09 Jun, 2023 ‘The Chosen’ controversy explained and dissected
By Summer Lane
Photo: Deposit, Editorial Use Only
I’ve been working on reviewing The Chosen series for a hot minute, and in my quest to get a good feel for the show, I’ve managed to watch the first two seasons. Season three is on my watch list, but to comment on the current debate that has been stirred up in the last week surrounding the show, I have a firm handle on the tone, pacing, story, and episodes that Dallas Jenkins has produced.
Going into this, I wanted to take a good, hard look at what Christians are saying about the show. Some love it. Some hate it. Some don’t care. Some have strong opinions about the show, even though they have never watched it.
Over the past two weeks, dramatic controversy erupted when Jon Root (whom some of you might know because of his previous association with TPUSA) pointed out that there was a small “pride” flag obliquely attached to one of the cameras on set. GASP!
Here’s what he stated on Twitter after pointing this out:
“Christians, just like we boycotted Target & Bud Light, we need to boycott @thechosentv[.]
The promotion of the Pride Flag is never acceptable in church or any form of ministry. While you boycott & encourage friends/family to do the same, please pray for Dallas Jenkins, the actors/actresses, production crew and everyone at Angel Studios so they may understand the error of their ways[.]”
The Chosen television show’s official Twitter account responded to Root’s strongly worded battle cry for boycott thusly:
“Just like with our hundreds of cast and crew who have different beliefs (or no belief at all) than we do, we will work with anyone on our show who helps us portray or honor the authentic Jesus. We ask that the audiences let the show speak for itself and focus on the message, not the messenger, because we’ll always let you down.”
Christian keyboard warriors have been aflutter over this so-called controversy, and many conservatives who profess to be Christians are practically giddy with delight, happily pointing fingers and declaring, “I told you this show couldn’t be trusted! Ha!”
In all honesty, I’m often so deluged with the scandals and political corruption of our government and the legislation being rammed through Congress that another controversy, to me, is like a drop in the bucket.
And yet, examining the events surrounding Christian outrage over The Chosen is important, because I believe it highlights a deeply infectious problem running rampant among professing Christians today.
To explain, I am going to first address the history of the show, rumors of Mormon influence, and the stated mission and intent of the series itself. It is absolutely integral to understand these things before passing judgement on Jenkins’ creation, because without a firm grasp of these elements, no opinion will be well-rounded or well-informed.
Here’s the background of The Chosen (this matters)
The Chosen was created by Dallas Jenkins, with the primary aim of creating a high-quality series centered on the life of Jesus Christ. As most Christians are aware, the jokes about cheesy Christian movies exist for a reason – faith-based television shows and movies are, often, nice ideas that are poorly executed.
Often, Christian films don’t have the budget or the equipment to film Hollywood-quality stories, and their distribution options are slim to none. This is not a controversial observation – I’m sure most believers would agree that it’s hard, if not impossible, to find a clean and safe piece of entertainment that the whole family can sit down and enjoy.
The Chosen has broken the stereotype of cheesy Christian entertainment. It’s distributed by Angel Studios. Per Deseret, the studio raised millions of dollars through a crowdfunding campaign that fueled the production of the series, which is filmed in Utah, because of how much the desertscape wilderness resembles the Holy Land.
To clarify the purpose of the show, Christians first must understand that the series was never intended to be a ministry, a church, or denominationally-entwined production. In 2021, Jenkins explained clearly:
“‘The Chosen’ is a narrative show, which means it’s not a documentary. It’s also not a church. It’s not a nonprofit ministry. It’s not formally connected to a denomination or faith tradition. And it’s absolutely not a replacement for scripture. It’s a show. However, that’s not to diminish the importance of getting things right. We have an obligation to take this seriously. We are talking about the son of God here.”
Via Deseret, Jenkins kick-started the show with very simple and very open operating procedures which have never been secretive or hidden from the public – largely because this series has been crowdfunded, the transparency on the production of the show has been readily available to the audience from day one.
Because this is a show and not a ministry, Jenkins hires people of all faiths or even no faith at all to work onset, as any business would do. Many of the actors and actresses who are hired to play different roles are not Christian. Jenkins has also said on multiple occasions that the show does not cater to any one denomination or faith group. Rather, the show is focused on the story of Jesus and his disciples, and most of the source material is pulled from the New Testament scriptures.
Like any film about Christ that has been produced over the last few decades, there is artistic liberty taken with the story. Some of the dialogue is added for dramatic effect or comic relief. The heart of the story, in my opinion, has remained very true to the core Gospel message so far.
Some Christians have a deep-seated belief that Christ’s life should never be brought to a TV screen. If that’s your opinion, that’s okay – but I caution those who hold that belief to refrain from positing judgement on The Chosen. You cannot judge that which you are not even willing to watch.
The hyped Mormonism debate
The number one argument that I have heard from Christians against The Chosen up until the “pride controversy” that erupted on social media in the past couple of weeks was that it is a Mormon show.
I am puzzled by this argument, because I have seen most of the show, and never once did I walk away from an episode thinking, “Man, this is so obviously a Mormon television series.”
As Jenkins has pointed out, the show is not associated with any denomination or faith group – and the show itself reflects that. Nothing in the series thus far has remotely led me to believe that the show is catering explicitly to Mormons or the LDS church. The accusation that it is doing so is explicitly false and easily debunked by anyone who is willing to watch the show.
The Christian community is keen on tearing Jenkins’ show to shreds because Angel Studios is owned by Mormons, and because Jenkins personally is friends with members of the LDS church. The hypocrisy in this belief, however, is a logical fallacy – I am friends with many people who are Catholic, atheist, agnostic, and even stoic. Does my friendship and respect for them affect the quality of my work? Does the fact that I, a Christian, have friends who are non-Christians automatically negate the validity of my personal faith, my editorial commentaries, and my research? Absolutely not. It is a false dichotomy to assume that because Jenkins knows Mormons, therefore his show must be Mormon.
Again, the show itself has not included Mormon content.
This fallacious information has further been propagated by online sources because of a quote Jenkins gave years ago about the LDS church in which he appeared to infer that Mormons and Christian Evangelicals love the “same Jesus.”
Jenkins addressed this issue in 2022 in a video, saying that the quote Christians had found lacked context and clarity, explaining, “Not because there aren’t LDS folks who are Christians and not because there aren’t LDS and evangelicals who love the same Jesus, but because it would be wrong of me to ever say that any one group believes any one thing altogether. That is just a level of arrogance that I don’t have…It would be just as dumb for me to say that all LDS are Christians, as it would be to say that all evangelicals are Christians, or that all Catholics are Christians or any other faith tradition. It would also be dumb for me to say that none are.”
In other words, Jenkins is saying here that there are differences between these faith groups and denominations. Of course there are – there are differences between Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics on many levels.
And as a reminder, Jenkins has been very transparent that he is NOT catering to any one group with his show, and again, I can see that the series reflects this nonpartisan approach.
If Mormon theology and belief systems were woven into the show, I would be concerned. I have not seen that. Even if Jenkins himself has mushy theological views on the differences between Mormons and Christians, it doesn’t change the fact that the show itself does not reflect explicit Mormon belief systems.
To critique the show based on assumed secret Mormon subversive content in the script is a lazy and uniformed argument. Period.
The ‘Pride’ outrage
The deluge of Christian outrage over the “Pride” flag that was spotted onset was clearly a trigger for many people who have been waiting for The Chosen to show their “true colors.” The only problem with this reaction to the situation is that Jenkins and the entire series has been open about the show’s position from the beginning.
It’s a TV show, period. Like it or don’t. Watch it or don’t. But the outrage has been insane, with professing Christians online calling for boycotts. Never mind the fact that these same Christians are spending their time watching shows like Yellowstone (I guess sex scenes and profanity are totally okay!) and listening to secular music on the way home from work. The horror!
I don’t have an issue with Christians who watch secular entertainment with a hefty dose of discernment and self-control in tow. I do, however, have a problem with Christians who will boycott a show because a singular, secular employee strapped a Pride flag to a camera, knowing full well that it would kickstart a firestorm of controversy.
If the show itself is unproblematic, then the next line of attack must be aimed at the cast and crew who work onset. They’re not Christians, therefore the show must have an evil agenda, right?
Again, please refer to Jenkins’ original core operating procedures for the show that I mentioned previously. The production is a business, and as such, secular people are often hired to work onset. This is not controversial – this is how it works in America.
Have you ever owned a business? How big was it? Did you ever have people working for you with whom you may have disagreed on issues of morality, religion, or politics?
Christians who demand that The Chosen hire ONLY Christian employees are, again, viewing the show as a ministry. It is not. This has been said so many times.
Another fair point that I would like to make here is that many “Christians” sharing their hyped-up opinion on this firestorm of controversy probably don’t even understand the core tenants of Biblical theology themselves. In 2021, a Religious Views and Practices of American Adults survey revealed that nearly 70 percent of surveyed Christian adults today believe that Jesus is NOT the only way to heaven. So, yeah. The vast majority of “Christians” today don’t even have the tiniest grasp on the content that they are attempting to critique.
One Twitter user named “Lindsey: Hillbilly Homemaker” offered the following comment on this issue, noting that she expected Christian production sets to exclusively hire Christian employees:
“Christian productions should be hiring Christians. I just can’t get on board with the excuse that ‘the industry’ is filled with Romans 1 individuals. Of course it is. Why aren’t we filling ‘the industry’ with men & women who seek to glorify God in all spheres.”
Lindsey’s comments came partly as a response to her disagreement with Christian conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey of Relatable, who did not support boycotting the show after the controversy initially erupted (although she has taken issue with the cast coming out and supporting the Pride flag since then).
Should We Boycott “The Chosen” Over a Pride Flag? pic.twitter.com/TVVDdDJdF7
— Candace Owens Podcast (@CandaceOwensPod) June 8, 2023
To clarify, there have been several members of the cast who have clearly aligned themselves with supporting the agenda of the Pride flag – again, these are individuals with personal beliefs that have not been translated into the show. Like any actors, they are playing characters on the show.
Like Candace Owens shared in her analysis of this controversy, we should indeed separate art from artists. For example: How many Christian conservatives today love to watch The Patriot with Mel Gibson? “What if Mel Gibson was an atheist, right?” Owens stated. “What if Mel Gibson went around, and he preached about atheism? Would that mean that The Passion of the Christ should not stand – should Christians call to boycott The Passion of the Christ? Well, NO, unless that atheism appeared in his work.”
She added, “There has not been any message about gay pride [in The Chosen], in fact, my first question when I heard about this debacle was that, ‘Has anyone ever run a business?’ What were you expecting the team over at The Chosen to do when they saw this Pride flag?”
She went on to point out that had they simply fired this employee on the spot for foisting about the Pride flag, they would have had a massive discrimination lawsuit on their hands.
I do not support the Pride flag. I do not support the LGBTQ agenda. If you are familiar with my editorial work, you are well aware that I completely oppose this diabolical and destructive agenda with every ounce of my being.
The reason I personally oppose boycotting The Chosen is because the actual show itself is worth watching. It’s a good show. It’s well produced and well-acted. Some of the scenes have moved me to tears with its masterful combination of music and acting.
I’m able to walk away from the show and live my life without worrying about what every single individual actor or makeup artist or cameraman from the production team is doing in their spare time.
I don’t care. It has no bearing on my faith walk with Christ or my happiness as a human being. It shouldn’t!
The outrage over The Chosen deeply concerns me because I see Christians who are willing to boycott and cancel a well-executed Christian show because it is less than absolutely perfect on every level. I see Christians who are quick to assert their moral superiority over a television show but who have never read their own Bibles from cover to cover. I see Christians who criticize The Chosen and then profanely chew out the driver on the freeway who cut them off on the way to work. I see Christians who will start a needless argument with a friend over a television show when really, it doesn’t matter.
Friends, we are living in the last days. Our nation is falling apart. We are losing our freedoms. We are on the verge of a third world war.
And we, as Christians, are going to sit here and squabble over a television show and allow it to sow seeds of disunity in our relationships and our churches?
How shortsighted and selfish are we to traverse such a path. The Chosen represents a tertiary problem. Christians should first deal with their own faith walk, their own families, and their own communities before deigning to act like what happens on the set of a faraway television set has any real impact on their lives.
The Chosen’s so-called controversy is taking time and energy away from other important battles that conservative believers should be facing. What if we put as much time and energy into evangelizing our community instead of casting judgement on things that don’t really matter? What if we put as much time and energy into evangelizing our community instead of casting judgement on things that don’t really matter, simply so that we can make ourselves feel big by making others feel small?
If the Pride agenda suddenly begins to pop up within the script and story of The Chosen, then this controversy would take on an entirely different bent. But right now, it has not. And so, we are spinning our wheels, friends. We are listlessly shaking our self-righteous fingers at Dallas Jenkins while we refuse to look at our own lives in the mirror.
Our nation is hemorrhaging in every direction. We are in survival mode. The issues that Christians are facing today should be triaged: primary, secondary, and tertiary. When our churches are unified and our heads are bowed in deep repentance, then, perhaps, there will be a time for these things. Unfortunately, right now, Christians and conservatives are holding onto the edge of a cliff with slippery and weak fingers.
The controversies of this faith-based series pales in comparison to the horrifying reality that we as Christians are going to be facing as the years go on. As our religious freedoms fade in America, we should arm ourselves with courage and focus our eyes on the prize rather than getting caught up in whether a TV show may or may not bear good theological fruit.
My beliefs as a Christian are not affected or contingent upon Dallas Jenkins, the secular actors who work on set, or whether The Chosen ultimately inserts a progressive agenda into the actual show. I will not use theological knowledge as a bludgeon with which to mock my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because they sat down, watched a show, enjoyed it, and went about their day.
We know better. So let’s do better.
Let’s apply our Biblical discernment skills fairly and justly. Let’s not get caught up in tertiary skirmishes about TV shows. Instead, let’s focus on growing our churches, our relationships, protecting our freedoms here in America, and above all, sharing the Gospel and the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone and everyone who will listen.
Note: I understand that there may be Christians who disagree with my opinion on The Chosen controversy. You can feel free to reach out to me (Summer Lane) via my website at summerlaneauthor.com or via Twitter @SummerEllenLane and Truth Social @SummerEllenLane. I am always open to a friendly and respectful debate.
The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team. This specific article was written by Summer Lane, and may not be reproduced, except to quote for reviews or interviews, without the express permission of the author.
Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. She is the Associate Editor for Right Side Broadcasting Network. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies on The Write Revolution.
Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.
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