'We All Have Tons of Blessings'

Whether on television playing a minister's wife or advocating for Darfur relief, Catherine Hicks' faith is everywhere she is.

BY: Interview by Holly Lebowitz Rossi

 

Catherine HicksThe WB show "7th Heaven" is ending its 10-year run on Monday. The longest-running family drama in television history, the show is about a Protestant minister, the Rev. Eric Camden, his wife Annie, and their seven children. At times, it has tackled issues including discrimination against Muslims since 9/11, discrimination against women by the Taliban, interfaith marriage, single motherhood, teen sexuality, divorce, heart disease, and gun violence. Catherine Hicks, the actress who plays Annie Camden, spoke to Beliefnet about her faith life, her dedication as Catholic Relief Services' spokesperson on the Darfur crisis, her views on marriage and divorce, and why she's grateful the show isn't "embroidered in a doily."


Read the interview below, or listen to Hicks talk about:

Are people surprised to learn that you're a Catholic?
I find it sort of cute that I'm a minister's wife [on the show], and I'm Catholic. The fact that I have a practicing faith, meaning that you do it every week, it's like working out—I think it helps me play the role. Stephen [Collins, the actor who plays the Rev. Eric Camden], he's a practicing Anglican, which means that he actually goes on Sunday and does stuff. When we have the lines, it doesn't come through that we're acting, we know what we're saying. And I think an audience can feel that. I certainly can.

When you were preparing to play Annie Camden, did you learn anything new about the differences between Protestant and Catholic Christianity?
No, the thing we share is that the Camdens help people. Rev. Camden literally helps people that day. He gets involved and advises them and goes over, and we let people in the house. And that's certainly what Christianity is about. Christ talks about that all the time. The Good Samaritan. Stop what you're doing, and if someone asks you for a coat off your back, give them your house. Do more, you can't do enough for people in need. For a Catholic, it's interesting that a minister can be married and do that work. We're used to the priests and nuns doing it, and the lay people. So I think it's neat that Annie, the family gets involved.

What denomination is the Rev. Camden's church, anyway?

I think we're just sort of a big, gentle Protestant thing. It's not Southern Baptist. We're not defined, but it feels to me like Methodist or Presbyterian.

 

Is there still tension between Protestants and Catholics in America?

Historically, there's anti-Catholicism, just like there's anti-other things. But certainly our country is a Protestant nation. The Irish and Italian Catholic immigrants were always looked down upon by the Anglicans. So there's this great fear, and I find, lack of knowledge of Catholicism, just like I'm ignorant of other things. I think we should all visit each other's places of worship and get to know a priest, get to know a rabbi. It's not that scary. I think Scientology is scary, and I don't understand Jehovah's Witnesses, but I haven't spent time with them.

 

Do you think that when the show has talked about other religions, it's done enough to further interfaith understanding?

It's not the mission of the show to do that; it's basically entertainment. I know [series creator] Brenda [Hampton] doesn't want to be preachy, because she doesn't want to alienate people, but the fact that we have a faith, we act out on it, we say prayers, we thank God for the food at meals, I try to stick in "God bless" when I kiss the kids goodnight. Just any acknowledgement of a deity that created all this, and something to whom we should say thank you once in awhile, certainly every day, in my opinion, because we all have tons of blessings.

How well do you think the show has handled explicit religiosity? In the earlier years, it seems there was more of that, people praying, saying grace, thanking God. Then there would be whole stretches where there's be less of that.
I think it's up to the writers, when they feel it. I'm grateful when it exists but not alarmed when it doesn't. The show has never existed to be a religious role model.

Does that ring true for you, that there are times for those who have active faith lives when they don't demonstrate it as much?

Yes. Scripture even says, pray when the spirit moves you. It's like anything, there's a time. The soul is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised a little every day. Say a morning prayer just to say something. Certainly there are inspired times.

 

Do you think that spiritual or faith-based shows are on the rise?

Raising religious kids
I don't think there's enough to say they're on the rise. If it's existing, it's because there's such a starvation for it, such a lack of it, because it wasn't politically correct since the '60s, which was wonderful in so many ways but a lot got thrown out with the bathwater. I'm not talking about fundamentalism—I'm not a fundamentalist Christian. I don't believe any religion should be exclusive or feel superior in any way, or be judgmental. It should be a quiet, private thing. I don't think we should push it on other people too hard. But I know as a real parent that people are proud to say they're not raising their kids anything, as if that means they're not going to raise them to be in some sort of rigid, judgmental, hypocritical activities. I don't think they're really thinking it through. If you're a Jew, give them a tradition. They can reject it later, but give them something to reject. To just raise people in a secular void of consumerism, that's really ugly. That's as dangerous as too much of an organized religion. So I think if stuff is coming back, it's because I believe it's in our nature to want to have some other reality than just what's in front of us. I think we like to believe in a benevolent heaven.

Continued on page 2: Is Annie Camden a feminist? »

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