There are a few shows I like and some folks I trust but for the most part I feel very alienated from the theology and culture of American Christian Television (or foreign shows patterned after them.)
First of all, Christian television is often about a culture. And it's not a Christian culture -- it's an American culture with American concerns, American proclivities, American musical production "values", and American prejudices. It doesn't help matters that I look at Democracy Now and see what's happening with Monsanto (taking over lands in other countries, patenting seeds and ruining American farmers) or Pepsi and Coke (owning rivers in other countries and Poland Spring trying to steal Maine's water) and how complicated the economic, food company's poisoning our foods, and medical/health issues really are....and then one turns to a Christian station and they're exuding all-American self-centeredness and ignorance of these issues.
Sure, there are shows such as the 700 Club which sometimes covers these issues but let's face it...the show is smug and Pat Robertson tries his best to behave as if he was so important as a presidential candidate and puts on that "elder statesman" wisdom act of his. Plus they have a bias. It's obvious. And I don't mean a christian bias. I don't mind Christian biases...I mind conservative biases...such as "this is a Christian nation." Christian nations are rare, and they are subject to the whims, prejudices, ideologies and greeds of so-called Christian men. So while I am totally Biblical, I believe we shouldn't pull the Constantine mistake of trying to make the world Christian -- through laws, birth, what not.
Okay so perhaps the Christian shows have no desire to deal with things of the world. Maybe they want to talk about the Bible all the time. But honestly, if that was the truth, I'd like their shows. But they don't. And even when they do, one can see the American prejudices. So, we have sermons on issues in the American church: pro-prosperity teaching versus anti-prosperity preaching. Anti-abortion sermons. Sermons about saving your marriage. Sermons about how evil the Arabs are and how good the Israelis are. Famous Christian celebrities in coffee-klatch talk about good sex in marriage or testimonies about how talking with therapists helped some woman deal with depression.
Honestly, if these shows were geared only towards Americans, I'd keep my mouth shut. But when one is dealing with all this on shows ostensibly geared toward all the Christians in the world -- that's why they say we should donate, right?-- it makes me shake my head. Are down-trodden Christians in some Arabic country really interested in therapy for bad sex?
Okay, it's not all bad. There are some good folks who actually seem to read their Bible instead of simply rehearsing traditional stuff they heard in seminary. And it's good to look at some shows when the world makes us feel exiled and weird for being Christians. If it weren't for Christian television I wouldn't have been lead to this article about the Oprahphication of our culture and Oprah's spiritual growth.
But for the most part, I feel I'm listening to folks in a snug wealthy little cocoon. Too much the Christian is identified with the good middle class folks in our culture. Their talk is about their nails being manicured and "allowing themselves to enjoy" a pedicure. It's not that I want suffering to be the big thing. But these hosts are too identified with the power structure of the world. And why shouldn't they be? Many of these Christian broadcasters flaunt their power in the arts, music, broadcasting industry. I once heard an auto worker say on the news: "If I talk to a big guy in the Union, there's no difference than talking to a big fat guy company owner." It's true. These guys are important and they know it. They exude smugness and satisfaction with the world. They are "important" and they have more money than many of their listeners. How can they not identify with the world when they no longer are poor in spirit? How can a Christian healer or teacher be poor in spirit when he has fans? -C
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