After having written this, I have to chuckle. Just to clarify: these are my words, not John MacArthur’s…
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I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention when I heard that Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) had died on Nov. 30. I have dismissed TBN and the world of televangelism for so long that anything which happens in that world barely crosses my radar.
I consider the vast majority of what takes place in that realm as sub-Christian and unworthy of serious discussion. Instead of Micah 6:8’s clear description of what the Lord requires of us — to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God — the world of Christian televangelism has always appeared to me to be about doing rapaciously, loving money, and walking proudly in the spotlight.
I can barely stand to watch any preaching on TV (I don’t think the medium lends itself to true Christian communication), much less the carnival barkers who call themselves preachers on a network like TBN. When I think of how many dollars have been given to support these empires –er, ministries — many millions of them by folks who could ill afford to contribute, texts like Jesus’ denunciation of those who “devour widows’ houses” come immediately to mind. When you add horrible theology and over-the-top tackiness of presentation to the constant, dishonest, and predatory appeals for money that transparently take advantage of people’s pain and suffering, gullibility and religious sensitivities, you end up with a mix that makes Tetzel look like a Desert Father.
The news reports of Paul Crouch’s death mention not only his media empire (84 satellite channels and over 18,000 television and cable affiliates around the world), but also the scandals that have dogged the Crouch family and TBN in recent years, such as this one, which Christianity Today reported in 2012.
The usual suspects have paid their tributes. Today, I would like for us to discuss the legacy left by this man and the business of televangelism on the Christian faith in the U.S. and around the world. I’ve done my best to ignore it over the years, but it is clear that millions of people tune in and find something they think is worth watching. I believe these “ministries” have also led many, many people to flee into the post-evangelical/charismatic wilderness if not out of the faith altogether, in addition to trapping multitudes in bondage to theologies of glory that cannot save or show us the real Jesus.
TBN will broadcast a special celebration of Dr. Paul Crouch’s life and legacy Sunday, December 8th.
I won’t be watching.