Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Hour of Power

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There are two types of shows I do not watch on basic cable TV; channels dedicated to home, and channels dedicated to religious evangelical programs. Until the writing of this assignment, my reasons for deleting both types of channel from the selection guide were the same. Both types of channels are similar their lack of entertainment value, shoddy production, obnoxious hosts, and constant promotion of suspect quality merchandise. But the pretense behind the religious programs provided an extra cringe factor when I consider how millions of viewers represent televangelism as Christianity in its entirety.

Far from unembellished pulpits attributed to humble preaching, televangelist display ornate jewelry, lavish furnishings, and a who’s who guest list of politicians and Hollywood megastars. The first show I watched for this assignment just happened to have Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver as guests in a show called “The Hour of Power,” a Christian program produced by the “Crystal Cathedral Ministry” and led by renowned Drs. Robert Schuller. The gist of the show focused on how success and faith in God go hand in hand. Consistent with the context of the message was the $6 million palatial glass church the show is produced. The surreal crystal structure towering amidst a deep blue sky provided a glimpse of heavens gates and a wealthy dwelling place to those who attend the church.

The cringe factor lies in the legitimacy of the business, as a church, and the coupling of faith in God with worldly success and wealth. Along with my aversion to gaudy religious television, is the televangelist’s plea for viewers to tithe for the sake of keeping the broadcast going. What irks me is not that asking the viewers to pay for air time is wrong, it is the accompanying message that prosperity will follow if you support the program. The message draws upon the human dream to purchase success and wealth for a small price. In this case, the price is $75.00 for admission to televised religion.

Although I’m not a religious man, I am familiar with the lifestyle of several pastors and lay persons involved in the Christian ministry. The contrast between televised ministry and local church organizations demonstrate polar differences in how funds are raised. On one side, relationships are the center of the ministry and raising funds is a by-product of these relationships. On the other side, raising funds is the mission and relationships do not exists except through a 1-800 toll free prayer line.

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Fortunately, not all televised religious broadcasts fall into the same category as Robert Schuller’s syndicated “Hour of Power” show. After viewing almost four hours worth of televised religion, I realized that this program, like any other television show; struggle to keep a balance between intended content and entertainment longevity. TV time, after all, costs money, and therefore necessitates solicitation of donations in order to remain on the air. The financial requirements become paramount; if not, the program comes to a screeching halt. Four out of the five programs I watched closed their program with a donation request to keep the program on the air. Of the four requests, three offered a token “gift” to accompany the donation. Only the “Hour of Power” required specified donation amounts to receive the “gift.” The show went as far as offering a six for the price of three gifts special.

The American culture, internationally, is understood to be Christian oriented. Religious programming in America is broadcast throughout the globe. I suspect that televangelism is what the international audience considers American Christianity.

In summary producing a nationally televised program requires millions of dollars to air. The financial burden of “getting the message out” creates a merging of evangelism with commercialism. Drs. Robert Schuller’s show, I believe, targets an audience looking for prosperity and a life of luxury. He addresses his audience with a philosophy of positive thinking and self-empowerment, a philosophy that appeals to the masses and a mass large enough to cover the cost of TV time. Unfortunately, in the plea to secure donations, the televangelist manipulates the human desire for success and wealth by suggesting that you must first give before you receive the blessings of God, and that the television program would be a happy recipient of the donation. Apparently, God is in the business of selling blessings within the “Hour of Power” show.

Schuller, R. Drs. (Televangelist). (00, October 5). Drs. Robert Schuller gives a sermon titled Moving Mountain Faith, Part IV. The Hour of Power. California TBN.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries. (00, October 5). The Hour of Power. Reviewed October 5, 00, from http//www.hourofpower.org

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