To speak of God without irony is foreign to Hollywood. It is simply not done, particularly if you carry your fan base in your heart and want to come across as a suave sophisticate to a significant portion of humankind.
Which is why Matthew McConaughey’s Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech Sunday night stands out for its outrageous courage and candor.
“First off, I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to,” said the 44-year-old “Dallas Buyer’s Club” actor. “He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, ‘When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you.’”
Strident atheists may have left McConaughey alone had the actor not included the words “… it’s a scientific fact …” in his speech. But they must be fuming (evidenced by the uproar in the Twitter-world) because the actor invoked God and science in the four sentences he said to millions of viewers with what certainly came across as heart-felt conviction.
But what exactly did the actor mean when he said, “gratitude reciprocates?”
Unless the actor himself explains, I think what he meant was that if you are grateful to God, particularly for all the undeserved blessings of life, He will give you riches (not merely wealth) beyond imagination. Not only can you not imagine them, you cannot even comprehend the direction or the source from which they will come.
As for quoting Charles Laughton (1899-1962), whose movies include “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Witness for Prosecution”, the idea here (I think) is that if you trust in God, you become comfortable in your own skin. You learn to trust yourself and your instincts. You become self-aware and your capacity for empathy increases. No matter what befalls you, good or bad, you recognize that you are being tested in some way, and so you do not become arrogant or fall into despair.
It takes guts to do what McConaughey did on the 2014 Oscar night in front of a world-wide audience of millions and for that, we say “Amen.”