Vocationally Challenged

This article yesterday caught my eye, about one of the stars of a popular television show that has taken some serious flack for some very unflattering comments he made about the show.  Thanks to Gene Veith’s blog (always very worthwhile reading!) for a link to this interview with the actor last month before the controversy erupted.

This is an interesting – and very public – study in vocation.  How does a Christian live out their life of faith in the context of any number of roles or responsibilities in their life, in this case, actor/employee, son, co-worker, student.  
Angus T. Jones would seem to have it all.  He has been blessed to be a child actor on a very popular television sitcom.  He is well paid.  But he has reached a point where he recognizes that the themes of the show are in direct contradiction to his Christian beliefs.  In a taped interview with a source not related to his church, Jones called the show “filth” and encouraged viewers not to watch it.
This is indeed an interesting situation.  Jones feels that it is very difficult if not impossible for Christians to be actors or actresses because the industry is promoting a world-view contrary to the Scriptural one.  Yet he finds himself in exactly this predicament.  His personal comments have been widely criticized, and it’s a safe bet that, had he not already probably been planning to leave the show at the end of his current contract, he will be asked to leave now.  I can’t blame his employers for that, even if I commend Jones for his honesty.
But is his honesty a faithful way to live out his faith and vocation?  The article by Christianity Today doesn’t provide any information on Jones’ life of faith.  He indicates that he’s always gone to Christian school, but also that his home life wasn’t terribly Christian (at least by his standards).  He has recently found a place to worship in an African-American Seventh Day Adventist Church.  He describes an epiphany – moments of divine revelation – that have woken him up to the contradictory nature of his very visible vocation as an actor on this series.  Now what to do about it?
I suppose it becomes a matter of how he defines his vocation at this point.  Is his vocation to work for reform from within the industry?  He’s probably blown that chance.  Is his vocation to try and destroy a show that he sees as directly hostile to the Christian life?  I suspect he’s learned that even if he felt this was his vocation, he isn’t going to be very successful at it.  Not that success is necessarily a vocational criteria, since none of us can know the impacts of our words or actions in the long term.  Is it to provide a role model for young Christians aspiring to be entertainers?  Jones seems to close the door on that possibility, instead choosing to discourage others from getting into the entertainment industry.  He talks about the fantastic visibility he has, and the willingness of people to listen to him based on his stature.  I suspect that is a good clue as to how he can and should think of his vocational obligations right now.  
He does have obligations to his employer that are part of his vocation, regardless of how he feels about that vocation.  Publicly denouncing your source of employment as “filth” is going to be widely understood to be hypocritical and ungrateful, and not without good reason.  As he himself says, when you sign the dotted line on your contract, you have obligations to your employer.  So long as he remains bound by that contract, he is obligated in good faith to fulfill those obligations to the best of his ability.  I suspect that if it isn’t explicit in such contracts, the implication is that the employee will not publicly denounce their employer or its products.  In allowing himself to make negative statements that could be made public (since I don’t want to assume he knew his comments were going to be made public), he’s not fulfilling his vocational duties.  
All that being said, I think that Jones could still have made a very powerful witness to his faith, but avoided a lot of the public backlash and the vocational biting-of-the-hand-that-feeds-you by not speaking specifically about his show.  “Stop filling your head with filth” is a good admonition to anyone, and while people might connect the dots to determine that he thinks his show is filth, the dots would be a lot farther apart then he made them.  
It will be interesting to see if Jones leaves the series at the end of his contract.  It will also be interesting to see how God uses him in the future.  

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