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Media, Teens and Jesus

trustin God

Hi Everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written on here, school just started back so I’ve been pretty busy. Trust me, I’d MUCH rather be blogging than learning about the pythagorean theorem. In the meantime, I recently conducted an interview with television producer, Jay Hix Jones.  He has worked on many shows that you’ve probably seen! They include–but are not limited to–The Tyra Banks Show, Ice Road Truckers, Hoarders and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He approached me about collaborating after reading my blog post about Phil Robertson. Of course I was honored to work with him!

Jay told me about his life and then he answered several questions about media, teens and faith.

One of the things I found so incredibly remarkable about his personal story was his testimony of faith as a young adult. In 2004 he had accepted a job with a North Carolina production company but ended up changing paths last minute. He recalls that it was a dark and stormy day and as he approached Interstate 10 (the highway that runs from Cali to the East Coast) something inside of him would not allow him to turn right and head east. He sat through several lights, got honked at by angry drivers and prayed. When he opened his eyes he says he saw a perfect opening in the clouds to the west where the interstate met the horizon. He took it as a sign from above, flipped on his blinker and headed west on I-10. He remembers being scared but also feeling like it would one day be the best decision he’s ever made. It took him three days to reach Los Angeles and once he got there he spent six months being homeless and living inside of his car. He says although it was hard, he wouldn’t trade it for the world. He treasures it as a great time of spiritual and emotional growth.

He went from being homeless to meeting the woman who is now his wife and working on The Tyra Banks Show. I’d say God provides for those who trust in Him. I mean REALLY trust in Him. Trust in Him when you’re sleeping in your car in L.A, or whatever personal struggle it is you’re experiencing.

Here is the interview between me and Jay. I hope you enjoy it and if you have anything you’d like to share on our talking points please feel free to do so in the comments! We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Claire:  You have an amazing story of trusting God and continuing to have faith despite falling on some hard times. Did you ever find yourself thinking it was difficult to have faith during the time you were homeless?

Jay:  Having true faith takes work. For me, it’s possible only through a ton of prayer, studying God’s word and congregating with other believers at Church. My faith has always been the strongest during hard times, or when facing challenges, for it’s when we must trust God the most. This will probably sounds a little cuckoo, but the six months I spent living in my car in Los Angeles were some of the best days of my life – well, besides meeting, marrying and having kids with my wife.  Once I trusted Him by making that left and traveling west on I-10 toward Los Angeles,  I was in 1000%.  Was it scary at times, you better believe it, but I was always able to remind myself that He was in control. I believed He had bigger plans for me and was working on something that I didn’t yet understand. It’s obvious now; those plans involved me starting Hungry Fish Media almost ten years later. I consider myself very blessed to have the faith I do.

Claire: What’s your opinion on the Phil Robertson scandal from December? Do you think Phil was misunderstood and misinterpreted?

Jay: Phil is always going to be Phil, and the way he lives his life should be commended and duplicated.  He stands for Faith, Family and country.. or Ducks. :) I don’t think most people had an issue with his beliefs, as much as they did with the insensitivity of his comments about his beliefs. Everyone already knew what his beliefs were. I believe his statements were very insensitive, and I know I’ll get flack from the Christian community for saying that, but when you hold such a position in the media, what you say has great impact on both believers and non-believers. His statements definitely didn’t lead people to Christ and when speaking to that large of an audience that includes non-believers, Christians need to be a bit more careful with their words.

Claire: As someone who has worked on A&E shows in the past, do you think their decision to suspend Phil from Duck Dynasty was a bad one? Or as someone who has worked on the “other side,” per se, are you able to understand why they decided to suspend him?

Jay: Personally, I believe it was all a ploy to boost ratings. I know people have a difficult time understanding this, but TV land isn’t real. Their show isn’t real. Reality television isn’t real. I believe when Phil made those statements, the A&E team locked themselves in a room to decide how they could make the most of the situation. They plotted, they schemed and they knew how much attention suspending Phil would get them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if their plan also included lifting the suspension once attention peaked to gain more viewers than all seasons combined. Watch for record numbers this season. It’s 1000% obvious to all that A&E doesn’t share the same core beliefs and values as the Robertson family. If that’s so, why would they ever green light a show about a set of beliefs they so obviously oppose… the answer is the all mighty dollar.

Claire: When did you first come to know God? 

Jay: I grew up “cutting my teeth on the back of an old church pew”, lyric from Warren Barfield who just happens to be one of the celebrity guests at our upcoming Hungry Fish Filmmaking Boot Camp weekend event in Schertz, Texas February 21-23.  My first cousin Dr. Charles Hix and I, launched Hungry Fish several months ago for a way to empower students to use digital filmmaking to share their faith. During our weekend events, students learn filmmaking basics, shoot short gospel centered films and walk the red carpet at the premiere. You can check it out at www.hungryfishmedia.org – student registration is 100% FREE! Sorry, have to plug our media ministry every chance I get!  I’ve felt the presence of God as far back as I can remember, but my personal relationship with Him didn’t really begin until I was about 16. That’s when I converted from Catholicism and was baptized in the Baptist church. I started attending the local Baptist Church as a sophomore in high school for social reasons, and the Spirit grabbed a hold of me.

Claire: Often teenagers feel the need to keep their faith and beliefs quite and to themselves, as if talking about their faith openly would make them “uncool.” Why is that? Do you think the media has any hand in that?

Jay: Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed! Yeah wow, what a horrible thing to feel.  Let me quickly address any young adults out there that may be reading this. If you’re ever made to feel less than or ashamed of your beliefs, just know, that they know not what they do. Don’t be discouraged. Keep praying. Keep attending Church and youth group and stay focused on God’s purpose for your life. You are what this world needs right now more than ever before. Be bold and love them anyway, for everything in this life should be based on love. Don’t hate. Don’t discriminate.. even if they persecute you. You are not alone. You can reach out to your elders if you need to talk to someone.. you can reach out to me – jjones@hungryfishmedia.org. We walk this walk together! You can also sign up for one of our free boot camps that will help strengthen your faith and interest in wanting to be bold and share. www.hungryfishmedia.org

Ok, back on point.. Yes, the media is partially to blame for sure. I believe it all starts with the parents though.  Parents have the responsibility of controlling what media their children consume. So blaming it all on the media would be irresponsible of me. Here’s the catch.. most people in general have been consuming the same media for decades now, so they aren’t aware of the influence the media has over their lives and their children’s lives. In his book, Youth Culture 101, Walt Mueller writes, “Media has become one of the most effective teachers, preachers, and evangelists of our time. Its following is an entire youth culture. Its power lies in its ability to define reality and shape the world and life views. And its messages are providing guidance to a generation that is being molded in the image of media itself.”  So if it’s true what they say about a picture being worth a 1,000 words, and video is basically 30 pics a second, then one second of video equals 30,000 words. So lets do the math on how much a half hour television program is worth. Are you ready for it..54,000,000 words. That’s the equivalent of reading the Bible about 58 times in 30 minutes. I’m not a great at math, but I think that’s pretty accurate and powerful. What type of guidance are we receiving from the media we read, watch, listen to and interact with? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn on the TV, open a magazine, or surf the net without being bombarded with profanity and sexual immorality. I believe it is one of the biggest things young people struggle with right now.  Don’t be fooled, the media shapes the way we think and live. I would ask everyone reading this, moving forward, to be mindful of the media you consume. A good experiment is to set aside a night to watch all your favorite shows you’ve DVR’d for the week, and make a list of how many times you see sexual immorality and hear profanity.  I can assure you, your list will be long and you will be shocked you’ve never noticed it being so prevalent before.

Claire: Why do you think that it’s important for teenagers and young adults to be more open about their faith?

Jay: Mark 16:15 – Go into all of the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation. Besides the fact that God clearly calls all of us to share our faith, I believe when you step out of your comfort zone and share it, it brings you closer to God. Any time we do something that pleases God it brings us closer to God. Makes sense, right? We know that he wants us to share the good news of Jesus and that is what we should do, plain and simple. Another reason it’s important for young people to be more open about their faith is to help combat the propaganda media out their that constantly tells young kids that it’s not God they should chase, but money, sex, self, etc. Most people don’t realize it but we are in a war battling forces that are very strong. Battling forces that are changing our nation’s history. Forces that are changing society. Forces that are attempting to take Jesus out of the picture.  If you are a Christian, you should be bold in your faith and go into all of the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation. I applaud you for using your blog to do exactly that Claire- You are a great example for young adults and an inspiration to us old folks. Hungry Fish Executive Director Professor Dr. Charles Hix says, “Faith is the opposite of fear. To fear is a sin. The phrase ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ is mentioned in the bible some 365 times. One of the reasons we started Hungry Fish Media was to help students not fear their faith but to embrace it and share it.”

Claire: I think Jefferson Bethke has recently made a rather large impact on young adults through media with his viral YouTube videos about different aspects of faith, religion and Jesus. Have you seen any of his videos? If so, what did you think about them?

Jay: Love love love Jefferson Bethke.. keep the videos coming bro! Bethke rose to YouTube fame two years ago with his “Why I hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video. To date that video has over 26 million views. His YouTube channel has over 48,000,000 views and over 300,000 subscribers.  I think he may be on to something, right? I love his passion and I totally get where he’s coming from. Bethke uses social media and the power of video to share the message of Jesus. He certainly has a different style than we (Hungry Fish) do, but we’re both trying to reach the same audience. I think it would be fantastic to work with him on something in the future – It would be great to have him participate at one of our filmmaking boot camp events. The students would love him!!

Claire: Young people are more connected to media now than they ever have been. What are the pros and cons of this?

Jay: Media provides us with a wealth of information we have at our disposal 24/7. We now have the opportunity to share and connect with millions of people around the world instantly with just a click of the send button. That’s a pretty powerful tool that when used correctly has the ability to change lives and ultimately the world. Unfortunately, useless and harmful information account for most of the media that is out there.

The biggest pro of being connected to the media, is that more people have the ability to share and consume useful information that empowers them to live better lives.  There are many media outlets that support this mission; it is however, becoming increasingly difficult to find them amongst the useless sea of outlets that make up the majority of the media landscape. The major cons are that we now have more access to the harmful media as well, that has the ability to impact our lives negatively. This equals more distractions that take our attention away from faith, family and country, and place it on the attraction of materialism. Media can make us less present and conscious of the world we live in. Listen, instead of learning over 2,000 people were murdered last year for their Christian beliefs, the news features stories about the Kardashians and what Xbox game is being released next week. Mass media is an illusion; Hollywood, marketers and advertisers want you to believe they care about you- they don’t! The messages they put out claim that if you buy this product or act a certain way you will get richer, healthier, smarter, famous, etc. It’s all lies to gain them a buck. I feel sick and like I just went on an angry rampage- I must pray now!

Claire:  What is your advice to young adults who get most of their information from the Internet? Thereʼs so much propaganda, as well as complete lies, in online media making it difficult for one to be able to get to the truth.

Jay: I’ve been burned once or twice from relying on a source I obtained online, so I’m very careful now. With so much information available at your fingertips, it’s difficult to wade through the nonsense. Unless you’re a professional researcher it’s almost impossible to know how to separate fact from fiction. If I read something that sounds a little off, I do a few Google searches, and most of the time if it’s a legit story at least one major trusted source will also cover it. My advice to anyone who solely relies on the net for news/entertainment is to stay with trusted sources. Even then.. it’s all propaganda.

Claire: Young people are falling away from the church at a rapid speed lately. Why do you think this is?

Jay: Unfortunately the majority of medium to large size Churches have turned corporate. These Churches have other agendas in addition to discipling and leading people to Christ. Simply put, Church has become big business. That’s not very attractive to people, especially to young adults. This of course isn’t the case with all Churches, but certainly most.  However, It’s obvious to me we are now in the beginning stages of a great awakening we’ve never seen the likes of before, and Churches need to regroup and prepare, or they will be left out.

I think for the most part, young adults fall away from the church once they go off to college. The leave a home, parents, a support system and a church family and are thrown into a world that lacks these important ingredients. I’m not saying it’s a good excuse to fall away, but we need to do something to help young adults transition a bit better into adulthood.  One of the reasons why our Hungry Fish events focus on the high school level is to instill the understanding of not only the importance of sharing your faith, but also the importance of gathering together with other believers and staying connected.

Claire: Many people view Christians as being “hateful” and “judgmental.” Do you think that stereotype has anything to so with young adults deciding they donʼt want to be associated with the church?

Jay: What a great question. I definitely think that’s part of it.  There’s always some truth in a stereotype, but we’ll break down your first sentence and highlight what’s wrong with that belief. “Many people view Christians as being hateful and judgmental.” I would start off by simply stating that TRUE Christians are not hateful or judgmental. True Christians follow Jesus’ teachings and he clearly teaches us to Love everyone, even our enemies. Hate and judgment cannot exist in love. So I would say people that are hateful and judgmental are not practicing true Christianity. Are there hateful and judgmental people who attend Church, absolutely? But they are the minority and is not what Church stands for or is about.  

I think the biggest challenge Christianity and the Church is facing right now is the issue of homosexuality, right? That’s pretty obvious from the whole Duck Dynasty scandal.  Nowadays, every young adult has at least one gay or lesbian friend, if not several, and the “judgmental and hateful” people in the church tell them their going to hell. You can’t get any more hateful and judgmental than that, right? Listen, scare tactics do not work with the younger generations anymore. What does work is love, understanding, compassion and forgiveness. That is what we should practice. That is what Jesus taught and practiced. When the Church embraces those teachings whole-heartedly, we will begin to see a resurgence of young adults flocking back to the Church.  Until then, it’s bye bye young adults.

So there you have it, folks! I love the points that Jay made, I think he is spot on with these issues. His last comment is very strong. Do we want to bring the young adults back to church? Or would we rather just scold them for being sinners? I think if we’re loving to all people and use that love to bring them into the church then God can use the message to keep them coming and strengthen their faith in Him. Young people are our future, so lets help them be the very best they can be!

Be sure to check out Hungry Fish if you’re interested in using digital filmmaking to share your faith! I looked into it and it looks like a pretty awesome program if I do say so myself! Please leave us comments if you have any questions or would like to add to any of the points we made!

God Bless!
-Claire

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