Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why late night TV is on late at night

For some reason, I've recently reverted back to my college schedule of sleeping as late as possible and consequently, watching late night TV until I fall asleep. The TV in my room is about 10 inches so I normally have to squint to see very clearly.

Late night TV is like rummaging through a garage sale "name your own price" bin. You KNOW there's not going to be anything of worth in there. Otherwise they would've put it on the display with the furniture and "AS SEEN ON TV" section of Slap Chops, EuroSealers, and WeedWackers that were only sparingly used if at all. The same is true of TV.

Along with informercials for the above stated products, there are mostly just repeats of 24 hour news broadcasts, comedians no one has heard of (and probably never will be heard of), and courtroom reality tv shows like Judge Judy. Occasionally you'll find the crown jewel of late night TV: a newish South Park episode that isn't sacrilegious. However, I would estimate that 85% of channels that aren't undergoing a test of the emergency broadcast system are the only thing that can divert my anger away from Coach K during this season of life: televangelists.

Normally they are either in front of a pulpit or in a sort of telethon setting, raising money for more people to be blessed through Reverend X's ministry. There are testimonies of elderly women being healed of the gout and youngish teens telling stories of placing their hands on their TV's late one night to receive a blessing from the televangelist. (I tried and all I got was a static shock from my TV screen. Thanks a lot Reverend.) For the most part I know that it's a hoax and a scheme to get old people who don't know that emails from Nigeria are normally dangerous, with lots of money to send them checks.

My unfiltered mind during late night times thinks about all the awful ways people are ripped off and start thinking of all the testimonies not shown on TV of confused people who are on their death beds still waiting for a miracle that will never come. Or the woman who is sterile who sows a $100 seed to this ministry who will never conceive, but has all the faith in the world.

But part of me kinda wants these guys to be real. Wouldn't it be great if all we had to do to prove to our skeptical friends that God is real was just to send in a $100 check and receive a miracle? It would take out so much intellectual work and faith work, believing in someone we've never seen in the flesh. As cheesy as these TV preachers are (the aren't really evangelists so I'll just say "preachers" instead), they really know what people want. They know that most people think they just want prosperity and not a real knowledge of whether God exists or not or whether we can know Him.

I'm reminded of the passage in Revelation where God sends Jesus to separate the true followers from the fakers. The real men of God from the extortionists, the cheaters, the actors, the ones who appear to love him, but really only love themselves and try to profit from him.

I should probably save this for another blog entry since its kind of a whole other topic, but the same night I was fuming over a TV preacher selling a color coordinated Bible (with every topic in one of 12 colors to signify whether it was referring to "God," "Peace," "The Devil," "Blessing," etc) for $129.99, I saw a video game commercial for the new Splinter Cell game. There were the normal scenes of a spy killing all sorts of bad guys with awesome graphics. But this was the song in the background that both brought me fear and confidence in God's justice:

Whenver a dead guy is still producing music after he's gone, you know its gonna be powerful. Especially if he can get powerful celebrities to do it for him and act all serious in a video. (My favorite part is the sign Bono writes that says "Sinners make the best Saints: RIP JC"...and then also Owen Wilson and the guy from ZZ Top throwing the flower in the air at the end).

But seriously, this was a really moving thing for me. The splinter cell commercial prompted me to look the video up. And then it made me think. This is a great message, not only for the celebrities of excess in the video itself (which, do you think they understood the irony of being cut down by God for ignoring His commands?), but also because it so reminds us that one day we will be judged with justice for the things we know in our hearts. For the actions we do and not the actors we play. For our attitudes and not our public personas. This is kinda scary honestly. But for those who know God and have received grace it is also comforting to know that one day there will be no more late night preachers left to confuse the poor and tease the weak with empty promises. Nor will there be idols of celebrity for us to chase after. The celebrities and TV preachers alike still have time to repent for their rebellion of the Gospel. For every long-tongued liar, every rambler and gambler and back-biter will one day either turn from their ways or be cut down.


  1. I'm sure you've seen the video for Hurt as well, but both of those are really powerful to me. I thought about playing the Hurt video at Community Group one time... it tied in to what we were talking about, but then I chickened out cause I didn't want the group to think I was weird (this was early on in the formation of the group, now they know I'm weird so it's cool).

  2. I thought the irony in that Johnny Cash music video from the first time I saw it was very interesting. Here are all these celebrities who don't "get it." Maybe they do, I can't know their hearts, but their life doesn't show it.

  3. Yeah, I saw "hurt" and the video about 3 years ago and thought it was basically the gospel throughout Cash's life. He went through so crazy crap, did some heinous things, basically played the "younger brother" his whole life. But understood his own sin all the better for it. He spent his whole life becoming a celebrity only to see that when he reached the summit he had climbed the wrong mountain. One that didn't matter.

    At some level I think Cash's testimony got through to the rock stars and the actors on that video. They wouldn't have all agreed to do it if he was simply a great musician. There was something transcendant about his life and experience that shunned self righteousness and vanity. Even people who didn't listen to country music could identify with a religious man who only wore black and was an advocate for inmates. I dont think many people see Jesus through Cash but I think they see his heart breaking life and are brought to a place (hopefully) where they scream out "vanity, vanity! Everything under the sun is just chasing after the wind." Cash I think serves as a "guardian" to our modern culture, in a way that not being able to keep the law led the Jews to seek hope in God through a messiah.