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The “Voice of Faith” in a Celebrity Culture

In the ancient world, public squares were filled with diverse voices clamoring for a hearing. Likewise, modern-day platforms vie for followers, and despite technology, sharing the truth of the Gospel within a culture that worships celebrity is a complex challenge.

Author Andrew Byers shares an example—John the Baptist: “The forerunner of Christ was a major celebrity in the ancient world. Hordes flocked to him from a broad geographical range. His following was immense.”

So how did he navigate the complexities of his fame? The heart of his ministry was twofold—redirecting his followers back to Christ, and, at the same time, allowing his own public ministry to blend in with the wider faith community. Byers admonishes us to use the social media tools of our day to “point away from ourselves and become absorbed into our hearers, viewers, readers, and followers.” He says . . .

“Like John the Baptist, many of us have a message that needs public airing. Faithful proclamation in John’s day of public heralding and in our own day of social media use is marked by pointing to Someone greater while identifying ourselves with the faith community following our gaze . . . . What we proclaim—from temple steps, from Mars Hill, or from cyberspace—can direct those within range to Jesus.”

Adapted from TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age (Cascade Books, 2013).

On-Screen Inspiration

by Dan Rupple

Black Panther

One of 2018’s biggest-box office hits was the Marvel film Black Panther. This superhero fantasy film tells the story of T’Challa, heir to the hidden, but advanced kingdom of Wakanda. T’Challa must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country’s past. Reluctant to be passive when division threatens his people, he makes a declaration:

“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

As Christians we are implored to be peacemakers, seek unity, and reflect the character of the God who reconciles mankind to Himself.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you; so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.“(Col. 3:12-14)

Off-Camera with Austin Peck and Terri Conn Peck

Terri Conn Peck is an Emmy-nominated actress, QVC producer, and host. Catch Terri in Rich Christiano’s latest film, Play the Flute, in theaters this fall. Austin Peck is an established actor with over 1,500 hours of network television to his credit (Days of Our Lives, As the World Turns, One Life to Live), as well as a writer and producer. 

DAN: How did the two of you meet and were you both Christians when you met?

AUSTIN: We originally met at a charity function in New York.

 TERRI: Austin was a believer. I had grown up in the Episcopal Church, but it was meeting Austin and being introduced to the Spirit-filled church that took my spiritual journey straight to a relationship with the one true God. I had questions . . . LOTS of questions. It was Austin who answered those questions in a way I could understand and apply to what was going on in my life.

DAN: Why acting? What drew you to this career path?

AUSTIN: I grew up in L.A., my mother was an actress, and my stepfather a talent agent.  I wasn’t exactly sure what my future held. I didn’t focus much on school and thought I was just going to enter into the military. But one day I was approached on the street by talent agents and asked if I’d be into acting/modeling. I was like, “Duh, yeah, ok . . . ” I just thought as an actor I can be anything. I can be in the military, be a pilot, be a lawyer, be anything.

TERRI: I grew up as an only child and military brat, so I was alone a lot. I had a very active imagination and loved writing and acting out my own stories—usually playing all the roles! I had a burning desire to make an audience feel and think and maybe even change, in the same way films and television did that for me.

DAN: Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” calling Christians to be present in every community and industry. What role do you think actors in general, and specifically you as believers, play in the broader culture?

AUSTIN: I think actors can play a very powerful role. What actors do can touch the heart, reveal humanity, and shine light on truth. Actors’ sensibilities can be used for good and evil. Good in the sense of showing and revealing truth to help people move toward the light. Encouraging people to seek righteousness rather than darkness. Unfortunately, in today’s world we get the latter the majority of the time.

DAN: As you mentioned, Terri, you both have had roles in daytime serials (“soaps”). The storylines are often filled with conniving, cheating, scheming, etc. As Christian believers, how do you approach a role or scene where your character’s values are contrary to your own?

TERRI: Soaps, and even sit-coms, used to be morality plays. The bad guy got caught in the end and good prevailed. The audience learned something about “what not to do” by watching what can happen when you let evil take over. It seems, though, that it isn’t the case anymore.  Evil is explained away and often glorified, and I cannot participate in that.

DAN: I appreciate you both so much. How can the Mastermedia community pray for you and your family?

AUSTIN: That I would be who God wants me to be.

TERRI: Thank you, Dan, for providing this ministry to all of us!  We are so honored and grateful to be a small part of it! I would like to ask for protection for Austin, me, and our family. My manager, Michael Van Dyke, said that to go into the enemy’s territory with the intention of glorifying God is putting a big target on yourself for the enemy. We must be in constant prayer for the Lord’s protection. So I ask for prayers of protection for the Peck family and for all of us who are boldly declaring Jesus in Hollywood.