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Hollywood Faith

Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church

Gerardo Marti

Publication Year: 2008

In Christianity, as with most religions, attaining holiness and a higher spirituality while simultaneously pursuing worldly ideals such as fame and fortune is nearly impossible. So how do people pursuing careers in Hollywood's entertainment industry maintain their religious devotion without sacrificing their career goals? For some, the answer lies just two miles south of the historic center of Hollywood, California, at the Oasis Christian Center. In Hollywood Faith, Gerardo Marti shows how a multiracial evangelical congregation of 2,000 people accommodates itself to the entertainment industry and draws in many striving to succeed in this harsh and irreverent business. Oasis strategically sanctifies ambition and negotiates social change by promoting a new religious identity as "champion of life"-an identity that provides people who face difficult career choices and failed opportunities a sense of empowerment and endurance.The first book to provide an in-depth look at religion among the "creative class," Hollywood Faith will fascinate those interested in the modern evangelical movement and anyone who wants to understand how religion adapts to social change.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Contents

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pp. ix-

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Situated on a busy street in metropolitan Los Angeles, and with most of its congregation participants in the film business, the Oasis Christian Center strategically interacts with the Hollywood entertainment industry and negotiates social change by providing a religious identity as overcomer and champion that anchors its members’ difficult career choices and failed opportunities. By focusing on...

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Chapter 1: Introduction: Negotiating Holiness and Hollywood

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pp. 1-20

Grauman’s Chinese Theater is the symbolic center of Hollywood, but less than two miles south on Wilshire Boulevard sits Destiny Theater, the art deco–style home of the Oasis Christian Center. The theater is several blocks from the famous Walk of Fame, sidewalks dotted with more than two thousand star-shaped plaques bearing the bronze-engraved names of celluloid celebrities, radio...

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Chapter 2: The Making of a Star: Hollywood as Destination and Dream

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pp. 21-38

Outside Destiny Theater on Wilshire Boulevard, Jesus Christ’s Hollywood star sits unobtrusively, a bit worn and easy to miss. The star rests among several icons of the Hollywood entertainment industry—less than twenty feet from a refurbished United Artists movie house, less than two hundred yards from the offices of the Hollywood Reporter, less than two miles from the newly built home...

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Chapter 3: Love and Hate between Hollywood and Christianity

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pp. 39-60

On the hills of the Cahuenga Pass, the corridor connecting the city of Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley along the 101 Hollywood Freeway, stands a white cross. At night, the solitary lighted cross is impossible to ignore, a clear and unyielding brightness against a vast canopy of black. The cross commemorates the life of Christine Witherhill Stevenson, heiress to the Pittsburgh Paint...

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Chapter 4: Save the World, Starting in Hollywood

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pp. 61-86

Jesus’ Hollywood star installed in front of Destiny Theater represents a bold attempt to reclaim the entertainment industry for sacred purposes. But it is not the only one. Oasis Christian Center is part of an informal network to reform and redeem Hollywood. Until the 1970s, it was unimaginable that one could be a conservative Christian and work in the Hollywood industry. In 1923, evangelist Jack Linn echoed...

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Chapter 5: Celebrity, Heartache, and the Pressure to Make It

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pp. 87-104

Back in 1924, a Hollywood minister wrote: “The lure of the screen brings thousands of girls and boys to Hollywood from every part of the world. They come at a constant stream from cities and villages and countryside of America and Europe, come with dreams of fortune and fame, wholly ignorant to what awaits them and destined to disillusionment if not utter failure and shame” (Lindvall...

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Chapter 6: Religion: Playing at a Theater Near You

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pp. 105-129

From the beginning, Oasis included attenders from the entertainment industry. Philip Wagner had started dating Holly in 1984 when he was invited to teach a Bible study in the Beverly Hills home of a successful producer. The study took place in a spacious room displaying an Oscar on the mantel, a quiet, powerful presence impossible to ignore. Proclaiming the success and prestige of a talented celebrity, the Oscar was a source of pride and envy. This icon represented...

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Chapter 7: Fade to Black

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pp. 130-153

Oasis conducts its ministries with the intent of resolving the tensions inherent in the world of work for those in the entertainment industry in much the same way the black church historically has resolved the tensions inherent in the world of work for African Americans (see Frazier 1974; Myrdal 1944; Anthony Pinn 2002; Pinn and Pinn 2002). Indeed, it conducts its ministry in a way that connects with...

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Chapter 8: Becoming Champions of Life

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pp. 154-176

How can Oasis confidently and aggressively send out ambitious workers to succeed in the materialistic, exploitative, profit-driven, and image-conscious culture of the entertainment industry? The answer lies in understanding that the religious identity formed at Oasis does not thrust forward individuals as autonomous workers but with a corporate identity that radically binds them with a deep sense of commonality and solidarity with other struggling Christians who...

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Chapter 9: Conclusion: Religion in the Era of Identity Commodification

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pp. 177-192

Oasis is a church that celebrates achievement and autonomy in the workforce, one that matches the popular ideal of literate, more educated, capitalistically inspired workers who wish to throw off concerns of structural inequality in the belief that ultimately, with the help of God, their effort and talent will pay off . These workers believe in a God-empowered meritocracy. Yet the goal for a...

Appendix: Research Methodology

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pp. 193-200

Notes

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pp. 201-207

Bibliography

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pp. 209-227

Index

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pp. 229-234

About the Author

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pp. 235-


E-ISBN-13: 9780813545639
E-ISBN-10: 0813545633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813543482
Print-ISBN-10: 0813543487

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 3 photographs
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and culture -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Religion.
  • Church work.
  • Ethnicity -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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