Former “Touched by an Angel” Producer Offers Commandments for Christians in Media

Brian Bird has worked in Hollywood for 25 years, most notably as a Co-Executive Producer and writer of the Christopher Award-winning TV series “Touched by an Angel.” The longtime faculty member at the “Act One” program for Christians in Hollywood has also worked on shows like “Evening Shade” and “Step by Step” – and is currently writing or producing several movies for “Believe Pictures,” which he co-founded with Michael Landon Jr.

Recently, Bird served as the keynote speaker at the 15th Annual Media Fellowship International Praise Brunch in Hollywood. As his topic, he chose “Ten Commandments for How to Be a Christian in Media.”

Based on a report on the “Crossmap” website, Bird shared a lot of wisdom in those Commandments. You can check them out for the full article, but here are some notable excerpts:

2) THOU SHALT SPEAKETH A LANGUAGE THEY UNDERSTAND

“We have to stop speaking Christianese,” [Bird] warned. “We have to care about the communications process, not just be obsessed with the profundity of our message and hearing ourselves talk.”

Bird added, “Also, can we please stop talking about the Cultural Civil War? Jesus didn’t bludgeon people into the kingdom, he loved them in.

“Yes, morality and ethics have shifted away from biblical values, but that doesn’t mean people are any less hungry for God, and we can’t satisfy that hunger with politics and antagonism.

“Folks, when we communicate God’s grace — and not our political and moral agenda to people — the world falls silent.”

His next commandment (3) was THOU SHALT BE IN THE BUSINESS OF LOVE PEOPLE

“I’m not just talking about the audience, the great unreached masses. I’m talking about the people we have to work alongside to get the message out. The people in Hollywood whose lifestyles and values may offend us, but whom God has not given up on,” he said.

“Because Hollywood is a town of great insecurity and betrayal, loyal friends rarely exist. I’ve learned that the people I work with don’t care how much I know until they know how I much I care.

“Sometimes, we Christians want to lay the four spiritual laws on people, wham, bam… thank you, Sam… and then move onto to the next target without a commitment to a lasting relationship.

“After all, it took Jesus three years of living with those hard-heads for his message to take hold. Let’s not be so impatient. We need to keep loving people even if they reject our message.

“We also don’t need to feel the burden of cleaning up the lives of those we work with. If we love unconditionally in the name of Christ, the Holy Spirit will do the cleaning up.

“Of course, we need to always be prepared to defend the faith, but some Christians like to wear it like a big hat… and it looks really weird to those who have no memory or connection to a Christian context.

“In these cases, I believe we need to fly below the radar… stay behind spies.”

Bird then moved on to (4) THOU SHALT BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION

“What we need to acknowledge here is that there is a giant media conversation going on throughout the world, which is going to happen with or without us,” he stated.

“Did you know that teenagers in urban China have more in common urban American teenagers than they do with rural Chinese teens? Anybody want to hazard a guess why?” He then answered his question by saying, “MTV.”

He then continued by saying, “There are many Christians who choose to have a different media conversation… their own conversation… inside their own… can I say the word ‘ghetto.’ I’m not saying there’s a time and place for that, but if that’s the only conversation they have… what good is it?

“It’s a choir-only conversation. Those who would never darken the door of a church pass right on by, never hearing it.

“Instead, we should just be asking GREAT QUESTIONS. Questions that stir up cravings in people… that drive them closer to God… that get them to engage with their neighbors or co-workers around the water cooler.

“My pastor, Rick Warren, once told me… ‘If all I do is ask great questions… it’s huge.’ Drive people to the door of the tent, and then pastors like him can take it from there.

“That’s what great art always does… it’s asks great questions… but it doesn’t always have to answer them. That’s what people and relationships are for.”

Then he spoke about (5) THOU SHALT RESPECT THE PATH TO POWER

“At this point, I want to take a moment to dispel a rumor. Contrary to what some of our brothers and sisters in Christ say, THERE IS NO HOLLYWOOD CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY THE FAMILY.

“If there is a conspiracy, it’s a conspiracy to be profitable. The same conspiracy that exists at IBM, General Motors and probably most local Christian bookstores.

“But there are gatekeepers… the men and women who decide what we will and will not see in TV and films.”

Bird added, “‘The golden rule’ applies to these folks. “He, who has the gold, gets to make the rules.’ These are simply people who bring their values, their ethics, their worldviews and their faith… or lack thereof… to the decision making process.

“If we want to complain, then the least we can do is put some of our people in those chairs.”

As his audience listened intently, he stated, “Somebody once asked me why there were so few Christians working in Hollywood. My answer was… ‘so when are you starting?’

“It may have been a facetious answer, but not that facetious. Our churches are filled with a lot of Monday Morning quarterbacks, but very few Sunday Morning ones.

“Maybe that ought to change. At Saddleback Church, where I go, we’re starting craft guilds of writers, directors, actors and other performers not only to serve in church… but to try and acquire the skills they need to penetrate the entertainment industry.

“There’s a thought… why aren’t churches encouraging young people to pursue a life of excellence in the arts? The way the church encouraged, say, Michelangelo?

“Many of us are involved in encouraging and mentoring students at some of the Christian colleges that have film/TV/Radio programs now. That’s a great start. Volunteering on campuses in order to help sharpen the skills of these students and hopefully leave the door open behind us in Hollywood. Raising up a new generation of media professionals who can compete at the highest level.

“The point is, we need people in positions of authority who have earned the right to be there. They need to know what they’re doing. They need to be trained to know the difference between a good and bad script, or between professional and mediocre production values. It’s not acceptable just to say… ‘It sounded good to me.’”

Read all the Commandments here.

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.

  • jameswe44

    I believe the powers at be in Hollywood need to be replaced with people with Chistian moral values. I have to disagree with your assesment of Hollywood not trying to destroy the family. Just look at the commercials. The kids are potrayed walking all over their parents, if the parents are even in the picture. To me that undermines the family unit. It tells our sons and daughters they can be in control and not their parents.
    Maybe I am old fashioned but the parents ahould be teaching their children not the children walking all over their parents in the name of profit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fr.petebarnabite Peter Calabrese

    I think the important thing to remember is his audience. Obviosly if one is in the middle of people who are fighting that culture war you can;t keep talking about it. Fighting the culture war is done by loving. We have to alert our own to the battle but when we are fighting it we have to be stealthy. I see it more as covert action. these people are behind enemy lines fighting the good fight. They wil fight it not by pointing attention to the fight itself but by just producing good quality material that fights the battle without ever saying it. I agree withte fitst comment that there is a battle against family values goign on but only insiders can tell us if people are not getting work because of Chirstian values or if projects are denied because …. A good example might be what was allegedly done to Duck Dynasty – selective editing to cut out in Jesus name and bleeping their words to make it seem like they were cursing. To me that is a sign of some conspiracy yet Lord of the RIngs and the Hobbit were produced very well and they are full of catholic values. Good food for thought thanks for sharing.


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