On November 9, 2011

Below the Line

So this will be my last post on my time in Hollywood, thanks for putting up with me taking a detour from normal blog stuff to write about this. If you missed some of them I wrote about it  here,  herehere and here, besides the past two weeks of posts.

After a few hours of being on the set of Good Christian Belles for a few hours, I had come to grips with the reality of what was going on, I was sitting in the holding area and day-dreaming about worst-case scenarios And that’s when Allison spoke up. She had heard that I was a preacher and was intrigued by the fact that I was doing this…particularly this show. Allison had been married before, to a Jewish man She had grown up, and was living in the Bible Belt- and when she married she was vilified by Christian people who she had  grown up with. They saw her marriage as a mixed marriage, and instead of engaging her they kept her at arm length, even telling her from a distance that her marriage was offensive to God.

Allison made the point that the show that we were filming was pretty close to home for her. She had been wounded by Church, and Church people.

She made the point that when she thought about Christians, she automatically thought about the American Families Values Association, the very association that had boycotted the show we were working on. Then she said, “I don’t know a lot about organized religion anymore, but I just want you to know I think it’s cool that you are here doing this.”

Matt Maxwell is a guy who grew up at Highland (the church I work at) and now he works in Hollywood behind the camera. He and his wife love Jesus, are plugged into a community of faith, and view their work as both creative expressions of who God made them to be, and as missionaries. Here’s an email he sent me last week that I asked to share with you:

“This question of where we–as Christians– should work and use our talents is a constant conversation and struggle with me and many here in the entertainment industry. So many worry, wonder and ask about that one line that if we cross we no longer represent our Lord and our faith. But this conversation has always rubbed me wrong because the underlying problem is not how the world might perceive us Christians but how our Christian world and friends might perceive us and, in my eyes, this is a mistake.

I had a conversation with a dear friend several months ago who shared his resentment about working in post-production on the new, and now canceled, Playboy Club. He was considering talking to his superiors about moving to another show. I understood exactly where he was coming from but I kept thinking about all the lives he wouldn’t be able to touch.

The way I see it, here in Hollywood, you are either told what to do or you are the one telling others what to do. You are either content creators and shapers (Writers, Directors, Producers) or you are hired to create the content as crew (Camera, Wardrobe, Make-up, Actors, Lights, Editors). The term used here is Above the Line for the content creator and Below the Line for production crew. I personally feel that if you are lucky enough to be a content creator then your Christian responsibility and representation is to that of the whole world, whoever may be influenced by the work you are creating. This is a huge responsibility and one that can’t be taken serious enough, and one that I am glad I do not bear it’s weight. On the flip side, I feel that if you are hired crew then your responsibility is to that of your fellow crew members. You have been placed in this job, just like any other job, and you should always represent the Christian Faith to your greatest ability. You can’t be held responsible for work that is out of your hands but the way you present yourself and interact with those around you is entirely your responsibility. (This last sentence has constantly been my wrestling thought, and one that I keep trying to figure out. The idea of where our responsibility in the work we CHOOSE to accept. Should we treat all jobs as missional opportunities? I am about to contradict everything I am saying.)

Now when I have this conversation with many others I am constantly asked about the clearly mislead and anti-christian productions of this world and how myself or any other self respecting Christian could allow themselves to work on such sets. I then am reminded of our true example who was not requested or asked to eat and commune with the lost of this world, but sought them to the dismay of all and, in the end, laid down his life for them… for me.

I am very much aware that this conversation can go on and on and I still haven’t figured everything out, I am not even close. But I do get frustrated with my brothers and sisters who, I feel, get caught up in what they look like to the Christian world instead of the lost world. I am also sure that many of my brothers and sisters get frustrated with me as well, but in the end we are still brothers and sisters trying to walk this life and represent our creator as best we can.”- Matt Maxwell

I know that for some this will be a challenging word. But, I thank God for ministries like triple x church, with married couples who go to adult film shows to tell people Jesus loves them in non-judgmental ways. I think that kind of ministry takes a specially gifted kind of person, and of course we want to be careful to be distinct from the world while being in it. But I think the real reason we draw back from these things is because we aren’t comfortable with working, in Matt’s word, “Below the Line.”

We won’t always be the ones to produce to content, we won’t have creative control, or even a say  (and granted there are lines that we should not cross). We may be forced into situations that we are not in control of but we can still be Faithful. Because there’s not enough holiness in the world, but the Light has shined in the darkness…and the darkness will not overcome it. That’s what Jesus followers believe, and the world could really use us trying to live that out.

And that’s what I learned from my time in Hollywood.

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  • James Sheldon

    …and there you have it. 

  • Art Lynch

    Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you for your boldness. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your love of the truth. I want you to know God received much glory as I read your article.
    Art Lynch