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See You on Television

An editorial in Friday's Wall Street Journal pondered the path of televangelism since its heyday in the 1980's. Beginning in 1987, a series of scandals broke the empires of the tube down. Jim Bakker was led away from his mansion in handcuffs. Jimmy Swaggart gave a public confess of his relationship with a prostitute. Oral Roberts locked himself up in his Tower of Prayer until somebody paid for the unneeded medical center that a 900-foot-tall Jesus had told him to build. He told his audiences that he would certainly die if no one came through with the money. Strangely enough, he once had to flee the tower because it was struck by lightening--a message from God if ever there was one.

But this did not destroy the connection between television and preachers. Now, more often than not, it is the TV that changes the preaching and not the preaching that changes the TV. "In their attempt to transform culture, evangelical Christians found they had to imitate it in order to attract an audience. So now, your visit to the local megachurch is likely to include Starbuck's coffee, drama, contemporary music, and a short talk from a preacher trying to look more like a talk show host than a preacher. The mall has taken over the sanctuary. Because of mass media, "religion in America is increasingly tied to secular culture in presentation." We claimed the victory by running in front of the parade. We will look pretty good until the parade turns the next corner and leaves us on our own. O that we might turn from our worldly ways and return to the truth of the gospel!