I found out about Restore Stephen Baldwin — an online effort to undo the effects of Mr. Baldwin’s bankruptcy and theoretically restore his Christian influence in Hollywood — a week ago or so. At first, it all seemed like a joke, or even worse, a scam (an impression aided by the website’s awkward, spam e-mail-ish copy). But apparently, it’s the real deal, and has even received endorsements by such luminaries as Movieguide’s Ted Baehr.
There are so many things that are wrong with this restoration, but Rod Dreher sums them up nicely:
Look, I’m sorry that actor Stephen Baldwin is bankrupt, but this whole Restore Stephen Baldwin campaign is the né plus ultra of Evangelical cheesiness.
Baldwin is the D-list actor who became a born-again Christian in 2002. But he got into financial trouble, and is now deeply in debt. Now this coterie of Baldwin supporters, who claim to be operating independent from the Massapequa thespian, are trying to raise money to get him out of bankruptcy. Well, look, I’d love it too if I went bankrupt, and my friends rallied to help me out. But what they’re doing here is Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey crazy.
…I doubt the poor choices that led to S. Baldwin’s bankruptcy had anything to do with God, and had everything to do with, you know, spending more money than he had coming in. Well, that, and the fact that — oops! — the Born-Again Baldwin neglected to pay over a million dollars in state and federal taxes, according to his bankruptcy filing.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that S. Baldwin was the greatest actor since young Brando — I know, I know, but let’s pretend — but his acting jobs evaporated after he came out as a born-again Christian. That would be tragedy, but worse things have happened to people. But guess what? Stephen Baldwin could have gotten a regular job like anybody else. Would it have killed him to work at Costco? That would have been honorable; having your friends beg publicly for money to restore you to celebrity income status is shameful and pathetic.
Dreher has also posted some excellent follow-up thoughts here:
One reason the Restore Stephen Baldwin nonsense bothers me so much is that it gets to something that bothers me to the marrow about religious culture, and it’s this: that religious people have a weakness for disguising ordinary crappy human behavior with a spiritual mask, thus granting it legitimacy.
Stephen Baldwin’s bankruptcy cannot, therefore, be a matter of a spendthrift celebrity who wanted a lifestyle he couldn’t afford, and who didn’t pay his taxes. Rather, his suffering has to be seen by some as a matter of “spiritual warfare,” thus disarming people from within the Christian community from dealing with the situation as it really is. I am reminded of three incidents from my own experience, one benign, the other malicious, the third downright evil.
Via Jeffrey Overstreet, who’s also posted some thoughts on the debacle.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.