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Extra! Walk-on role in controversial TV show demonstrates the need for Christians to shine


This past summer, I was on the study break that the Highland Church of Christ gives me. I knew I was going to do a sermon series on minor characters in the Bible, using the metaphor of “extras.” So I decided to go to Hollywood and try and be an extra in a movie.
You know, normal preacher stuff.
After many attempts, I got into a scene from what I thought was a new “Annie” movie with Christian Bale. I was accepted to play a working class restaurant patron.
When I got to the Disney studios, I discovered that the  film wasn’t a new “Annie,” featuring Christian Bale as Daddy Warbucks. It was, instead, a TV show called “Good Christian Belles” that had been booked by a friend as a favor to a woman named Annie.
It’s cool though. I can roll with the punches.
I was sent to the basement, where they were holding the extras. I learned that the best way to start conversations with them is to ask about what work they were the most proud of, what sets they enjoyed working on the most and to tell them that it was my first time ever to do this. People seemed to take me under their wing and tell me their stories.
The problem came when they wanted to hear mine. I guess most preachers don’t do this in their off time — especially considering the show we were working on.
The assistant director informed us that “Good Christian Belles” — even before a single episode had been shot — had been banned by the American Family Values Association. The show’s name has since been changed to “GCB” and the previews insinuate that the “B” stands for something much worse than “Belles.” (Remember, I thought this was “Annie.”)
As more and more details came out, I learned that the scene we were shooting wasn’t in a restaurant but in a bar, one modeled after a restaurant that is famous for demeaning women and serving good chicken wings — or so I’ve been told.
So I start wondering about whether this whole “method preaching” approach is worth it, and wishing the musical orphans I had planned on would show up. Then a couple of my new friends reminded me that this is background work. You are there as furniture. You are a blur; you won’t be getting a line, and you aren’t going to be in any scene directly. You are just there for ambiance.
Then the assistant director told us that they needed five working-class guys to sit at the table that actress Leslie Bibb (from “Taledega Nights,” “Zookeeper,” “Law Abiding Citizen”) was going to serve.
I sank down in my seat and hoped that five other guys would volunteer. But Derrick, a guy I had just met, spoke up.
“Here’s your fifth guy,” he said, pointing to me. “He’s working class.”
Next thing I know, I’m on a set that’s all smoke and mirrors. Inside, it felt like an authentic Texas-style restaurant. If it weren’t for the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cameras and the people walking around yelling directions, you might have actually thought that those appetizers in front of you were edible.
We got our instructions. Leslie Bibb would walk over to our table, and about halfway through the scene we would start chanting “Amanda, Amanda!” One of us would pay her money for our food and beverages.
Then it got even more complicated. The producers thought I would be perfect to hand Amanda the money and say a line, “Thanks and here you go.” She would say, “Wow! Thank you!” Then the scene would go on, and Leslie would have the main conversation somewhere across the restaurant.
After a few hours on the set, I had come to grips with the reality of what was going on. I was sitting in the holding area, daydreaming about worst-case scenarios.
That’s when another extra, 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 was vilified by the Christian people whom she had grown up with. They saw her marriage as a mixed marriage, and instead of engaging her, they kept her at arm’s length.
Allison made the point that the show we were filming hit pretty close to home for her. She had been wounded by church — and church people. When she thought about Christians, she 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.”
And after that, I did too.
I think Christians should be involved in the entertainment industry — even when we’re not in control of the storyline. Hollywood needs sincere Jesus-followers, ones who aren’t judgmental and pretentious. It needs people who understand that holiness isn’t withdrawing from the world, but being different from it.
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 use us trying to live that out.
When the show premiers March 4 on ABC, it will be controversial. It satirically portrays some Christians as people who are not genuine. But this show will unknowingly begin its opening scene with a preacher from a church in West Texas, sitting at a pretend bar, eating pretend chicken wings and having subversive conversations that, hopefully, gave Jesus a better name.
JONATHAN STORMENT preaches for the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. He blogs at www.stormented.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Stormented.

  • Feedback
    Did any of you think that the reason he was “sent” to be an extra was to touch Allison and help erase her opinions of Christianity? Maybe he was the vessel of the Light to her. Who knows? God does work in many ways.
    Val
    St. Paul’s
    toronto, ont
    canada
    October, 5 2012

    I would say something here about the bias of the Chronicle but I am sure that will cowardly hide under the false pretense of journalistic anonymity. God does not recognize such nonsense. “Christian” journalism must be founded in Christian principles (Rom. 1:32).
    rick
    Lindsay Church of Christ
    lindsay, oklahoma
    usa
    March, 20 2012

    “in the world, but not of the world”
    “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”
    “come out from among them and be separate says the Lord”
    While it is true light makes its greatest impact in the darkness and salt is meant to permeate, one must be very careful who is being influenced. We are also told not to allow our “freedom” to lead others to stumble.
    I for one, would not have been involved in the making of such let alone the “Hooters” type of scene.
    Skeptics and antagonists tend to sweep all Christians into the same accusation of hypocrisy. They have enough ammunition now. This show is just marketing such a view for laughs and money. We may know it exaggerates, but some will believe it true.
    Johnny D. Hinton
    29th & Yale Church of Christ
    Tulsa, OK
    USA
    March, 18 2012

    I was disappointed and disheartened that network television would be allowed to air a tv show with a title that is disparaging to Christians and to women, and that alone was sufficient for me to not even consider watching the show. To now read, on a church of Christ website, an article by a church of Christ preacher who is proud of his work as an extra on that same television show is incomprehensible to me. I do not understand, and see no explanation here, how that is being different from the world. Instead, it seems to be quite the opposite – an endorsement of this show. Even a commercial sponsor had enough concern to pull its advertisements. I couldn’t agree more with Nyla’s and with Paul’s comments.
    Mindy
    church of Christ
    Waxahachie, TX
    USA
    March, 14 2012

    For one- the show does not mock christians, it mocks self righteous, hypocritical christians, and two- I LOVE this story! What kind of loving, christian example would he have made by leaving? Staying was definitely the right thing to do.
    Mandy
    church of Christ
    Kansas City, Mo
    US
    March, 13 2012

    The immaturity was the only light that “shined” on this soap opera. Fortunately, I only watched 15 minutes of the show and I was disgusted. You are young and misguided it’s a good thing our God is a gracious God and sent his Son to cover the stupidity of human errors. I’m so far from perfect but when you make a mistake, a blunder, just fess up and say so. I’m 100% sure you’d be forgiven. There are better ways to reach out to the lost, just not sure that walk on’s and reality shows are what Jesus had in mind, just saying….
    Lorrie Baldwin
    Mercy Street Church of Christ
    Abilene, Texas
    USA
    March, 12 2012

    I want to preface my comments with the following: I am not a member of the Highland Church nor do I watch the new show GCB; however, I’m a Christian who is troubled by some of what is being said here. I’m not here to change people’s opinion, but the minister should not be thrown under the bus. I read the story and the article from the Abilene newspaper associated with it and I think that What Mr. Storment did was outside of the box and a very wise move. Non-Christians are not coming to our campuses and facilities unless we carry out the Great Commission and go to the marketplace where the people are whether it be in a corporate boardroom or a controversial place like a bar to show them Jesus. Our Creator is an “outside of the box” God.
    Kevin
    Bammel Church of Christ
    Houston, TX
    USA
    March, 10 2012

    This television program does not glorify God. How could this minister’s participation in it do so? Simple answer, it doesn’t.
    Nyla Dominguez
    church of Christ in Pecos
    Pecos , TX
    USA
    March, 7 2012

    How exactly did you represent Christ in your bar scene? Are you on film refusing to enter an establishment where women wear “short shorts”? No, to the contrary … you are portrayed as a patron.
    As a Christian woman, I am upset that you did not choose to opt out of this scene. If you want to be a part time actor and full time minster then you should choose your acting roles more carefully.
    I’m afraid your zeal for acting may come back to bite you. I will pray that God is able to use your interest in acting to HIS glory. However, you should be more cautious in your choice of roles and ask yourself … is it worthwhile? Am I representing Christ in what I do? I just don’t see it in this instance.
    Crystal K.
    Bayside Church of Christ
    Norfolk, Virginia
    USA
    March, 6 2012

    I agree with Paul. Jesus went among sinners, but did not participate in their wrong actions. To participate in a series that demeans your Christian brothers & sisters – and to show a clip advertising it – shows why we are like Israel, “accepting the ways of the nations around us.” Like Israel, we will reap the results.
    Linda Hoeck
    Aberdeen Church of Christ
    Bel Air, Maryland
    USA
    March, 5 2012

    Would Paul have approved of Timothy participating in a work of Roman theater that mocked Christianity?
    Would Timothy have been justified in doing so by saying that a fellow actor thought it was cool?
    Would an unbelieving Roman audience, upon learning of Timothy’s support of a work that mocked the very movement he promoted, be drawn to the gospel because of it?
    Tye Power
    Broadway Church of Christ
    Tyler, Texas
    USA
    March, 5 2012

    Well said, Jonathan….I believe we, as Christians, need to engage the lost where they are, but love them enough to try and not leave them in that state. It’s unrealistic to sit in our church buildings and expect all the world to come to us. You’ve got to go out to the front lines.
    KENT
    Hendersonville church of Christ
    Hendersonville, North Carolina
    USA
    March, 5 2012

    No. Everything about the premise of the article is wrong. Jesus elevated and transformed; modern entertainment debases and corrupts. How can we call people out of darkness if we are complicit with the ones who create and profit from that darkness? How can a minister of the gospel counsel a woman who has been abused and traumatized by a system that debases women and at the same time boast about having been a part of the very system of entertainment that abuses and debases women? This is absurdity! Jesus could comfort the woman at the well because he confronted the power structures that let men abuse and use her. The underlying message of this article is deeply disturbing.
    Paul
    Aztec Church of Christ
    Aztec, NM
    USA
    March, 5 2012

    There are several petitions on change.org to have this show pulled from the air. Here’s one of them! http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-abc-to-cancel-gcb-formerly-good-christian-bitches
    Mandie P.
    Christian
    Wheaton, IL
    USA
    March, 5 2012

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