The Electronic Church: An Echo of American Culture
Richard G. Kyle
Television in the form of the electronic church has powerfully impacted American religion, especially the evangelical variety. But it is a two-way street. Like many aspects of American evangelicalism, the electronic church mirrors American cultural characteristics. 1
What is the electronic church? Broadly speaking, it refers to a variety of religious broadcasting methods and organizations, including both radio and television. By the 1980s, the term electronic church came to refer to the television programs produced by evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Pentecostals. 2 While mainline Protestants and even Catholics were active in the early years of television, in the last thirty years or so it has been the domain of evangelicals—especially the Pentecostals.
Evangelicals have always used the most advanced technology to promote the gospel, and the televangelists are no exception to this trend.
Quentin Schultze lists six characteristics that distinguish the electronic church and televangelism from religious broadcasting in general. One, they are “audience supported,” meaning that the television viewers must donate to the ministry to keep it on the air. Two, the electronic churches are “personality-led.” The programs center around a charismatic personality who can attract large numbers of viewers. Three, the broadcasts are “experientially validated,” that is, viewing the program provides people with a religious experience.
Four, the electronic churches are “technologically sophisticated.” They employ the most current broadcasting technology, rivaling in professional quality even popular secular programs. Five, televangelism is “entertainment-oriented.” In an entertainment age, religious programs cannot be boring. They must capture the interest of the viewers or they will turn the dial. Six, the electronic church is “expansionary-minded.” The audience, ratings, and donations must grow. If not, the ministry may go off the air. 3
Given these six criteria, Schultze would not regard an evangelist such as Billy Graham as a televangelist. But he does contend that three-quarters of the highest-rated religious programs meet these standards and must be regarded as part of the electronic church. Some past and present examples of those he would list as televangelists include Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Kenneth Copeland, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim Bakker.
With the rise of cable television, the televangelists have another outlet for their programs. The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TNB), operated by Paul Crouch, carries primarily religious programs. A majority of these broadcasts feature televangelists, especially those of a health and wealth gospel (or Word-Faith movement) persuasion. 4
Why did mainline Protestants and Catholics largely abandon television? Why have evangelicals been so successful in this regard? In part, the mainline Protestants and Catholics have not accommodated American popular culture to the degree that evangelicals have. And adaptation to American culture is a huge factor in the numerical success of the televangelists. Second, liturgical and sacramental services as found in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches do not entertain television audiences. 5
For that matter, the more traditional sermons from mainline pulpits are often sophisticated and boring. Television is not suited for complex religious ideas. It best conveys simple concepts that connect with a person’s feelings. Entertainment, indeed, is a necessary ingredient for holding the attention of a television audience. Conversely, evangelicals—especially those from the South—preach with a popular gusto that captivates television audiences. Exciting and emotional revivals, which are a staple of evangelicalism, lend themselves to television.
Lastly, liberals were given free broadcasting time on radio and early television and did not develop strategies for financing such broadcasts. Conservative Protestants had to raise money for their programs and thus honed these skills. When in 1960 the FCC mandated that networks did not have to give free broadcasts in order to meet their public service obligations, paid religious broadcasting became the norm. The evangelicals were well positioned for the new age of self-financed religious television programs. Their years of successful radio broadcasting had prepared them well for the television era. They knew how to use the technology, finance programs, and reach target audiences. 6
A BRIEF HISTORY
The roots of televangelism go back to America’s great evangelists—Whitefield, Finney, Moody and Sunday. They employed well-organized strategies and entertaining ways to promote the gospel. As Razelle Frankl notes, the televangelists are a hybrid of earlier revivalism and modern secular television programming. To this could be added the parachurches. Some television ministries have no formal church affiliation and perform specialized religious tasks.
Modern televangelists such as Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and Jimmy Swaggart are “direct descendants” of the urban revivalists. Others such as Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker are more directly related to commercial television. The roots of televangelism must also include the nineteenth-century Bible and tract societies that pioneered in the publishing and distribution of religious literature. In particular, the successful radio broadcasts, financed by many small donations, paved the way for televangelism. 7
ABC televised the first religious program in 1949. The broadcast featured prominent theologians discussing the relevance of religion for daily life. The 1950s saw an increase in religious programs. While Bishop Fulton Sheen excited many with his weekly programs, most broadcasts featured Protestants. During the 1950s, conservative Protestants also took to the airwaves. Several Pentecostals led the charge: Rex Humbard was the first, followed by Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlman. Billy Graham appeared on national television. While an evangelical, he was becoming a prominent figure and acceptable to the national networks. 8
Despite rising costs, during the 1960s and 1970s paid television programs—dominated by evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Pentecostals—increased significantly. Such broadcasts jumped from about 50 to 90 percent of all religious programs. Free public programs, featuring mainline Protestants, had become a thing of the past. The networks realized that religious broadcasting could be profitable, and conservative Protestants became eager customers, purchasing the great bulk of the airtime. Many of their programs appeared on local stations and at off-peak times. In fact, Sunday morning, when there are fewer viewers and the costs are reduced, became known as “The Sunday Morning (Religious) Ghetto.” 9
The rising costs of airtime also prompted the televangelists to explore ways to attract larger audiences. One method was to adopt different formats for their television programs. To stereotype the television evangelists in respect to their programs would be a mistake. While they had much in common, considerable variety existed in respect to their broadcasts. Beginning in the 1960s, a number of different program and evangelistic styles emerged. In the 1950s, before auditoriums were designed for television programs,
Rex Humbard had his church built specifically for high-tech TV. While he televised traditional services, he also imitated the musical and variety shows so popular in secular television.
Billy Graham had his weekly radio program, “Hour of Decision,” but he never undertook the expense of a weekly television program. Rather, he televised his revival services over national networks. His programs, however, had their trademark: the altar call. Every telecast ended with the call to leave your seats, come forward, and give yourself to Jesus. 10
Another pioneer was Oral Roberts, who must be regarded as a descendant of revivalism. First a Pentecostal, later a Methodist and a university president, Roberts employed several types of broadcast formats. Typical of his Pentecostal ministry, his early programs featured spiritual and physical healing. Millions of people observed his vigorous prayers, the laying on of hands, and the testimonies of individuals claiming to be healed.
The faithful supported him with their prayers and donations. Roberts’ critics regarded his ministry as showmanship, his claims to healing as scientifically unverifiable, and his pleas for money as a turn-off. As a Methodist and a university president, Roberts changed his broadcast format. In 1969, he launched his remarkable prime-time specials. Shorn of their Pentecostal distinctives, these programs were attractive, professional, entertaining, and attracted a range of viewers. 11
The success of these pioneers encouraged other preachers to start television ministries. A number of televangelists began as local pastors and then took their churches into television. Examples include Robert Schuller, D. James Kennedy, Charles Stanley, and Lloyd Ogilvie. Their churches are part of traditional denominations and, except for Schuller, these pastors have effectively submitted themselves to a local congregation. 12
Broadcasting revival crusades and church services were not the only options for the televangelists. As cable television gained strength, some of them turned to the format of talk shows. Three examples are Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Paul Crouch. Televangelists such as Roberts, Swaggart, and Falwell are the descendants of the revivalists. Not so with Robertson, Bakker, and Crouch. They have taken their format from television, not from the church or revival meetings. As Robertson told an interviewer, “The biggest mistake that pastors make is to superimpose their ‘thing’ on the media. They should discover what the media are doing and then adapt their format.” 13
This talk-show approach combined the revivalist sentiment with the folksy variety and talk-show format. Drawing from Arthur Godrey’s radio programs and Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” Robertson fashioned his television ministry, and others followed in his wake. His talk show, the “700 Club,” began in 1963 from scratch.
In order to finance his monthly budget, he asked 700 people to pledge $10 a month. The “700 Club” was born. Within two years came the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)—a strong cable network and production studio. By the late 1970s, Robertson had established a full graduate university focusing on communications. 14 In describing how all of this began, he stated, “We simply took a format that had worked on commercial networks and applied it to CBN. It was a proven format that had reached millions of Americans.” 15
In the late twentieth century, largely because of financial and sexual irregularities, televangelism acquired a negative reputation. The scandals of 1987 severely tarnished the public image of the televangelists. They became the butt of jokes and sensational news coverage. Money, sex, and religion have always provided a volatile mixture for the news media and fiction writers. Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry (1927) told the story of a lecherous minister and a seductive prophetess and has since provided the stereotype for clerical misconduct.
John Updike’s A Month of Sundays (1975) introduces us to a sexually promiscuous minister who pursues his female parishioners. Truth, however, can be stranger than fiction. Enter Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Even fiction writers would have a hard time topping their stories. 16
Scandals are not new or representative of evangelists and religious broadcasting, however. For example, Aimee Semple McPherson, who had been previously divorced, disappeared in 1926 for several weeks—allegedly with a male friend. Also, evangelists like Billy Graham have been above the fray. He and others have neither engaged in sexual affairs nor lavish living. The financial issue, nevertheless, continues to dog those in the electronic church. While constantly begging for donations, a number of them have lived extravagantly.
To combat this problem, the National Religious Broadcasting association (NRB) devised new ethical guidelines for the electronic church. Still, compliance is voluntary and cannot be enforced by either the NRB or the government, and it has not curtailed financial irregularities. As late as 2004, for example, Christianity Today noted the lavish lifestyles of televangelist Joyce Meyer, Trinity Broadcasting Network president Paul Crouch, and Hank Hanegraaft, host of the “Bible Answer Man”—a nationally syndicated daily radio program. 17
ELECTRONIC CHURCH THEOLOGY
Does the electronic church have a theology? In any pure sense the answer is no. Some people, indeed, would regard the terms electronic church and theology as an oxymoron. Not having a theology, however, is a key to the success of the electronic church. Or as Ben Armstrong approvingly says, “Relying on the everyday language of the work-day world rather than the language of theologians and Bible commentaries, Schuller (and most others as well) captures the interest of the viewer.” 18
In a disapproving way, William F. Fore contends that the televangelists have an “inherent bias toward gross, simplified linear messages which fit commercial needs.” 19 Some individuals even contend that theology is an elitist discipline. If this is so, it runs counter to the ethos of the televangelists, who are populists and practical to the core. Simplicity is the key characteristic of the electronic church’s belief system. 20
While the electronic church may not have a formal theology, the televangelists repeatedly target certain religious themes. From their messages, Jeffrey Hadden and Charles Swann have distilled twelve elements. The Bible is the “central authority” for all areas of life and it is interpreted literally. Or as one bumper sticker declared, “God spoke it. The Bible declares it. I believe it.” Two, they staunchly oppose evolution. Three, the televangelists adopt “a mechanical view of providence,” viewing the hand of God in most activities. Four, they clearly distinguish between God’s love and wrath, believing that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wrong doers.
Five, missions are given a high priority. The gospel must be proclaimed throughout the world before the return of Christ. Closely related is their “conversionist theology,” which makes the new birth the criterion for being a Christian. Seven, many televangelists have a Pentecostal orientation and speak of being “Spirit-filled.” Eight, an active satanology reinforces their Manichaean worldview. Satan is at work in the world and is the source of all evil and disagreements. Nine, nearly all televangelists embrace a premillennial theology, insisting that the Second Coming of Christ looms on the horizon.
Ten, their theological-political views were staunchly anti-communist (before communism collapsed) and are still pro Israel—a position that coincides with their eschatology. Eleven, the televangelists embrace American nationalism, insisting that the nation has been chosen by God to perform his work in the world and fight the Antichrist. Finally, they proclaim moral absolutes that uphold their social views: family values, the male-dominated family, prayer in the schools and opposition to abortion, homosexual rights, and the ACLU. 21
AT HOME IN THE CULTURE
American culture has powerfully influenced the electronic church as it has nearly all aspects of religion. Television, in turn, has had a tremendous impact on the nation’s economic, social, cultural, and political trends. As a result, the electronic church more accurately reflects American culture than it does the Christian faith. One should regard it as more of an American phenomenon than a Christian development. As in many aspects of evangelicalism, it is difficult to tell just where the culture lets off and the faith begins. The electronic church can be legitimately criticized at many points. But an attack on televangelism is an assault on American culture itself. 22
In what general ways does the electronic church mirror American culture? Americans love entertainment and dramatic presentations, which the televangelists provide. They also proclaim messages of affluence, individualism, and answers to felt needs. Like the rest of American society, the electronic church is market driven—it must give its viewers what they want to hear. Reflecting the impulses of the evangelical subculture, the televangelists are populists and pragmatists. Their message is simple and avoids complex ideas and is proclaimed in emotional tones. Television provides its viewers with an experience, and evangelicals insist on a personal experience as central to the Christian faith.
America is an entertainment-driven culture, and in the late twentieth-century television became the primary vehicle for amusement. Thanks to television, Americans expect to be entertained in many areas of life, including the church. There is only a fine line between entertainment and worship. Instead of being an expression of adoration to God, contemporary worship has often become a form of entertainment, and the electronic church has excelled in this. Televangelists are first and foremost entertainers. They package a church service in a dramatic way that captivates their audiences. They have figured out “how to dress the old-fashioned gospel in novel, entertaining clothing.” 23
A sense of the dramatic can captivate a congregation. Evangelicals have been employing drama as a means to present the gospel since the days of George Whitfield. Television, however, magnifies the drama inherent in Christianity and often sensationalizes the Christian life by hyperbole and excesses. The televangelists present the Christian faith in the most dramatic terms. A great cosmic battle is raging. In this conflict, Christians are aligned with the forces of God against Satan. The struggles of life do not have natural causes; they are caused by Satan. The liberals, secular humanists, Hollywood entertainers, media (except Fox News) and feminists are doing the work of Satan. 24
Television has caused major problems for the local pastor. Entertainment programs present life in simple black-and-white terms. In doing so, television has enhanced its viewers’ taste for entertainment and drama, and has reduced their ability to think about complex issues. To accommodate this trend, successful televangelists entertain and present their message in simple dramatic terms. The traditional seminary-trained pastor, who preaches a content-based sermon with notes, cannot compete with the televangelist.
Such sermons are not as entertaining or dramatic, and often raise complex issues. Television also elevates a sense of the dramatic by portraying evil as outside of us: the criminal, the gunslinger, the drug dealer, the Indian, or terrorist. The hero has no taint of evil. Thus evangelicals often do not see the “speck in their own eye.” Rather, they tend to neglect spiritual discernment and embrace a “knee-jerk” morality. Moral or social wrongs are always in the enemies’ camp, not in their own backyard. 25
THE CULT OF PERSONALITY
A closely related issue is the cult of the personality. Lacking religious traditions, Americans, especially evangelicals, have always been obsessed with celebrities. They are not primarily interested in issues and ideas but in people and personalities. Radio and television have only accelerated this trend. The electronic church rests on this foundation. Without the celebrity status of the pastor or host, such churches would collapse.
Conservative Protestants long for their own popes or gurus, and the televangelists meet this need. They are the last word in nearly everything. They are the interpreter of God’s Word, whether it be Scripture or God speaking directly to them. Or, as Quentin Schultze puts it, “The televangelist presumed to be like God, communicating through space directly to millions of individuals and personalities. He is not only a person, but the special person that represents God to his people.” 26
Evangelical Christianity has been a primary ground for aberrant or fringe religious groups, often labeled as cults. Several factors account for this development, but one reason is that evangelicals are caught up with the “cult of the personality” and defer to authoritarian leaders who have a “new word of truth.” This tendency is not limited to some groups on the fringes of evangelicalism.
Rather, it can be detected close to the center of evangelicalism—in the mega and electronic churches, especially those that embrace the health and wealth gospel. These churches are often dominated by charismatic personalities who have created personal kingdoms in which the king is beyond discipline. 27
This obsession with personalities has led to another problem for the electronic church—succession of leadership. The electronic church’s existence rests on the shoulders of one charismatic leader. It does not have strong denominational or institutional roots. What happens when the leader is gone or discredited? Sometimes the ministry dissolves. A number of televangelists have attempted to deal with this problem by grooming their sons as their successors. Roberts, Schuller, Robertson, Falwell, Swaggart, and Graham have made it a family affair. Their sons and even grandsons have either replaced them or are waiting in the wings. 28
In yet other ways, celebrity status is important. Throughout history, Christians have been enthralled by testimonies of successful people. Television has increased this fascination. Evangelicals love to hear testimonies. The electronic church meets this need by focusing on the testimonies of unique or famous people.
Quite often, such testimonies tend to dwell on the material or physical blessings that God has bestowed or even their own accomplishments. The televangelists and megachurch leaders gain celebrity status in another way—quantity. The televangelist points to the stack of letters, donations, or TV ratings. The super-church pastor looks to the size of his church. In doing this, both churches are more American than they are Christian. 29
The cult of the personality rests on another evangelical characteristic—biblical illiteracy. Such ignorance can be traced back to the colonial days, but the electronic church has given it a new boost. In the old democratic market-driven spirit, the nineteenth-century revivalists gave their listeners what they wanted to hear—the simple gospel in a very popular style. This type of preaching has reduced what evangelicals know about the Bible.
Despite people parading into churches with Bibles, twenty-first-century evangelicals have only a shallow understanding of Scripture. And the electronic church has furthered this ignorance. From the televangelists, one hears the simple gospel, a shallow pop faith, or sermons that rant and rave about secular society. This biblical ignorance is one of the reasons evangelicals tend to donate millions of dollars to questionable enterprises, especially programs advocating the health-and wealth-gospel. 30
Related to this biblical illiteracy is the educational background of the televangelists. The vast majority of them have a limited education: Bible school or less. Some regard a seminary education as a disadvantage: it dulls the voice of the Holy Spirit and introduces one to complex and unnecessary ideas. The lack of respect for higher education, of course, squares with evangelicalism’s populist and pragmatic character. Early in the nineteenth century, the educated elite ceased to direct the thinking of popular evangelicalism. And they still do not. On a popular level, the modern evangelical mind is largely being shaped by uneducated preachers or writers.
Also connected with personality types is the southern character of the televangelists. Most popular televangelists either come from the South or have had a southern orientation: Roberts, Robertson, Falwell, Stanley, Swaggart, Robinson, Copeland, Humbard, and Graham. But Schuller and Bakker did not come from the South. Northern churches tend to be more middle-class, professional, and rational.
Their sermons often resemble academic lectures. Not so with southern evangelicals who were reared on revivalism. Reflecting the oral tradition of the South, their sermons tended to be simple, spontaneous, emotional, and resembled story telling. Such sermons engage a television audience and have become the norm with the televangelists. In turn, the electronic church has influenced preaching styles in all areas of the country, including the local church. 31
Closely related to this southern style of preaching is the Pentecostal orientation of the televangelists. Even more than southern preachers, Pentecostals can whip up an audience into an emotional frenzy. Such fervent expressions of feeling connect well with television’s emphasis on the experiential, not the rational. With the rise of cable television, the dominance of Pentecostals in the electronic church has become even more pronounced.
Perhaps the closest relationship between the electronic church and American culture rests in their market orientation. In America’s free market, religion must compete with many cultural attractions or it will not survive. Of any religious group, evangelicals have evidenced a competitive and entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout history, they have constantly adapted their methods of presenting the gospel to the surrounding culture and changing circumstances. The old-fashioned gospel has been shaped to the tastes of its audience. Consequently, this Americanized gospel reflects the values of popular culture and not the historic faith. 32
The electronic church has carried these entrepreneurial trends even further. Television airtime is very expensive. So the televangelists must not just preach the gospel, they must convince viewers that their ministry deserves financial support. Such a situation has many implications. The televangelists are under pressure to increase their audience, ratings, and contributions. This prompts them to embrace an old American marketing concept, that is, to adjust their message to suit their audience. They cannot preach “what people ought to hear, but must preach what people desire to hear.” 33
In American society, only a fine line separates the preacher from the salesman (or a politician for that matter). And in fund raising the televangelists often step over this line and become hucksters. In persuading their viewers to finance their ministry, they issue threats and claims. They say that their ministry will go off the air if money does not come in. Or, it is God’s will that you give and he will bless you if you do. The televangelists may exaggerate the influence of their ministry and insist that any opposition comes from Satan. 34
The electronic church’s marketing strategies can also be seen in its embrace of technology. Throughout their history Americans, including evangelicals, have been fascinated with technology. Evangelicals have always used the most advanced technology to promote the gospel, and the televangelists are no exception to this trend. In its television productions and presentations, the electronic church is very sophisticated, often on the cutting edge of technological innovations.
The old stereotype of a backward people does not hold up in most respects, especially in the use of technology. In fundraising and promoting its product, the electronic church is also quite advanced. On the air, televangelists offer “specials” as do businesses. If you make a donation of a certain amount, you will receive some object—a cup, a memento, a book, a tape, jewelry, and more. With the advent of computer-driven direct mail solicitations, the televangelists jumped on board. Like a business, they mass mail to millions of viewers, soliciting money or publicizing their ministry. 35
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
What impact is the electronic church having on the local church? Is it drawing people and money away from local congregations? The answer is generally no. The faithful still attend and support the local church. Are large numbers of people being converted to Christianity through the programs of the electronic church? No! Studies show that few people are converted because of the ministry of the electronic church. The major impact of the electronic church is subtle but profound. It is changing the way evangelicals are doing church. 36
Most important, because the electronic church is market driven it caters to popular expectations. It is entertainment and experience driven. In moving in this direction, it forces the local church to compete or decline. Compared to the electronic church or megachurch, traditional services are boring and not “spirit-filled.” Denominational leaders and pastors thus change the way church life is practiced.
They also strive to accommodate popular tastes in music, sermons, and church activities. Worship becomes a form of entertainment and popular music replaces traditional songs. Sermons are watered down; charismatic preaching replaces biblical exposition. Experience and feelings become more important than serious thinking. 37
The electronic church is a private religion. You do not have to meet people; you turn the dial to the right station. On the contrary, the New Testament knows only one kind of Christianity—a congregational faith. The electronic church will not become a denomination, largely because it is so independent. Still, as described by Robert Wuthnow, the electronic church is furthering the restructuring of American religion. Religion is moving away from the denominational structure to more decentralized forms—the parachurch, nondenominational churches, loose federations, and private forms of the faith. And the electronic church should be seen as a factor in this transition. 38
1. Much of this article has been excerpted from my book, Evangelicalism: An Americanized Christianity, published by Transaction Publishers of Rutgers University. This book contends that much of American evangelicalism reflects American culture. So much is this the case that many aspects of the evangelical subculture have baptized American culture, especially its political and economic systems. Thus segments of the culture have been endowed with Christian characteristics.
2. Quentin J. Schultze, “The Electronic Church,” in Dictionary of Christianity in America, ed. Daniel G. Reid et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 385.
3. Quentin J. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991), 28.
4. Schultze, Television and American Culture, 29; Robert M. Bowman Jr., The Word-Faith Controversy: Understanding the Health and Wealth Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 8, 9.
5. See Gregor T.Goethals, The TV Ritual: Worship at the Altar (Boston: Beacon, 1981), 125–44.
6. R. Lawrence Moore, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 245; Quentin J. Schultze, “Evangelical Radio the and Rise of the Electronic Church, 1921–1948,” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 3, 32 (1988): 292–94; Tona J. Hangen, Redeeming the Dial: Radio, Religion, and Popular Culture in America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 48–53; Douglas Carl Abrams, Selling the Old-Time Religion: American Fundamemtalism and Mass Culture, 1920–1940 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2001), 58, 59; Dave Berkman, “Long Before Falwell: Early Radio and Religion—As Reported by the Nation’s Periodical Press,” Journal of Popular Culture 21 (Spring 1988): 1–11; Spencer Miller, Jr. “Radio and Religion,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 177 (January 1935): 135–40.
7. Rozelle Frankl, Televangelism: The Marketing of Popular Religion (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987), 5, 6; Quentin J. Schultze, “TV Revivalism: Show Biz and Big Biz,” Christianity Today 7 (August 1987): 51, 52; Jeffrey K. Hadden and Anson Shupe, Televangelism: Power and Politics on God’s Frontier (New York: Henry Holt, 1988), 44.
8. Bobby C. Alexander, Televangelism Reconsidered: Ritual in the Search for Human Community (Atlanta: Scholars, 1994), 59, 60; Frankl, Televangelism, 65–73.
9. Alexander, Televangelism, 59,60 (quote); Peter G. Horsfield, Religious Television: The American Experience (New York: Longman, 1984), 9, 10; Thomas C. Durfey and James A. Ferrier, Religious Broadcast Management Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Academic, 1986), 34.
10. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 38, 55; Schultze, “Electronic Church,” 385; Erling Jorstad, The Politics of Moralism (Minneapolis: Augusburg, 1981), 26, 27; Frankl, Televangelism, 106–15; Hadden and Shupe, Televangelism, 119.
11. David Edwin Harrell, Jr. Oral Roberts: An American Life (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), 268–70; Jorstad, Politics of Moralism, 26; Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 55; John Mariani, “Milking the Flock: Television Evangelism,” Saturday Review 3 (February 1979): 79; David Edwin Harrel, Jr., All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 155, 156.
12. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 29, 205, 228.
13. Ibid., 66 (quote).
14. Frankl, Televangelism, 108, 109; Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 102; Mark G. Toulouse, “Marion Gordon ‘Pat’ Robertson,” in Dictionary of Christianity in America, 1021, 1022; Moore, Selling God, 249, 250; Carol Flake, Redemptorama: Culture, Politics, and New Evangelicalism (New York: Penguin, 1984), 135.
15. “The Gospel Boom,” Saturday Evening Post (April 1979): 36 (quote). See also Richard A. Blake, “Catholic, Protestant, Electric,” America 15 (March 1980): 213.
16. Patrick Allitt, Religion in America Since 1945: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 191; Richard N. Ostling, “Enterprising Evangelicalism, “ Time, 3 August 1987, 50–53.
17. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 27; Schultze, “Electronic Church,” 386; Marshall Allen, “Naïve Bookkeeping,” Christianity Today (August 2003): 19, 20; Corrie Cuter, “Joyce Meyer Ministry Flap,” Christianity Today (March 2004): 22; Thomas C. Oden, “Truth or Consequences: A Biblical Guide to Accountability,” Christianity Today 18 (March 1988); “TBN Under Microscope,” Christianity Today (November 2004), 19.
18. Ben Armstrong, The Electronic Church (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 112.
19. William F. Fore, “The Church and the Electronic Media,” Ministry (January 1979): 5.
20. William Hendricks, “The Theology of the Electronic Church,” Review and Expositor 81 (Winter): 59.
21. Jeffrey K. Hadden and Charles E. Swann, Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1981), 85–102 (quotes). See also Hendricks, “The Theology of the Electronic Church,” 59–75.
22. Schultze, “Electronic Church,” 386.
23. Bruce David Forbes, “Introduction,” in Religion and Popular Culture in America, ed. Bruce David Forbes and Jeffrey H. Mahan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 13; Schultze, Television and American Culture, 39, 40 (quote).
24. Schultze, Television and American Culture, 98, 117. See Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991); Frank Lambert, “Peddlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, 1737–47,” Journal of American History 77, no. 3 (1990): 812–29.
25. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 19, 117, 118. See John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett, The Myth of the American Superhero (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.
26. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 32, 33, 70, 74, 79 (quote); Richard Quebedeaux, By What Authority: The Rise of Personality Cults in American Christianity (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), 53–69. See Douglas F. Barnes, “Charisma and Religious Leadership: An Historical Analysis,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 17, 1 (1978): 1–18.
27. Richard Kyle, The Religious Fringe: A History of Alternative Religions in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 328, 329.
28. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 87, 90: Richard N. Ostling, “Enterprising Evangelicalism,” Time, 3 August 1987, 53.
29. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 36, 72; Martin Marty, “I Think,” The Lutheran Standard (2) January 1979: 13.
30. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 19, 129; Quebedeaux, By What Authority, 76, 77.
31. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 19, 83, 84; Mark A. Shibley, Resurgent Evangelicalism in the United States: Mapping Cultural Change since 1970 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 1–23.
32. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 31, 159.
33. Ibid. 26, 17, 131 (quote).
34. Ibid. 162, 163.
35. Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 37,38; Randall Balmer, Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism (Boston: Beacon, 1999), 10.
36. J. Thomas Bisset, “Religious Broadcasting: Assessing the State of the Art,” Christianity Today 12 (December 1980): 28–31; Schultze, Televangelism and American Culture, 203, 204; Marty, “I Think”; William D. Romanowski, Eyes WideOpen: Looking for God in Popular Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2001), 71.
37. William F. Fore, “Beyond the Electronic Church,” The Christian Century, 7–14 January 1981, 29, 30.
38. Marty, “I Think,” 11, 12; Robert Wuthow, The Restructuring of American Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 71–99. See Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion (New York: Macmillian, 1967): Alan Jamieson, A Churchless Faith (London: SPCK, 2002).
Richard Kyle is professor of history and religion at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas. He is the author of Evangelicalism: An Americanized Christianity, published in 2006.
The Electronic Church: An Echo of American Culture