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Hollywood Getting Religion?

Hollywood, not known for godliness, may be getting religion. And the reason for the conversion is "Bruce Almighty," Jim Carrey 's box-office hit about a self-centered TV reporter who blames God (played by Morgan Freeman) for his misfortune.

The director, Tom Shadyac, is a flourishing filmmaker and unabashed Christian. But for this film, he turned to a higher authority. The Rev. Ken Diesel, pastor of an inner city Los Angeles church, was both his spiritual adviser and script adviser.

"He said, 'I need someone to help me put words in the mouth of the maker,'" Father Diesel recalls. The message is simple: "Stop praying to God for a miracle, my friend. You be the miracle."

Father Diesel says that is exactly what he preaches to his congregation. Paraphrasing the lyrics of a rock song that is part of the movie's soundtrack, he says, "You got the power."

This isn't the first time Hollywood has found religion. George Burns played God in three "Oh, God!" movies. And Charlton Heston spoke to God in "The 10 Commandments." But one of the last times they tested religion, with 1988's "The Last Temptation Of Christ," Hollywood got burned.

Studios had the bejesus scared out of them when thousands of angry Christians denounced the movie. To get the Christians into theaters, the studio launched a major media blitz.

On any given weekend, five times as many people go to church as the movies. So there's a market there out there.

But Hollywood's high rollers haven't suddenly become holy rollers. It's still all about the almighty dollar.

"I'm not sure Hollywood has a vocation to proclaim the good news," Father Diesel says. "It's a business. As long as that's what people want to buy, that's what they want us to do."

However, success begets copy cats. That's the gospel according to Hollywood. So expect to have more religious experiences coming soon to a theater near you.

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