Responding To The Tragic Passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman


Philip Seymour Hoffman
1967 – 2014
Image Credit: Wikipedia

There are a lot of articles out there that start with some variation of, “When I learned of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death I …” which is then followed up with a variation of, “and then when I found out how he died, my heart broke.”

Of course I can only say ditto. I loved Mr. Hoffman’s work as an actor. His legacy in acting is phenomenal. To hear he died of a heroin overdose, and in an incredibly sad all-to-real scene … simply heart breaking. While the spotlight is on the issue because Mr. Hoffman was an actor, this type of scene happens many times a day, every day.

Unfortunately many religious folks I have seen online, once again, used this as an opportunity to bash unbelievers, bash the media, bash Hollywood, and try to scare people into the kingdom of God.

As if any of that ever truly had some positive impact.

Exactly one week after Mr. Hoffman’s death, with a picture of Hoffman prominently topping the article, Doug Giles with snipes, “Do Stars Who Self-Destruct Bypass Hell Because They Entertained Us?” The article is basically Mr. Giles ranting about the media honoring Mr. Hoffman and wondering if somehow “hell” has been closed to people of “BS professions.” Mr. Giles shares that he too had struggled with addiction but his rant was insulting and will only serve to boost web traffic to his site, not lead scare people to Christ.

I wrote the following (edited slightly) to the person who sent the TownHall article to me:

I thought the article by Mr. Giles was opportunistic, harsh, and very insensitive. I think it is imposing the writers personal experience on Hoffman. Theological issues are one thing. There is a time and place for that. But beating up a dead man because he was a celebrity, and the media taking the time to honor his work, is indulgent snark. …

Later this afternoon, I got an email from Q ideas (their newsletter list) with a far more compassionate article concerning Mr. Hoffman’s death. I Should Be Philip Seymour Hoffman by Blaine Hogan (Blaine Hogan is an actor who was on the “Prison Break” series.) Mr. Hogan provides some interesting background on Mr. Hoffman. He also shares his own personal story of becoming an actor and dealing with his own addiction. Then Mr. Hogan asks these important questions, and exhortation:

How can the church and those who lead it care for the souls of the artists on their stages and behind the scenes more than they care for the ways their work enriches their congregations?

To care for artists—as with everyone—we must move toward a more holistic and integrated view of the soul. One of my favorite books, Understanding the Enneagram, says it like this: “Psychology without spirituality is arid and ultimately meaningless, while spirituality without grounding in psychological work leads to vanity and illusions.”

No longer can we stand by watching artists perform brilliantly while their hearts are breaking—and certainly the church should be leading the charge in this type of soul care.

Click through here to read Mr. Hogan’s full article. I am not sure I agree with weighting psychology and spirituality as the same. Jesus never said we needed a therapist. Even so, I would never argue against someone talking with a trusted professional counselor. God has used professional therapy to radically change my life for the better.

I don’t believe in coincidence. To receive both of these articles in my inbox, today, caught my attention. Both writers are men who have bravely addressed their own personal addictions. However, Mr. Giles imposes his experience and uses this tragic situation to lash out, demean what he calls “BS profession(s)”, and place his unnecessary burden on other people. Whereas Mr. Hogan takes the issue personally and leads the Church into honoring the arts. He asks questions that actually might save, preserve, life.

One man wonders why the unbelieving world doesn’t believe in hell (as if they should? … you know… as unbelievers?), while the other is seeking to save lives by bringing the issue “home” to the church. I think I will stick with the life-giving guy who is interested in the common good and practical answers.

The overall point; religious activists have misused and abused the unbelieving world’s tragedies for their own out working of angst, power, and attention seeking. It is time to distance ourselves from such unloving behavior (not even be negatively entertained by them) and choose to listen to people like Mr. Hogan and follow through with the life-giving dialog/thinking into real tangible action.

All the while, Hoffman’s partner Mimi O’Donnell and their three children are no doubt still crying every day for their tragic loss. We must take time to pray for, care about, his surviving family and loved ones who are deeply grieving.

It is important to talk about the issues this situation represents. However that discussion serves zero good if it is purposefully insulting our community, dehumanizing a great actor, and forgetting about those who love him.

RandyResponding To The Tragic Passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman

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