* Photo: Harry Wad
Hollywood breeds all kinds of people, but not all are like Denzel Washington. He is one of the most successful and well respected actors in the business.
Denzel won Academy Awards for ‘Glory’ in 1989 and ‘Training Day‘ in 2001. He is careful how he selects his roles from prophet in ‘The Book of Eli’ to hero train driver in ‘Unstoppable.’ This is important to him because he knows that actors are subject to constant scrutiny from the public both on and off screen.
Denzel is also one of Hollywood’s highest profile Christians. He is the son of a Pentecostal minister from New York, and has been a keen member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ for over 30 years. Sticking to the good habits he was brought up with, he continues to read his Bible daily. When it comes to his work, Denzel chooses roles that he can develop into some kind of positive message.
In the 2010 movie ‘The Book of Eli’ Denzel plays a powerful prophet, an Elijah type character who is the keeper of the most sought after book on a post apocalyptic earth, The Bible. Unlike the peaceful messengers of the New Testament, Eli wealds all kinds of weapons with Schwartzenegger like prowess and the power of an Old Testament prophet. His character has received a divine directive to protect the earth’s last remaining copy of the Bible and he has been anointed with supernatural powers to help him to defeat various villains and to keep the good book safe until he is able to deliver it to the next guardian. Like a Sampson or a Joab, he is a warrior and at times uses considerable violence to accomplish his task and defeat his enemies. His character only begins to soften when he meets Mila, a young girl who needs protection just as much as his Bible. Talking about the movie, Denzel said,
“The ultimate message of Eli is to do more for others than you would do for yourself. We prayed about everything, everyday, and we always ended with ‘Amen. God is love.‘”
Denzel is not embarrassed to talk openly about his Christian faith. He openly declared,
“I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,”
And, being from a pentecostal background, he is open about his reliance on the Holy Spirit.
“I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit. I know he is real. I was in the room. My cheeks blew up, I cried like a baby, and it scared me to death. I backed up and went the other direction, to be honest with you. I didn’t know what was going on. It was too strong. It has taken me many years to come back around.”
But come back around he certainly has. He was sitting in his house reading the Bible one day when he came across a passage about wisdom and understanding in Proverbs 4, which made him reflect on his life.
“I’m in this big house with all this stuff, but you can’t take it with you! The Egyptians tried; they got robbed. I said, ‘What do you want, Denzel?’ And one of the devotional words that day was wisdom. So I started praying on that. ‘God, give me a dose of that.’ I can’t get any more successful. But I can get better. I can learn to love more. I can learn to be more understanding. I can gain more wisdom.”
Denzel believes in prophetic calling and believes that can be a call to acting just as much as a call to be an evangelist. The worldwide fame that has come with his job gives him countless opportunities to shine his light. Back in March 1975, Denzel had just been kicked out of school. He was sitting in his mother’s hair salon when an elderly Christian lady asked him for a piece of paper, on which she wrote the word ‘prophecy.’ She said to him,
“Boy, you are going to travel the world and speak to millions of people!”
Many years later he asked his minister if he thought he was called to be a priest. The minister reminded him that in a way he already was! The pastor said,
“Aren’t you talking to millions of people? Haven’t you traveled the world?”
The answer is of course ‘yes’. Denzel has a unique position and is able to share positive messages through acting, and to tell people about God’s love for them. In an interview with Reader’s Digest he said,
“It ain’t about me. I’ve been given certain abilities, and I look at it this way. What are you going to do with what you have? Who are you going to lift up?”
Denzel Washington has starred in over 40 Hollywood movies including Unstoppable, The Equaliser, Deja Vu, The Book of Eli, The Magnificent Seven, American gangsters, Inside Man, The Manchurian candidate, The Bone Collector, Glory, Training Day, The Pelican Brief and Cry Freedom.
Story by Ralph Burden
* Photo of Denzel with Ann Hathaway at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize concert by Harry Wad