“This story will either make you think I’m a madman or strengthen your belief in miracles,” said Simon Lythgoe, film and television executive producer and president of Legacy Productions, when asked about his faith journey. He began his journey being raised by nonreligious parents, continuing to renounce God and humiliate Christians and ending up experiencing a radical conversion.
Lythgoe was born in England to a Jewish mother and a Church of England father. However, neither practiced their faith, not even by having religious literature in the home. In lieu of religion, Lythgoe worshipped television as a child, “especially episodes of ‘Star Trek.’”
While searching for something to believe in other than Captain Kirk, he was heavily influenced by the bomb threats and killing by the British and Irish terrorists in the name of religion.
“By my 20s, I was a firmly established atheist. There was NO God,” Lythgoe stated.
Helping produce the TV show “American Idol” in the United States reinforced his hatred of Christianity, as he met many “hypocritical, supposed Jesus followers” during auditions across the U.S.
“These people would say one thing about leading the perfect life of love and forgiveness, but at their core, they were tempted by the glory of fame, fortune and the golden ticket,” he said.
A few years later, three dreams changed his life.
“The first dream was of me being at the crucifixion, with a blood-red sky, silhouettes of three crosses, Roman soldiers and a woman crying. It woke me up, similar to how a nightmare would. The following night I had exactly the same dream, which also woke me up in shock,” he said.
His girlfriend suggested reading the Bible.
“For no apparent reason, tears started rolling in my eyes as I opened the Scriptures. I was perplexed and angry, as I had no emotional connection to God, and if He wanted me to read this book, why was He fogging my eyes?”
Lythgoe put away the book and nothing changed … until Lythgoe had the third dream.
“This time I was dressed in Arabian-style clothing, riding north between canyons on a horse and trampling over all the ‘American Idol’ contestants I had harmed. Then a bright white light from the sky knocked me off my horse, and as I fell, a voice said to me, ‘Simon, stop persecuting me! Now open your eyes and see what I’ve done for you.’”
He suddenly woke up and realized that his eyesight had literally been affected; everything was incredibly bright.
Not knowing what to do, his girlfriend suggested church. On the way, he had to buy sunglasses.
Walking in midservice, Lythgoe found the pastor preaching about Saul/Paul.
“It was that morning I dedicated my life to learning about Jesus,” Lythgoe said. “How could I not?”
However, this miraculous conversion still didn’t affect Lythgoe’s everyday life. It took hitting rock bottom and consequently attending Onsite, a therapy retreat, for him to fully understand God’s love, forgiveness and grace.
Later, with the help of a 12-step program, Otter Creek Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, and therapy, Lythgoe knew that there had finally been a real change.
He still primarily works in Hollywood, where he had previous success working on “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
However, this is the same place that actively avoids religion and asks him to remove Christian references from his work.
In response, Lythgoe founded Legacy Productions, with providing heartfelt family entertainment as a goal. He is now working on the Netflix film “Meet Me Next Christmas.”
However, Lythgoe’s life isn’t consumed by the entertainment industry. He is also still fighting the injustice in the name of religion that he saw as a teen.
Growing up in boarding school, he was forced to write letters once a week. But instead of writing to his parents, he wrote to people like President Ronald Regan and Queen Elizabeth II and organizations such as NASA … and he always received a letter in reply.
As an adult, he continued writing. Lythgoe even “sent a condolence card to His Majesty King Charles III. After all, he may be the king, but he was still a son who lost his mother. The king sent back a lovely card.”
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he found out that Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, supported the invasion. He confirmed this, got angry… and got out his pen.
Including Scripture with his thoughts, Lythgoe expressed how he felt about Kirill’s inaction.
Six months later, he received a disappointing response.
“It read as politically motivated, as he was checking the boxes regarding the Russian Orthodox Church helping people,” Lythgoe said.
Through all of this, Lythgoe admits he’s still learning.
“My career has had major ups and downs, my spiritual life has not been picture-perfect, and my personal life has sometimes been a disaster. But I got through it and became stronger for it.
“I am only now grasping the concepts of love, forgiveness, truth and grace. We are all students in life, and we are all going to get things wrong occasionally. How do we pick ourselves up and respond, and what lesson is there to learn? I live by that daily now.”