CBS Television Star Joins the Adventist Faith, Kicks up a Media Storm
by AT New Team
Updated November 30, 2012 (See update at the bottom of the story.)
Angus T. Jones has been a child actor in a top-rated comedy show on CBS television for ten years. In the last year he joined a Seventh-day Adventist church in Los Angeles and over the last 24 hours he has kicked up a storm of comment on the Web and other media because he denounced his own show in a video he made with a controversial, independent Adventist ministry.
The videos “appear to be religiously motivated and authentic,” said the International Business Times, but there are problems both with the fact that Jones is paid over $300,000 per show to be part of the TV cast and the extreme ideas expressed in the past by the independent ministry that made one of the videos. It appears unlikely that he knows much about Chris Hudson from Alabama who produces the Forerunner Chronicles.
The well-established Voice of Prophecy broadcast ministry also interviewed Jones and invited him to speak at the Adventist Media Center, which is in the Los Angeles area. One dimension of this story illustrates the growing competition between “old” media ministries and “new” media efforts. Forerunner Chronicles is a “poor man’s broadcast” which uses YouTube, Twitter and social media to avoid the high cost of purchasing time on major television channels as well as professional production standards, and attracts viewers with sensational claims.
Hudson’s videos have been picked up by the Three Angels Broadcasting Network, another independent Adventist organization. Their current schedule includes a four-part series by Hudson on the “New Age Agenda” and a “Special Report [on the] National Defense Authorization Act.” He has described himself as a Seventh-day Adventist minister, although he is not a denominational employee and holds no credentials. It should also be noted that he is not the former National Football League player with the same name.
Jones started attending the Valley Crossroads Church at 11350 Glenoaks Blvd in Pacoima, a community in the San Fernando Valley north of downtown Los Angeles. The nearly 700-member congregation is an historically African American church affiliated with the Southern California Conference. Pastor Royal Harrison is the senior pastor and Pastor Morris Barnes is the associate pastor.
The congregation’s mission statement is “to make a difference in our community” and earlier this year it opened a new facility for the community food pantry it operates. It also sponsors diabetes and obesity prevention programs, offers blood pressure screening, regular fitness activities on Monday nights and healthy cooking classes. Teams of volunteers based at the church reach out to the homeless and visit young people in the Nordoff Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, according to the church web site.
The Adventist teaching about hell first got him interested in Adventist doctrines, Jones says in the interview taped by the Voice of Prophecy for the pilot of a new television show Turning Point. He also liked the idea of the Sabbath and started personal Bible studies.
He does not come from a secular background. He was born in Texas which has a local culture saturated by the Southern Baptist faith and his parents put him in a Christian school when they moved to Los Angeles. He attended a Christian school from Kindergarten through his high school graduation.
“I’m concerned he’s being exploited by the church,” Carey Jones, the teen’s 42-year-old mother has told reporters. An entertainment gossip web site said that she believes he has been “brainwashed.”
A number of Adventist ministers have also expressed concern about the situation. “While I am pleased that Angus Jones is finding Christ,” one pastor wrote on the SDA Ministers page on Facebook, “I have some grave concerns about [him being] associated with [a group] notorious for right-wing extremism and conspiracy theory nonsense. … It’s my hope and prayer that [he] finds some balanced, mainstream Adventists and pursues a healthy, sensible style of” Adventist faith. A significant number of other pastors have expressed similar views in several online forums and in Email to Adventist Today.
By Tuesday afternoon the denomination had released a statement “making it clear … it has absolutely no connection with” Hudson and his independent ministry, reported TMZ.com in an exclusive. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church has released a statement about Jones … saying it's ‘happy’ Angus decided to become a member of the Los Angeles congregation back in June [and] we welcome him with open arms … but the church wants everyone to know it was not behind the actor’s rant.” About Hudson, “we are unable to offer information because Forerunner Chronicles is not a ministry operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its host is not a pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Hudson has said in his videos that the rap artist Jay-Z “is a devil-worshiping Freemason and claims that President Obama is similar to Hitler,” states another Hollywood gossip web site. It quotes Hudson as saying, “The blueprint albums are special markers indicating Jay-Z’s progress in his obtaining degrees in the secret order.” His ministry is described by Postmedia News as “a radical offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” According to the Huffington Post he has described President Obama’s health care plan as “a ‘carbon copy’ of the healthcare policies of Hitler, and that a gas crisis can lead to cannibalism.”
Clearly, the young star is struggling to cope with difficulties in his life. He turned 18 a little over a year ago and when he spoke at the Adventist Media Center on his 19th birthday, he mentioned “his parents’ divorce, using drugs and keeping his virginity,” reports Thewrap.com. “His grades began to dip … when his parents began to have ‘marital issues’ [leading to] divorce. … He said he began avoiding home and spending as much time as possible with friends and his girlfriend.” In this context he had a conversion experience that led him to “follow God more seriously” and begin visiting a number of different churches. He was invited to Valley Crossroads Church by a long-time friend who was “never available on Friday nights,” Jones says in the video produced by the Voice of Prophecy.
Jones has an uncle who is serving a 99-year prison term for murder, reports the Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Both of his parents have been arrested in the past; his mother in 1997 charged with burglary and in 1992 for ripping the meter out of a taxi. His father was arrested in 1986 for marijuana possession and an unlicensed handgun, and more recently for domestic violence.
The role that Jones has on “Two and a Half Men” is that of a son whose parents get a divorce; he and his father move into his uncle’s home, a philandering single entertainer. Viewers have literally watched him grow up over nearly a decade. It is “the biggest hit comedy of the last decade,” the New York Times has stated. The show’s original star had a famous meltdown a couple of years ago and when a new star took over, it’s ratings peaked at 29 million viewers but have dropped more recently to about 14 million viewers, according to the Daily Mail.
The young actor’s criticism of the show was seen as strange and even hypocritical by the entertainment media, but welcomed by some figures with long-standing concerns about the values expressed in popular culture. “We urge viewers to heed his call,” Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, told Fox News. “We urge Mr. Jones to work from within the entertainment industry and raise standards to improve television for all Americans.” Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Media Research Center, said Jones’ remarks are “no surprise to anyone who watches TV [because] ‘Two and a Half Men’ is one of the most vile and sleazy shows in history.”
For the Adventist Church this media attention is as risky as the news of Jones' conversion may be welcome. “Adventism is now being represented to millions of people by a brand new believer and some people with fringe theological agendas,” stated Spectrum, the journal of the largest organization of Adventist academics. “Adventist communication leaders should develop a public relations strategy … that avoids exploitation and celebritization and that makes sure that correct information about Adventism gets reported as this story develops.”
Interpreting Adventist faith in the contemporary context is not easy, especially with the number of independent sources that believe they represent the truth and the denomination’s leadership does not. For example, Vulture.com reports that the video Jones made with Hudson “twice invokes the notion of the Laodiceans, a group criticized in the book of Revelation for being ‘lukewarm.’” Does the average American reading this reference really understand the nuances of Adventist theology related to this passage?
At the same time a young man’s life is at stake. “We need to pray for Angus and his friends at the Valley Crossroads Church,” one Adventist pastor wrote to Adventist Today.
The interview taped by the Voice of Prophecy, not the controversial one by Chris Hudson, can be seen here:
Update on November 30
Jones has apologized for any hurt he may have caused his fellow cast members on "Two and a Half Men" by the criticisms of the program in his video interviews. Although TMZ.com has reported that "Hudson has said that he and Jones have become close over the past year and share similar beliefs," Adventist Today has been told that the pastoral staff at Valley Crossroads Church (Jones' actual pastors) had never heard of Hudson until this week. He lives in Georgia or Alabma, according to conflicting reports, and is not a member of the Valley Crossroads Church. "It appears that he is simply trying to wedge himself into a highly visible story to get some publicity," one person in southern California told Adventist Today.