Tony Hale might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about Newbigin House’s Conversations for the Common Good. The actor has played iconic roles, from Buster Bluth on Arrested Development to Gary Walsh on Veep, but he is also the founding member of The Haven, a community of artistically-minded Christians living and working in New York. It is Hale’s commitment to living out his faith in his unique environment that made us want to invite him to share some of his story at one of these Conversations.
At Newbigin, we are always thinking of who we can invite to be part of a larger conversation about how we understand ourselves, our faith, and the world around us. Often, these people will end up being academics, professors, and theologians–people whose job it is to articulate important ideas about the way the world works. On occasion, though, someone like Tony Hale comes to mind–someone who has lived an extraordinary set of circumstances but has sought through them to remain tethered to God in his ordinary life.
Next week, we will be hosting Peter Enns, a Biblical scholar and best-selling author whose book The Sin of Certainty argues that skepticism in faith is not necessarily a loss of belief but an invitation to go deeper into the mystery of God’s presence. We hope to see you there for what will be an insightful and relevant conversation about how we think about faith and doubt.
With Tony Hale as our guest, we got to talk a lot about what it means to be a person of faith who experiences anxiety, doubt, and fear. Hale grew up in Tallahassee, where his parents signed him up for a community theater. “It was just a gift because it was a place where I found my people,” Hale said. After college, where he majored in journalism, Hale returned to Florida to be a youth pastor. “I did that for a year, and then I was like, ‘nope, not doing that!’”
So he moved to New York, where he met his wife and took odd jobs to supplement his income from commercials and small productions of Shakespeare plays. While in New York, Tony met Newbigin’s Scot Sherman at the church they both attended. Hale taught Sunday school and met a lot of artists who were also asking questions about how they could bring their faith to bear on their work. “Anytime someone says they’re thinking about getting into acting, I tell them to invest in finding friends,” Hale said. “These people are going to see you when other people might not see you for who you are.”
The desire to be seen and known was one of the themes of Hale’s conversation. “I think fame is based in this sense that everybody wants to be known,” he said. “People look at fame and think, that’s the ultimate way to be known…and what’s funny about fame is that it’s actually the opposite of being known, because it isolates you. In reality, if you’re known by the people who love you and really see you–and known by God–that’s really all the known you need.”
It is often easier to live in anxiety than in contentment, and Hale pointed out that he felt this way for years in his career. “I think in our society, we think that we will be happy when we have something else, something better. And it’s not that ambition or dreaming is wrong, but I found myself going, ‘I’ll have value when I get that.’ And I’m learning that my value has stayed the exact same before and after success.”
We apologize for the sound quality of this file. There were technical difficulties during the recording process. The sound improves at 01:50.