Saturday, April 23, 2016

Who said it could not be done?

Though she sometimes made me wince and other times made me roll my eyes, Mother Angelica earned grudging respect in my eyes for take a few bucks and a dream against all those who said it could not be done.  She almost single-handedly turned a garage idea into a media powerhouse that still serves as a most effective face and voice for Roman Catholicism.  At age 92, she died leaving many accomplishments as a legacy but none more enduring that the Eternal Word Television Network.  Through TV, radio, and internet, this media reaches hundreds of millions of households.  Though I am not necessarily in agreement with what is produced by the EWTN, I admire her dogged persistence and the success she achieved.

Some of her quotes are absolute gems:
 “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.”
  • “Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, it’s a requirement.”
  • “There will be hard times when your faith will be attacked and when your doubts will be increased. What will you do? Persevere in prayer now.”
  • “Those who tell the Truth love you. Those who tell you what you want to hear love themselves.”
  • “We cannot put off a change of life for tomorrow or old age, for there may be no tomorrow.”
  • “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”
  • “Only in eternity shall we see the beauty of the soul, and only then shall we realize what great things were accomplished by interior suffering.”
  • “God is not a slot machine. We don’t go to God to get something; we go to give something.”
 A few years ago Paul Crouch passed away.  Though from a radically different theological perspective than Mother Angelica, he possessed the same gift of kitsch and folksy gab and also began a worldwide media powerhouse with a few bucks and a dream.  He once told the story of how a Lutheran bailed him out when his whole dream was threatened with death -- giving him $50,000 to stave off the bills and allow expansion.  I thoroughly detest most of what happens on TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) but he got my grudging respect for continuing on when the rest of us would have quit.  Sadly and shamefully, however, Crouch financed his enterprise with the crassest of sentimental and guilt appeals and, as usual, they usually worked pretty well among the viewers drawn from throughout the theological spectrum.

Once the LCMS had captured the religious market and reached untold millions at a time when religious use of the newest broadcast media was hardly noticeable.  Walter A. Maier and The Lutheran Hour (the longest running religious radio broadcast) became the preacher in living rooms and kitchens across America (more non-Lutheran than Lutheran).  As a child I watched This Is the Life and saw then unknowns like Martin Sheen and so many others cast in religious drama that conveyed the practical truth of the Gospel.  Then production became expensive and professional and the LCMS seemed to back off of its role as pioneer in the use of media for the cause of the Kingdom.

We in the LCMS seem to be unable or unwilling to recapture our place at the forefront of technology.  We have made noble stabs with the use of YouTube and very effective but cheaply produced short videos.  We did produce a credible documentary on the role of a Lutheran Rosa, Rosa Young, to herald a Black hero within our own tradition.  We have done some blogs and such.  But why can't we take a few hundred dollars and turn it into a dream of a media machine to promote the catholic and evangelical confession that we believe is the lasting and enduring legacy of the divine work in the Reformation?

I fear that one of the reasons is that our people are more interested in what Paul Crouch's network is broadcasting or the local Christian pop radio station is airing or a hundred other places.  And that is the rub.  While it would be great for such a media presence to reach out to those outside the Church, it must first be supported and encouraged by those within the Church.  I wish our people were as excited about the Gospel, about the faithful preaching and teaching, and about the reverent liturgical worship of confessional Lutheranism as those new to our church. 

We Lutherans have produced giants in the faith and yet it often seems that these great individuals are more appreciated by others than among Lutherans.   Consider how distant Bach and the Lutheran chorales are from the typical Sunday morning fare of our parishes.  I wish we were as enamored by the gifts the Lord has provided from the gifts of such Lutherans as those who are outside Lutheranism are!  Why can't we support a media enterprise to present the world with the best of Lutheran composers and their musical witness?  Why can't we build a showcase for the winsome and yet powerfully faithful preaching and teaching that happens all around us?   Why are we more interested in what other traditions are doing instead of acknowledging and heralding our own?  I believe it can be done.  I believe it should be done.  What do you think?


Ted Badje said...

Could the person who does 'Lutheran Satire' videos on YouTube get some help from the Synod, and present a more serious tone and higher production values? YouTube is getting more gravitas, and presents a number of useful, instructional videos. I look up a number of software tutorials on YouTube.

Janis Williams said...

Ted, Pr. Fiene (Lutheran Satire) is a fairly regular contributor to The Federalist online. There he is usually dead serious.

I think it would be wonderful if we could have large audiences for media. However, TBN as Fr. Peters says, garners it's bucks largely from guilt, false promises, and, well - lies. Sister Angelica's production was/is RC, and has an automatic audience (the faithful of the RCC). Unfortunately, parts of the Lutheran church (the liberal, Lutheran in Name Only) confuse any potential audience. What I'd love to see is someone (Lutheran) with he Chutzpah and cash to do feature movies. Films that would compete with Roma Downey's version (yes, it's her version) of The Bible. There have been so many 'Bible-based' movies in recent years that are just enough off the Truth of Scripture to confuse millions who watch.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking confessional Lutheranism has done some good grassroots work expanding into media and reaches a variety of different people. We may not be as big or consolidated as EWTN or TBN, but the substance is solid.

There is Lutheran Public Radio's Sacred Music, Issues Etc., Table Talk Podcasts, Worldview Everlasting, Faith Lutheran Capistrano on Vimeo, Redeemer Theological Academy, and the LCMS' KFUO radio station has a number of excellent programs which are available online. Not to forget all the LCMS Seminary classes available on iTunesU.

I'm sure I am forgetting or unaware of other resources, but a few more include this blog, Around the Word Theology, the Book of Concord online, Lutheran Theology Website, Doxology, I Trust When Dark My Road, and the LCMS official Website resources... Yes, those of us fleeing American evangelicalism and converting to confessional Lutheranism seem to thankfully find these precious resources.