So Leslie and I are out of town for the next few days (I’ve actually written the last two blogs on Tuesday) and have pre-scheduled their publishing. So it will be a few days before I can respond. But, I doubt I ever get the chance to talk about something like this again. So….
I never dreamed that TMZ would ever ask me to do an interview for anything…ever. When I first got the email asking me, I was pretty sure it was a joke. I still have no idea how the celebrity gossip hub of the world heard about me doing this, or why they thought it might matter. In fact, I wasn’t going to do it. Remember I don’t have any aspirations to be an actor, and this is not the story I’d like to be known for. I just want to be a preacher and I just want the church to be a supportive place for Christians who are trying to be faithful in some grey areas (the areas we have typically have withdrawn from). That’s when a very good ministry friend reminded me that if you offend some religious people, but help some non-religions people get a better glimpse of God, you might be on the right track…so seize the moment.
As you read this interview, please keep in mind, if you are a Jesus follower, this wasn’t really written for you. I wanted to help people who might have little to no exposure to the Jesus movement have a bit better view on who we follow. I didn’t want to be critical of culture, because they’ve heard that line before and it’s not helping anybody by pretending like we are above them. (if the 75% of Christians in America didn’t actually watch the stuff Hollywood produces they’d all be out of job anyway). So with that said, here’s how I answered the reporters questions. What would you have said or done differently in this position?
Explain to me a little bit more about how you were an extra for the show…what was it like on set regarding the storyline of the show. Were you actually featured on the first episode last night?
I was actually doing a sermon series on minor characters in the Bible, and so I decided to go to California to try and be an extra on a TV Show. I registered at Central Casting, you know the usual stuff you do to get in to background work. CC had several opportunities to play background for shows like Californication but I didn’t want to shock the church I work at.
On one of the casting calls, the casting agent Marianne was filling in for her agent friend Annie, and (remember this is my first and only time to do this) I thought she was booking for Annie, and that it would star Christian Bale. In hindsight, I realize that was very dumb.
No, I wasn’t on the show last night, but I think they were filming for the first and second episodes on the day we were shooting. If not, than my scene just got wound up being cut.
I am from Dallas, born and raised so this is something that hits home to me as well. I know there is a petition that was started to get ABC to pull the rest of the episodes from air. I am very interested in hearing the opinions of the church…if they are going to do anything to stop people from watching the show…sign the petition…
Yeah, it’s pretty interesting show, and it’s got some pretty revealing elements to it. It exposes hypocrisy that we all know is there, it’s kind of racy, and it based in the Bible Belt. I wasn’t raised in Dallas, but I lived in the Metroplex for eight years before moving to West Texas, and I know that, while much of the show is over-the-top (it’s a satire after all) it’s got a lot of truth to it.
On the day that I was there filming, the casting director came in and told us that before they had filmed one scene they had been banned by some Christian organizations. That was my first time to hear about that…remember I was still getting over the fact that I hadn’t actually signed up for Annie…and I had come there with the express purpose of telling my entire congregation about it. But part of the reason I stayed was because of hearing about how some “Christian” organizations had boycotted it. I don’t like that way of representing Jesus. There were obviously lines that I would not cross, but no one on that set had asked me to do anything unethical. In fact, they were nothing but kind.
Here’s my problem with that approach to following Jesus. It seems like Christians have forgotten their origins. We started off as a little band of marginalized people who didn’t have a huge say in things, we had no political influence, but were known for loving the people around them. Today…not so much…at least that’s the impression a lot of my non-Christian friends have. Jesus followers don’t want to participate in areas that they don’t get to tell the dominate story lines in. That’s why I wanted to stay, and it’s why I don’t sign petitions like that.
In the story that we Christians believe, God actually sends prophets to His people. Not to the unreligious, but to the religious people of the day. Our own story has a history of God calling us back to who we were meant to be. If you are a Christian, you believe that God critiques the very religion He started, sometimes in surprising ways and through surprising people.
Not to get too preachy on you, but there’s a Scripture where Paul tells one of the churches he’s planted, and he says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are we not to judge those inside?” In other words, Christians are supposed to hold each other accountable in loving ways, but not be judgmental to the world. It seems like much of American Christianity has reversed that. We are known as judgmental to the world, and much of the time we fail to remind each other of the high calling of Jesus.
It shows women in not the best light, as well as mocking religion. What is your reaction to the show?
On a lot of levels I liked it. Annie Potts character is great, and I love Kristin Chenowith. Leslie Bibb was really kind and fun to work with in the one scene that I did. The show is funny and over the top, but again it’s a satire.
There’s a guy named St. Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth” and I think they are tapping into something. There is hypocrisy in lots of places in the church, and it seems like GCB is holding up a mirror reminding us of what we might look like to people on the outside. I think the Church really can be a compelling force for good in the world, that’s why I’ve given my life to serving her, but I think we can take ourselves too seriously and we forget that God made humor too.
What actions is your church or anyone else going to take to set the record straight that this is not an accurate conception of Christians, more specifically Christians in Texas.
The Church that I work at is great, they’ve been very supportive and in fact, may have made GCB a success in West Texas. I don’t think that anyone at my church is going to complain. If anything the people who I’ve talked to who weren’t fans of GCB, it wasn’t because of how they portrayed Christians, but how they portrayed Texans.
Has anyone contacted ABC, or vise versa regarding the show. Anything really at all that is going on..what type of backlash are you receiving, etc.
No. No one from the Highland church will call or complain, they are more concerned about helping the poor, getting rid of homelessness, and sharing the gospel. You know, what churches have historically cared about. Most of the backlash has been from people outside of our church directed at me, as a preacher, being in something like that.
But to that criticism, I just think, Jesus hung out with all the sinners and tax collectors and consistently made the religious people of his day mad. I feel like I’m in good company.