She’s the star of “This Is Our Time.” She played Kirk Cameron’s wife in the surprise blockbuster “Fireproof.” But she grew up as the pastor’s kid at a megachurch. Was Erin Bethea the stereotypical fast-driving, hard-drinking, boy-teasing, cigar-smoking preacher’s daughter? After all, in “Fireproof,” she played an angry, bitter wife looking for the drama of an illicit affair. Is that the sort of teen she was back at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia?
Erin Bethea and Kirk Cameron in “Fireproof”
“I hate to disappoint you,” she says with a laugh. “For a while I dated a boy that my parents didn’t like, but I think everybody kind of goes through a little bit of that. For me it was different than many preacher’s daughters. I didn’t feel resentful or neglected because my dad was out there caring about everybody else. He was my best friend.”
But so many preachers’ kids live in a sort of Twilight Zone in which they are viewed by the gawking congregation as either very, very good little examples for the other children – or else awful little hellions suspected of shocking naughtiness behind the baptistry. There’s no in-between.
Erin says her parents helped her avoid that. She never felt like she was growing up in a fishbowl.
“I never had to put on a show of being the perfect child. My parents were brilliant about that. They just let me be a child. Somehow, they guided me so that I didn’t have anything to be extremely rebellious about. I just felt better doing what was right, so that’s what I did. I never felt driven to find the bad crowd to hang out with. I had a great group of friends and we were all really involved in church. It sounds a little bit goody, goody, cookie-cutter, but you know, we had a lot of fun.
“But most of it was because I have such a great family and we’re really close.”
Can she identify a time where she began to feel like her faith really wasn’t hers – just her parents’?
“I think it happened for me at the same age that it happens for a lot of people,” recalls Bethea. “At college, I realized that for the first time I wasn’t living under my parents’ roof. So who is going to know if you aren’t doing right? That’s where I had to decide who I was going to be
– and what I really believed. That was when I had to decide how I wanted to exercise my faith out there in the real world.”
Erin and friends
So, how many times as a college freshman did she skip going to church?
Bethea laughs. “A few weeks. You know, I skipped church more in college than I ever had in my younger life. It was like ‘Hey, I can sleep in. This is amazing,’ but I also found that I missed it. I found an incredible group of Christian friends who were just encouraging and we all sort of kept each other accountable. I was really, really blessed in that way. I think that was definitely part of God’s plan for me.”
A divine plan for each of us is the theme of Bethea’s new film, “This Is Our Time.”
Erin Bethea in “This Is Our Time”
“The takeaway is that God’s plan for everybody is different,” she says. “He had a unique plan for you when he created you. He created you as a unique individual. The Apostle Paul talks about that – you know, ‘I don’t have this gift and I don’t have that gift you know, but this is who God created me to be.’
“That’s a lot of what ‘This Is Our Time’ speaks to. I may not have this calling or that calling, but that doesn’t mean that my life has any less value – or that I can be any less used by God.
“He has called you to be something that He has not called anybody else to be.”
And that’s the story of Bethea’s life. She knows she hasn’t been called into ministry as a pastor or an evangelist or a missionary to Burma. Instead, she’s been given a unique set of talents which she uses on screen.
“Film is a wonderful medium for expressing truth,” she says.
How does she explain that to Christians who say we have no business having anything to do with Hollywood and its corrupting evil?
“First of all,” she responds, “God has not called us to enter a life of isolation away from the world. He has called us to be in it and to be a light. It is so fulfilling to serve our Creator through our creativity and to do it with excellence. I would hope that eventually people begin to see the movie industry for what it is, an incredible opportunity for