Actor Shia LaBeouf is making news again. This time his remark, “I became a Christian man” (his full statement is below) has gone viral – mainly among the Christian news outlets but the mainstream is picking it up as an example of his recurring aberrant behavior.
I frequently mention that I pray daily for certain celebrities to come to Christ. The list is a long one. Sometimes I pray that God will bring a godly Christian into their sphere of influence to winsomely represent Christ to them. Film director and writer David Ayre was the answer for Shia Labeouf. Even fellow actor Brad Pitt played a part.
So when the news about Labeouf’s commitment to Christ came across the news wires, I was inundated with tweets, messages and emails from people who have heard me mention my prayers for him. His public profession of faith is big news. That’s why my first thought was, “Oh, God, please not Shia LaBeouf, too!”
Actor Shia Labeouf began making news after his Disney years (1996-2006) with the worldwide cinematic explosion of Transformers (2007). While his acting career has received mostly positive but mixed reviews, his films are huge at the box office. Brad Pitt recently said in an interview that LaBeouf is one of the greatest actors he has ever seen.
LaBeouf is introspective but ironically in a public way. His attempt to “find himself” has taken him through public displays of angst and public drunkenness. Among his most well-known examples of peculiar behavior are wearing a bag on his head bearing the words “I am not famous anymore” at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year and his very public meltdown inside and outside a Broadway theater in June.
He was most transparent in a 2009 interview with Parade magazine: “Sometimes I feel like I’m living a meaningless life and I get frightened . . . I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it and I’d be on my way. . . I have no answers to anything. None. Why am I an alcoholic? I haven’t a clue! What is life about? I don’t know. . . . The best I can do is learn from my mistakes and move forward. And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
I have enjoyed him as an actor but I have been most impressed with Labeouf’s transparency. His openness and honesty about his insecurities are often gut-wrenching. He protests the superficiality of celebrity culture and how it rots the soul. His search for truth and meaning has been on display and he asks the important questions that every seeker asks privately. In the past, he has considered himself Jewish and later as “confused” by religion.
And now he says he found God.
In a recent conversation with Interview magazine, Shia Labeouf talked about his commitment to Christ during the filming of his recently released film.
“I found God doing Fury. I became a Christian man, and not in a #*%! way—in a very real way. I could have just said the prayers that were on the page. But it was a real thing that really saved me. And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it. It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control. And while there’s beauty to that, acting is all about control. So that was a wild thing to navigate. I had good people around me who helped me. Brad [Pitt] was really instrumental in guiding my head through this. Brad comes from a hyper-religious, very deeply Christian, Bible Belt life, and he rejected it and moved toward an unnamed spirituality. He looked at religion like the people’s opium, almost like a Marxist view on religion. Whereas [Fury writer-director] David [Ayers] is a full subscriber to Christianity. But these two diametrically opposed positions both lead to the same spot.”
Is this just another foray into finding himself? I take his statements at face-value. To do any less is to miss the whole point of grace. The Prodigal Son did not have to fill out an application before he fell into his father’s arms.
That being said, we know many people who struggle for years coming to grips with knowing and understanding the ways of God and the journey as His child. The near future brings important decisions and commitments for Shia Labeouf as a “Christian man,” a follower of Christ.
If his transformation is the real thing, I pray that he will grow in his faith and love for God. Like everyone else, Shia Labeouf will face challenges to his now-public faith. Unlike everyone else, it is possible that he will be coddled, cajoled and even worshipped by the Christian establishment to “share his story.” If this happens, it will be no change for him. The entertainment celebrity world is shallow, empty, and where he was used by others. The Christian celebrity world is shallow, empty and he will be used by others.
The past 60 years of modern Christian culture is littered with celebrity converts who hit the road with a conversion story only to walk away from the faith.
Jesus warned us about this happening. He told a story about seed sown on different types of soil – an allegory representing how the message of Christ is received in different ways (Luke 8:5-15). Two give a serious caution for Shia Labeouf.
Some of the message (seed) fell on rocky soil. The rocky soil are the ones who “. . . received the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away” (8:12).
And some of the message (seed) fell among thorns. The thorns are the ones who hear and receive the message, “. . . but as they go on their way, they are choked by life’s worries, or riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (8:14).
And so I pray, “God, please not Shia Lebeouf!”
Pray that Shia Lebeouf will get good counsel, great community, and lively, biblical mentoring. It takes time. Even the Apostle Paul was off the public circuit for years after his conversion to Christ.
If I could have a word with Shia Labeouf, I would say:
“The next months are crucial. Keep your eyes on Christ. The Southern Baptists will want you. The televangelists on TBN will want you. Even Robert Schuller, wherever he is, might want you.
But so will David Letterman, Bill Maher, Charlie Rose, and the ladies of The View.
Just say, no.
Spend time with mature Christians who will love you and help you see that your life is a love story written by the Great Author. Serve others and let Him love through you.
And keep making movies. Show the world the difference Christ makes in a life well-lived. Don’t preach, pontificate, or take positions. Don’t get defined by your birth but by your life.
And for the sake of all that is holy, don’t be like us.
Be like Him.”