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Christian Art and Culture

Celebrity interview: Jeff Kemp

  • Candice Atherton Women's Channel Editor
  • 1999 3 Mar
Celebrity interview: Jeff Kemp
Jeff Kemp's life may not look typical - a professional football player, the son of a successful politician, an influential member of the pro-family community. But God has worked in him the same way he works in each of us, and Jeff's willingness to be molded has allowed God to use him mightily as Director of the Washington Family Council. WFC's goal is "to mobilize a movement to make family a higher priority than money, housing, career or instant gratification." As a leader in that movement, Jeff Kemp's stories and learnings are fascinating as he comments on everything from the NFL to the effect of media on our culture.

Tell us about your career path

"I was an economics major at Dartmouth and snuck into the NFL as a free agent. I was a quarterback for 4 different teams over a period of 11 years. During the second half of my career my wife, Stacey, and I began ministering as a couple to the players on the team. The off season provided time for speaking opportunities and more ministry, creating in me a hunger to use the platform that football created to benefit families.

When I retired from the NFL in 1992, Steve Largent recommended the Board of the WFC to hire me to lead the young organization. They listened.

How did the Lord use you as a starting NFL Quarterback?

The Lord didn't use me as much as he molded me. He used the insecurity of pro football to place my trust more and more in Him rather than placing it in my career and the material things of this world. That lesson had to be taught mostly through endurance and disappointments, including player trades and having to earn your job back every year. The NFL was used to build my abilities as a leader but it also shrunk my pride. The area where God used me was in influencing other players as I set an example for persevering and working hard.

What was it like to assist with your father's Vice-presidential campaign?

It was a wonderful experience during a 2+ month leave to take many campaigning trips with my father. I started off traveling with Mom and Dad to encourage them, understand their vision, and assist in the crafting of their message. I learned a great deal during this time and became closer to my mother and father in the process.

Then I started traveling across the nation with my brother and sister and the volunteers. We did bus tours, party rallies, small town and university tours, all the while meeting the people of America. I grew to appreciate the people of our country, and recognized the good souls in so many people. In addition, I became grateful for the political system set up by the Constitution which encourages people to be informed and engaged in civic debate as well as to be good stewards with the freedom they have been given.

I learned much about the media's concern with sound bytes and how this limits the full debate and full intellectualism of issues. This focus on the catchy and controversial makes it difficult to reach or persuade people on the underlying principles of real issues.

How influential is media in uplifting or destroying the family?

It's as influential as a cancer of the blood, or leukemia, would be to a human being. The media is pervasive. Even children who don't watch TV play with kids who do and end up talking about TV with their friends. TV has zapped away a lot of the story telling and value sharing that families used to do through personal contact.

And that's only the effect of the medium. The message promoted by the media has the opportunity to change values in pretty dramatic ways. In the latest research cited by Michael Medved, 92%, of all sexual depictions on TV are taking place outside of marriage. Fathers are frequently made fun of. The institution of marriage is painted as boring while promiscuity becomes the norm. Dysfunctional behavior is common fare for entertainment and we begin to see obnoxious and inappropriate situations "live" in our homes. We wouldn't invite people into our homes to speak and behave in such ways. With media, these images that are foreign to our biblical moral compass are allowed into our homes and therefore into our lives.

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that kids are watching more TV than ever. On average, kids watch six hours a day and are spending 40% less time with their parents than one generation ago.
How has the Christian community performed in promoting effective change in our culture?

There are wonderful examples and pockets of influence. Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship has been very effective in influencing culture through compassion and intelligent service. Josh McDowell should be commended for being relevant to youth and going to where they are. Crisis pregnancy centers are doing the essential job of providing a transcending solution to abortion.

But let's consider our nation on the whole. America has Christian roots, freedom of worship, valuable resources at our disposal, and a population with over one-half claiming to be Christians. Considering all of this, we've been sadly ineffective. Overall, Christians in America are lacking a theology of culture which we desperately need to recover.

We need to earn the right to be heard through compassionate service. We need to reclaim the courage to stand on principal. We need to remember that Satan is the enemy, not political opponents. We need to be much more prayerful and intensive in our efforts to redeem the values of society rather than take them over, neglect them altogether, or blindly conform to them. We need to find the right balance of grace and truth.

For more information on Jeff Kemp and the Washington Family Council, click here: Working Toward Family-friendly.