One of the most recognisable characters on TV, cinema, animation and computer games is Lawrence Tureaud or Mr. T.
Everybody knows the man with that signature mohawk haircut, tough and intimidating image and past extravagant jewelry wearing. But certainly not all people know that Mr. T is a devout Christian and often describes himself as a "tough mama's boy".
Although his trademark hair and scowl are unchanged from the years since he played Sergeant. B.A. Baracus on 1980s hit TV show The A-Team, all the actor's signature gold chains are gone since Hurricane Katrina.
"As a Christian, when I saw other people lose their lives and their land and property ... I felt that it would be unnecessary and disrespectful before God for me to continue wearing my gold," he explains.
He is characteristically outspoken about his faith and the practical way he feels it should be expressed to others.
On Twitter in April 2014 he wrote: "I boldly confess that I am A Christian! I believe in GOD! His son Jesus and I am Not Ashamed!! (Matthew 5:16)"
"I am a sinner who has been saved by grace. It is by the grace (undeserved love) of God that I'm here. We all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. I come home and I ask God to forgive me for my sins. Every day I ask for a new cleansing," he told worldreligionnews.com
When asked about when he first decided to follow Christ, Mr. T says in a YouTube interview that the hand of God was on him from a very young age when he used to be the Bible bearer in his preacher father's church services, and listened to gospel messages on the radio with his mother.
At 13 he was baptized in water by his father as an outward symbol of the faith he professed, but it was only in 1995 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that the mettle of his belief was really tested.
save me. My
stop cancer”"The story of Job gave me strength when I had cancer. Job said to God, 'Though You slay me, yet will I trust You. God giveth and God taketh away. Blessed be His holy name.' And that's how I live. You know I came with nothing, I'm going to die with nothing. But in between them two points that's what it's all about.
"I ain't going to say I was 100% [faith-filled] all the time," Mr. T admits. "But I never really faltered. I cried, I ate, I got mad, I said I wouldn't do things. That was my Job test. As I'm going through things, if I didn't read the book of Job I guess I would have fallen apart. I could have said, 'What kind of God does this and that?' But no, I understood God said it would get rough and tough."
Cancer clarified his priorities: "My fame couldn't save me! My gold, my money, couldn't stop cancer from appearing on my body. If they can't save me, then I don't need them.
"We have got to keep our eyes on the prize, every day," the Rocky III actor encourages. "You might not have the things you want, but if you check carefully, you got all you need.
"And it's hard for some people to get believing," he acknowledges. "They say, 'But I've been hurt by so many people and by some churches, or whatever.' I explain that wasn't God. God didn't do that to you. That's somebody else. Because God will still love you even if you give up on Him."
Mr. T rails against "secret service" Christians who don't want anybody to know they love Jesus, and says Christians should "come out of the closet" and live out their faith by meeting the needs of their communities.
"If God has touched me, I've got to touch somebody else. God has forgiven me, so I've got to forgive the people who did me wrong. If Jesus can forgive all things—with the crown of thorns upon his head on the cross..., then I've got to forgive. If I don't forgive, I'm not a follower. If I'm not kind, if I don't share, I'm not a follower, I'm a liar. I can't be greedy."
So when a Japanese company offered the tee-totalling Mr. T almost a million dollars to do a beer commercial he said, "I won't do it." He says it would have made him a liar and a fraud.
"I say to the Lord, 'when they see me, let them see you' so you know I can't be coming out of the strip bar with a couple women on my arm. And I say 'Lord, when they hear me let them hear you'--that means I can't be telling them the nasty jokes I used to tell. Because the Bible says, Christ makes you a new creature, old things are passed away. I'm not the same man I used to be, I'm not out hell-raising, and doing stuff like that.
"I am a changed man. When I step out, I'm representing the God I serve."•