I am sure that most of my conservative friends are falling over in their chairs right now as they read the headline to this post. Among political conservatives, Sean Penn is a famous target to be ridiculed as a far -left panzie. I even heard John Hagee, the famous preacher on TBN, denounce him in one of his sermons. So why would I choose to praise him in this post? Here is why. Politics aside, Sean Penn is a fine individual with a heart for the world's poor. When Hurricane Katrina hit,amidst the chaos, he took a boat and started rescuing people. I wonder if those who like to denounce him as a left-wing nutcrack on their radio shows and pulpits across the country ever did anything close to what Sean Penn did during the catastrophe of Katrina.
It is very easy to paint one large generalization about Hollywood celebrities as people who are in love with themselves and care little about the world's poor. I myself in my book "The Angels are Watching" criticize the Hollywood culture as being overly obscessed with self-congradulation. If taken too far, however, there is a danger that we "average Joes" of society might become guilty of class prejudice, something Jesus would vehemently denounce. It is easy to take cheap shots at celebrities because they are an easy target for resentment.
Another concern I have is that we American Christians have become so polarized in our culture that we can not even see that there might be a trace of goodness in someone on the "other side" of our politics. This is clearly wrong and I highly doubt that Jesus would be making cheap insults with those who disagreed with Him on a very complex issue such as the Iraq War.
One of the characteristics of the "Hollywood Liberals" that are often despised by red state conservatives is a genuine concern for the world's poor. I think Jesus would be quite comfortable hanging out with these types of folks. Thank you, Sean Penn for reminding us that kindness comes in all shapes,sizes, and political persuasions.