Because people believe them, that’s why.
If you’ve ever been at home on any given day with a Directv remote in your hand and nothing to do but rest for hours, you’ve seen televangelists on TV. After flipping channels for the hundredth time, almost willing something else to be on since the last time I checked, I skimmed past a truly awful, home-made television show featuring none other than disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker. You remember him, or maybe you remember his wife Tammy Faye better. On this show, someone who would have been booted first thing on American Idol was strumming a guitar and singing repeatedly the chorus of a lousy song, until eventually I had to mute it out of sheer annoyance. I hadn’t heard anything that annoying since Mother Conehead’s bellow of outrage at her daughter’s cone tattoo. It was so awful, I had to watch to see what was up.
There were all these old people in the audience sitting around tables and others, obvious that the camera was focused on them, trying to look like they were enjoying themselves and clapping along (to what??). All of it was reminiscent of a lazy sunday afternoon at a tawdry nursing home. Picture Sebastian Haff’s existence in Bubba Ho-Tep and you’ll know what I mean (brilliantly campy Bruce Campbell flick, by the way). Anyway, all of these tables were centered around Jim Bakker like he was David Letterman or something and what was he doing? Hawking his wares of course! Not only was he selling cheap trinkets for $150 a whack, he was doing it while smilingly predicting the next HUGE hurricane that would decimate most of the southern United States if people didn’t repent their ways.
Immediately I was tired. OH PLEASE! Is there anyone that believes any of the bullshit that comes out of the mouths of these tele-doomsayers?? Aren’t the antics of Pat Robertson some kind of incentive to keep these people from polluting the airwaves? But people watch, believe, and send money to these people, and that’s what’s scary about it. If you flip over to the Church Channel you can see John Hagee spouting about ho-mo-sex-uals (in your best southern lisp please) and the downfall of society. Flip another channel and you have Paula White pointing her fashionably filed fingernails at you and pleading that you “plant a seed” in her ministry or you will not prosper or succeed, you lazy bum! The predictions about doom and gloom are non-stop.
Then, I began to realize what it was that I hated so much about fundamentalism. It was its absolutely pessimistic, hateful, spiteful, and gloomy view of the world and society. Fundamentalists of this type so despise this world that all they see is evil and disaster. But you know what? The televangelists alone have the remedy! Believe in Jesus Christ (and send your money right now) and all will be well! All the bad people will go to hell and you will be saved from the boogeyman. Buy Jim Bakker’s trinkets, which unbelievably included a little statue in a suit of armor and some Protestant equivalent to miraculous medals, all meant to represent the “full armor of God” and you too will be safe from all harm! It’s simply magic folks. Buy Pastor Hagee’s books about the end times (they are sooooooo near you know) and you will feel so comforted that you can will want to embark on that Jesus cruise Hagee takes twice a year with his wife (he goes for free because of suckers like us, who pay full fare).
Forgive my facetiousness but when you’ve heard the fire and brimstone sermon and the doomsday machine in full force as much as I have, you get a little jaded. It’s all a show folks. It’s the Freak Show at the Carnival all over again. You know the one. Where you excitedly pay your ticket to get in, they scare the bejesus out of you with a man in a gorilla suit and you come out feeling better for having survived it, but faintly used, if you know what I mean. And I’m speaking to those who should know better; those blind, unreachable, Fundamentalist Christians. What is the motive of the Bakker’s and Hagee’s of the world? Why, to make money off of our fears and to support their “ministries.” We are exhorted to keep ’em on the air so we can be filled with more gloom and doom and feel better about our sorry lives. Oh, it’s all so sickening to me.
Is it any wonder that people are leaving churches in droves? I say, good for them. More should leave and put their support where it counts; the food bank, the Red Cross, soup kitchens, etc. But if you’re going to leave church, for God’s sake (and I do mean that) don’t use TV evangelists as your crutch to take its place. We don’t need this hyper-slick (and not even that), hyper-christianized, stylized, doomsday, yet-feel-good-about-yourself-Osteen-style televangelism. This does nothing to bring peace to the world, feed the poor, or free the oppressed. It’s band-aid christianity-light-and-easy and I hope their shows go the way of the dinosaur. Make way for something really valuable on TV, like Cops. 🙂