By John-Henry Westen and John Connolly

Denzel Washington in American Gangster HOLLYWOOD, December 18, 2007 ( – Hollywood super star Denzel Washington revealed what he indicates is a strong spiritual life and devotion to his family in a December 2007 interview with Reader’s Digest. In a candid interview, the academy award winner emphasized the importance of his family and the Bible in his life.

“I read the Bible every day,” Washington said. “I’m in my second pass-through now, in the Book of John. My pastor told me to start with the New Testament, so I did, maybe two years ago. Worked my way through it, then through the Old Testament. Now I’m back in the New Testament. It’s better the second time around.”

Washington stars in the movie American Gangster, which is rated R for drug content, violence, nudity and sexuality. There is a question how an actor who purports to be a believing Christian could perform the major role in the movie that has such graphic violence, an intense sex scene, gratuitous full frontal female nudity and much foul language. The Christianity Today review says, “The profanity includes everything under the sun and frequently.”

Washington fielded questions concerning his faith and how it influences his roles and career. American Gangster tells the true story of Frank Lucas, A drug kingpin turned informant. Washington said he is unable to segregate his faith from the rest of his life, and that American Gangster serves to send a message of accountability.

“I think I’m going to instill [my faith] in everything I do, like this conversation,” he said. “It’s who I am. It goes with me wherever I go. Understand that it’s something bigger than making a film, even American Gangster. When I met Frank Lucas, he said, “Do this and win an Oscar.” I’m like, “Frank, I’m not in it for that.” I found it interesting that he paid for his crimes with jail time, and now he’s paying with his body, which has sort of betrayed him. It’s important for me to tell that part of the story. There are consequences.”

Washington is currently working on directing his second movie, The Great Debaters, preparing it for release on Christmas Day 2007. The Great Debaters is billed as much more family-friendly than American Gangster, and is also based on a true story, that of a volatile debate coach’s organization and transformation of a small school’s debate team into a formidable national contender. Washington said he liked the underdog overcoming great odds aspect in his choice of the movie.

Washington is the son of a minister, and is a member of the Church of God in Christ. He said that his greatest pride was in God, his family and his work. Whereas he used to work all the time for his career, he says that now he works for the sake of his family. Now he calls his family his life. He has been married to his wife for almost 25 years, and they have four children.

“You have to work at it,” he said. “I was just reading today: One day you’re going to have to walk with God when you can’t understand where he’s taking you. Your techniques, skill set and connections won’t get you through. So don’t try this on your own. He’s got you covered. My faith helps me understand that circumstances don’t dictate my happiness, my inner peace.”

The 52-year-old actor came in second in a poll compiled by for “Most Powerful Christian in Hollywood.” He also tops the US Weekly list of Hollywood celebrities who are Bible readers. He also played the voice of Solomon in the audio Bible “Inspired by: The Bible Experience.”
See related coverage:

Christian review of American Gangster

Christianity Today review