On March 8, 2012

How (Not) to do an Interview with TMZ

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be a supportive place for Christians who are trying to be faithful in some grey areas (the areas we have typically have withdrawn from).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.

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  • tri3tsch

    Great response – I appreciate your’re taking the time to thoughtfully talk to them

  • Keith Brenton

    Way to stay on target, Jonathan!

  • Tcwkeen

    yee ha.  Love you my little brother.

  • http://www.stevenhovater.com/ Steven Hovater

    Thought this was fantastic! Good work. 

  • http://www.kingdomseeking.com/ K. Rex Butts

    Keep up the great work.  You haven’t offended this Christian, rather you’ve gained more of my admiration.

  • Casey

    This is great!!  What a great approach to being a Christian.  If someone is offended by that, then they need to do a self evaluation.  

  • http://sallygary.wordpress.com/ Sally

    Way to go, Jonathan!  Proud you’re MY preacher!

  • Judythomasj

    Good answers!  Thanks for reminding all readers that this is a SATIRE which opens our eyes to the inane things we do as Christians at times.  Love the look at Texas and its excesses.  I will continue to watch.  I do believe Chenoweth is too much over the top–I hope she will be allowed to sing in future broadcasts.  So glad you did this and proud of Highland for supporting your reasons for doing it.

  • GlobalFundingFSG

    Way to go Jonathan…so proud of you!
    This show is a wake up call for Christians & our leaders everywhere!
    What we perceive of ourselves & what outsiders actually experience are vastly
    different. That blog I mentioned earlier
    by email that never gets over 50 replies,
    now has over 200 on this same topic
    of the cross as a symbol of good or evil,
    still with only 2 out of 200 willing to set
    foot back in church! A real world example of what GCB is trying to portray. You counter that brother with
    real associations, interaction & relationships with everyone, no matter
    who they are, or what you might think
    personally. The love of Christ truly exudes through you, both in your sermons & personal contacts. You exhibit almost the perfect balance that
    Christ demonstrated with the people. He
    would definitely be on my A list of party
    invitations & you’d be right there with us!
    Luv ya buddy, Ron Keesee

  • Terri

    Well said Jonathan!

  • Kevin

    Yes, we can take ourselves less seriously as Christians, but I can’t agree that the sexualization of women or mocking of religion has any entertainment value. You enjoy the show?

  • Candy

    I’m so proud of you Jonathan. You’re exactly who I prayed God would bring to Highland. I might be his favorite. ;o)

  • Billpark29

    Amen. Brother “J”!!

  • Ron

    What excesses? God doesn’t speak
    to. you through Christian Dior? LOL

  • Thig21

    Nicely said.

  • Ron Johns Jr

    Well worded sermon for the choir (of which I am a part). I think it was more for us than you first thought. Now, please use your experience/connection and prayerfully evaluate this show & its message. Without sacrificing Christ-like empathy with the directors, writers, cast & crew note where it leads us away from Kingdom business, as well as where it points out our hypocrisy. You’ve made a great start with an excellent opportunity. I pray the spirit of the prophets stirs within you.

  • Linnie

    Jonathon, I am impressed with the wisdom that you tap into. I think that it is time that those that are criticizing you start spending that energy on addressing the real issues in our community, nation and world. Address issues like children that go to bed hungry and do not have warm coats to wear to school. I do know that the series of sermons that you preached based on your experience of being “an extra” are sermons that I needed to hear to inspire me to continue doing what I knew was the right thing to do, and inspire me to do more. I do not know if you made the right or wrong decision by playing the part that was assigned to you. It does not really matter to me. I admit that I have made many wrong decisions for the right reasons. God always uses those things in spite of me. Anyone that steps out to make a difference will eventually make a mistake. So…..to those of you who are not making any mistakes…..are you doing anything? Again.. I do not know if this was a mistake or not. I am not really worried about it, because I know that it was done for a right reason, and we all should be to busy doing what we believe to be right and not spend time tabulating what we think others are doing wrong.                                                                                        Love you lots, Linnie

  • Charles

     There’s
    not a Christian alive who who has never at some time been some place
    where they shouldn’t have been, some of us more times than others, and
    sometimes not for the right reasons, but when by being there we touch
    the hearts and lives of others who don’t know Jesus in a way that they
    feel his love and know that it is from him, then it is because he is
    there also. We have carried him there, and
    either he planned it, or he used it. In this case you were there for
    all the right reasons. The sermon series on “extras” was truly great,
    and you did a good job of the interview with TMZ. We are in the world,
    and we weren’t called to be timid nor to judge the lost! Thanks. Keep
    preaching it!…Charles

  • http://westcoastwitness.com/ Wes Woodell

    Nice.

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Candy! 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Kevin, I’m right there with you. I think that it is one example of many of the way we commodify each other, and it’s heinous. The problem is that I wasn’t writing to Jesus followers, I was trying to represent them to the world. Again, I think we are called to judge (lovingly) each other, not the world. 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Sally, I’m very happy to be your preacher!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Wes!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Bro. Charles, that’s exactly right. If you would have caught me on the day of the shooting, I was very nervous, and concerned. As it went along I started thinking in terms of mission vs. terms of getting fired. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Linnie! I know I have and will make plenty of mistakes. And there is a very good chance that this was one of them. :)

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Bro Ron! I really appreciate you!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Bro. Bill! 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Mrs. Judy, I don’t think that we get Satire very well. The Colbert Report is a great example of this. He’s a devout Christian who uses a genre that is rarely used by Jesus followers, but he’s discovering new ways to be faithful. Thanks for who you are!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Casey!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Rex, so glad to hear from you!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Steven, hope all is well with you brother!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Bro. Keith!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Bro. Jim! You rock, you were the first one to comment and you had no idea how this was going to pan out. And you’re a Highland Shepherd, so glad to serve with you!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I believe your experience is best described as “Reader’s Digest:  My Most Embarrassing Moment”.  Good thing your congregation didn’t turn you into a pile of rocks for it.

    And from what I’ve heard, GCB is a lot like South Park or Dilbert:  Funny because just enough of it is true.