The Academy Awards and the Shadow of Death

Posted on February 8, 2020


By David Ettinger

Note: I run this post every year at this time.


One Interesting Aspect
I haven’t watched the Academy Awards in quite a while, though I used to be quite the faithful enthusiast of the 3-plus-hour gala celebrating the year’s top films. However, as I get older, I find myself going to fewer movies as their offensive content disturbs me more and more. Subsequently, not seeing any of the nominated movies makes it a challenge to rouse interest in the Oscars. I will not be watching this Sunday’s telecast.

However, one aspect that always stuck out to me about Oscar telecasts is the In Memoriam portion, the tribute to those in the industry who died over the past year. In Memoriam includes luminous stars as well as those we never heard of, the ones who toiled faithfully for decades, but behind the camera. It is to the credit of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that they take the time to honor their dead on a night designed to glorify the living.

I wonder what kind of impact this part of the show has on audience members who sit in somber silence watching the litany of deceased megastars and obscure denizens of Tinseltown. Do they ever wonder about just where exactly the “In Memoriams” are at this moment? Do they ever meditate on the fact that one day the current crop of cinematic idols will be part of the In Memoriam?

Icons of Old

Humphrey Bogart

I love old movies, the classics, the big and prestigious titles such as Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Ben-Hur, and Singing in the Rain. I watch them several times a year and always enjoy them. However, there is something in me that can’t help thinking that every time I pop in a DVD, it is as if the ghosts of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles, and Gene Kelly are being resurrected for but a moment, do their thing on the TV, and then return to their eternal place of existence.

But what is that place? Where are Bogart and Bergman and Welles and Kelly now? Where are the souls of the newest In Memoriam inductees? And what about today’s stars who are destined for In Memoriam enshrinement: George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, and a bevy of others?

Of course, it all depends on what you believe. If you are an atheist, as many in Hollywood are, then the departed still live on in their movies, but their bodies are simply dust. For those with spiritual leanings, the In Memoriam contingent are now strutting their stuff in that great “Silver Screen in the Sky” – which is Hollywood-speak for Heaven.

Reality, Not Fiction

Ingrid Bergman

The Christian view, however, is more sobering. Jesus Christ asserted: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, italic added). The apostle Peter said: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, italic added). This is the message the world hates, that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

Salvation means the saving of the soul from eternal damnation. Faith in Christ (as per Romans 10:9 and Acts 16:31) is the only way to receive salvation. It cannot be earned; it can only be accepted from the One who offered it by dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

Technically, all souls have eternal life, it is just a matter of where eternity is spent – Heaven or Hell. However, when the Bible speaks of “life” or “eternal life,” it is always in the positive sense as in eternity with God in Heaven. This is the idea behind 1 John 5:11-12: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

This is about as simple and direct as it gets. The beloved apostle states it a bit differently in the Gospel named after him: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Orson Welles

Ultimately, this daunting reality – this shadow of death – is what makes watching the Academy Awards so difficult for me. What did all those In Memoriams believe at the moment of death? What of the spiritual state at the time of death of Bogart, Bergman, Welles, and Kelly? Yes, they “live” now on DVD or digitally, but where are their souls? It all depends on what they did with Jesus Christ.

Your In Memoriam
We who love the Lord Jesus Christ must always view those we come in contact with as eternal souls, not mere lumps of flesh, and we must present to them the eternal message of a living Savior who came into the world to free them from their sins.

Men and women are born sinners and destined for eternal judgment. Only God can save men and women from their destiny. Jesus Christ is God and He died on the cross for the very purpose of saving sinful humanity. Men and women can only be saved by trusting in Jesus Christ and accepting His free gift of salvation, a salvation that is in Christ alone.

One day you will have your own In Memoriam. Do you know where your soul will be when that day comes?