I felt betrayed when Matthew McConaughey launched into a praise God! acceptance speech after he won the Oscar for Best Actor last night.
"First off I want to thank God, because that's who I look up to. He's graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand," the 44-year-old Texas native said. "He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, who said, 'When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you.'"
McConaughey then went on to show his appreciation for his wife, children, mother and late father.
"To my father, I know he's up there right now with a big pot of gumbo, he's got a lemon meringue pie, he's probably up there in his underwear, he's got a cold can of Miller lite and he's dancing right now," he continued.
Hmmmm. There are two references to know in McConaughey's quoted remarks.
Supposedly he knows that the opportunites in his life are the result of God's grace. And he knows that his deceased father is in heaven with a pot of gumbo and a lemon meringue pie. Plus, his dead father is drinking beer and dancing (in celebration of his son's Oscar, I assume).
Of course McConaughey actually doesn't know either of these things. He believes they are true; he wishes them to be true; he hopes they are true. But he doesn't know they are true.
I would have responded more favorably to his acceptance speech if he'd been heavier on the honesty and lighter on the dogmatism.
There would have been nothing wrong with saying, "It makes me feel good to imagine that my father is in heaven right now, celebrating with a beer and some gumbo." After all, this is the truth. McConaughey, like other religious people, enjoys believing that death isn't the end of his connection with deceased relatives.
They're still alive on another plane of existence. One day they will be reunited with the living through God's love and grace.
It's a nice story. I completely understand why Christians like McConaughey embrace it. I just wish that atheism was as socially acceptable in the United States as religious belief. (Among the Hollywood Oscar audience, it probably is, but not many places elsewhere.)
Here's my view of a refreshingly honest acceptance speech:
I want to thank my father for everything he did for me. I still love my dad, even though he is dead and gone. Since he no longer exists, my father can't hear these words. I wish he could, but my father taught me the difference between fiction and fact. So when I point my finger to the sky and say, "thank you, dad," I'm pointing to my memory of a man who helped me face reality as it is, not as how I'd like it to be. Because of him, I'm a better actor, and a better person. Godless, and better for it.