With his long hair, dark sunglasses, and tight jeans, Duane "Dog" Chapman--star of the hit A&E reality show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET)--may not look like the typical Christian sitting in church. He's often seen cursing and screaming on the show, which follows Dog and the rest of his family, including his wife, Beth Smith Chapman, as they run Da Kine Bail Bonds in
Dog and his posse have also made news recently because Mexico is seeking to extradite them to face criminal charges stemming from their capture of Max Factor heir Andrew Luster, who fled the U.S. to Mexico in 2003 just before being convicted of 86 counts of rape and sentenced to 124 years in prison. Though Luster is now serving his sentence in the
Faith, Jesus, and Prayer
Danger, Fear, and Mexico
Dog: A Christian is very Christ-like. Christ wouldn’t say, "Freeze, M-F!" He’d say something else. So, sometimes we cannot be too Christ-like, but we’re believers in Christ.
We believe that God is big enough to give every nationality their own religion, as he’s given them their own taste in food, in plants, in furniture, and housing. I think that each religion has their basic Christ-ish way to get to the Everlasting God. As far as "Jesus only" kind of people, I as a gentile must believe in Jesus. But I do not condemn, say, the Jewish [people], for not having Jesus. I believe that God is smart enough to make different nationalities and creeds and people, a mediator to get towards him—if you need that.
Everybody’s under God’s planet, and God is the Almighty, the Beginning, the End, the Alpha, the Omega. He’s Big Daddy. He gives out these little soldiers and sons and angels and saints to help everybody else get through to him. I’m not the "Jesus-only or you’re going to hell" kind of guy.
Do you think that as a couple your faith has grown?
Dog: Oh, yeah. We’ve challenged each other. We pray if we get in an argument really bad—we stop and hold our hands and we pray and [say], "Lord, calm her down right now. [Chuckles]. Lord, calm us down."
We see miracles happen in our children’s lives and our lives. We look at each other, we say a prayer, and then it’s answered. So we know we wouldn’t have got that answer without God.
Before you go out on a bounty hunt with the rest of the team, you pray as a group. What are you praying for then?
Dog: We pray for the other person, protection, faith…
Dog: Safety. To "please help us find the guy." Everything in general. Because [bounty hunting] is a contact sport—it's a dangerous thing we do. We pray that we don’t get shot or hurt seriously.
Beth: And that we don’t hurt anybody else, and that everybody comes out all right.
I’ve heard that back when you were in a motorcycle gang, you came up with your nickname, "Dog," because it's "God" spelled backwards. Did you pick the name because of your faith, or was it to reflect your superiority?
Dog: I didn’t name myself. In the motorcycle gang, we had a president, vice president, sergeant of arms, treasurer—you know, the basics. The brothers get together with the president and they nickname you when you became a full-fledged member.
At 16, I [still] believed in God a lot. If [the gang] were going to rob a church, I’d go, "No, we’re not." I was kinder than the average outlaw biker but I still had the outlaw heart. I was very loyal to my bikership, my 'hood, my brothers. I was Dog Disciple and that was it. I couldn’t be Dog something else. I was that club. I was very loyal—like man’s best friend.
We had a guy named Preacher, one named John the Baptist. So the brothers and the president got together and said, "We christened you 'The Dog,' which is God spelled backwards. Now [whistles], come on, puppy. Let’s go." [The name] stuck with me until today.
Do you think that for a family such as yours, where the mother and father have such dangerous professions, faith plays a bigger role in your family life?
Dog: Absolutely. Faith is probably our whole being, our whole family life. [But] we have common sense. You can’t walk out and say, "Weeds be gone" and they die. But we have milestones and mountains in our life that could never be removed or conquered without G-O-D. In order to have Him and to believe in Him, you’ve got to have faith. Faith is the substance of hope—of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. So if you can hope for it and imagine it, and keep imagining and hoping and seeing yourself driving a new car, or seeing yourself getting that job, or seeing yourself excel, seeing yourself help that person—that is faith. It’s a substance, it’s an actual thing, like a being—a spiritual being—that’s led into the room. Without faith, you are nothing. Without faith, the spirituality is dead. So faith is a very important—probably the second most important thing, besides Jesus—in a believer’s life.
I’d imagine people in your profession and other dangerous professions would be in constant fear for your life and for your family. Is that something that you have to deal with?
Dog: We deal with concern, not fear. Fear comes not from the Father. That’s in the Bible. Fear is not from God. God doesn’t have a closet full of fear and [says], "Let’s send a little fear down to Dog." He has caution and faith and all that. But fear does creep in. Since it’s not from God, it must be from somewhere else. And when fear gets in the car, we stop and let it out. Anybody in a job that is kind of on the dark side, so to speak, has to let fear out.
You can’t be afraid to put out a fire if you’re a fireman. You can’t be afraid to be a police officer and carry a gun if you’re afraid to get up and go out there. So you’ve got to put that fear to the side and go out in faith to overcome that.
Has your caution or concern increased since your arrest in
Dog: The only thing I would be afraid about is if 20 guys jump me and knock me out and swim me across the Hawaiian waters to
Sometimes bad things happen to people who do good deeds. How do you explain that?
Dog: You’re always going to be challenged, and you’re always going to have things that you come up against. You never know what life brings. I know my life will be a win. And when they bury me they will say, "Dog lived a great life. And you know what? In the end, he won." That's all that counts, what you do in the end. You’re going to have some ups and downs and some sunshine and some rain. That's life. If you live life perfectly, it would be a bore. If you lived it negatively, you’d be homeless. I live in the median of that.
When you were in jail in
Dog: I had to pull a bunch of faith together that I didn’t have [at] one time, and I felt very challenged. And then I realized this and started thinking that people had warned me [of] exactly what had happened—even a dream that I had. Spiritual people walked up to me and said, "Get ready, because you’re going to face a huge trial of faith in your life. But don’t worry about it, because, remember, God would not bring you this far to let you down."
So one night in the corner [of a] Mexican jail, that became a reality. I didn’t have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, but I had as much as a grain of sand. And with my family there [his son, Leland, and good friend, Tim Chapman, who are also part of the bounty hunting team, were arrested as well], I combined the sand together to make the mustard-seed faith, and the gates of the Mexican prison opened.
Did you pray when you were in jail?
Dog: I pray all the time In
Beth: ... take awhile.
Dog: I was in
I have to put my faith right now in
On the show you usually act very hard-edged and rough as you go about capturing criminals. But once you get them in the back of the car, you’re very compassionate and understanding. Do you think that these people actually listen to you and change their lives? Have you heard any stories about some of these people and whether or not they’ve listened to your advice?
Dog: We have probably about a 40 percent recovery rate [of people who don't go back to jail]. Because if they don’t listen to me, then they get Beth.
[One] guy came in [and told us], "When I went into K-Mart the security guards were watching me because they said, 'There’s Philip [from] show #109 of 'Dog the Bounty Hunter.' Philip’s in the sixth row. Security, watch Phillip.'" So we ruin their basic reputation. Their…
Beth: ...life of crime.
Dog: And other people walk up [to people we've captured on the show] and say, "I saw you on episode 105 of 'Dog the Bounty Hunter.' Did you get a job yet?" "No." "Well, how you doing? Do you want a job?" They're like, "You’re the guy that Beth talked to." People try to help people [we've captured].
We have, on the other side, seen what the worst of all is—death. One of our guys did not listen as Beth told him: "Have you hit bottom yet? Do you feel the rocks?" A few days later, his soul walked away from him, and he died of an overdose. So when God rewinds the tape and [that guy] tells God, "I didn’t get the chances everybody else did," the last person he’ll see is Beth telling him, "Your life is almost over."
This is more than a catch 'em good guy/bad guy TV show. This is a live-and-die, your soul depends on it [show]. Sometimes we’re the last person to see these people. Because, right after that, they either get a life sentence, or they die.
What do you think is the most important aspect of Jesus’ teachings?
Dog: Jesus said the most great love of all is that you would lay down your life for a friend. Not a father, not a mother, not a brother, not a daughter, but a friend. Now, if you have to lay your life down for a friend, you better love that friend. Jesus said the greatest gift of all I could give you is love.
What can we expect from this new season of "Dog"?
Beth: This season on Dog you’re going to see a lot of the same. You’re going to see a lot of people being captured. You’re going to see a lot of souls being saved. You’ll also see the
What inspires you both to keep going?
Dog: It’s against the law to starve babies and we’ve got to bring home a paycheck and feed our children.
Beth: We’re not qualified for anything else.
Dog: No. We just had a dream and a goal and both of us thought that we—how do I put this politely?— that we were legends, in our own minds anyway. We thought, "Just look at all the new friends that we could have if we could just get out there enough?" And that’s happened. Did we foresee this? Not exactly how it’s happened. Do we dream about it? Oh, absolutely. Are we happy? Probably one of the happiest couples in
Beth: Only minor traffic infractions.
Dog: We have a standard that we set. Beth lost her father. We lost our daughter. Besides death, once
So, if Adam ever had an Eve, or if Eve ever had an Adam, it is Beth and Dog, or Dog and Beth.
You were recently quoted as saying that you were the poster child for rehabilitation in
Dog: The first thing you have to do is say "No," which Nancy Reagan made famous in the '80s. "Just say no." I, Dog the Bounty Hunter, say "Just say no and run." Let’s add that. Run away just for a second and call me. I’m Dog "Help" Chapman. She’s Beth "Help" Chapman. Even if you’ve got to call us, we can help. If they’re in a bad situation, don’t stick around. Get out of there. Quick. Move. Get out of there. Run.
Is there anything that you normally don’t get the chance to talk about to the media that you really wish you could?
Dog: We usually don’t get to express our religious beliefs, because there’s a few things you don’t talk about—religion or politics. So when we meet people, the first thing we like to bring up is their religion and politics. I love talking about God, but you can’t let your real religious beliefs show too much in a television persona, so to speak. So to get down to the nitty-gritty, "Do you believe in God or not?" is very cool.