Man on a Mission
Now, as a self-described "spiritual activist," it's hard to keep up with the many projects Baldwin's undertaking. Last year he launched his own ministry, the Breakthrough Ministry. This year he's setting up what he calls the Assalt Arena Tour, another radical Christian sports arena event that sounds more like the billing for a rock concert and that attracts thousands of young people to each stop on its national tour. The idea for it originally came to him from a sports event he witnessed at a Christian festival in Florida.
"I went to a large Christian festival three years ago and I saw a pretty amazing skateboarding and BMX bicycle stunt show," says Baldwin. "The athletes themselves were sharing their Christian experiences with the crowd. With the global impact that extreme sports has been having for over a decade now it made me put two and two together and say to myself, wouldn't it be interesting to try to create an extreme sports evangelistic tour?"
Baldwin decided to direct and produce an "extreme sports" DVD to reach kids in the skateboarding and stunt biking culture. Images of pious, conservatively dressed older folks raising their hands to heaven would be replaced by "gnarly" skateboard pros to make you gasp at their daring as a prelude to saving your soul. As an advertising pitch to impressionable teenagers, who often long for community and fellowship, it's very hard to resist.
"I produced two Christian skateboard videos called Livin It which have been hugely successful," says Baldwin. "They're the top two skateboarding videos in the world now."
Apart from the tour and the videos, the Livin It website (www.livinit.com) features a section it calls Merch, a Christian lifestyle online shop that includes DVDs, books, tapes, concert tickets and even hoodie tops and t-shirts featuring the distinctive Livin It sports designs. It's street meets chapel, it's youth culture meets the Old Testament. It's attracting American teens by the thousands.
Says Baldwin, "You have these young people who are edgy and culturally relevant who have had their lives impacted and transformed with their faith. Guys who were drug addicts and alcoholics and suicidal. Young people are the most ignored."
Like his brother Alec - a Saturday Night Live staple, recent Emmy winner for his starring role on the NBC comedy series 30 Rock and liberal blogger for the Huffington Post - for years Stephen wasn't exactly the sort of person you'd expect to dip a foot in the culture wars. But that was then.
In his book The Unusual Suspect Baldwin opened a long running feud with Bono of U2 about the nature and effectiveness of the rock star's attempts to bring debt relief to Africa. To Baldwin, unless Bono is also saving their souls, all his efforts are to no avail.
"I'm a Christian who, as a result of the experience I'm having, I suffer from something called 'holy discontent.' It just seems to me that the meaning of being a Christian is something that is so watered down now around the world," Baldwin feels.
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