Toni Rossi, Director of Communications
The Christopher Award-winning Hallmark Channel series “When Calls the Heart” has always been faith-friendly, but the recently completed eighth season included a more noticeable focus on God. Not only were their general mentions of faith and prayer, but even specifics such as making God the third person in your marriage. This is not typical dialogue for a prime-time television show.
For those unfamiliar with “When Calls the Heart,” it focuses on the citizens of Hope Valley, a small town near the Canadian border, in the early 1900s. One of its executive producers and co-creators is Brian Bird, who also served as an executive producer on “Touched By An Angel” and wrote the feature film “The Case for Christ.” He joined me recently on “Christopher Closeup” for a discussion on the show’s spiritual themes this season.
Brian explained, “You can look at any sort of religious belief system, and many of the same great virtues exist in all religious faiths. To me, [I love] the fact that we were able to demonstrate that the ‘cord of three strands’ is not easily broken in a marriage, neither is it broken in other relationships as well…I think our goal is to stir up soul cravings in people.”
There was one scene in particular that stood out in this regard. The character, Lee Coulter (Kavan Smith), says to the pastor, Joseph Canfield (Viv Leacock), “I’m a man of moderate faith.” And Joseph doesn’t respond with a lecture or finger-wagging; he just continues treating Lee as a friend and reflecting God’s love to him, which conveys a good lesson to viewers on the best ways to share faith.
Brian said, “I love the nuance in that scene. I go back to the experience of Jesus with the disciples. He lived with those guys 24/7 for three years. And even after that, some of them still didn’t get it. So, where does that put people like us today? We’re not Jesus. Maybe some of us try to represent the teachings of Jesus in our lifestyle and so forth. But I think that the best way to introduce people to stories of faith, to the truths of God, and some of the great faith traditions of the world is through friendship.
“Personally, I’m a Christian,” continued Brian. “If I believe I have some answers to some of the world’s great problems…I have to earn the right to share that with somebody…That’s Joseph’s approach, too. He first wants to be a friend, without any hidden agendas. And I think that’s the best way to live for all of us. We need to be authentic friend makers with people. And when you become friends with people, even if they reject everything you stand for, that doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to still be friends. To me, even to their dying breath or my dying breath, if they reject me and what I stand for…I’m still going to be their friend. That’s part of the ethic of Hope Valley. Not everybody’s going to agree on everything, but they can treat each other with kindness and be friends first.”
For Catholic viewers this season, there was even a shot of the character Florence praying with rosary beads. Brian said, “We want to be as inclusive as we possibly can when it comes to faith. People come from some different perspectives. But I love the idea of: in the essentials unity…And where it really matters, we’re on the same page.”
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