Over the years, I have realized that media has defined the person I am today. I don‘t believe I would have become a producer, director, writer or, for that matter, the founder of two media ministries without the influence of The Waltons and The Exorcist. Perhaps, there has never been a greater contrast between two programs. But both clearly shaped the person I am today.
During the 1970s, The Waltons was one of the most successful family dramas on television. I watched it faithfully every Thursday night. I seriously doubt that I was the intended audience or demographic that the producers were aiming for. But I made a connection with The Waltons, especially the character of John Boy played by Richard Thomas. I identified with his character and his aspirations. Although we lived in different times and in different places, there were striking similarities. We were both poor with little prospects for the future. John Boy wanted to make something of his life. He wanted to be someone and go to college. I was the same age as John Boy. I could see myself in him. We were both dealing with the same struggles. I cheered for him to succeed. If he could make it, perhaps I could too. If he could dream and work hard maybe in my life anything was possible.
In the early 1970s as a teenager, I saw The Exorcist with a few of my friends. At the time, The Exorcist was a big hit. It was provocative and cutting edge. It was the rage, a must-see film. I wasn‘t sure about God. In fact, I had been to church once in my entire life. I knew nothing about the Bible. And I wasn‘t sure if God even existed. In other words, I was a nonbeliever. I did not have the opportunity or the good fortune to grow up in a Christian home. Call me a heathen.
But after seeing The Exorcist, something changed. Yes, it was the scariest movie I had ever seen in my entire life. But it was more than that. Its seemed so real. Perhaps, for the first time, I had the sense of what evil looked like, and it wasn‘t a pretty picture. I could actually feel its presence. It shook the very foundations of how I viewed everything in life. If the devil was real, there had to be a God, right? And if the devil had that much power, shouldn‘t that be something I should be concerned about? And if there was a war between God and the devil, which side did I want to be on?
The Waltons and The Exorcist are examples in my life of television and movies that helped change me and put me on a path toward God. Today I believe we can change the media culture and create opportunities for others in the same way that The Waltons and The Exorcist helped me as a youth to discover God.