Be Ready with Your Answer

“No man is an island, entire of itself” muses the poet John Donne. The opening line from the poem reminds me of an island in the middle portion of the Chesapeake Bay then dangles southward from the Eastern Shore of Maryland into the waters of Virginia. Our farm is a three-hour car ride and then a fifty minute boat ride from that island. I don’t visit this Tidewater wonder as much as I would like. The busyness of life gets in the way, but my heart stretches across the Bay to the Tangier Sound and on the island where generations of my kinsfolk called home.

Twenty years ago, Hollywood found the peaceful little island. Scouts for Warner Brothers throttled their glitzy vessel into the quaint harbor and docked their glam boat next to weather-beaten work boats. Film industry executives perused the island with the intent of making it a location for a romantic movie starring box office legend, Paul Newman. A few months later, Newman charted a boat and arrived on Tangier to see the place for himself. By the time Newman and his crew from Tinseltown arrived on Tangier, island council members reviewed the movie script and voted “not to permit the filming of the movie unless parts of it were revised.”

Know what you stand for and when opposition or challenge knocks at your door, be ready with your answer.

Photo courtesy of Neil Kaye, Tangier Island History Museum and Virginia Taylor

Allowing the movie to be filmed on the island would be an enormous economic boost to the humble island which was in need of a few modern-day upgrades. The council believed that some of the scenes in the movie conflicted with the moral convictions of most of the islanders, therefore possibly undermining what they “have stood for all these years.”

“It’s a dry island” as the locals say. In other words, alcohol is prohibited on the island. It’s been that way for centuries. The issue isn’t about the fact that restaurants on the island don’t serve alcohol or that tourists are discouraged from exercising a “bring your own bottle” policy. The deeper issue is conviction and Hollywood or Paul Newman couldn’t change that.

The Mayor met Goliath on a dock instead of a Philistine camp. Goliath brought the promise of riches and the hope of fame, but the Mayor retorted that “based on our religious values, we felt the movie was in conflict with the way we live.”

Tangier Aerial

Photo by Sheridan Alexander

Newman expressed disappointment about the rejection of filming the movie on the island. To Newman, “it’s a sad thing that the movie isn’t taking place on Tangier; it’s the ideal location.”

I suppose on the night the council members voted on the movie, echoes of Psalms 49 resounded through the town hall, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.”

Hollywood, the culture giant that ever so stealthily tries to dominate our world, creeps into our lives and before we realize it changes us along the way. This time, though, the giant couldn’t tempt or tantalize the inhabitants of an island that has been long referred to as “no man’s land.”

What will you say when the Temptress or the Giant come to call? Be ready with your answer because it’s not a matter of if they find you; it’s a matter of when they find you.

Parents equip your children and yourself to be ready with the answer when faced with a circumstance that challenges or compromises convictions in turn for temporal comforts and desires of this world.

The islanders wrangled with the Hollywood decision together, not alone and not necessarily in agreement with one another. In the end, declining Hollywood’s offer sent the message that the people care more about preserving their moral integrity and maintaining a moral standard means more than seeing the name of where you live in the credits of a movie most of the islanders wouldn’t even pay to see.

Tangier Church

Photo by Aubrey Bodine


This world is not our home.

Don’t allow a Giant to chip away at your biblical standards or cause a compromise. Fortify your defense.

Teach and talk about the courage of some of the hallmarks of the faith like, like Joshua, who refused to cower when he spotted the giants just over the hill and Daniel who sternly refused the culinary choices on King Darius’ menu. Their faith superseded fear or ridicule.

Build an alliance with a friend who will strengthen you and stand firm on biblical truths. The friend may not necessarily share the same convictions as you, but the foundation and measure for truth is the same.

Rules (legalism) and Convictions are not the same, so don’t confuse the two.

Pray for the wisdom of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove, Paul Miller writes,  “Jesus calls us to be wary, yet confident in our heavenly Father. We are to combine a robust trust in the Good Shepherd with a vigilance about the presence of evil in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.”

It’s true no man is an island, no one needs to go at life alone. Making that stand sometimes requires the support of community, a prayer group, a trusted friend, a spouse. Before Jesus started his ministry, he grabbed twelve followers and they hit the gospel road together. Jesus showed his band of brothers that if they intended to keep the gospel growing they needed one another, and they needed to love one another.

Let’s face it, the likelihood of Hollywood knocking on our door is slim. The likelihood that Compromise will tap on our heart is undeniably high. Just ask Judas, member of Jesus’ inner circle, who cared more about his fortune than he did God.

When you hear the tap. tap, tap of Compromise on your heart, be ready with your answer.


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