Conversion of Shia LaBoeuf: My thoughts on Bishop Barron’s August 25 Interview
The interview Bishop Barron conducted with Shia LaBoeuf has received a lot of attention. The interview is one where Shia LaBoeuf recounts his story of conversion. I only just recently had the opportunity to actually watch the interview, and I thought that perhaps it would be helpful to provide my observations about the interview, about faith, and about how I think it could be helpful to all of us.
The most important thing
To me, the most important thing about the interview was the obvious power that comes from hearing a conversion story. It is the lasting appeal of books like the Confessions of Saint Augustine or Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. And my sense in watching the interview was that at this moment Shia LaBoeuf has experienced a real conversion.
The powerful aspect of conversion is that it is experiential. To me the ways in which LaBoeuf describes how so many things came together for him in accepting and preparing for his role as Padre Pio. And I think that whenever a person recounts their experience of faith there is an aspect for me that suggests an encounter with God.
I could hear in LaBoeuf’s story aspects where I have had my own experience of Jesus as well. So much of my own faith is the result of the blessings of other people who helped me to get to know Jesus. And the variety of the faith of people I have known have shared faith in so many different ways. Some have been very smart intellectuals. Others demonstrated the powerful love of God to me in the way they loved me. Still others helped me to see how important it is to take Matthew 25 seriously.
And I have to admit the most compelling part of the entire interview was the ways in which LaBoeuf recounts the persons who impacted him in his preparation for playing the role of Padre Pio. The most powerful parts of the interview come when LaBoeuf describes how the Capuchins, those in the seminary, others who believe, and the parish community where he practices his faith are the people that impact him in terms of relationship and how it leads to conversion.
For each of us it also says something about our own need to share our stories of faith with others. I think Catholics are a little too reluctant to discuss the ways in which they have personally encountered God in their own lives. These are the most compelling stories of evangelization, and this practice is much needed today.
The heart and the head
I was also struck by the contrast between the heart and the head in the interview. I think too much attention was placed on the part the Latin Mass played in his conversion, and not enough attention on the role an experience of Jesus that was emotive changed his perceptions of what it meant to believe.
The conversion the Shia LaBoeuf describes is a beautiful description of the way in which God works in the human mind and heart. It is also not unusual that the conversion LaBoeuf describes comes after many not so pleasant (ok, quite negative) experiences in his life. And if this brings deep peace to his life, than it is a tremendous gift for him.
What was left out
As is typical of Bishop Barron’s interview style, there were no “gotcha” questions. While there was some acknowledgement of the not so pleasant past, there was little focus on how his conversion has lead to his healing of these broken relationship and unpleasant experiences. There were no questions about his past life, which has been filled with deep and tremendous negative actions that LaBoeuf has acknowledged.
There were also no questions about how it is that this new found conversion will help him to heal, both himself personally, and those others whom he hurt. This was a powerful missed opportunity, not because I want to add to the negative actions by LaBoeuf, but rather, to acknowledge the need for healing and the ways in which Jesus can provide such healing to both those victimized and to those who victimize.
Hopefully those close to Laboeuf can help him to heal himself, and to make amends to those he has harmed. This interview was not the place for therapy. But given that so many people have brokenness in their lives, and have caused brokenness in the lives of others, this could have been a way to help other broken people to see in Jesus and in the Church there can be healing.
It makes me nervous
All in all, however, the interview with LaBoeuf makes me nervous. Was this interview a good thing for him? Will it make his conversion easier? Will it help him to persevere? I am worried this might actually not be the best for his conversion. The issues he has had are not small. And I have to wonder if a national spotlight on his conversion is good for him. I worry it might not be. But that is me.
I have been praying for Shia LaBoeuf, and I want nothing but the best for him. And that is what we all should do. At some point I will see the movie, and if LaBoeuf’s conversion is any evidence, Saint Padre Pio is still very much a vehicle of God’s grace.