Faith

Actor Woody Harrelson Says He Knew Mike Pence at Their Christian College

YouTube screenshot of Star Wars "Solo" actor Woody Harrelson on Jimmy Kimmel.

Veteran actor Woody Harrelson, who is starring in the upcoming film “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” told Jimmy Kimmel that he knew Vice President Mike Pence in college and that Pence was just as religious then as he is now. Interestingly, Harrelson then considered becoming a Presbyterian minister, but he fell off the “religious” bandwagon.

“I knew him! We were both very religious: it was a Presbyterian college at the time and I was there on a Presbyterian scholarship, and he was involved with the — you know — church activities,” Harrelson said. He and Pence both went to Hanover College in Indiana.

The actor told Jimmy Kimmel he liked Pence. “I actually quite liked him. I thought he was a pretty good guy. He’s very — you know — very religious, very committed,” Harrelson recalled. “Seeing as how I’m not quite in that ballpark now, I don’t know how we’d get along, because I think he’s still quite religious — just a whole different brand of religious.”

“That kind of fervor that you really don’t want,” the actor argued.

Even though Harrelson suggested Pence’s religiosity is too much, he admitted that he himself changed, while Pence has remained the same.

“It was good for me at the time that I started to shift off,” the actor recalled. “I’d studied theology, and I started rethinking. I started to see how man-made the Bible was — you know — Nicene Council and the early church and all that.”

[As an aside, the Bible was not compiled at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Contrary to popular belief, no one big church council settled on the books of the New Testament — individual churches largely did so organically. A text known as the Muratorian fragment shows that the entire New Testament was considered canonical as early as 170 A.D. Human beings wrote the New Testament, and local churches settled on the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the letters of Paul, Peter, John, and the letter to the Hebrews because they had the closest connections to Jesus and His disciples. There is no reason to doubt that the New Testament is a reliable historical collection of texts tracing back to Jesus Christ Himself.]

Theological doubts were not the real issue, however. “And then I started saying, ‘Well, I could put this whole thing on hold for a while. I don’t know, does God exist? Is it Christianity? Let’s just put this whole idea on hold so that I can have a twenties and thirties of extreme hedonism.‘” [Emphasis added]

Harrelson’s concession is remarkably important. He did not reject Christianity based on intellectual doubts, but on a desire to disobey God, particularly in matters of seeking pleasure for its own sake instead of living like a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The actor concluded the interview by telling Kimmel why he believes in God — the influence of a Yogi. Even so, it seems his God does not demand obedience to the kind of moral code Jesus Christ lays out in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), perhaps the most inspiring and difficult moral code imaginable.

Kimmel pressed Harrelson, asking about his religious search: “Right now, it’s still on hold, or has it been canceled?” The actor’s response suggested he hasn’t given up asking the big questions of ultimate reality, but he also hasn’t decided to follow the moral framework of Christianity. From his remarks about Pence being “too religious,” it seems he likely judges Christian doctrine about truth and morals like many in American society do today.

Like Harrelson, many Americans reject Christianity not because they think it is false but because they desire to live lives of “extreme hedonism.” Secular Canadian professor Jordan Peterson explained why this is not a wise way to live, presenting his seventh of “12 Rules for Life:” “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).”

Perhaps Mike Pence is too religious, but it seems Harrelson’s reasons for not living like Pence are insufficient. Perhaps if the actor had not fallen off the bandwagon, he would appreciate Pence more, just as he once did.