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Christianity to the Extreme with an 'Unusual Suspect'

Christianity to the Extreme with an 'Unusual Suspect'

In Stephen Baldwin’s opinion, living life to the extreme is the only way to enjoy it.

As the youngest of the four Baldwin brother actors, Baldwin practiced that belief by becoming a Hollywood “bad boy” during the early days of his career.

From his role as a criminal in the Oscar-winning The Usual Suspects to his comedic turn in Bio-Dome to his stint on The Young Riders television series, Baldwin groomed a reputation as a man who thrived in situations others might consider reckless - both on and off the camera.

Now that he’s a committed Christian, little has changed. He still likes to bungee jump, sky dive and skateboard.

These days, however, Baldwin says his biggest thrills come from sharing the Gospel, especially with youth.

He details his transformation, from a man who simply believed God existed to one who wakes up each day eager to serve Him, in the pages of The Unusual Suspect. This New York Times best-selling memoir, penned with author Mark Tabb, chronicles Baldwin’s journey from Hollywood rebel to a man with a vital cause.

“I wrote the book with the intention of telling my crazy story,” said Baldwin, who in the first chapter describes one of several visits to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. “If God can use a man like me, he can use anybody, and there’s a powerful experience you can have, like I’m having.”

The response has been humbling, he said.

“I wanted people who were not believers in the Christian faith to have a fun time reading it and (possibly) say to themselves, ‘This guy is having so much fun in his walk of faith; maybe I’ll at least consider it,’” said Baldwin, 40.

“For people who are already Christians, when they closed the book, my hope was that they would stop and ask themselves, ‘Am I truly following the calling that God has for me, in my life?’”

Baldwin explains the book’s title by noting its connection to the movie that garnered him credibility in the film industry.

“I’ve gone from performing in a double Oscar-winning movie, where I played a criminal, to this role that I think is more important than any I’ve every played, where I’m an ‘unusual suspect,’ being a Christian,” he said.

Baldwin, whose brothers Alec, Billy and Daniel also grace movie and TV screens, describes in the book how his wife’s deliberate year of prayer and silence drew him closer to God.

Kennya Baldwin didn’t stop speaking to her husband. When she deepened her relationship with Christ in 1999, she simply informed him that she would be making God her first priority.

She began praying every morning as soon as she awoke and every evening before climbing into bed. She studied the Bible for nearly an hour every day and didn’t utter a word to Baldwin about his lack of faith.

That, says Baldwin, got his attention.

“God knew if she just sought the face of the Lord Jesus and pretty much ignored me… You know what happens with macho guys when they get ignored,” Baldwin said and laughed. “I said, ‘This Jesus Guy is not any cooler than I am!’”

Baldwin began sporadically attending church and reading Bible passages to feed his curiosity. The more he learned, the more questions he had. He even took the step of asking God to direct his life.

Nothing really changed, however, until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. When airplanes slammed into the Twin Towers in his native New York City, Baldwin fretted over what would have become of him if he had died that day.

He realized there had to be more to living than this earthly life.

He surrendered to God with a warning: If he was going to live for Christ, he was going to give it his all – to the extreme, like he did everything else.

In the book, he pokes fun at himself for having the gall to challenge God and shares God’s humbling response.

Through a series of unexpected encounters, Baldwin found himself creating Livin’ It, a skateboarding and extreme sports ministry to reach young people with the Gospel.

He considers his new book a vehicle to reach youth and adults.

“There are so many people that, somewhere in their heads, they’re eager to have an experience with the Lord, but in their hearts, they’re not committed to doing what it takes,” he said.

“Some people are telling me, ‘Don’t force your spiritual opinions on me,’ and I’m praying for those folks,” Baldwin said.  “It’s important for me to communicate with people what I believe God wants me to say.

“I believe all the success I’ve had and the platform God has given me in Hollywood has been created by Him so it could be used at this time for the work he has for me now.”

Stacy Hawkins Adams is the author of the Christian fiction novels Nothing but the Right Thing and Speak To My Heart. She is also a freelance writer and inspirational columnist. Stacy often speaks to audiences about the blessings that come with authentically living one's faith. She and her husband, Donald, have two children.