Cashing In On God: The Jamie Thomas and Salman Agah Interviews

December 22, 2005 | Skip To The Comments (11)

For my Cashing In On God article, the people I interviewed had lots of interesting and entertaining things to say. Since only a few quotes were pulled for the article, I figured y'all might want to read the full interviews. Here's Jamie Thomas and Salman Agah. Jamie even offered to "keep me in his prayers!" Matt Rodriguez and Scott Bourne to follow.

Jamie Thomas
March 2003

Can you think of any graphics or ads through the years, religious or sacrilegious, that you liked or disliked? Favorites?

The few that I remember are the Gabriel Rodriguez graphic on 101 of Jesus and the Jason Jesse graphic of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Santa Cruz. I liked those. Those are the ones that come to mind besides the ones that we've [Zero] done.

You (and Zero) have had plenty of religiously-themed graphics, what was s your favorite?

Probably the most simple one that says the most. The cross board.

You're known for publicly promoting your beliefs in God. More recently than in the past. Why the choice (if “choice” is the right word) to start doing this?

In the past I didn't believe that the truth could be found through God. I felt that the truth was something that I could figure out and conclude on my own. But, that theory would make me God. The Lord brought my selfish ways to my attention and I saw the light and the real truth that lies in the word of God. After a realization like that, I felt it natural to want to share it with people.

Is religion/spirituality in skateboarding as just another way to sell boards by throwing religious images or figures on them? Or by using passages from the bible in ads, etc? Is it a way of expressing beliefs and enlightening others or cashing in on something that is sacred and deeply personal? Or both?

It's funny that you say it like that. When I told the sales people at Zero that I was making a board with a cross on it, they told me it wasn't a very good idea because Christianity wasn't cool and never had been, so it would probably hurt my image. They also suggested we should only make a small amount because they were uncertain that the demand would justify making the normal size run. I did it against their suggestion. I felt it was a statement that I wanted to make and even if we only made a small run, I still wanted to do it. My cross board, with John 3:16 in the background, has been my best selling pro model board ever. It's been seen more than any of my boards, which means the message was delivered. God knows where my heart is and where my money goes. In other words I can't really dwell on why someone else thinks I made the board.

Do you think it is a shock value, “rock ‘n roll” type thing or is it the sincere belief in religion and the desire to share that with the skaters?

It's a way to share the message of hope to people, like myself, who used to not have any.

Is religion “fashion?”

Fashion is fashion and the truth is the truth. On the other hand, you can fashionably know and display the truth.

Why put Satan, Bin Laden, Pentagrams in graphics and ads while also using Jesus, bible passages, and crosses? Is this sending a mixed message to kids who are at a very impressionable age? And why are Satan, devils, and pentagrams in general just so appealing to kids? World does it, Blind, 151, etc.

Kids are exposed to these expressions everywhere they turn. I don't know why anyone else does it. But s far as Zero goes, in order for me to have the freedom to express my personal beliefs and opinions, the other team riders have to also have the same right to express their views and opinions no matter how adverse or different they are to mine—which is why I could have a cross and another pro could have a pentagram or Satan.

Do you feel a responsibility to inform kids on faith? Help them learn about religion and moral framework? Or at least avoid doing things that will confuse them?

I feel responsible to be a positive roll model and for me that means sharing the good news of our Savior. So through my boards and my message, I try and take a little shine off of me and put it on things that will last forever.

Is it “right” to use religion to sell products anyway? Is'nt this why society persecuted people like Madonna and Marilyn Manson, Rocco, and Big Brother magazine in the past? All did it artistically and creatively, and I have enjoyed all of them at one point or another, but many people had major problems with all of these individuals.

I don't know what it is to you. But, I am expressing my views and the things that I find important through the avenues that reflect who I am. Some are on products that you have the right to purchase if you choose and others are in interviews like this. People with strong beliefs that aren't afraid to put them out there are always going to be persecuted by someone.

Is it sacrilege to skate a board with Jesus on it, ruining his image and so forth by sliding it on ledges? Would one beat up their bible or rosary beads, for example, in such a way?

I don't think material items such as wood, paint or even a bible are sacred, maybe sentimental but not sacred.

Why do you think religion is so frequently used? Other belief systems or lifestyles aren't always so common. There isn't as much promotion of alternate sexuality, or other social issues like politics, or the environment, or human rights, etc? To take it a bit further, other than the Rastafari thing, why haven't companies marketed Judaism, or Hinduism, for example? Are none of these as “cool” as Christianity?

There are loads of different lifestyles and beliefs more commonly expressed than Christianity. In our industry as well as most others "partying" is a lifestyle that is like a hundred to one more commonly marketed than Christianity. There are only like 20 pros that I know of that profess there faith out of the 100's of pros out there. I can't speak for other religions, but it seems that the religions you mentioned are more cultural based than most, so maybe they don't mix too well with skate culture.

Anything else you would like to add to the topic?

I'll keep you and yours in my prayers.

Salman Agah
March 2003

Can you think of any graphics or ads through the years, religious or sacrilegious, that you liked or disliked? Favorites?

I really liked Natas pope on a rope graphic as well as Gabriel Rodriquez Jesus graphic. I also really like one of my personal graphics that Kevin Ancell did in the early 90's that had killing, stealing, and destroying on the bottom of it. It was painted in the Da Vinci style and was an everslick. Lots of shops rejected it because of its graphic content.

Have you ever had a religious graphic?

Yes. I've had quite a few.

You're known, more so in the past, for promoting your belief in God. In your part in the first Real video, for example. Why the decision to do that? And why haven't you done that lately?

Yes it is true in the past I was a lot more outspoken about my faith! I felt at the time that it was my responsibility to share my faith with others given the amount of influence I had then. I wouldn't say that I haven't shared my faith with others lately. I just share my faith in different ways. I could name thousands of examples of things that I have done in the past, that I still do ,but do differently. For example I do kickflips differently now as opposed to when I first learned them. As I've grown in my humanity, I've also grown spiritually so the way I share my faith has taken different shapes and forms.

Is religion/spirituality in skateboarding as just another way to sell boards by throwing religious images or figures on them? Or by using passages from the bible in ads, etc? Is it a way of expressing beliefs or cashing in on something that is supposed to be sacred and deeply personal?

I think that any graphic on a board is put there to entice buyers to buy that particular board. I know that when I have used religious or biblical graphics on boards that I personally wanted to share a personal side of me with whoever was interested in buying my board. All products that are made for sale are for the purpose of cashing in regardless of make, model, or graphic! You know that! I think that all graphics express something. When I had the opportunity to turn pro, graphics just so happened to be more personal. I didn't turn pro in the generic series graphic era. Putting graphics on your personal pro model is a way to both make money and get whatever message across to the consumer that you desire.

Do you think it is a shock value, “rock ‘n roll” type thing or is it the sincere belief in religion and the desire to share that with the skaters?

I only answer for myself. I am sincere. If someone is shocked I have no control over that. I don't believe in religion!

Why would someone (Zero/Jamie Thomas) who is into “God” put Satan, Bin Laden, Pentagrams and skull board graphics next to graphics of Jesus and crosses in their board lines and ads? Is this sending a mixed message to kids who are at a very impressionable age?

I don't know why Jamie Thomas puts Satan, Bin Laden, Pentagram, and skull board graphics next to graphics of Jesus and crosses. I know that the Bible talks about sex, sodomy, murder, love, faith, hope and a multitude of other things and the message seems pretty clear to me. I guess any message can be mixed up.

Do you feel a responsibility to inform kids on faith? Or at least avoid doing things that will confuse them?

I don't feel a responsibility to inform kids on faith. That is what their parents are for. I don't base my actions on what I think kids might think.

Is it “right” to use religion to sell products anyway? Isn't this why society persecuted people like Madonna and Marilyn Manson, Rocco, and Big Brother magazine in the past?

What is right and where does it come from? I don't know. ask I-Path.

Is it sacrilege to skate a board with Jesus on it—ruining his image and so forth by sliding it on ledges? Would one beat up their bible or rosary beads, for example, in such a way?

I've never seen a board with Jesus on it. I don't see a problem with skating a board with a religious graphic on it. Why would anyone beat up a Bible or slide on rosary beads? There is an element of skateboarding that is destructive; however it is not for the sake of destruction.

Why do you think religion is so frequently used? Other belief systems or lifestyles aren't always so common. There isn't as much promotion of alternate sexuality, or other social issues like politics, or the environment, or human rights, etc? To take it a bit further, other than the Rasta thing, why haven't companies marketed Judaism, or Hinduism, for example? Are none of these as “cool” as Christianity?

Christians that share their faith do so out of humility and charity. Here is a metaphor as to why. Most of the world is in debt is it not? I'll use myself as an example. Consider this. If some stranger came up to me and asked me if I had debt and I told him that I did. If he told me that he would clear my debt and that I'm free of it. I would be filled with joy and free of my burden. I would naturally tell every one. So it is with Christ. Reflect on that. See if that makes sense.
I think that there is much promotion of all that you are talking about. There are blatant references to Satan in skateboard marketing. Cab openly talks about his fondness of Zen. Jews do not proselytize. If anyone looks closely enough there are many references to all sorts of issues in skateboard marketing. Element uses the environment. Whatever the case maybe its all in there.