On a recent sunny Saturday in Beverly Hills, Lewis and about 150 industry types gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel for the second annual "Praise Breakfast" organized by Media Fellowship International, one of more than a dozen Christian groups in Hollywood. As the crowd ate scrambled eggs at tables adorned with peach- and cream-colored roses, Cannon, who leads a popular Bible study on the CBS studio lot, read from the New Testament; singer Deniece Williams read from the Old; and one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, CBS Studio Center president Michael Klausman, gave a keynote speech, crediting his success to Jesus.
Klausman estimates that more than 1,000 Christians meet for organized prayer every week at his lot alone. In August, 30 screenwriters met for a month-long workshop aimed at Christians who want to write--and sell--stories for the large and small screen. Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena along with nine other religious groups host an annual "City of Angels" Christian film festival aimed at building bridges between clergy and film executives and screenwriters. Just about every night of the week, you can find Bible studies or social gatherings at churches, studio lots, and homes.
Hollywood Christians compare their position to Joseph's experience in Egypt: good folks stuck in a heathen land, trying to do the right thing. Many Christians here simply hide their faith, fearing ostracism, rejection from secular Jews inside Hollywood, and criticism from evangelicals beyond.
...Some say it's no different from any other business; mention Jesus on Wall Street and you won't get too far, either. Klausman, the CBS executive, attends Calvary Chapel and rarely turns down a chance to talk about Christ, but says he intentionally doesn't flaunt his faith at work. Klausman acknowledged he's taken heat from Christians outside Hollywood for his role in producing shows some consider pretty un-Christian. Klausman provides the set, the physical lot, and the labor for "Will and Grace," the Emmy-winning comedy featuring an openly gay character.
As Klausman sees it, he's just doing his job. "If I say I'm not going to do 'Will and Grace,' I get fired, and now I'm not an influence at all," Klausman says. "People have asked me if I'm ashamed. I'm not ashamed. God will tell me if I should be ashamed."
Being moral doesn't mean creating bad art, though. Klausman tells people who want to influence Hollywood to work harder. "I have people who approach me with Christian poodle acts and play 'Jesus Loves Me' on the piano and don't understand why we can't make a series out of that," he says. "I've got a cassette of exorcisms they feel could be the next great reality program. I don't think so."
On the other hand, if the work isn't supported by Christians outside the industry, it will fail. Winter says more than 100 wealthy evangelicals turned him down not long ago when he sought funding for a film version of "Left Behind," the wildly popular Christian best-seller.