I grew up in a small town outside of Dodge City, which used to be famous for its corruption and gun battles, as well as a favorite hot spot of Western TV shows. But by the time I lived there, it was a quiet, sleepy small town that had traded in its brothels and bars for meatpacking plants and wheat farming.
My years in Kansas were more defined by the small Mennonite Brethren community of which I was a part. My parents were the pastors of that community and I had a very insulated upbringing. I had only been to the movie theater a single time growing up and was completely unaware of the larger world that the entertainment industry represented and comprised. In fact, I felt incredibly guilty about seeing that movie in the theater because of our church’s stance on entertainment.
But, much to my surprise, God gave me a dream to become an actor and make movies while I was growing up in those Kansas wheat fields. My journey started at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where my parents and most of my relatives had studied, but I left after my first year. I called my dad and told him I was moving to Hollywood to make movies.
This weekend GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS opens nationwide as the third installment in the series, and it is sharing a message that could not be more relevant and timely to our nation today.
Rather than being a country of unity, we have become a society defined by division, anger and brokenness. But I believe that God is raising up a generation of believers to walk in grace and to shine God’s light into that darkness. My hope is that GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS will spark conversations about how we can show love to our neighbors even through conflict.
Three of my favorite lines in the movie brilliantly illustrate what our culture needs from the church today: