Couple Find Blessing After Reality Show Backlash

Categories // Entertainment Monday, 08 April 2013

"The world didn’t see what I actually went through. They only got tidbits of it,” says Pastor Tara Lewis of TLC’s “The Sisterhood.” “I had three people at one time for four months attacking me.

“But I gained an understanding of how powerful the grace of God is. In situations where you would think you would naturally lose it, God really can keep you from that.”

Her husband, who is also a pastor and appeared on the show which centered around the lives of five Atlanta-based pastor wives, says he got the feeling that things would go downhill before they even began filming.

“We had signed the contract in March and they didn’t start filming until June,” Brian explained. “We were under the impression that, like ‘Preacher’s Daughters’, they would film three different families at three different locations and then blend the stories that way. Their stories aren’t overlapping.

“We felt comfortable with that because we felt we could definitely have control over what we do and whatever they got, they go, but at least we knew we were going to give it our best.

“I think it was at the end of May when we learned it was going to be an ensemble cast. I knew we were in for something.”

But the trouble began before the couple stepped in front of the cameras. Before filming began, Brian and Tara were released from the church they moved to Atlanta to pastor, after only six weeks of service.

On the show Brian explained that it was a matter of not seeing eye to eye regarding the direction of the church and in an interview with Lady Charmaine Live Brian revealed that they were let go because the church’s leadership didn’t want the couple to do the show.

By the end to the eight-episode season, their parenting, ministry and expression of faith would be called into question, and worse.

“There were scenes that I came under attack for loving the Word of God or using the scriptures,” says Tara in reference to tension that started in the first episode with an argument sparked by her calling on examples from the Bible in conversations with other first ladies, who told her they didn’t appreciate being “preached to.”

“The most difficult thing was to hear how distraught my wife was in scenes with the women,” says Brian.  “The most heartbreaking thing is to be a Christian and then watch the show and know that we did everything we could to represent Christ even in our communication about the others, and to see them vehemently attack our marriage, our ministry, our children, our past, our present, our future.”

Calling themselves “a born again Jew married to a Black Barbie” in the show, the interracial couples’ decision to raise their children to be aware for both their cultures was called into question by other members of the cast.

“About two weeks into filming, one of the wives asked am I raising my boys to know that they’re black. That was an insult to me,” says Tara. “I’m speaking to someone that’s a professing Christian.

“It’s ignorance because when you’re a believer, you obviously recognize your culture, background, and race but you don’t live your life solely off the color of your skin. And you certainly don’t ask a woman about her children in context of the color of their skin.”

When they sat down for their first look at the edited episodes, both Tara and Brian were shocked by what they saw. “I felt like the entire cast threw the Bible out,” says Brian. “They just said, ‘Look, we’re going to do this like any other show, and we’re going to not allow Christ to be seen in an through us, so we’re just going to act like any other wives.’”

“Even if I wasn’t on the show,” says Tara, “I would have been heartbroken and saddened by some of the displays of their actions. The most difficult thing was actually looking back at the show and seeing it become even worse than what I’d already experienced.”

“Reality shows are driven by conflict and sensationalism and shock and awe. They want it to be jaw dropping,” says Brian.

“Some of the things we did were being taken out of context, and they tried to pigeonhole us as characters, which I didn’t particularly appreciate. The character they tried to cut out for Tara was the Bible thumper and then for me, I was the uncomfortable new guy. It’s hard to really get to know the Lewises in two minutes of edited footage that took two to three hours to film.

Once the show aired, their critics expanded to include bloggers across the internet, who picked apart the couple. The backlash included blasting everything from Tara’s physical appearance to suggesting that Brian was gay.

“The bloggers are going to blog because Christiandom has been opened up for the world to see,” says Brian, “and unfortunately it’s not in a favorable light. The bloggers need to ratchet up their articles to really get people to buy into it. The commentary on us was really hurtful because I wasn’t prepared for that.”

What sparked the most attention was the couple’s efforts to blend Brian’s cultural traditions with their Christian beliefs by putting together a Christian Bar Mitzvah for their oldest son.

While Tara says she was able to brush off most of the negative comments, there were two articles that truly hurt her.

“The two bloggers that really did grieve me, I reached out to them in love and I answered some of things that they spoke against. They both asked me to do an interview, and do you know that I won them over?”

The Lewises say it is because of victories such as this that they don’t regret doing the show.

“For us it was a growth and a learning experience because our deepest desire was to have an impact and in the end I think it was an awesome experience because we’ve received letters and email and phone calls and people messaging us from all over the world,” says Brian.

“We’re continually getting compliments from how we behaved to our standard. When they watch the episodes in their entirety, some people have even called and repented for judging us too quickly. It has turned out to be a tremendously fulfilling experience, not from the sense of personal gratification, but because people could see Christ and were blessed by it.”

In addition, the show has expanded their reach and opened the doors to a slew of new opportunities. Besides their series, Phenomenal Life Today which airs Sunday mornings in the Atlanta market, they will be a weekly feature on Impact Network and Brian is in talks to join the board of directors. The couple has also been featured on Magic Johnson’s Inspire Network.

Tara, founder of MomFit and author of “Fit, Fine & Fabulous,” is developing a line of fitness DVDs and may soon get her own fitness talk show. The couple is also in negotiations to partner with a large chain of gyms to be a regular feature to produce a reality and fitness series for their in-circuit TV network.

“It was hard to open up our lives and have it manipulated,” says Brian, “but in the end I’m thankful for doing it because God will use the foolish things to confound the wise. We are fools for Christ, and if we had to look foolish even for a moment for someone to be drawn in and to hopefully glean the truth, then that’s all right with me.”

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