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 This college helps #Hollywood tell 'the greatest story ever told' #FullerTheologicalSeminary

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Culture Chandra Johnson Friday, August 1, 2014
This college helps Hollywood tell 'the greatest story ever told'

In 1956, a teenage Richard Mouw committed a major violation against his
Evangelical faith: He snuck off to a movie theater to see John Huston’s “Moby Dick.”
“Evangelicals have long been hostile toward Hollywood. I was raised in a world
where you just didn’t go to movies because that was the devil’s territory,” Mouw
said. “We always had this sense of, ‘If Jesus came back and found you in the
theater, what would that mean?’ And I thought, ‘He’d be OK with this.’”

As the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, in the early
1990s, Mouw continued to see a chasm dividing the faith world and Hollywood with
the release of films like 1988’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Mouw had met
writer Coleman Luck, who worked at Universal Studios when some 3,000 religious 
protesters picketed outside Universal over “Last Temptation.” Luck, a fellow
Evangelical, told Mouw the display embarrassed him as a Christian. As author John 
Fischer documented in his 2002 book, “Fearless Faith,” Luck was bombarded on his
way to work by the protesters.

“They were Christians, but believe me, they didn’t look very loving,” Luck said in
the book. “My friend turned to me and said, ‘I’d hate these people if I didn’t know 

Stories like Luck’s inspired Mouw to reach out to Hollywood in a way that would
benefit both the entertainment and faith worlds. Through continued collaboration
with industry professionals, Mouw spearheaded Fuller’s Theology and the Arts 
program, which looks to link entertainment and ministry and is now in its 14th 

Now, Fuller faculty and alumni are working in and with the entertainment industry 
to learn and educate filmmakers about the faith audience. It’s a journey that’s 
brought them from their Pasadena campus to Sundance, SXSW and the sets of 
“Noah” and “Son of God.”

“If we want to constantly be reaching people that are shaped by this, we have to 
converse with it,” Mouw said. “The seminary has been planted 25 miles from the 
entertainment capital of the world. How can we not be engaging with it?”

New perspectives

Fuller’s approach to Hollywood may not sound revolutionary, but it was for alums
Justin Bell and Tamisha Tyler. Tyler, a 2014 graduate who lives in Pasadena, has 
considered starting a nonprofit that helps connect the entertainment industry and
artists with the church.

“Fuller provided a generous space for me to process what being a Christian and an
artist would even look like,” Tyler said. “Fuller is not afraid to be who they are 
stand for convictions they believe to be true. But with that, they’re not afraid to go
where nobody has gone before. Because they’re willing to be so unconventionally
rooted, it gives them an edge to set up shop in unusual places (like Hollywood).”

As the son of an Evangelical preacher growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, Bell saw
Fuller as a place where he could achieve his dream of working in the movies and 
still serve God. Bell’s Fuller training came in handy when his production company, 
Act One, worked with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for the marketing of “Son of
God.” Bell says Fuller has cleared a path for people to find their way in Hollywood 
by making movies formed on Fuller’s three pillars of faith: truth, goodness and 

“I hope to make movies that contain all three of those things. I’m interested in 
movies that challenge and provoke me in my faith,” Bell said. “Cinema ushers you 
into something and that’s like worship at its best. It brings you into a space that 
maybe you need to be reminded of and you leave feeling washed anew or inspired 
to action.”

Bell said that means not being afraid to experiment. Movies don’t have to be strictly
PG or about Jesus or the Bible directly to speak to Christians, Bell said. “As 
Christians, we get so focused on values, message — and that’s just the truth part, 
so that’s why I poo-poo it a little,” Bell said. “I want to go deeper than that. It’s not
that I don’t want to make those movies. But I hope to expand in that space.”

Building bridges

Fuller’s faculty also hopes to expand its presence in Hollywood as a trusted source 
of information and consultation regarding Christian values and themes.

They’ve already consulted on several well-known projects. Fuller professor and 
church relations director Kutter Callaway consulted with filmmakers on “Noah,” 
while pop culture professor Barry Taylor worked as a consultant on Ridley Scott’s 
upcoming epic “Exodus.” In addition, Callaway said Fuller faculty has been invited 
to the sets of non-religious movies, like Oprah Winfrey’s civil rights-era drama, 
“Selma,” slated for release next year.

Hollywood directors and producers, Callaway says, are eager to understand the 
Christian audience and they're attracted to Fuller’s expertise because its religious 
viewpoint isn’t confrontational.

“They see Fuller as a place where we’re being thoughtful about consuming media, 
and that includes, as best as we can, not giving into ideological extremism, 
especially since you have filmmakers who are genuinely trying to be sensitive to the
story,” Callaway said. “Because of where we are, we’re able to have real 
relationships with these people, rather than just commenting on some movie we 
just saw.”

For Mouw, the program he helped create two decades ago is also helping 
Christianity stay relevant without losing itself in Hollywood.

“As Christians, we have a story to tell — the greatest story ever told,” Mouw said. 
"The fact is, if you’ve got a church with several hundred young people, chances are 
on Friday or Saturday, they’ve seen a story from Hollywood and then they come to 
church. How are we going to tell our story in such a way that it really gets 

Act One hopes to answer that question by training young Christian writers and 
producers so they can get experience in the business.

“There are so many people I’ve met in Hollywood that say, ‘You’re the first Christian
 I’ve met,’” Bell said. “If there’s a Christian out there who feels called to Hollywood,
 there’s room for you here. And we need you.”

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson



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