Christians in Reality TV: Pitfalls of Fame

Christians are taking part in what for so long carried a negative connotation – reality TV. Whether they're giving a good name to Christians or not is up to the viewers.

Take, for example, the Duggar Family – one of America's most famous families in reality TV. Featured on their hit TV show "19 Kids and Counting" on TLC, the Arkansas family seems to have captured the hearts and homes of viewers all around the country. Jim Bob Duggar and his wife, Michelle, take the scripture "Be fruitful and multiply" very literally.

"People think we are overpopulating the world," said the famed mother as she discussed the possibility of having her 20th child in an August interview with People magazine.

But she underscored, "We are following our convictions."

Initially, the couple had decided to have children in their timing and used birth control pills. But after suffering a miscarriage, the Duggars realized "that their selfish actions had taken the life of their child." They found out that, while on the pill, a woman can get pregnant and then miscarry.

As Christians and pro-lifers, the couple prayed for forgiveness and asked God to bless them with as many children as "He saw fit."

Today, their Christian values and modest ways of living are shown on a daily basis on the reality TV program. The large family has managed to become one of the most well-known Christian families on television.

While there may be upsides to Christians on reality TV, there are also potential pitfalls, said Adam Holz of Focus on the Family, a faith-based organization dedicated to helping families thrive.

We saw that in "Jon & Kate Plus 8," another reality show that featured a Christian family on TLC. The show originally aired on Discovery Health but later moved to TLC for Seasons 3-5. The show was one of the highest rated programs on TLC during its run.

"Jon and Kate should be a cautionary tale. Now we all know them, but for the wrong reasons," said Holz, who regularly reviews popular entertainment.

Jon and Kate Gosselin started their first season of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" professing their Christian beliefs and their faith-based parenting only to have their relationship and values fall apart while the country watched. On Sept 29, 2009, following the Gosselins' separation, TLC announced that as of Nov. 2, 2009, the program would undergo a name change – to "Kate Plus Eight." The series would focus on Kate as a single mother raising eight children.

That wasn't the first time Christians on TV left the public with a bad impression.

FOX's hit show "Trading Spouses," where husbands and wives are traded to other families to experience daily living in an environment different from their own, featured one of the most memorable self-proclaimed "God warrior[s]" four years ago.

Marguerite Perrin, a mother from Ponchatoula, La., had a meltdown of epic proportions when she found out her children were exposed to tarot cards and astrology. Perrin was a devout believer and against all things evil and "dark sided," including a $50,000 check presented to the family after their trial on the show. Of course, after Perrin discovered how the money was to be spent (on her gastric bypass surgery and schooling for her kids), she humbly accepted it "in Jesus' name."

Perrin showed the many colors of Christianity with her dramatic antics and outbursts of The Lord's Prayer, which was shouted at the opposing family. Her frantic cries for prayer fell upon deaf ears and confused faces when she returned to her own house. Her stint on the show took its toll on her own family.

"It's easy to edit TV to make someone look bad," Holz commented.

Warning believers, he added, "Christians need to understand that if their actions contradict their faith, that causes good ratings. It's about entertainment. The agenda is to create drama."