, but Jesus dealt with him differently than other Pharisees. Jesus conversed with Him in a way that expressed hope and salvation because Nicodemus was seeking truth.
On multiple occasions Jesus publicly rebuked Pharisees and other religious leaders because of their obstinate disobedience. The longer His ministry continued the more strident His rebukes became. Sections of Matthew 22 and 23 are utterly crushing.
There is a reason it was prophesied of Jesus, "He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick" (Isa. 42:3). He lifts the damaged and strengthens the lame.
If McConaughey is a believer his speed of sanctification is not up to us. I'm hopeful that Mr. McConaughey has accepted–or is near accepting–Christ. If he is a young believer I would expect 1) exuberance over God (which he demonstrated) and 2) missteps (which he has perhaps demonstrated in choices of roles). I am an old believer and I still demonstrate both. Sadly, some of my "missteps" are giant steps in the wrong direction with full knowledge beforehand. If growth in Christ is like a 21-speed bike some are in first gear, some in 20th, and some are trying to get the chain back on. Perhaps McConaughey, like many, has water on his brakes or is struggling up a hill while some coast down the other side.
Jonathan Witt writes the McConaugheys have been seen in church together both near their home in Austin and while attending the Cannes Film Festival.
Wait. What? They went to church while on vacation? That vaults them far ahead of many Christians I know.
Many Christians cannot be pleased. If MM had not talked about God, it would have been, "Those godless actors are just full of themselves." If he had given praise to Allah or Shiva: "Pagan." If a woman professed Christ but had a plunging neckline: "Tramp. How dare she talk about God while dressed like a whore??"
In most cases all you have to do as a Christian to please unbelievers is live what you say you believe. If you have found the secret to pleasing believers, you need to write a book. You'll be retired in a week.
The longer I live the happier I am that the One who knows me the best loves me with an everlasting love and, because of Christ, declares me righteous. I pray Matthew McConaughey, if he has not already, soon finds the joy God's eternal love and grace will bring.