Actor and comedian Brad Stine, a conservative Christian whose new film "Persecuted" opens Friday, has achieved success as an entertainer, though he says he's seen and experienced persecution at the hands of Hollywood elite.
Actor and comedian Brad Stine (Image via Facebook/Brad Stine)
Rather than overt discrimination, he said it's common for Christians and conservatives in Hollywood to simply sense that something isn't quite right — to feel that there is an unspoken disagreement or quiet hostility toward their worldview.
For example, Stine said he once pitched a sitcom centered on a conservative character in 2004, highlighting the negative reaction he received from an executive as evidence of possible ideological discrimination.
[sharequote align="center"]"We [Christians] make our own films because they won't green-light ours..."[/sharequote]
"In the politics of the sitcom was one character who was a conservative guy who was church going, but his family was very different," he said. "He's surrounded by liberal ideas and that's what makes it funny."
But he said a female executive made it clear that the idea would never see the light of day, which he said was likely rooted in the show's subject matter.
But while Stine said there's plenty of persecution in Hollywood, he was careful to distinguish between what Christians face in the entertainment industry from the harsh and often deadly situations believers battle in restrictive nations around the world.
What American Christians face is generally a "soft" form of persecution, Stine said.
"I wouldn't even begin to compare the soft persecution of Hollywood in the U.S. with the persecution my Christian brethren face in China and the Middle East," he said.
Still, Stine highlighted the notable challenges that conservative Christians sometimes face in an industry that generally embraces a very different set of values.
"Unless you've already made it like Jon Voight or Gary Sinise … and you're a conservative, they kind of leave you alone, because they care more about the money than the ideology, but if you haven't made it yet the shot of getting in is very slim," he said. "We [Christians] make our own films because they won't green-light ours … we have to find backdoors and continue to find backdoors."
But while he believes Hollywood has shunned Christian and conservative projects, Stine doesn't let believers off the hook entirely, noting that a lack of sophistication in storytelling has traditionally plagued faith-based entertainment.
Watch the "Persecuted" trailer below:
"The struggle has been on one hand being shut out, diminished or basically not even allowed in the game — that's the sort persecution and soft censorship [I mentioned], but there's also a self-censorship," Stine continued. "Because so few films were allowed … a very specific template was created. It was very much like a dramatized sermon."
While he said this Christian movie template worked for reaching Christians, it hasn't translated into helping the rest of the world connect to biblical messages in feature films, he contended.
Stine touted the power of film over the culture, noting that when Vice President Joe Biden cited TV show "Will and Grace" as having a profound impact on views surrounding homosexuality, he realized the influence Hollywood can have — an influence he believes Christians and conservatives can utilize.
"If our vice president is getting his political savvy from sitcoms, then apparently this is an area that cannot be ignored," Stine said. "We need to use the same means that progressives do to change how [Americans see issues]."
Stine plays Pastor Ryan Morris in "Persecuted," a movie that focuses on a prominent Christian evangelist who is framed for the murder of a teenage girl after he refuses to endorse a bill in Congress that would usher in legalized religious persecution in America.
Read more about the film here.