God is up to something
John Schneider is best known for his role as Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, a comedy-adventure television series that ran from 1979 to 1985. He is also an accomplished musician and singer and the co-founder of ChildrenÕs Miracle Network, an organization that raises funds for childrenÕs hospitals. He currently stars as Jonathan Kent, the father of teenage Clark Kent in The WB television series Smallville. An outspoken Christian, Schneider recently talked with Staff Writer Christina Quick about his career, his family and his relationship with God.
PE: What was it like to be a television star on The Dukes of Hazzard at the age of 18?
SCHNEIDER: It was amazing and professionally gratifying. It was a great time, but I was typically self-centered and self-absorbed at that point. IÕd basically wake up in the morning and wonder how I could get the most out of that day for me. And yet I helped found ChildrenÕs Miracle Network during those years, so something good managed to come out of that young man at the same time. I wasnÕt a Christian, but there was always a feeling that I was here for a reason, that my life had a purpose that was bigger than anything I was doing on television.
ThereÕs a corny saying I like: ÒWhether or not you believe in God, God believes in you.Ó My whole life is really kind of a testimony. I donÕt have the down-in-the-gutter story to tell, but I can certainly find a pattern in my life, a definite trail that IÕve been on and am still on that was designed by God. IÕm the kind of person who believes that God is up to something all the time and weÕre part of it.
PE: Were there any Christian influences in your life as a child?
SCHNEIDER: When I was growing up, my only knowledge of God was through my relationship with my grandmother who told me one day that when she died I shouldnÕt be worried because she was going to be with God. I just accepted what she told me even though I didnÕt become a Christian for many years after that. ThatÕs still the moment that I look back on where God became real to me.
PE: How did you come to accept Christ?
SCHNEIDER: It was in 1989 at the age of 29 at a church in Studio City, Calif. I was there with a friend of mine. I saw a little old man being helped off the floor after prayer by a huge young black man with braids and gold around his neck and there was a hug of appreciation between the two. Somehow in that little moment I saw Christ. I saw acceptance; I saw appreciation; I saw selflessness. From that moment on, I understood. It was a tiny little thing that probably took all of four seconds, much like it took four seconds for my grandmother to say that sheÕd be with God. But I saw something there that made me want to know more about what that was. That was the moment when the first little piece of green sprouted up from the bulb my grandmother had planted all those years before.
After I accepted Christ, I started reading the Bible and looking at things from a different perspective. It was no longer a question of what can I get out of this day. It was, If God is always up to something, what is He up to today and what is my part in it?
PE: How did that change your priorities?
SCHNEIDER: It changed them completely. It wasnÕt all about John anymore. It was about JohnÕs part in a much bigger show, a much bigger mission. I started looking at the day and thinking, ThereÕs something IÕm supposed to do for God. That changes everything.
PE: What do you think God is up to in your life these days?
SCHNEIDER: I think God is up to something much bigger than my life. My life is just one of the spokes in the wheel. I think God is up to changing peopleÕs hearts toward one another — making himself more obvious through the love and respect that a husband has for a wife or a wife has for a husband, through the love that a father has for his children. God wants to make himself as real to someone who doesnÕt know Him as He became for that little boy who heard about Him for the first time from his grandmother.
PE: How does your faith affect the way you approach your work as an actor?
SCHNEIDER: My Christian beliefs affect every aspect of my life. I believe that my job is to make the people IÕm working with better and to make their job as easy as possible.
I donÕt usually walk up to people and say, ÒHey, have you heard about Christ?Ó IÕm a Christian who lives his life and people come up to me and say, ÒWhat is it with you?Ó Then I tell them.
PE: Is there a place in todayÕs entertainment industry for Christian values?
SCHNEIDER: ThereÕs a bigger place for them now than ever, but you have to be clever in how you package them. Even Christians donÕt want to sit around and watch saccharin Christian programming where everything is nice and good and the worldÕs a better place than the one we live in. We need to see on television and in the movies how an ounce of kindness affects people around us, how an understanding ear can change the world we live in. We need to see how a nasty person affects the world we live in too, how someone without God can really mess things up.
PE: You play a father on Smallville, and youÕre a father in real life. How would you like to see fathers portrayed on television and in movies?
SCHNEIDER: Jonathan, my character on Smallville, is a loving, caring and strict parent. John Schneider is a loving and strict parent. ThereÕs a tendency in television to portray fathers as all loving and caring and not strict or all strict and not loving and caring. IÕd like to see them more balanced and three-dimensional.
PE: Tell me about your family life.
SCHNEIDER: I commute back and forth from Vancouver to Los Angeles sometimes twice a week so I can be with my family. I donÕt believe that the father or the husband should be a visitor in the house. It shouldnÕt be a special event when heÕs home. It should be an unusual event when heÕs not.
We have Daddy Donut Day on Saturdays. ItÕs become kind of a tradition. I take the kids out for donuts in the General Lee I own from my Dukes of Hazzard days. My 10-year-old sits in the middle and ÒsteersÓ the car. We have a great time.
Two of the most important things in my life are being a good husband and being a good father. My hope is that one day when my kids are older theyÕll be walking down the street with me and stop for no reason and say, ÒIÕm glad youÕre my father.Ó That to me is the ultimate goal, the ultimate compliment.
PE: What do you hope to pass on to your children?
SCHNEIDER: The knowledge that God is up to something and theyÕre part of it. ThatÕs the legacy.
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