|Plugged In: You’ve done a lot of film and television as a member of a famous show business family. In the midst of all that, how did the Lord get your attention?|
Stephen Baldwin: Even when I was doing all the Hollywood stuff and living for the world, I was wondering, "Why me? Why am I in the position I’m in?" Then, thanks to the faithfulness of our Brazilian housekeeper, seeds were planted in my wife’s life and she accepted the Lord. Over the next year, I was able to observe her transformation first hand. It was an awesome thing to witness. I believed in the existence of God, but what I like to share with people now is that there’s a big difference between God being with you and God being in you.
PI: Was there a turning point that helped drive you to a moment of decision?
SB: I was probably at the height of my curiosity when 9/11 happened. The terrorist attacks were a huge wake-up call because, for me, 9/11 demonstrated the impossible now becoming possible. If the day before 9/11 you had told me two planes were going to turn left from Boston and hit the Twin Towers and they’d fall down, anyone in their right mind would’ve said that was impossible. So when it happened it made me realize that, if that’s possible, anything’s possible. And if anything’s possible, then maybe this Jesus guy really could come back. It threw me into an intense focus on this walk—this "experience"—and I’ve never looked back. Everywhere I go I’m sharing my experience with people.
PI: How does a Baldwin brother make the transition from entertaining people to evangelizing them?
SB: I don’t feel compelled to be this guy who bangs a tambourine in the middle of Times Square. At this point, the Lord’s not telling me to do that. But if He did in the future, I would! He has given me a chance to share my experience in a way and a vocabulary that is very different and youth-oriented. I like talking to the kids in a realistic, down-to-earth way without trying to be some guy in a pulpit. I’m just Stephen Baldwin. I’m just an actor guy who made a lot of movies. Then I did reality shows like Celebrity Mole and Fear Factor. But I’m having even more fun getting people into the Word of God—not just the ones I’m sitting next to on airplanes, but folks in the Hollywood community as well.
PI: What kind of reaction do you get from industry people who knew you before?
SB: No one has responded negatively at all. It’s kind of funny. People already had a funky perception of Stephen Baldwin as this crazy, radical guy. Now I’m this crazy, radical guy and a Jesus freak! So if they were ever worried about talking to me, they’re worried now more than ever. But I’m just going to continue to be me and do what I feel the Lord has put on my heart. When the Lord called Stephen Baldwin, He didn’t call me to stop being Stephen Baldwin.
PI: Do your brothers know what to do with you now?
SB: (Laughter) I don’t think so. No, everybody’s cool, actually. It’s funny that you ask because my brother Alec and his daughter just spent the night at my home here in upstate New York, and my wife and I were sharing with him about different views. Spiritual. Political. It’s interesting. I really believe everything’s right on schedule and everybody that’s supposed to come to know the Lord is going to come to know the Lord in the time they’re supposed to.
PI: You obviously see film as a powerful way to reach people for Christ. You directed the biking/skateboarding DVD Livin’ It and starred in the apocalyptic thriller Six: The Mark Unleashed. Clearly, you want to change people. Do you hope to change the industry, too?
SB: I come from Hollywood. For 15 years I’ve been in that system, and now I work for the Lord. You know what? The Lord has told me the only way we’re going to change the world of entertainment is when we Christians start to create our own content independently. Let’s raise the money. Let’s write the scripts. Let’s get production companies involved that are made up of Christians, and then make the movies and use a Christian distribution system to market them ourselves. Kids ask how to get their spiritual ideas made into films and I tell them not to take them to Hollywood—the enemy—and ask the enemy for help creating their Jesus idea.
PI: You have two daughters. When you survey the culture, what do you see being marketed to young people that concerns you?
SB: I’m very concerned about the programming that’s out there. But what’s even scarier to me is the many different ways kids can get bad content. Like video games. I was blown away when I learned that the best-selling video game Grand Theft Auto lets kids—within the context of the game—pick up a prostitute, have sex with her and then beat her to death with a baseball bat. Not only is that wrong, but I bet 80 percent of the parents buying that game for their kids have no idea what’s in it.
PI: So how can we convince teens to tune out the bad stuff and choose healthier options?
SB: A lot of Christian kids are playing those games, watching things they shouldn’t, dressing in ways they shouldn’t, looking at magazines they shouldn’t. … The reason they’re doing it is because they’re not in God’s Word enough. If they were reading the Bible as much as they should, they’d understand that not following the culture and behaving a certain way can exemplify how much they love Jesus.
PI: What boundaries have you set for your girls to keep them from growing up too fast?
SB: My kids are very limited in how much TV they watch. They don’t even get to watch a lot of the children’s channels. A lot of the commercials in between are just terrible. And these are the ones calling themselves "family channels." My kids spend time in Christian youth groups, church activities and Girl Scouts. We communicate with them about why they shouldn’t be reading this particular magazine or watching this particular TV show. And like kids do, they sometimes want to do this or that because that’s just human nature. We let them know there are rules and certain things they’re just not allowed to do based on a certain belief and faith that we have to abide by.
PI: You have several films in post-production. Judging by the themes in a few of them, I have to assume they were shot before you came to Christ and are just now getting released.
SB: There’s a couple of humdingers in there from the past. I like to say to people that 90 percent of my filmography is now classified as B.C.—Before Christ.
PI: How is God leading you to choose roles differently now?
SB: My whole world has changed in that respect. I’m very lucky to be working with new agents and managers who understand where I am in my faith and respect it. Let me tell you about a situation that happened recently. Some producers I worked with on one of the B.C. pictures called and said, "Hey, we have this project and we want you to do it." There was some sexual content and bad language so I said, "Here’s the deal: You guys are calling me because you liked working with me and I’m right for this role and you want to work with me again. I’ll do your movie, but you have to let me rewrite the script however I want. And then if you approve of what I rewrite, I’ll be part of your movie." They said yes. I took all the language out and took the sexual content out, as far as being on film. I toned it way down. Not everyone’s that flexible. We hear Hollywood cry freedom of speech a lot. Well, hey, God bless you. You guys go do what you want. I don’t have to do that anymore. For the rest of my life I’m gonna be the guy that lets people know that films don’t have to be that way.
PI: Has that stance cost you any roles?
SB: I got a serious phone call for the Jennifer Garner television show Alias. They called to see if I’d come in and take a meeting about playing her boyfriend. It was fun to talk to my manager and my agents who said, "This could be very good for your career." I asked, "What exactly does that mean, ’play her boyfriend’? Will the producers of the show be in control of the story line?" They said yes. I said, "So if I play her boyfriend, and I’ve signed a contract and they tell me I’ve got to do a love scene every week with her, and I’m playing a character that’s not married to her, then I’m playing a character that projects a lifestyle my faith doesn’t agree with."
PI: What was their reaction?
SB: You should have seen the look on their faces! They were like, "Yeah, but they’re going to pay you a lot of money." So I just said, "Sorry fellas, unfortunately I can’t do that." Actually the catalyst for me coming to that decision was my wife. When I went to her and described this opportunity, she said, "Well, honey, you need to take that to the Lord. Pray to the Lord and ask the Lord what He thinks you should do. I’m sure He’s gonna give you an answer—quickly!"
PI: It didn’t take long, did it?
SB: Nah, I’ve been very fortunate that the Lord’s given me a lot of answers very quickly lately, and I’m having the best time ever. I’m working on a project with Jerry Jenkins’ son, Dallas, who is a filmmaker. Here we are, two on-fire Christian guys developing these films that we think could compete. That’s what excites me these days.
PI: Talk about your DVD Livin’ It.
SB: The idea behind Livin’ It was to create an outreach tool to kids that’s totally different and new and innovative in its approach. It’s not marketed, promoted and packaged as anything Christian. It just looks like a regular old skate DVD. And when you pop it in, the main feature of this thing is a cool skate trick movie like you’d buy at the local skate shop. Just guys doing their tricks. At the end of the main feature, there’s a little mention from the skaters about God that invites kids to go into the bonus features where they find full-on testimonies, a Bible message and an invitation to accept Jesus.
PI: It speaks the language of that subculture very well.
SB: We thought, let’s reach out to the kids in ways that don’t beat them over the head with the gospel, but let’s talk to them on their level, in their language, in a way they can relate to. We’re seeing great success. We’re talking right now with a big Christian media company that wants to turn Livin’ It into a huge skate bus tour that’s gonna go to shopping malls around America. I give all the praise and glory and credit to God because He’s the one doing this. It’s not Stephen Baldwin and it’s not the skaters. God is putting this whole thing together and we’re very excited about the future of it.
PI: It’s great to hear what the Lord is doing in your life, Stephen. Keep reaching young people. Our prayers are with you.
SB: God bless you guys. Thank you so much.
Published July 2004