The faith of Denzel Washington in 8 quotes


He's best known as the iconic star of films as diverse as Philadelphia and American Gangster, but Denzel Washington is also known as a Hollywood star who is unafraid to be vocal about his Christian faith. As reported on Christian Today, Washington this month told graduates of Dillard University to "put God first in everything you do". It's not the first time he's gone public with his faith however, frequently mentioning it in interviews.

The son of a minister, Washington has been a regular at a Los Angeles church for over 35 years, and donated a reported $2.5m to its rebuilding project. He might have taken some slightly questionable acting roles down the years, but as these quotes prove, he's remained certain about his faith in God throughout.

On being filled with the Holy Spirit:

"[It] was thirty years ago, at the church I still attend. The minister was preaching: "Just let it go". I said, "I'm going to go with it." And I had this tremendous physical and spiritual experience. It did frighten me. I was slobbering, crying, sweating. My cheeks blew up. I was purging. It was too intense. It almost drove me away. I called my mother, and she said I was being filled with the Holy Spirit. I was like, 'Does that mean I can never have wine again?'"

- From an interview with GQ, September 2012

On a prophetic word which started it all:

"Acting was my calling. The year I started acting there was a woman in my mother's beauty shop, who kept looking at me in the mirror. Finally she got a piece of paper and wrote 'prophecy' at the top. She said: 'You are going to travel the world and preach to millions of people.' Now, bear in mind that I'd just been kicked out of school. I said: 'You see anything there about me being let back into school?' That was March 75 and September 75 I started acting. I still got that piece of paper too."

- From an interview with The Guardian, January 2013

On remembering to pray every day...

"Put your slippers way under your bed so when you get up in the morning, you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you're down there, start your day with prayer. Ask for wisdom. Ask for understanding. Don't aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference."

- From an interview with GQ, September 2012

...and on what to pray about:

While you're on your knees, say thank you. Thank you for grace, thank you for mercy, thank you for understanding, thank you for wisdom, thank you for parents, thank you for love, thank you for kindness, thank you for humility, thank you for peace, thank you for prosperity.

- From the Dillard University commencement address in May 2015, as reported by Relevant magazine

On wisdom vs material gain

"I'm in this big house with all this stuff. I've heard that saying, 'You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.' You can't take it with you. The Egyptians tried; they got robbed. I said, 'What do you want, Denzel?' And one of the devotional words that day was wisdom. So I started praying on that. 'God, give me a dose of that.' I can't get any more successful. But I can get better. I can learn to love more. I can learn to be more understanding. I can gain more wisdom."

- From an LA Press Junket, January 2010

On the fundamental message of the Bible:

"My father was a Pentecostal minister for 50 years. We would say prayers for everything and end with, 'Amen, God is love.' I thought 'God is love' was like one word, 'Godislove.' I didn't really realise what it meant. I'm still learning. But the fundamental message is in the Bible, which I've read three times from front to back... If you don't practice love, you're missing the point."

- From an interview with, January 2010

On his 'pulpit'... and the limits of it:

"I remember some years ago asking my pastor: 'Do you think I'm supposed to be a preacher?' And he said: 'Well, you are. You have a pulpit of your own.' That's not to say that I'm preaching, necessarily. I don't want to tell you what you need to do. I mean, I'm not turning it up to 10 when it comes to being correct, I'm not that guy, I like my wine."

- From an interview with The Guardian, January 2013

And finally, there's this excerpt from Washington's 2008 interview with Jonathan Ross for his then-BBC interview show...

Jonathan: Say you could look back in time at anyone, or anything in recent history... who would it be?

Denzel: (pauses to stroke chin) JESUS!

Jonathan: ... (Jonathan is speechless; a rare moment)

Denzel: And I'd say – 'when are you coming back?'

Jonathan: I'd go back and see The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. Not as noble as yours admittedly, but more of a thumping beat.

Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. He's also one of the hosts of the Youth Work Summit on June 20th. You can follow him on Twitter: @martinsaunders