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What we may have in common with 'Two and a Half Men' actor
Angus T. Jones, left, in an episode of "Two and a Half Men."
November 29th, 2012
03:12 PM ET

What we may have in common with 'Two and a Half Men' actor

By Michael Martinez, CNN

Hollywood, California (CNN) -In the introduction to the TV sitcom "Two and a Half Men," actor Angus T. Jones morphs from boy to teen before our eyes. Now we're watching the actor venture into adulthood and the complicated moral questions that come with it.

This week in posted Internet videos, Jones announced his ethical and religious awakening by condemning as "filth" the CBS show that made him rich and famous.

Jones isn't alone in facing his crisis of conscience. His experience, though dramatic, is universal in how many job holders struggle to reconcile work and spiritual values, experts say.

"At some level, all of us, probably not publicly, ask the hard question that he's asking," said David Miller, director of Princeton University's Faith & Work Initiative.

"What is the honor and dignity and meaning and purpose of (our) work? Is our work for making a good buck and has no ethical or moral or societal value, or should our work have a more noble dimension to it?" Miller said. "As we look at him afar, he's doing a service by raising the same question."

Clearly, we all can't make such loud declarations about our jobs. But Jones enjoys privileges.

‘Two and a Half Men’ actor’s criticism of show shines light on Seventh-day Adventists

He's a millionaire Hollywood figure on one of television's most successful shows. And he's only 19 years old.

"What he's displaying is the kind of passion that commonly infects the newly converted or those that have just found religion," said Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. "It's also a very easy thing to do in that he's already become wealthy and famous for how long now - nine years."

The hard question

Jones poses a hard question, encountered by all who believe in a supreme being, Miller said.

"Instead of saying, 'What do I want to do with my life?' he's asking, 'What would be pleasing to God?' And that's a very different metric," Miller said.

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Such moral conflicts play out in many professions, with physicians and abortions, pharmacists and the morning-after pill, and financiers and greedy strategies, say ethicists and other experts. In Jones' case, the actor seems at odds with the "artificial environment of show business," Wolpe said.

The answers fall across a spectrum.

"So what do you do?" said Miller, who, before joining academia, was a business and finance executive. "Do you walk away from the question mark, or do you stay and try to change within the question mark?

"Maybe he'll stay in Hollywood and try to find work more in line with his values. Or will Hollywood spit him out?" Miller said.

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The actor has apologized for any offense to the cast and crew of "Two and a Half Men," where he's worked since 2003.

He said in a statement: "I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that."

But in an online video earlier this week, Jones repeatedly urges viewers not to watch the show, in which he plays an only child growing up amid male adult antics in a Malibu beachfront house.

"I'm on 'Two and a Half Men,' and I don't want to be on it," he said. "You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can't. I'm not OK with what I'm learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show. You go all or nothing."

Jones also references "the enemy's" deception, an apparent allusion to the devil, and asserts "There's no playing around when it comes to eternity."

Seventh-day Adventist

In June, Jones joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Protestant faith with 1.1 million members in North America. The church says it's not involved with Jones' online testimonials nor with video host Christopher Hudson of the Forerunner Chronicles, whose website emphasizes Judgment Day and the Bible's Book of Revelation. Hudson couldn't be reached for comment.

It's too early to discern what impact Jones' testimonial will have on the sitcom and his career. Jones won't appear in the two remaining episodes now being taped before the holiday break, sources close to production told CNN. His absence was scripted well before the videos' release Monday, the sources said.

Almost two years ago, "Two and a Half Men" was embroiled in another controversy centered on a prominent cast member: Charlie Sheen, who was fired after public rants that included invectives against producer Chuck Lorre.

Wolpe wonders if Jones went too far.

"Interestingly, that show plays on exactly the kind of immaturity he plays on," Wolpe said. "The show itself has an adolescent, prurient sense of humor.

"This show is deeply kind of misogynistic and very male - it's like a fraternity in there with a revolving door of women," he said. "So it's not surprising that he expresses dissatisfaction and estrangement from the show in a way that was equally immature.

"I don't know if he can recover from this or not," Wolpe added.

Jones' passion reflects how ethics vary among the faithful.

"You have to keep in mind that it really means different things to different people," said Diana Cates, a University of Iowa professor of religious ethics. "Even within a given religious tradition, there's so much diversity. There are people on the edges who identify with one tradition or blend traditions."

Frequently, a conversion or awakening such as Jones' renounces the past.

"In terms of radical conversion experiences, the life that one has immediately, previously led is often denied or criticized severely," said Joseph Price, a professor of religious studies at Whittier College in California. "The life itself is not denied - but the lifestyle is," he added. "It often results from a crisis of conscience or a perceived revelation of some kind."

Price likened actors to athletes and recalled how baseball player Billy Sunday was a "rabble rouser and carouser" around the turn of the 20th century. Then, after a religious experience, Sunday quit baseball and became a preacher who fought to make alcoholic beverages illegal, he said.

"When persons find authenticity in a lifestyle that embraces the good, it often prompts them to make shifts in their own lives in profound ways," Price said. "If that's the case here, we'll be able to see how it affects the long run of his nonacting life and his presence in the series and in television itself."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • TV • Work

soundoff (1,088 Responses)
  1. Jack

    The kid is psychotic and needs help. i hope somebody needs to get it for him.

    November 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Unless he's as boneheaded as the character he plays, he might help himself......................

      "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."
      Isaac Asimov

      November 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  2. Nietodarwin

    You are basically killing each other to see who has got the better imaginary friend.
    Richard Jeni

    November 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. The Dude

    Am I the only one who doesn't care about this?

    November 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • gooddoggoodmanners

      No, you are not alone in not caring....I have never even seen one episode and had no clue who this idiot was!!

      November 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  4. Luke

    Why not give all the money back that you earned from such filth? That would truly make a statement. Surely, God would not want such money if it came from questionable sources. He is a good guy, no doubt. But his reasoning is not complete.

    November 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Roy

    I'm wondering now that he has come to his senses of morality, is he prepared to give all his money back or is he trying to start a new religion called Enterligion Church of Moral Entertainment Values

    November 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  6. What?

    I can't stand anyone who complains about their work but refuses to just walk away. The worst kind of hypocrite.

    November 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • timelord7202

      If we had a functional economy where workers could have some actual freedom, he would be able to move on and feel warm and fuzzy about it.

      As it stands, I can see his POV in all of this as well, though an actor in a successful show is making rather a lot of money – more than almost everyone in the audience (studio or in front of the tv) is... actor college doesn't cost a hefty sum, so it would be comparatively easy for him to quit. Unlike all of us out here in the real world, a place that props him and his salary up via any number of facets... So if anyone doesn't like the show, demand the production studio and network stop taking taxpayer-funded subsidy and tax breaks, stop buying every product every sponsor hocks during commercials... and then hope everyone else follows suit because, after a point, it's pragmatically pointless to boycott.

      November 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  7. timelord7202

    Filth or not, it pays money. Are we a spiritual, pro-life, and affirming society or are we about money? Based on him, money is the higher power.

    I couldn't care less about the show. This actor's antics are far more interesting right now...

    November 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  8. c s

    It is really simple. He can quit the show and donate all of his money to a charity like the American Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. I doubt that it will happen. At the very least he should quit the show.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  9. mc

    If something is really getting to Jones, I hope he keeps in mind it's just entertainment. Also, if he doesn't really want to be on the show, he should quit and then grandstand.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Bill

    That little snot nosed punk. He is rewarded a hefty salary by ACTING. This is not real life its entertainment. This little POS is lucky to be in a business where his work is play. He should join the other kid actor who decided to throw his career so he may preach and brain wash others to believe the things he does. The kids needs the boot, get him off the air. His character was hit by a drive by, no more Jake, and so the show continues.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • timelord7202

      In a free society, work of all types would be fairly rewarded.

      I find it amusing, though – many times it's some posh-nosed lawyer that listens to a certain right-wing radio jock or two, make the same claim about "real work". Which is ironic; how does sitting in front of a microphone and spewing spin profitable? The lawyer at least has a real job, but if the lawyer can't figure it out that what he listens to is just as much play as some kid actor... 😉 (Noting that one dj had whined years ago about retiring in 2012, he's shifted his tune to now blame Obama as an impetus... with luck, his followers will recall the previous times he whined about quitting, which had nothing to do with Obama... I'm obviously not namedropping any of these radio show parasites, but I'm sure you have fathomed the parallel and irony by now.)

      November 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  11. AngusIsAnAnus

    Angus needs to STFU and be thankful he has a job, unlike a lot of us.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  12. BobInIrvine

    Gee, it's only filth but he got filthy rich from doing it. Hypocrite.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Emily

      He's also still a kid. He is figuring things out. Give him a break.

      November 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  13. sybaris

    Religion and the worship of god(s) is a filthy perverted disease of the mind

    November 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  14. andres

    Boy he has a real surprize coming, with 1.1 million members and its leaders telling the flock that only 1,500 will be saved at the second coming, that'll be a big whoops

    November 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  15. Jean

    He was "used" for his youth, immaturity, and inability to reason that out as a child when he started. His parent(s) share in a great deal of responsibility for authorizing his original contract. Bless him, as he matures, and decides how and to what extent to follow his conscience now that he is legally an adult, though his frontal lobe (for evaluation and executive decision-making) has still yet to mature.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  16. john

    I agree with his view. Over emphasis on some aspects of life is not good for the audience of the show. Teen star is more in touch with his audience and his show. It is entertaining but it can use better moral values.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • sybaris

      That channel changer thingy works ya know.

      November 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Bring'em young

      Who's definition of morality do we use? I know that religions are at their core immoral, especially christianity. Moral values change from one individual to another. If you find the show entertaining, watch it. If you don't, don't. But don't try to claim some moral high ground, there isn't any.

      November 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  17. sybaris

    "What would be pleasing to God?"

    So an omniscient ent.ity can be pleased?

    How human

    Oh wait, god(s) are created by humans.

    November 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  18. Matt

    "Instead of saying, 'What do I want to do with my life?' he's asking, 'What would be pleasing to God?'

    The greatest gift you were given from god is free will, or to choose your fate. It would please god to do what is right ( right is a relative term, but it is correct for everyone to act as they believe is right) because you chose to do so autonomously, not to please others you falsely idolize as you would god

    November 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • timelord7202

      You can do everything "right" in life, but there can be external influences outside of one's control. People often forget that...

      November 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  19. larryb

    funny...I am an atheist and I was worked in an evangelical school and it was extremely difficult listening to the hypocrisy of many of the staff members and it really made me sick to hear what people were being taught in regard to science sciences and even religion. I went to a lutheran college and they taught all of the worlds religion but at this school it was bible and nothing else

    November 29, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  20. lifesabeachobx

    I've had a love/hate relationship with this show.....even though it is very amusing & funny......I never did dig Charlies Sheen in/with his character. If he(Angus) is so motivated through Christ....then pledge all/some of your monies to church/charities....and let THAT money be used in the/a church way.....

    November 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.