The Sunday, June 14, episode of “Beyond A.D.,” the Web companion talk show to NBC’s New Testament drama “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” finally — in its 10th installment — features a Catholic priest as a guest.
This far, the show has featured Protestant or Evangelical pastors as guests (and there’s one on this episode, too), but Father Edward Benioff, who’s in charge of evangelization for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, takes his place on the couch, along with a last-minute guest, entertainer and outspoken Christian and political conservative Pat Boone.
I caught up with Boone, 81, for a couple of minutes after the show and learned that a “Beyond A.D.” producer had called him and asked if he could come on.
“He asked,” said Boone, “did I know the show, was I watching ‘A.D.’? and I said, ‘I’m watching it religiously.’ I know Roma and Mark [spouses and executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett], and I’m thrilled that they’re doing this, and that NBC is carrying it.”
Some folks haven’t wanted to watch the show because they don’t trust NBC, but Boone said, “This is Roma and Mark, you can trust them. To their credit, NBC thought of canceling the series, because it started out great, then the ratings had dropped off.”
Last Sunday, “A.D.” scored 4.09M viewers against the second game of the NBA Finals and the Tony Awards — but that’s less than half of the premiere audience of 9.5M viewers. If Boone’s right, then it’s Burnett’s salesmanship (which kept “Shark Tank” on ABC long enough for it to turn into a hit) that is keeping “A.D.” alive through its 12th and final episode (episode 11 airs tonight).
“NBC wants to continue all the way to the finish,” said Boone, “which is not the finish, because ‘A.D.’ continues. We’re in the ending chapters.”
Asked if he thinks Burnett can convince NBC to give “A.D.” a second season (so it can continue to tell the story of the founding of the Catholic Church), Boone said, “He very well could If anybody can he can. He’s proven over and over again that he knows what the people like; he knows how to get it done; and, thank God, he’s a Christian — and Roma, too.”
(Downey was raised a Catholic in Northern Ireland and attends Mass near her Malibu home.)
“I know both of them,” said Boone. “He’s on board. They’ve risked too much time, money, effort, reputation — they’ve done ‘The Bible’ already and now ‘A.D.’ Now I want to bring it right up to date, to what’s happening to Christians today.
“Some terrible things are happening, and we talked about that on the show. People are being butchered and killed just for being Christians; little children being beheaded in front of their parents. This is the kind of enemy we face, and we’d better not be ignoring it.
“We’d better also be prepared to have the kind of courage that those early Christians did have.”
We also have to be prepared to give the reason for our hope, as Father Benioff talked to me about prior to the taping. Click here to read all of his remarks over at my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.com, but here’s a taste of what he had to say about how to evangelize the modern world:
“[Jesus] tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, that people will give glory to God by seeing your good works.
“Not by Bible-thumping, not by beating people over the head with doctrine, but by your good works, because they’re going to touch the heart. And, if it touches the heart, people are going to believe in mercy and goodness. That’s why, you’re right, we can’t give that quote to Francis, but that was the spirit of his community.
“That would be the way we need to evangelize in the modern world. We don’t need to get into debates and arguments; we just incarnate love. Then, when someone asks us the reason for our hope, then we talk about the Lord Jesus, but not in an aggressive, not in an ‘I’m right; you’re wrong’ type of way. ‘No, this is the reason for my hope.’
“Even Pope Benedict talked about this. He said, ‘Hopefully, we learn, we don’t evangelize by proselytization, but by attraction.’ How do you attract people? You’ve got to have that love in you.”
“A.D.: The Bible Continues” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT (preceded by a repeat of the previous week’s episode). And here’s a preview of today’s “Beyond A.D.”:
Image: Kate O’Hare