Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Could The Waltons save you ?

I was born in 1956, which places me in the middle of the baby boomer generation. I consider myself an early member of the church of media and entertainment.

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.

The Waltons and John Boy inspired me. I was not a Christian at the time; however, I believe God used this television program to give me hope for the future.

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?

That was a lot for a teenager to think about. In one sense, I felt like hell had been scared out of me. I‘m not sure that‘s what the filmmakers intended or the message they were sending. But it was clear to me that there was a spiritual world after all. No. I didn‘t immediately give my life to God or convert to Christianity or, for that matter, start going to church. But it did start me on a pathway to seek the truth. And that, my friends, is the power of film. It would be another four years before I would become a Christian and a believer. But I have no doubt that it all started very innocently on a Saturday night at the age of 16 watching The Exorcist at the old Showcase Cinemas in Erlanger, Ky. It was a life-changing moment in my life.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Waltons! I liked it as a child (I'm a little younger than you), but fully fell in love with the show while watching re-runs in my 20's. I also resonated with John Boy's aspirations to be a writer. And, I agree, it also set me on a path to seek spiritual truth- even though I had received Christ into my life as a teenager. By the time I was watching the reruns, I had walked away completely disillusioned with Christianity. The authenticity and goodness of the Walton family gave me hope.