The creator/director of this show about the life of Jesus is hit with accusations as extreme as heresy and blasphemy over the most recent episode.
Anyone with a modicum of familiarity with Church history knows that Believers' views on the Faith vary widely and sometimes intensely: enough to spark violent disagreement, bloodshed and even war. So that a show like The Chosen from Dallas Jenkins would elicit displeasure among some of the faithful was altogether predictable.
That he would regularly be called a "heretic," a "blasphemer" and even a "cult leader," however, is evidently not something Jenkins himself expected, judging by his reaction to a recent spate of furious criticism following the release of Episode 5 of the program's second season. The negative reaction and invective proved intense enough to prompt him to address it in a 45-minute social media livestream this week.
Jenkins, at times visibly displeased and even borderline angry, states at one point that viewers who feel that way "shouldn't watch the show." During the monologue, he also lays out his approach to the program and what he hopes are points of commonality among all parties concerned: Jesus' divinity, Jesus' sinlessness, and Jesus' exclusivity as a means of salvation, to name but a few.
Turning his attention to the aforementioned uproar, Jenkins ticked off the three scenes that drew the negative response: Jesus' rehearsing for a sermon, Jesus' very informal meeting with John the Baptist, and the evident backsliding by Mary Magdalene. While the first was far and away the most troubling to fans, it is that last one that really got under the director's skin, prompting him at one point to raise his voice and say that it is an "affront" to claim that Christians cannot fall back into sin after they have been saved.
In a more measured moment, he asks viewers to remember that The Chosen is "not a verse-by-verse reenactment of the Biblical narrative," but instead a "historical, character drama" that is inspired by the Bible. It is also something Jenkins, who is a lifelong Christian, hopes God will use for eternal purposes.
"We take Bible stories, we work our way backwards to add the context, to add backstory: some of it's historical, some of it's cultural, some of it's artistical imagination. All of it's intended to support the character and intentions of the Gospels."
Those extra-Biblical portions comprise 95% of what's been in the show thus far, according to Jenkins, but that and everything else is still run through a proofing process involving scholars of the Bible and people in full-time ministry to make sure it is in harmony with what's in Scripture. The director and his fellow writers also spend hours and hours researching, consulting and praying before they start each script. Jenkins nevertheless recognizes that since the show will consist of 56 total episodes once it's complete, this will not be the last time there is displeasure: "We are probably going to do things occasionally that aren't perfect."
He thus appealed to fans for understanding, asking that they be open to listen and consider his point of view, as well as that they send in their statements of concern "with a question mark at the end as opposed to an exclamation point" when they don't understand the rationale for something in the story. But for those who found Episode 5 objectionable, especially Jesus' practicing of his sermon, Jenkins unapologetically offers a word of caution about the final episode of season two.
"When we get to Episode 8, Jesus spends probably 10 minutes of screen time preparing His sermon and writing His sermon, so I'll just give you that fair warning now: if you didn't like those 10 seconds at the end of Episode 5, you're gonna really hate Episode 8."
And the next installment - Episode 6 - may also prove challenging for some viewers as it will follow Mary Magdalene's temptation to fall back into a life of sin. According to Jenkins, it "is going to be pretty brutal." That episode is now in post-production and likely will release in late June, though no firm date has yet been announced.
Christian Film Blog will continue to follow the post-production process and bring you the release details once they become clear. If you haven't watched Episode 5, you can do so here, and to check out Jenkins' entire livestream, go to the show's Facebook page via this link.
In the meantime, we would humbly encourage everyone to extend grace to Dallas Jenkins and his team as they continue to produce this very challenging faith-based show at a high level: with so many differing views of our shared Christian faith, it cannot be easy to thread such a needle.