Welcome to episode 26 of the Behind the Catholic Counter Podcast. I’m Ian Rutherford, President of Aquinasnandmore.com. I interview Catholic authors, publishers and manufacturers to give you the latest news about great new Catholic books and gifts. You can listen to this and past episodes at aquinasandmore.com/podcast.
This week, I interviewed Charle McKinnie, president of Sophia Institute Press about the books he is publishing in partnership with NBC about the new miniseries A.D., the Bible Continues about the Acts of the Apostles. The miniseries starts on Easter Sunday.
Ian: Today, I’m interviewing Charlie McKinney, president of Sophia Institute Press. We’re going to discuss the upcoming series on NBC about the Acts of the Apostles and the corresponding books that Sophia has published. At the end of our interview, I’ll have a couple of special offers for our listeners. Charlie, thank you for joining me on the show today!
Charlie: Ian thanks for having me it’s good to be here.
Ian: When I first saw these books on your website, I just thought that they were new books about The Acts of The Apostles but then I saw the NBC peacock logo on them in that new miniseries, so what is this miniseries and how did you get involved in it?
Charlie: Well, I don’t know if you can recall, or maybe many of your listener’s recall the Bible Series which was on the History Channel last year.
Charlie: It’s had like a hundred million viewers which is an incredible series, it was very well done, it was authentic and was produced by Mark Burnett who has done The Voice and The Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice, a very high level producer in Hollywood and his wife Roma Downey who you may recall from Touched by an Angel, you know a decade or more ago and they, as Christians, they put this thing together and it just, it was a sort of unexpected success on the History Channel and what sort of grew out of the results of the movie, which was released last year, was The Son of God which was sort of a two hour excerpt from the series.
Anyway, this program was so popular that Mark and Roma approached NBC and they picked up the sequel, which is A.D. The Bible Continues, which covers essentially the first ten chapters of the Acts of The Apostles. And so it just kind of continues the Bible Series and it began with the Death and Resurrection of Christ in Episode one, and then for the next eleven weeks, so twelve weeks total will follow the lives of the early Christians to Saint Peter and the early apostles, the conversion of Saul to Paul and it just has all the intrigue in there, everything that happened, the martyrdom of Saint Steven, everything that sort of followed in the first ten chapters of The Acts the Apostles. They did a beautiful job.
We read the scripts in the here, excellent we’ve watched, our staff watched the first two episodes and there’s just an incredible – incredible, very well done and authentic series that we’re very excited about the opportunity for evangelization.
And so how did we get involved? Well, we were invited to submit a product list and we did and we essentially won, we were given the opportunity to produce these resources and we’re very excited to do it and so we put out two books. One is the Catholic Viewers Guide and which was written by our staff, especially Veronica Burschard, who’s our vice president for education program and then a trade book, called Ministers and Martyrs which is by Matt Mike Aquilina . So we got to work on this in October and these books are being released this month.
Ian: So when the original series came out, had they already planned on doing a second series or that came about because the first one was so successful?
Charlie: Yes. They might have had something in the back of their mind but there wasn’t – it wasn’t anything set in stone for sure. It was because of the success of the first one that, in my understanding is that they approached NBC and said, look there’s a market for this, this is something we want to continue and NBC saw the value in that and decided that they would pick it up and the host the sequel.
Ian: Now the series goes live on April fifth right, the first Sunday of April, is that right?
Charlie: Yes, that’s right Easter Sunday.
Ian: Okay. And how long does it run?
Charlie: It will be an hour long program and then it will run for 12 weeks so, it’s on the next 12 weeks, on Sunday evenings.
Ian: So that’s a pretty involve series to go through so this should be good. So the two books that you produced, the first one you have is a viewer’s guide. What is this going to be for?
Charlie: Well, look here’s what we wanted to do. You know it’s often times, especially when you’re clipping through so quickly on television, there’s so much that’s often missed, you know you might hear a term or a word that you didn’t really know or you know you might forget who Caiaphas was or what his role was.
And so what we want to do is that we wanted to put something together so that viewers can make the most of this opportunity for evangelization and for growing in their knowledge of the Acts of the Apostles as well as whom the apostles themselves were. And so what we put together is full color, it’s just a beautiful guide and we’ve got, you know ten pages or so on each episode where we offer a short essay, four- five hundred words, that gives you the historical and the theological context of the episode. It sort of put you in the frame of mind needed to really understand what is going on in the episode.
And then we’ve created a map for every episode that lets you know that Saint Peter went from this city to this city, kind of shows you where the cities were. Or in the first episode it shows you where the tomb is in relation to Calvary and it sort of gives you a sense of where the things are, you’re kind of oriented.
And then we’ve got profiles on each of the characters so that you have a good sense of who is Ananias or who is Pontious Pilate or you know that sort of stuff so you know what’s going on, who the characters are. And then, we’ve got previewing questions and we’ve got post viewing questions that we’ve got in there for study groups or for family discussions or small group discussions so that way you can really sit down and think about and talk about why was Peter angsting so much after denying Christ or how would you have felt or something like that. So you can really kind of delve into a little bit deeper.
And then, we’ve got definition of words or terms that you can hear throughout the episode, connections to scriptures, what the saints might have said about this character. And then every chapter ends with a prayer and with ways in which you can take the spiritual principles that were in that episode and apply them to your own life. Essentially, what we’ve tried to create here is just its beautiful content rich guide that is an indispensable tool to getting the most out of the series.
Ian: That sounds great! Both were individuals end for like a parish group or anybody else who wants to follow along with this. Now, you also have this secondary book, Ministers and Martyrs from Mike Aquilina and I’ve been able to read through the portion of this. And I like it because it reads almost like a story and one that I actually sat down and read for about 45 minutes straight without realizing how much time I’d spent going through it! So this is a great book.
Charlie: Yes. Well look, you know Mike Aquilina is probably one of the best authors out there. I mean not only, I mean we were so fortunate to have him involve in this because he can write so quick and yet so beautiful and he had such knowledge of the apostolic age. He’s written thirty, forty books and I was just so thrilled that he was able to do this for us.
So what he’s done here is, sort of created, it loosely follows the script of A.D. The Bible Continues. But what it does is really gives you the historical and the theological context of the early church and what was happening in the decades following Christ’s death and resurrection. And as he points out in the introduction, there’s been two thousand years since the death of Christ, and so these terms like apostles or the artwork that we see, I mean there’s a lot of tradition that has been put on top of that, we view that through the lens of tradition. So what Mike says at the very beginning is to take that away and let’s just go right back to standing on those dusty streets and crowded market places and see what was actually happening and so it removes all the stuffs and get right into it.
That’s kind of where he starts, the first chapters on Jerusalem and sets the stage for everything. Who are these people? Who are the Pharisees and the Sadducees? So he kind of sets the stage and then he introduce you to each of the apostles and again he knows what we think of Saint Thomas. We think of doubting Thomas, right? But that was just one little piece of who this man was. So you get a little bit of an introduction, who the apostles were and then it continues on to Pentecost that this is a major feast that people from all over the world came in for. Then talks about the martyrdoms and this really kind of stuck with me as you know the crucifixion was something that the Romans did in order to scare people away from doing something. And yet with the Christians, the more the martyrdom, the stronger their faith became and the more they saw that as a blessing, the apostles as early Christians. So what Mike does is just a beautiful job of taking this right into that era of history and unpacks it for us and helps us to see how the early church was formed and what it truly looked like. I mean I’m really excited about the book, it’s a beautiful book and it’s, like you said, it’s so easy to read.
Ian: Yes, it is neat at the very beginning, getting not just the history of the apostles but a little bit about the prophecies that the Jews were looking at as they tried to figure out who the Messiah was going to be. And then a little bit about the actual rebellion that led to the destruction of Jerusalem later. I’m really glad that it has this background information that people probably don’t even think about when they think about the apostles and what they did after the death of Christ.
Charlie: That’s absolutely right. And you know this is exactly what we were trying to do because there really isn’t, truth be told, a book that’s exactly like this. That’s kind of a primer on the apostolic age and here it is and it’s pretty cool to be associated with this video series which is going to give a lot of more attention than it normally gets and I think therefore, makes both this and the catholic viewers guide, it’s just a huge opportunity of evangelization because it gives that opportunity to reach people who normally wouldn’t be buying these sorts of books.
But because of the video series, because of the TV series it’s going to engage them, it’s going to grab them and perhaps sets them on a journey that not only leads them to a fuller understanding of what formed the church but also- look these guys were- I mean, their church services look like our mass today and what do they believe about the divinity of Christ is consistent with what the Church teaches today and so you see this continuity from the earliest age of the church all the way until today. And I think that, and I hope and pray that we’re able to reach more souls and more folks with this information so that they can not only come to the church but also get on a spiritual journey that draws them closer to Christ.
Ian: Well, what we’re going to be doing to help promote these books is we’re going to give away two sets. So were going to give away a set of The Ministers and Martyrs and The Viewers Guide, the two of them that we will hold a Rafflecopter give away for. And also we’re going to be offering both books at 20% off through the airing of the first episode of Acts of the Apostles so that they get the word out that way for you.
Charlie: That’s great! Look, what else I want to say, I just have to reemphasize that this series is, and I have a lot of people who have asked me, how do we, NBC is doing it, how do we know that this is going to be faithful and is it going to violate the offense of the Christians?
Ian: Right. After Noah and the Exodus.
Charlie: Exactly. And our team has read the scripts and we’ve watched the first two episodes and we’ve gotten to know the people who are on this team and my understanding is that the folks in NBC were able to choose, the Christians who were interested in working in this project, we’re able to volunteer for it and everybody that we worked with has been great to work with and everything that we’ve seen. It’s been solid and faithful and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to evangelize the culture and I’m grateful to you for all you’re doing to help folks know about this and especially as your running because I think these opportunities that like A.D. is how we can reach people that would be difficult to reach otherwise so thanks for all you’re doing.
Ian: Oh definitely. Now apart from our podcast where people can hear this episode, where should people go to find out more about the A.D. Miniseries?
Charlie: They can go to shareadtheseries.com and on that page they will see there’s a bible verse, there’s a clip of upcoming episodes, there’s all kinds of information there for church communities and for other Christians. You can go to nbc.com/ad which is the general site but shareadtheseries.com is specifically geared towards the Christian community and I would encourage your folks to go there because the clips of the series are pretty cool and they’re neat to see, and you know if you don’t excited about that… I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t get excited by that! So shareadtheseries.com is where you can get more information about the series itself.
Ian: And Charlie, I just want to give a plug to Sophia Institute in general. Your books are great, I like your practical applications in our faith to our lives that you have in a lot of your books and it’s just a wonderful all around catalog that you have.
Charlie: Well, thank you Ian. I really appreciate you saying that and you kind of nailed what we’re trying to do and we’ve very much enjoyed and appreciate our partnership with Aquinas and More and I’m grateful for all your support and all the way that we’re able to collaborate more together including this podcast and I look forward to doing that for a long time I hope.
Ian: Alright! Well everybody be sure to check out the series on Easter Sunday if you have a chance and be sure to also enter the contest and if you also would like to buy the book you’re welcome to do so at a discounted price until the first episode launches. Charlie, thank you for your time today.
Charlie: Thank you Ian!
Next week I’ll be interviewing Lucas Pollice (Policy) about the Symbolon religious education series. While I think everyone will find the interview interesting, if you know someone involved in adult religious education in your parish, invite them to listen in.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.