By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
Christian actor, stand-up comic and author Brad Stine, star of the MOVIEGUIDE® Award winning TV movie CHRISTMAS WITH A CAPITAL C, is a man on a mission. He wants to develop a way for Christian movie and television producers to put out casting calls to Christian actors and actresses for upcoming productions, especially faith films.
“That’s one of the things I’ve found missing in the Christian community,” Brad said. “Just to be made aware that a movie is casting. The mainstream has breakdowns of upcoming film productions. They put it out there and let you know that they’re casting this film.”
He added, “We need something that allows faith films, directors and producers a place to go to break down every actor they’re looking for, every age, what they need to do, where do we go to do the audition.”
Christians in the entertainment industry, actors included, need to work together, Stine believes. Christian filmmakers should hire Christian actors whenever they can, he asserts.
“If you need Brad Pitt for [a] role, you better hire Brad Pitt,” he said. “But, there’s plenty of other acting roles in [a] film where the person doesn’t have to be famous, he’s just got to be a good actor. If all things are equal. . . I believe yes indeed, you should give the role to the Christian because every other minority group that has attained leverage and power in Hollywood did it by hiring their own, but Christians don’t do that!
“I realize,” he continued, “our talent pool is not the same as the mainstream. I get it. I realize that [Christians] don’t always make those calls, but there are times when they can and they don’t. If we’re not taking care of our own people (in a culture that despises us). . . then shame on us!”
Brad is a man on a mission in other ways as well, especially when it comes to spreading the message of the Gospel through his stand-up act, his comedy albums, his two books, or through his acting gigs.
He described for MOVIEGUIDE® how he came to faith:
“I came to Christ when I was 9-years-old. I was in a little Presbyterian Church in Orange, California. They simply said, if you would like to know Jesus as your Savior, raise your hand, and, with every head bowed and every eye closed, I said, sure, I’ll be a Christian, and I became a Christian at that point. I’ve lived my faith throughout all those years since then. I definitely had a Prodigal journey in there, as many others who grow up in the church do. I have not lived a perfect life, but I have gone through stages of grace and maturity and growth and change in my faith that has brought me to this place where God can use me in the media that He had called me to all along. . . .
“My mom, when she found out she was pregnant, told God, if you’ll give me this son, I promise I will dedicate his entire life to Your service. I didn’t ask her to do that, but here’s what I’ve learned. When you tell God that you dedicate your kid to Him in the womb, and you dedicate his life to Him, God actually takes this seriously. It’s kind of like being made in the Mafia. God doesn’t let you go until He kills you. That’s how it works.
“That little choice, that decision that my mom made, started the process and that little decision that 9-year-old made continued the process. And, then, my journey as a comic, actor, writer, and champion for Christian values and traditional American original intent Founding Fathers concept, the form of comedy [I do], that’s how I’ve gotten where I am.”
MOVIEGUIDE® asked Brad how exactly his faith as a Christian and walk with God informs his professional career.
“When I did my third comedy album,” he replied, “and NBC Nightly News did a story on me. . . one of the questions was, ‘Do you consider yourself more of a preacher or a comedian?’ And, I said, ‘I find that question interesting. How come, when I use my comedy to say what I believe, I’m a preacher, but when Chris Rock does it, he’s a social commentator? Let me explain something to you. Everybody’s a preacher, because all preaching does, all it’s intended to do, is to persuade with words.’
“Every time Bruce Springsteen writes a song, or Lady GaGa dances,” Brad continued, “they’re saying and preaching, have sex like that, vote like that, live your life like this, listen to your parents, don’t listen to your parents, drink, smoke, do drugs, kill yourself. They’re all preaching. This is what life’s all about. I’m no different. I just happen to be a follower of Christ.
“So, if you ask me what informs the thing that I do, it’s all based on Christian worldview. It’s all about seeing the world through the truth of Christ, how He said what life was what went wrong, how do we fix it. So, even though I’ll always be a comedian, and I’ll always use the arts, because that’s what God’s gifted me, it will always be dictated by how I see life based on how God has told me life is. So, you will always get a sense of my faith, either as social commentary, either as blatantly describing evangelical concepts, fundamentalist concepts, or through nuance or more abstract conceptual ideas that are trying to plant seeds that can drive you towards God thought. That’s really what I’m all about.”
Brad’s family also moved to Southern California when he was 9. His father was an auto body repair man and an actor in community theater, and his mother was a housewife.
One year, for his birthday, his mother gave him a little magic kit. He put it in the closet. Then, one summer when he was being punished and ordered to stay in his room for two weeks, he got out the magic kit and started practicing.
“There was no iPod, no computer, no TV, no CD player, no GameBoy back then,” Brad noted. “You had to read and look out the window. So, I ended up grabbing this little magic kit and started practicing. I really caught the bug. I just got hooked. Eventually, I made a living at it.”
Brad created a comic patter to go along with his magic act, which was mostly close-up magic.
“My patter was always humorous,” he said. “It came out naturally.”
Then, he decided to do a comic magic act on stage at local comedy clubs. That kind of performance, however, was a completely different animal from his close-up magic act.
“I suddenly realized everything I didn’t know,” Brad laughed. “Such as using the microphone. . . . Suddenly, I realized this is totally hard. It’s not easy at all.”
So, Brad had to re-learn how to be the comical character he wanted to play on stage, before much larger crowds. Once he mastered that, however, he decided he’d like to be an actor like his father. Once again, he learned he was “over my head.”
While taking acting classes, he began making a name for himself as a Christian stand-up comic, playing in churches and conventions, as well as headlining shows using no curse words and no gratuitous sexual material.
That didn’t mean, of course, that Brad was a milquetoast on stage.
“I had an attitude,” he said, “doing things you weren’t supposed to do as a Christian comedian. No one had ever seen comedy like this. I wanted to show my people we could compete at the highest levels of comedy. You can be just as funny as any comic out there without using a curse word.”
Acting is a little different, however. To learn the craft, you have to learn how to perform some things written by people who aren’t Christian.
“Still, you can’t compromise,” Brad said. “Once you’re on film, you’re on it forever. So, you have a responsibility to what you’re going to chose to do. If the story isn’t redemptive, if the story doesn’t leave the audience with a sense of something grander than themselves, some hope, some sense that there’s something better in life than what they have, and has a Christian context to it, then I don’t tell that story, because I don’t believe in that story.”
Looking back on his varied career, which also includes two books, including BEING A CHRISTIAN WITHOUT BEING AN IDIOT, Brad said, “Every step of the way was a new learning process. You have to risk it all to be great.
“I’m not a Christian comedian,” he added. “I’m a comedian who’s a Christian.” That description probably could also be applied to Brad’s acting career.
Besides working on a fifth comedy album, Brad is working on a possible documentary about the roots and silly, harmful consequences of left-wing political correctness.
“I want to be the Christian Michael Moore,” Brad admits. “If I can get this one in the can, and it works, I’m thinking about another one. I’m going to be controversial, but I said I was going to fight for our team, and I’ll do it the best I can.”
Getting back to his idea that Christian movies need a database where actors can find out about, and audition for, movies going into production, Brad said he wants a chance to be considered for more movies roles, and to help those movies he’s in find an audience.
“If I’ve built a fan base as a Christian comedian,” he said, “I want to take those fans and those who appreciate my faith statement and my style. . . and bring them into another artistic form envisioned for me, and that has given me joy as an actor. I want them to be there, because I think they’d enjoy me doing that too. I want a chance for my people to see me as an actor, but I can’t do that if I’m not acting, if I’m not in these [faith-based] films that I don’t even know are being made. ”
Brad said this can work to everyone’s mutual benefit, not just the Christian actor or performer.
“Put us in your films,” he tells Christian filmmakers. “Give us a chance to build our career. We can’t do it without you; we don’t make films. Help us, and we’ll help you. I tour this country in churches; I can tout this film. In fact, before I go on stage, I can play your trailer before I go on stage if I want to. I have this grass roots opportunity to help promote your film. I can help you market to my fan base. This ain’t just about me getting mine. I can help you too.
“We’re working as a body, and frankly we’re affecting the culture that way because we’re not working against each other. We’re lifting each other up with the same vision. Christ is magnified, and His story is told through our craft and the gift that God gave us. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what we’re expected to do, and, if we’re not doing it, then we cannot complain when we are excluded from the game.”
Finally, Brad said he once got a note from a philosophy professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who had seen him perform at Promise Keepers, that helps explain his work.
“He sent me a note, saying, ‘I appreciate your subversive evangelism.’ I thought that was a wonderful phrase; I found it to be quite complimentary. That’s exactly what it is. In media, in art, it oftentimes is subversive. Often times, you don’t understand you’re being taught, you’re being indoctrinated, you are being manipulated. I certainly don’t want to think of myself as a Christian as manipulating people, nor do I think I can, because I don’t think you become a Christian out of intellect, I think you become a Christian because you are called by God, the Holy Spirit connects you, and you agree. That’s how it works.
“But, reason and rationale can bring you to the precipice of faith. There comes a moment where you’ve just gotta … go, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but here we go.’ That’s a different world…, but we can get close to it with our minds, like Aquinas tried to do, and Augustine, different philosophers, and C.S. Lewis, and so forth.
“What comedy does wonderfully is it breaks down your filters, because we’re used to filtrating everything we hear through our worldview, through our prism of what we think is true about life. So, the moment we hear something that is counter to what we believe is true, we discount it, we deflect it, we don’t even receive it. Comedy, because it’s such a human, unique expression, and because it’s so disarming, you start laughing at the human condition which everybody from every human race, color, creed, gender, and age can laugh at, cause it’s the human experience and it’s all in the same boat. So, with comedy, you’re laughing, you’re enjoying yourself, you’re experiencing joy (a transcendent concept), you feel safe and you feel in community and you drop your filter. Suddenly, I speak a truth, and it hits you full bore in the center of your heart, because for the first time in many a year, you didn’t deflect. You had to feel it. You had to endure it. You had to chew on it. You had to contemplate it. You had to meditate on it. You may not accept it. You might run. You might catch yourself and shake yourself out of your disposition and quickly respond and replace back your filters. You might despise what you heard or what you felt. But, you had to deal with it. And, that is the beauty of comedy, because sometimes it actually brings people to faith. That’s what I do.”
Ultimately, he concluded, “My call is to tell His story, but I do it with the arts. That’s the package He gave me to deliver His story.”
You can learn more about Brad at www.BradStine.com.