By Kathy Schiffer/National Catholic Register
On Oct. 31, social media was abuzz with the news that American actor and comedian Rob Schneider had embraced the Catholic faith. “I am a new convert to Catholicism,” the comedian wrote in a two-part revelation on Instagram. And there were behavioral consequences to his newfound faith that were evident in his everyday life: “I offer my apology,” he added, “for my lack of Christ’s forgiveness to my fellow man.”
Schneider, whose roles include a five-year stint as part of the comedy team on Saturday Night Live as well as more than 60 movies and television shows, talked recently with the Register about his faith journey and his latest projects.
Schneider’s mother was Catholic; his father was Jewish. And talking about how his parents shaped his early faith, he couldn’t help but let his proclivity for comedy slip into the conversation. “When I would go to confession,” he quipped, remembering a joke from fellow humorist Bill Maher, “I would bring my attorney. I would say, ‘Father, this is my lawyer. He will be answering all the questions.’”
For years, Rob Schneider had drifted away from the practice of religion, but it was his own failure, he said, and was not a matter of God’s turning away from him. “I don’t think Jesus ever left me,” he said. “I was the one who strayed; but it [faith and God] was always there, in the back of my mind.”
Asked what had motivated him to seek a deeper relationship with God, Schneider remembered reading the work of M. Scott Peck. Peck was the author of the 1978 best-seller The Road Less Traveled, which described the attributes that Peck believed make for a fulfilled human being. Peck was not a Catholic, but he believed in a force other than our conscious will — that is, God. His works itemize four stages in spiritual development, beginning with chaos and leading to skepticism and questioning, and ultimately, mysticism, expressed in love and a deep appreciation for the miracles of nature. Rob Schneider appreciated Peck’s combining of science and technology.
Schneider reported that several Catholic priests and parishes led him toward the Faith; in particular, he named Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he attended classes in the faith and where the pastor, Father Greg Schlarb, was especially helpful. “In the catechism class,” he confided, “I was the oldest by 45 years.” Schneider liked that the class was full. “I really like the fact that there are a lot of kids there — it was a full class. The Church needs to be a living, breathing Church, with both young and old.”
And Father Schlarb introduced him to yet another impactful priest, theologian and exorcist Father Chad Ripperger. Father Ripperger helped him to understand more deeply and showed that Catholicism, more than other Christian religions, is the closest to the actual story of Jesus Christ. “Some other Christian religions,” Schneider said, “try to exclude Catholicism. You don’t need to exclude anyone — if you believe in Jesus, you are with him.”
How Did Schneider’s Conversion Affect His Career?
Schneider was uncertain what the future held for him, but he was certain that he would not want to do some of the same type of comedy he used to do. “I’m open to life,” he said, “but I don’t know what my place is.” He was still struggling with whether to use profane language in his performances.
Far from the comedy for which he’s famous, Schneider is now considering making a film that explains the true story of the Shroud of Turin.
For now, though, he’s happy to be playing the role of Chum Chum Chilla, the father in the Daily Wire’s new children’s animated series Chip Chilla. Chip Chilla is a comedic preschool series featuring the day-to-day lessons of Chip and his homeschooling family of energetic Chinchillas. Each episode of Chip Chilla offers a lesson in American history in a positive way.
Schneider explained that he’d been cast in the role because he was friends with executive producer Dallas Sonnier. The friendship between Schneider and Sonnier had come about because the two shared conservative values. “We both support free speech,” Schneider explained, “and we wanted to tell the American story without apologizing for it.”
Schneider believed that America — this great experiment in freedom — had, in the last 150 years, made progress toward even greater freedoms. For example, he cited the discontinuation of slavery and the advancement of women’s rights (including the right to vote) as positive examples of American innovation. At the same time, Schneider believed that America still needs to achieve greater equity of income; but he noted that each day, thousands of people attempt to cross our borders and enter America, hoping for a share in the freedoms we enjoy in this great country.
Chip Chilla was launched in the United States on Oct. 16. The series is available for streaming exclusively on Bentkey, a streaming platform that offers adventure and heartwarming children for children. Parents who seek wholesome entertainment for their children can obtain a free two-week trial of Bentkey at their website.