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On This Day Limelight

On this day in 1962, George C. Scott refused a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role of a shady gambler in The Hustler. When he learned that he had been nominated, he dispatched a message to the Academy that simply read, “No, thanks.” In the next decade, Scott shocked Hollywood by being the first actor to turn down an Oscar for his commanding performance of General George S. Patton. When Goldie Hawn opened the envelope to read his name for the Best Actor award, Scott was relaxing in his farmhouse in upstate New York.

Scott explained that he didn’t mind private congratulations from friends and colleagues, but felt that the politics surrounding the Academy Awards were “demeaning.” He also branded the Oscar ceremony as a “two-hour meat parade.” (Movie fans who hold down day jobs surely wish it would go back to a two-hour format).

Scott’s rejection of the Oscar seems as strange now as it did in 1971. In Hollywood, the coveted gold statue means fame, glory, honor—and increased offers. What some actors work for years to gain, Scott turned down in a moment.

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When Jesus launched his public ministry, the people heaped praises on Him. The Nazarene healed the sick, opened blind eyes, fed a teeming throng with the paltry contents of a boy’s lunch pail. But on the heels of His miracle-working ministry came hard words: strange invitations to eat His flesh, take up a cross, and accept Him as God. Scores of listeners turned away and the Pharisees howled with indignation. How dare a flesh-and-blood man claim sameness with the Great I AM who spoke to Moses from the blazing bush?

People haven’t changed. We want the dazzle without the discipleship, yearning for miracles, signs, and wonders when we should be bending our knee to God and taking up a towel to serve others. Mother Teresa once said, “Love is a one-way street.  It always moves away from self in the direction of the other.”

The limelight still beckons us, though, doesn’t it? As a preacher, singer, and actor, I know the warm feeling of people heaping you with praise for a sermon or performance that moved them. But that same light can grow cold as peers rush to mound accolades on an up-and-coming “Golden Boy” or the latest “It Girl.” If our self-esteem comes only from other people, we are setting ourselves up for bitter disappointment. Best to stay in the light of Christ, where we find our true worth and power.

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