So since I’ve come out and told everyone the story about what happened to me in Hollywood, I have had one question raised more than any other…Did you think about leaving? Which is kind of like asking me, “Did you want to stay employed as a preacher?” For the entire day I questioned whether I should be there, and if so, what would the people I serve back in Abilene think. Here’s how this played out and why I stayed.
So there I was. I was on the set of the Disney studios, it was almost 8 in the morning, and I had just heard that I was about to be filming a scene in the Booby-licious bar. I had already done so much to get there, this was the product of a couple of weeks of planning, researching, standing in lines/registering, and one really, really big mistake about what show I would actually be filming.
My gut told me this was an unchartered area for preachers. I hadn’t heard a lot of sermons on a preachers spending time on a PG-13 sit-com, and I wasn’t that thrilled about being the first one to preach that sermon. I wasn’t expecting to be given a line or have any kind of established scene on camera, I knew that Extras are blurs in the background, so I could get by with it with no one knowing. The problem was that I had come here to tell the story of what the experience was like, and now that seemed slightly more difficult. The reason I would have left, or just not talked about it has nothing to do with me thinking that it was wrong for a Christian to be in that situation.
It was because I, on some level, was there as the preacher of Highland. I would have represented them, in other words I would have taken people along with me that had no idea or desire to be there. This is part of the burden of pastoring, you have to try to think about what people can hear, or what will prevent them from hearing you clearly again. I want to be clear on this, because after I talked about it at Highland there was a variety of responses, but the one that stuck with me the most was hearing from a person who said, “If he thinks that was wrong to be there, than I don’t want to ever confess any of my sins to him.”
If you know me, you know that I’ve done a lot worse than that. I didn’t think it was wrong for a Christian to be there, I had to figure out if it was wrong for me to be there.
Obviously I stayed (but I did plan on just not talking about it) and the first reason was because once I heard that the American Family Values Association had boycotted it, I had no desire to add my voice to that. I still had lines that I would not cross. There were things on that set, or any situation, that I would hope to say no to, despite whatever fallout might come. But they hadn’t asked me to do anything unethical, or anything that was wrong…just lots of grey areas.
Which is something that I think Christians are going to have to get used to.
Because to use Biblical language, Christians are in Exile, which means that we are no longer telling the dominant story lines in our culture. And that’s a problem because the only places that Christians generally feel comfortable really being in, are the ones where we can still have a semblance of control over the reality around us. But the reason that I decided to talk so publicly about it, was because I know that there are a lot of Christians who feel called to go into this (and other precarious industries). There are a lot of Jesus-followers (especially among younger generations) who are trying to wade into the grey areas of our society and be a blessing in whatever small ways they can.
In his book, “You Lost Me” David Kinnaman talks about the Jewish Exiles in the book of Daniel. The best Jewish young leaders are put into a training program where they are asked to do things that are very unlike the way their parents did it. They are told to serve the nation that took them away from their home, they are forced to reevaluate how to practice their faith in light of their new reality. And they do. They negotiate in some areas (like allowing themselves to be given new, pagan names) and find new ways to be faithful in others (like ask for the empire to give them an experiment of only eating kosher foods).
They lived, and served in Exile, they didn’t tell the dominant story lines, but practiced being faithful to God in the culture that didn’t think or act like them.
And then David Kinnaman makes this observation:
“One of the recurring themes in our research is that Christianity does not have much, if anything, to say about their chosen profession or field. ….Most Exiles feel tremendous tension between their work, usually in mainstream arenas of society (the arts, media, science, fashion, law, and so on) and their faith. In large measure, they don’t feel supported or equipped by the Christian Community to follow Christ in these endeavors. ”
This is why I stayed, and it’s why I chose to talk about it.
Because I know that there are a lot of Jesus-followers who are in the various industries trying to make a difference. And somewhere along the way they heard someone try to convince them that doing that was somehow less Christian because it was in a field that wasn’t dominated by Christianity.
And now they are wrestling with the idea that either they can be faithful to God’s people or to what they think God has called them to do with their life. I want to tell them, that now I know some people who need you, they don’t need you to be just like them, they need you, an authentic Jesus follower to wade through the grey with them, holding on to God, as the church holds on to them.
They need to know that they are not alone.
And That’s why I stayed.