Monday, October 24, 2011


Let me make it clear that Robert Downey is not my favorite actor or character.  Neither is Mel Gibson.  But there is something rather remarkable here in the story of what Mel Gibson did for Robert Downey, Jr, and what Robert Downey, Jr, did for Mel Gibson.  It does speak to the issue of confession and forgiveness, of the power of repentance, and the redemption of the fallen.  Now I am not applying religious dimensions to this story -- I cannot see into the heart -- but I do believe that if God can speak through the jaw bone of an ass, he can speak through a couple of Hollywood types and give us a brief and passing and incomplete glimpse of the greater good that happens to us and for us in Christ.

Last night at the 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award Ceremony, which was honoring Robert Downey Jr., the Iron Man actor asked Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson. Gibson was invited onstage to present Downey Jr. with the prestigious award, since, in the words of Garry Shandling, “The Cinematheque was concerned a bit about Robert’s checkered past, so they chose someone to present the award who could help balance that out and the choice was so obvious, Mel Gibson.”

Gibson spoke kindly of the star, who he famously helped to make a comeback by paying Downey Jr.’s insurance bond so he could star in 2003′s The Singing Detective. “You are my friend,” Gibson said. “When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, ‘There’s nothing so much wrong with him.’” Gibson explained, “You’re a good dude with a good heart.”

During Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech, he had even kinder words for Gibson. “I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason,” he said. “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”

He continued, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume, at the time, he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong --------- industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”

Now, do not write about how both of these men are still flawed and frail human beings.  That they are.  I do not raise them up as examples of anything but I heard something there that surprised me.  Could it be that the story here is not about flawed and failed men but about the power of repentance and restoring the fallen?  Hmmmmm there are probably a ton of sermons already being written about this little event.  I am not writing one of them but I am surprised... Something to think about, for sure.


Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

At the least it is an example of two friends sticking up for one another publicly. So often celebrities and public figures distance themselves from people they call friends when they're in trouble to protect their own livelyhoods and meager reputations. For Downey to even use the word forgiveness is remarkable. It is scarecly practiced among Christians nowdays, and in our 21st century western culture an utterly foreign concept.

Anonymous said...

Downey considers himself a Jewish-
Buddhist and Gibson is a conservative
Roman Catholic. Gibson helped
finance Downey when he got out of
prison. Both have been married twice. This relationship between
Gibson and Downey is based on

Anonymous said...

Downey is a Buddhist?

*Sigh* Add his name to the growing list of celebrity Buddhists......

Do you have to become a Buddhist in order to do meditation and relaxation exercises????

What, exactly is the appeal?