Reviewed by Susan E. Morris
An insightful memoir that explores Hollywood from a Christian’s perspective
Whether you’re a young person hoping to find a place on the silver screen or a seasoned Hollywood professional seeking God, or simply curious about what goes on behind the scenes, this story is for you.
Nathan Clarkson’s Finding God in Hollywood offers an insightful study for anyone looking for an exploration of Christianity in showbusiness.
Combining memoir and evangelism, the book is a fast and engaging read with many stories from within the industry.
Clarkson notes: “I’ve been a pyschopath, a high school jock, a college nerd, a mental ward patient, a doctor, a pastor, a frat boy, a cop, a cowboy, an intern, a vigilante, a cult member, a robber, a boy band member, a biker thug, a soldier, a guy next door… and that’s just on screen.”
The chapters follow Clarkson on a lifetime’s journey from a youth spent loving God and seeing the world through a lens of hopefulness to years of study while dreaming about becoming an actor.
Clarkson eventually chased his dream to Hollywood, where he met Hollywood’s hard realities and became disillusioned by the picture-perfect world portrayed on the screen. Aspiring actors often have ample reasons to lose hope. What’s most intriguing about Clarkson’s story is the grit it takes to stick it out through the hard times and the thoughtful way he approaches life.
A lot can be learned from reading closely as Clarkson compares the careful guidance of his acting teacher to the gentle leading hand of a loving creator or when he explains how he used the “Yes, and…” technique of improv acting to pull himself through hard times.
Many of the chapters focus on his experiences in Hollywood and provides unique visions of how circumstances can be approached with a love for God at the forefront.
The book is written in a winning and approachable style. Humorous and insightful quotes are included at the start of each chapter and set a tone for the reader’s experience as a whole. While Clarkson often discusses deep subjects, he frequently does so from an open, forthright, and down-to-earth perspective that makes his writing easy to connect with.
At times, his enthusiastic evangelism may turn off less zealous readers with simple fixes to life’s hardships captured in directives like “So, go to your creator and find healing, peace, acceptance, and love.”
However, those are minor points in light of the overall picture. Clarkson’s approach is far and away rational and relatable, and he offers an interesting critique of Christian Fundamentalism. He evaluates how an obsession with “modesty, temperance, and moralism” allowed Hollywood to win an early battle against conservative values and set the stage for even more liberal portrayals in film. However, the most compelling aspects of the critique can get a bit lost when the solution offered is oversimplified, relying on turning to God so He can fix it. Still, it offers interesting commentary not just about how things got to be how they are but also about modern megachurches and theological movies.
The issues are complex, and while this book doesn’t seek to remedy them, it offers hope and guidance to Christians desiring a career in Hollywood and the details of what goes on behind the curtains.
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