The Wolf of Wall Street and the Injustice of Hollywood

One of the big movie releases over the past couple of months has been Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street that stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The trailer for the movie has been playing on nearly every channel and before several movies I’ve seen during this time.

In case you don’t know the backstory, the movie is based on the life of stock fraudster Jordan Belfort who defrauded thousands of investors hundreds of millions of dollars. As the trailers for the movie have pointed out, and as any reasonable plot synopsis notes, the movie is not so much a prophetic tale of how Belfort’s deceit and illegal activities ruined the lives of thousands of people, but it is a glorification of his indulgence and crimes. It would appear that Mr Scorsese has abandoned any moral point and opted for a illicit romp through a craven world of self-destruction and debauchery. Some critics have noted this challenge while others have, rightly, called the film pornogaphic. It has even gotten the daughter of one of the convicted conspirators to write an open letter calling for the end to such films.

I’m not going to see the movie. One of my personal commitments is to not see any movie with nudity and I checked my Movies with Kids in Mind app and found this movie scored a 10 out of 10 on the sexuality scale…a rare feat.

The insult that Mr Scorsese pays to the victims of Mr Belfort is that in glorifying his excesses the victims of this corrupt individual are entirely lost. Belfort’s tale should have only been told to show how destructive these kinds of actions are upon the victims who lost so much. To this point, Mr Scorsese fails to properly understand the moral gravity of his film and, ultimately, betrays another injustice on the victims.

Since his release, Belfort has made it a point to make more money off his crimes and has stopped repaying the $200 million in court-ordered restitution. Sadly this point is lost even on the star of movie, who thinks that by showing the American public three hours of parties, drinking, drugs, and depraved sexual behavior (often with victims of sexual trafficking) they will learn that crime is bad.

For Christians, one of our deepest callings is to seek justice for the poor and outcast, to find ways to provide for those who have had evil visited upon their lives.

As we are reminded in Isaiah 1:17,

Learn to do what is good.
Seek justice.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.

Then also in, Amos 5:11-15

Therefore, because you trample on the poor
and exact a grain tax from him,
you will never live in the houses of cut stone
you have built;
you will never drink the wine
from the lush vineyards
you have planted.
12 For I know your crimes are many
and your sins innumerable.
They oppress the righteous, take a bribe,
and deprive the poor of justice at the gates.
13 Therefore, the wise person will keep silent
at such a time,
for the days are evil.

14 Seek good and not evil
so that you may live,
and the Lord, the God of Hosts,
will be with you,
as you have claimed.
15 Hate evil and love good;
establish justice in the gate.
Perhaps the Lord, the God of Hosts, will be gracious
to the remnant of Joseph.

Seeking justice for those who have been oppressed and destroyed by corrupted and sinful individuals is one of the basic ministries of followers of Jesus. James 1:27 reminds us plainly: Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Our advocacy is to be for those who are easily oppressed and hurt, those who do not have the means for support or defense.

Now, we shouldn’t be at all surprised when media leaders use garish portrayals of debauchery and sin to glorify greed and corruption. Indeed, this is what we should expect as did the earliest believers who experienced this first hand. However, as believers our calling is to a high road and to care for those who have been neglected and hurt.

Paul reminds us of this in 1 Timothy 6:17-19,

17 Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

When we see the filth and corruption that spews like water from a fountain in our common social areas and into media saturated environments our goal should be to lament for those who have lost, advocate for their restitution, and provide for their needs. By glorifying the indulgence and depravity of individuals who have taken again and again, we lose sight of our higher calling to seek the renewal of our world for the Kingdom of God.