An Interview with Shane Harper | MariletteSanchez.com

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Some may recognize Shane Harper as Josh Wheaton, the in-over-his-head college freshman (God’s Not Dead). Others know him as Spencer on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. His latest role on MTV’s Happyland is quickly shooting him up the ranks of Hollywood’s young heartthrobs. 

I’ve always admired Shane’s multi-faceted talent (see here and here), his candidness about his Christian faith, and his ability to seamlessly navigate between “Christian” and “mainstream” media.

In this exclusive interview with MariletteSanchez.com, Shane opens up about about his ideal role, the reaction of the Christian community to Happyland, and his most important life lesson.

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MS: Let’s pretend the best movies you have seen were never made, and were still in the production stage. What script would you want to get in the mail that would make you say, “I have to play this part?"  

SH: Newsies. It’s a movie musical that was released in 1992. Getting to play Jack Kelly would be the coolest! 

MS: How is it going filming "Happyland” for MTV? Tell us a little bit about your character and why you chose that role. 

SH: Filming “Happyland” has been wonderful. It was a short production for season 1 but it was action-packed… long days and late nights were the norm! My character Ian Chandler is “bad boy prince charming”, but he has a good heart underneath the bravado. When I read the pilot, I immediately gravitated towards Ian. It’s always fun to play a character with many emotional layers to them. 

MS: Can you share a time when your Christian values put you in an awkward situation in your acting career? How did that turn out? 

SH: My values as a Christian hinge on the centricity of grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The biggest challenges I face all revolve around the temptation of narcism and self-worship. Christianity is all about loving God well, and loving our neighbors. We’re called to serve the people around us but It’s very easy in this business to be self-serving. 

MS: Share a story about a time when your decision to take a mainstream role conflicted with the opinion of the religious community. Would you have done something differently based on their reaction? 

SH:  think my role in this MTV series brings to mind a good example that relates to your question. There have been some interesting remarks from the Christian community commenting on the content of the show, and how they’re “disappointed” I would take a role like this, insinuating that somehow all of the characters I play and all of the narratives I participate in are supposed to share my faith and beliefs. This kind of thinking is the result of looking through the short-sighted, conservative American evangelical lens. That is not a Christian gospel mentality; it’s an us VS. them mentality. Jon Foreman put it concisely when he said, “There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds”. Every narrative has the potential to show us something powerful and important about the human condition. Life is messy and so should art be. The Bible, after all, is filled with messy stories. But we find God’s hand of redemption in all of them. My faith in God leads me to understand the inconceivable value of all people, and it breathes passion into every good endeavor. 

MS: What’s the song that you just can’t get out of your head right now? 

SH: “Ink” by Coldplay 

MS: Who are your top three musical influences? 

SH: Coldplay, John Mayer, Jon Foreman 

MS: Give us your cardboard testimony

SH: In need of grace and mercy. / Still in need of grace and mercy. 

MS: What is the most important life lesson you have learned? What struggles did you have to go through to learn it? 

SH: What’s the truest thing about me? That’s the question I’ve learned to ask myself. The truest thing about any one of us is that we are loved by God. When you know who you are, you know what your purpose is. The cross reminds me every day. 

MS: How are three specific ways my readers can pray for you in the next year? 

SH: That would be so wonderful, thank you. I’m always praying for wisdom. Lately, I’ve been focusing on being patient in all things. And please pray for peace. 

WANT MORE SHANE? Check out this interview with Family Christian, in which Shane describes his Christian upbringing and his personal journey to own his faith, and gives us glimpse into being a vocal Christian in Hollywood.

What the Miley Cyrus VMA Scandal Taught Us About Gossip

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As media coverage finally dies down on the Miley Cyrus VMA scandal, I think this is the best time to put in my two cents.

First, I’m confused with the double standards the entertainment media has. Entertainment journalists will not think twice about Lady Gaga baring her body, while Miley is quickly vilified. Granted, Lady Gaga has made her name by being shocking, while Miley’s claim to fame was Disney’s Hannah Montana. Still, I value consistency over hypocrisy. If only the media would pick their convictions and go with it: Should we praise hyper-sexualized pop music or not? It’s unclear. Instead, publications just flip flop and criticize when it’s convenient to sell papers or gain page views.

But that’s all another topic for another day. To me, the deep-rooted issue at hand here is gossip. It’s not just the media at fault here, but you and me: the readers, the viewers, the water-cooler discuss-ers. Christian or not, we somehow feel entitled to talk down on celebrities, as if they weren’t human.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s no room to constructively critique unbiblical and destructive behavior promoted by celebrities or the media in general. My entire blog’s purpose is exactly that. But we must examine our motives when we thoughtlessly tweet, post or otherwise share our opinion on the latest celebrity gossip. Am I speaking out of a genuine concern for this celebrity or with any hint of malicious intent?

As I like to ask myself: Am I building up this celebrity by making this comment? What if, instead of speaking about this celebrity, I lifted him or her up in prayer?

My good friend Fallon Prinzivalli, frequent guest contributor on this blog, tweeted the other day, “Miley cried during her first live performance of ‘Wrecking Ball.’ Can we all stop pretending she isn’t a human being now?”

Too many of us think celebrities “deserve” all the backlash they receive, that “it’s part of their job.” We forget that they are fragile human beings, not unbreakable demi-gods. The sad thing is that if we were on the receiving end of such harsh comments, we would be quick to object, rightly labeling it as cruel.

As with gossip in “everyday life”: celebrity gossip is destructive to the party being gossiped about (celebrity), as well as the party doing the gossip (us). Celebrity gossip is not a victimless crime; it is destructive to our soul.

Christian author Elizabeth George presented a great biblical defense against gossip in her book A Woman’s High Calling.

According to George, the word “slanderer” is used many times in the New Testament. Its original Greek translation, diabolos, means malicious gossip, “slanderer,” “false accuser”–bringing charges against another, usually with hostile intent.

Titus 2:3 and 1 Timothy 3:11 call us Christians to be “not slanderers,” not “scandal mongers,” “not given to intrigue,” “avoiding scandal,” “not given to slandering,” “who will not talk scandal,” “saying no evil of others.” Can we honestly exclude our judgmental comments about Miley or any other celebrity from these categories?

George narrows down the causes of gossip to the following:

1. Evil Heart (Luke 6:45)

2. Hatred (Psalm 109:3)

3. Foolishness (Proverbs 10:18)

4. Idleness (1 Timothy 5:13)

Are any of these heart conditions driving my temptation to participate in celebrity gossip?

George sums it up like this:

Gossip harms us. When you and I gossip, we incur a huge loss. What kind of loss? We suffer the loss of character, respect, and dignity, not to mention the loss of spiritual growth and usefulness. As an old proverb says, 'Let not your tongue cut your throat.’

As Miley’s VMA incident fades from the media spotlight, no doubt, the media is cooking up another celebrity mishap to blow out of proportion this week. How will we react?

I’ll leave you to reflect on one of my all-time favorite verses: Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Are Teens Growing Up Too Fast?

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Last month, Brooklyn middle-school girls were allegedly required to participate in a role play of a lesbian date, with one girl asking the other for a kiss. Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook held the “anti-bullying" workshop, led by Bard College students. The thirteen- and fourteen-year-old students were separated by gender, then were taught about homosexuality and gender identity.

According to Fox News, the young girls were told that it was perfectly normal for fourteen-year-old girls to have sex and there was nothing their parents could do to intervene.

“I am furious,” parent Mandy Coon told Fox News, whose daughter was in the class.

“I am her parent. Where does anyone get the right to tell her that it’s okay for her to have sex?” Coon says parents were given no advance warning about the presentation and were not given the opportunity to opt-out.  

Coon says her daughter was upset and confused. “She told me, ‘Mom, we all get teased and picked on enough – now I’m going to be called a lesbian because I had to ask another girl if I could kiss her.“

Superintendent Paul Finch told the Poughkeepsie Journal that the workshop focused on “improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions.”

Finch told the newspaper that New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act required the school to hold the workshops. The bill was passed by the New York State Assembly on May 17, 2010, the State Senate on June 22, 2010, signed by Governor David Paterson on September 8, and went into effect on July 1, 2012. Under the Act, schools are required to create a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying.

You can find a copy of the exact bill HERE.

Soon after the Fox News article was posted, the Red Hook School District released an ”Important Facts” document refuting claims made by the article. The District insisted that “no female student was forced to engage in any lesbian kissing,” “male students were not told to carry condoms,” and “sexual activity between students was not condoned in any way.”

Whatever the content of the school workshops, as a parent and a youth minister to New York City middle and high school students, I’m haunted by the messages being taught to our youth.

Growing up, I remember shows like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Arthur, and Recess teaching me to play, have friendships and use my imagination. These days, Disney and Nickelodeon shows are no longer about having a carefree childhood. Modern television shows targeting elementary and middle-school pre-teens (Miley Cyrus’s Hannah Montana, Jamie Lynn SpearsZoey 101) are instead portraying first dates and first kisses. All the while, primetime shows like Gossip Girls showcase high school students "hooking-up” left and right, with no consequences.

Putting aside any LGBTQ agendas, I believe middle-schoolers should not be condoned–even encouraged–by the public education and the media to practice sexuality at such a young age. For goodness sake, many students in that age group have not even fully undergone puberty yet. Is it too much to ask to keep their innocence childhood intact for just a little bit longer?

Are public school educators and “children’s” media pressuring our children to grow up prematurely?

Let me know in the comments below.