Faith in Hollywood with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey
If you turn on the TV on any given night of the week, chances are you will catch one of the television shows Mark Burnett produces – Survivor, The Voice, Shark Tank, or The Apprentice just to name a few. In addition to those highly-rated reality shows, Burnett, and his wife Roma Downey, are producing television shows and movies that are encouraging and challenging the faith of the viewers. Shows like The Bible, A.D. Son of God, Dovekeepers, and Little Boy. Their latest project is the retelling of the classic, Ben Hur. Three years ago, we interviewed Mark and Roma and talked about how they have seen faith represented in the media and how they came to faith.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Downey reflected on how faith has been represented on the screen from Touched by an Angel until now.
“It was such a privilege to have been a part of ‘Touched by an Angel’ for all those years. We really were the ‘little train that could’ at that time. I remember when we first aired there was criticism in various publications that thought by the time you read the interview; the show would be off the air. We really got the last laugh though. We were on CBS for almost ten years with such a huge, core audience. The audience was so loyal. They tuned in every week for the central message, there is God, he wants to be part of your life, and that God loves you. There were just such an enormous privilege for me as a person of faith to be the messenger and get to deliver that message on a weekly basis. I don’t know if anything really has taken that space in that same way on network. That’s not to say that there aren’t very good quality programs out there, but I don’t know if anything has come out that speaks directly to faith. Certainly for us in the past few years, it is a privilege for Mark and me to be able to come together in our marriage, in our faith, with our love and our particular skill sets.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Burnett shared about his perspective of faith in Hollywood.
“It’s such a funny question, because it makes the assumption that most people in Hollywood have no faith. People assume that Hollywood lacks faith, which I hope is not the case. When I spoke at Catalyst West a year ago, I was sharing about The Bible and I remember people coming up to me and saying, ‘That’s so cool. The guy who makes ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Voice’ is a Christian.’ If you think about it, some of the greatest written word and visual art in history were made by Christians…C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien just to name a few. It’s an interesting reoccurring question though because people assume that when you are in Hollywood, people in the business don’t have faith. I think that’s a misnomer. I don’t think that’s true. I think some people don’t, but a lot of people do.”
Be a light. Whether you are in Hollywood or small town suburbia, God has placed you right where you are for a reason. He wants you to share your faith with those around you. Your co-workers, classmates, and friends all need to hear about Christ. If God has given you a platform through media or notoriety, pray and ask Him how He wants you to use that to glorify Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be an example of the faith for others. You don’t have to be perfect, but remember that others are watching how you live your life. The choices you make, the actions you display are all an opportunity to be a witness for Christ without even sharing the Gospel.
Be an innovator. From producing a television show to being a musician, if God has placed those desires in your heart, ask Him for opportunities to live those out. When you face criticism or setbacks, turn to God for his truth. When you get discouraged, turn to the Bible for encouragement and inspiration. Surround yourself with others who will not only encourage you, but inspire your ideas. Many churches have creative arts ministries that help attendees develop their skills. If your church doesn’t have one, consider starting one. Take time this week to read the story of David. David knew that he was supposed to be king, but it would take several years for this to happen and during that time, King Saul would try to kill him.
Bring others. Whether it is having a movie night at your house or going to the theater, pray about whom you can invite. A film does not have to be overtly Christian to challenge people in their faith. Take time after you watch the movie over coffee or a meal to ask your friend what they thought. Many films are now producing resources or discussion guides for small groups to use to have these types of conversations. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your conversation and if you have the opportunity talk about how the film impacted your faith and how you began your faith journey.
To read our entire interview with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, click here.