Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 31, 2000
Hanoi Jane on road to Damascus
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
One of the most compelling testaments to the truth of the Christian Gospel is its power to change the direction and focus of people's lives so profoundly.
St. Paul is of course the classic example. Saul of Tarsus, a zealous persecutor of Christians who held the coats of the mob who stoned St. Stephen to death, meets the living, risen Christ on the road to Damascus and becomes the Apostle to the Gentiles.
St. Augustine, his youth spent in libertine pursuit of sexual conquest, becomes one of history's great advocates of Christian moral precepts. John Newton, a cruel slave trader, encounters Christ, and is best remembered today for writing probably the world's best-known Christian hymn - Amazing Grace. Charles Colson, the sleaziest of Richard Nixon's Watergate conspirators, is converted in prison, and founds an evangelical ministry.
Now, according to a recent report in the Washington Times, the reason for Ted Turner and Jane Fonda's recent marital separation is that Jane has become an enthusiastic born-again Christian, and her conversion "is making waves from Atlanta to Hollywood."
The Times reports that Fonda regularly attends Church services and Bible studies in Atlanta, and quotes a friend calling her faith "very real, very deep." Others are cited saying Turner's unhappiness with his wife's enthusiasm for her new faith in Christ instigated the separation. Turner is on record dismissing Christianity as a "religion for losers" and publicly ridiculing the Ten Commandments, although he later apologized.
The Times article says several people close to Fonda were involved in her conversion, particularly her chauffeur, who shared his faith with her. Of course, as with all "celebrity conversions," cynicism is rampant, and there will be those who sneer at the "family values" of a religious faith that potentially breaks up marriages.
Interestingly, the New Testament specifically addresses such situations. St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
"And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife. . . . But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases."
If Fonda's Christian conversion is as genuine as it appears to be, it ranks as one of the more fascinating ones of our time. As one commentator observed, her entire life has been spent "in a cultural universe that is utterly hostile to Christianity."
In 1971, the same year she won an Academy Award for Klute, "Hanoi Jane" travelled to North Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War, posing for a photograph on one of the anti-aircraft batteries used to shoot at bombers manned by her young countrymen.
She has been an ardent advocate of leftist politics, militant feminism and abortion on demand - all of which orthodox Christian traditionalists consider aggressively antithetical to Christian faith.
Fonda has not publicly renounced her long-held political views, but "insiders" have been quoted saying that her faith has matured in a way that affects her entire world view, and she is reported to have recently refused to participate in a meditation ceremony at an environmental conference, admonishing those involved that they would be better-advised instead to "pray to Jesus Christ."
Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, has warned that the media feeding-frenzy surrounding news of Jane Fonda's Christian conversion will put her under extreme pressure, and he urges Christians to pray for her.
Robert Knight, senior director of cultural studies at the Family Research Council, agrees, noting, "I would hope, if her conversion is genuine, that Miss Fonda will not come under undue pressure before she is able to handle it."
There is also of course much speculation about whether Ted Turner will ultimately follow his wife on her Christian journey. "Nobody is beyond the grace of God," comments Baehr, who suggests that "Perhaps, God is trying to get Ted Turner's attention."
Turner reportedly told his marriage counsellor last year that his wife was "trying to make him a saint," and, according to Baehr, has also complained that several of his closest friends and associates have accepted Christ over the years: key people in Turner Broadcasting, his best fishing buddy and a former girlfriend. One of the people credited with helping lead Jane Fonda to Christ is Nancy McGuirk, whose husband is an executive in Turner Broadcasting Co.
God certainly has a way of turning some of the most unlikely people into Christian believers. Welcome to the family, Ms. Fonda.
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