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The Christophers: Soul Food on “When Calls the Heart”

By Tony Rossi,

Director of Communications

 

If you need a break from the cynical stories that make up a good chunk of our media landscape today, take a trip to Hope Valley, the fictional town at the center of the Christopher Award-winning Hallmark Channel series “When Calls the Heart.” Currently in its 11th season and airing Sunday nights at 9/8 C, the show, set in a 1920’s Canadian frontier town, celebrates the better angels of our nature and the common good. The show’s co-creator, Brian Bird, joined me recently on “Christopher Closeup” and credited the series’ success to the fact that few other networks are making this kind of “soul food…about community, sacrifice, and people helping one another.” 

In the last three decades, Brian has noticed that TV programs often focus on the dark side of human nature. “When Calls the Heart” offers the opposite: ”There’s not a cynical bone in the body of this show. It reminds people that they need to be part of something bigger than themselves, that there’s a reason for them…We’re not just staring into the void of mindless, pitiless indifference, which is where I think secular culture has taken us…I believe we’re put here by a Creator, and there is a purpose for our life. At a time when not too many people are talking about those kinds of subjects on television, we are.”

Faith is also a recurring theme in “When Calls the Heart.” In a recent episode, after Pastor Joseph mediates a dispute between his son and daughter, he looks up to heaven and mouths the words, “Thank You.” It is a subtle expression of faith in a show that incorporates spirituality without thumping you over the head with it. “I’ve never believed personally in creating content that was just a sermon on film,” Brian said. “What’s important to me is that whatever we stir up on the screen stirs up something that pulls people together into conversation, into community, so they can help each other out…Sometimes, there’s Scripture in the show and sometimes there’s a sermon or a prayer, but we try to let the media become the facilitator for the human conversation.”

Brian grew up spending a lot of time in church and came to faith at age seven. That faith was tested in his college years, while attending journalism school. Brian recalled, ”I was being confronted with a much broader world…and a lot of questions. Journalists are naturally skeptics, right? You don’t want to just drink the Kool-Aid every time you’re given it from whoever you’re talking to…You want to get to the truth.”

Brian sought guidance from one of his journalism professors, asking him, “How do I reconcile who I have been…with this more complex, messy worldview that I’m now seeing?” The professor responded, “I’m also a believer. My advice to you is: don’t be afraid of the marketplace of ideas because…truth will always show up. Ultimately, truth will rise to the top. But if you’re afraid of the questions, you’re going to be afraid of the answer. So, don’t ever be afraid of the questions.”

Brian explained, ”For me, as an adult Christian, who reaffirmed my faith and my relationship with God and with Christ all those years ago in college, I’m now not afraid of questions. The Bible is full of questions, lots of existential doubt on display all across the Bible. And yet, there’s a harmony of truth there that is as right-side up as the world is upside-down. Truth emerges despite the questions.”

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note LOOK FOR THE BEST IN PEOPLE, write: The Christophers, 264 West 40th Street, Room 603, New York, NY 10018; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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