Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon
By Greg Laurie with Marshall Terrill
American Icon Press, 2017, 302 pages
Okay, okay. Yes, I’m a big hypocrite! In the 5/27/17 edition of the Weekend Roundup, I posted a short criticism of Christians who make a big deal out of celebrity conversions. So why am I reviewing a book about a celebrity conversion? I usually catch the last five minutes of Greg Laurie’s radio show every day on my drive into work and as he peddled his biography of actor, Steve McQueen, daily for a couple of weeks, I found myself becoming “curiouser and curiouser.” I can’t say I was a huge fan of McQueen growing up, but I really enjoyed his portrayal of Captain Virgil Hilts in the 1963 film, “The Great Escape.” Neither am I a big fan of Greg Laurie but I’ll expound on that below.
This book traces the life of McQueen, from his very troubled childhood and young adulthood to his subsequent great success as an actor with all the “benefits” of life in the Hollywood fast lane, including wealth, fame, women, and easy access to drugs. McQueen’s popular, anti-hero persona elevated him to icon status in America as the “King of Cool” in the 1960s. Laurie writes that it was often said of the actor, “Every man wants to be like him, and every women wants to be with him.” But McQueen grew tired of the emptiness of the Tinseltown lifestyle and realized there had to be more to life than empty fame and fortune. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the witness of several people, he eventually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1979 and died from cancer the following year.
This was a strange book to read. Laurie is clearly a HUGE fan of the “King of Cool.” It was a little bizarre reading a book written by an “evangelical” pastor that is so out-and-out…worldly. I don’t know how else to phrase it. Laurie is a Calvary Chapel pastor and periodically holds big evangelistic outreach events under his “Harvest” banner. He’s also a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and, just like the Crouches and their associates, is quite ecumenical in his approach. Ecumenist, Billy Graham, clearly another one of Laurie’s heroes, gets a lot of positive ink in this book (he visited McQueen during his last days and presented him with his personal Bible). Controversial actor/director/producer, Mel Gibson, a Catholic ultra-traditionalist, is also warmly saluted and Laurie even identifies him as a “man of faith.” Huh? There’s also the requisite multiple quotes from ecumenical muse, C. S. Lewis.
It seems from what I read in this book that Steve McQueen genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and I praise the Lord for that. Maybe some cool cat-wannabe or fading Baby Boomer* will pick up this book about the “King of Cool,” pondering why the 60s “icon” who appeared to “have it all” wanted to become one of those “crazy born-agains.” That was clearly Laurie’s motive in writing this book. McQueen told friends that he wanted to use his celebrity to lead others to Christ and I pray his desire comes true with this book. Unfortunately, Laurie’s ecumenical brand of big-tent “evangelicalism” is so squishy doctrinally, a devoted Catholic or other works-religionist could read about Mel Gibson being a “man of faith” and think, “I’m good.”
I don’t recommend anyone get their theology from Laurie or the rest of the TBN crowd and this book was the first and the last I’ll ever read from one of those guys. I thank the Lord for anyone who genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as Savior through a TBN-affiliated “ministry” (with God it’s possible), but I deeply hope they find a solid, Bible-preaching church immediately afterwards .
*Speaking of fading Baby Boomers, the very large print type used in this book was appreciated.