CREATIVE DIRECTOR'S NOTE:
One of the most dedicated Christians I know also writes on "Dexter," Showtime’s popular series about a serial killer who preys upon other serial killers. We talked about growing up in youth group, Hollywood and the gruesome Old Testament.
Q: How does a guy go from growing up in youth group to working on "Dexter?"
I would say youth group is a big reason why I do what I do. I was like youth group president. I used to be part of this Bible memorization contest and I loved the Old Testament a ton. I mean, it’s all these stories of violence and blood and redemption and it’s these flawed horrible people. If we met them today we would be like, “Stay away from David. He’s going to take your wife and kill you.” And the song about “Saul killed his thousands. David killed his tens of thousands.”
Q: Doesn’t sound like Christian radio.
Samson slew however many people. And Shamgar son of Anath struck down 600 people with an ox goad. Those numbers are nowhere near "Dexter!" But God has this way of using crazy, psychopath sort of people, these flawed messed-up folks, and I’ve always been drawn to that kind of storytelling. There’s not any other text out there that is filled with flawed people and God uses them in spite of themselves. Some of the guys don’t even know they are being used by God and He does it anyway!
Q: What did you learn from your youth pastor that built your faith foundation?
Youth group didn’t really mean anything until my youth pastor sat me down and told me Christianity wasn't just about following a bunch of rules or trying to be nice. He told me to focus on doing good more than obsessing about not doing bad.
It was also the daily discipleship that they sort of drummed into me. The fun of being around people. The honesty. It just became like a real-life thing. It wasn’t about trying to look good in front of others. If you screwed up, you screwed up and you moved forward. It just became something real and vibrant as opposed to follow these rules, read these pages and then do whatever you want the rest of the time.
Q: How did your youth pastor communicate that? Because that doesn’t sound like my experience.
It was really the first youth pastor that got me excited about becoming a Christian. Before then, everything had been shaped on, “If I read my Bible in the morning, it doesn’t matter what I do after.” He just didn’t make it following a set of rules. Then I lived in another town where the youth pastor had us go door-to-door evangelizing and saying, “If you entered heaven right now, and God asked you why I should let you in, what would it be?” Telling others about Christ is a good thing, but I suddenly became this guy wearing T-shirts like “There’s no surfing in hell” and “Guess who’s going to hell? You!” It got twisted around.
But the first guy was very real with us, he would hang out with us after school. It didn’t feel very judgmental and it was very much about having lots of friends involved that weren’t Christians. It wasn’t like “outreach.” It was “Bring people in. This is a good thing.”
Q: In Hollywood, where there is no external societal pressure to be a Christian — it can even be detrimental — what has kept your foundation from crumbling?
I came to fall in love with a God that is full of grace. So much of my youth for a little while there was spent focusing my effort on trying not to sin. If you spend all of your time trying NOT to do things that defines exactly what you are. You become a Christian who’s defined by what you do NOT do.
I came to find that Jesus is someone who wants us to be defined by what we DO do.
By the good that we do. Grace covers all. That’s why He died on the cross. That’s the thing that keeps me going forward.
Q: I know a lot of Christians outside the creative community think an artist who is Christian must explicitly proclaim the Gospel with everything they create, which is absurd. We don’t say that to dentists or plumbers. What do you see as your “duty?”
Colossians 3:17 says, “…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus...” It’s about doing a good job. I have found that I can talk to people about God —even Jesus —because I try to excel at everything that I do, stay later than everybody else and work harder than most people. I have worked with a lot of Christians that are known as whiners and complainers, who say terrible things about people. It gives a bad name to Christianity.
Q: Have you ever seen God show up in your job?
In every job I’ve had — and I’ve had a lot — someone has said, “I can’t believe you are a Christian. If I were to become a Christian, I would want to be like you.” Is that good or bad? I don’t know. It’s a step closer, but it’s not so much in the writing. It’s more in the character that you build, the good that you do, that the difference is made. It’s in trying to be a real, authentic human being. It’s not trying to hide my scars and hide my darkness. He called us to be real live human beings.
Q: What excites you about writing for a serial killer?
Talk about the most super flawed human being! He doesn’t even believe that he’s human. It’s a story about redemption. Redemption meaning, in this show, somebody has become more human, but as hopefully people can see, it gets deeper than that.
Q: If you could go back and give advice to youth group Scott Reynolds, what would it be?
If you're going to waste your time, waste it doing good things.”
And I would have been so much more busy doing good and letting that define who I am than worrying about being sinful. You tend to do less bad when you are worried about doing good. I would also say, “Don’t be so stinking judgmental” because there was a point there where I was a flaming turn-or-burn person which I don’t think works for anybody.
Q: What advice would you give any adults influencing any teens with Hollywood dreams?
I wouldn’t try to turn them from it. I would encourage them to be honest in their art. In the same way that God presented the Bible to us, that has these R-rated stories about fathers sleeping with their daughters, mass murder, deceit, children being sacrificed – the list goes on and on. Be the one that helps guide them a little bit but don’t be judgmental about it. Encourage them to finish stories. To make it in Hollywood, you have to complete things and then start something new.
Q: Can you reveal anything about "Dexter" season six?
Just that it’s going to be fantastic. Really surprising for readers of this magazine. If you are under 17 though, you shouldn’t watch this show.
SCOTT REYNOLDS lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. When not writing on "Dexter," he's praying the Chicago Bears win another Super Bowl.