Losing Viewers

Ten of the most popular religious television shows lost 600,000 viewing homes during the last 12 months—a regrettable trend. I have engaged a little-known think tank to get ideas for increasing the ratings of these programs. Their research found that the major problem with religious programs is the lack of suspense. Too often, the viewers discover, if you’ve seen one program, you’ve seen them all. Ratings go up in ratio to the amount of suspense programs create. The suspense over “who shot J. R.?” boosted the ratings of “Dallas” right off the boards.

Most interviews on Christian programs are dull. The viewer knows exactly what line the interviewee will take. No one talks frankly about failures except when it is followed with a recent, huge success. The host never asks, “Just why did your church ask you to leave?” or “What happened to your first wife?” And the host either always smiles or always weeps.

The think tank recommends interviewing biblical characters, like a discussion of military tactics with Joshua, Gideon, and Jehoshaphat. Since many people who watch “religious” TV aren’t Bible readers, the host should give chapter and verse so viewers may follow the discussion.

Some religious programs use boring sets: either an old Johnny Carson set, a concert stage with fake palm trees, or a church. The successful pastor could be interviewed instead in his chauffeur-driven limousine or mowing his lawn, depending on which image he wants to project. An evangelical congressman could discuss issues while hang-gliding.

Analysis indicates that sports events and game shows are the most popular types of TV programming. To increase the number of viewers, the experts suggest a segment called, “Good Sports,” with church weightlifting contests or an elders and deacons bowling league. They suggest a game show, “Name that Hymn,” with choirs from all over the country competing.

Too often religious programming—particularly the music—is aimed at youth. Seniors like singalongs. They will switch channels to the program that enables them to sing along on favorite hymns.

To regain lost viewers, programs must increase suspense, sports, and singing for seniors. The perfect program would combine these three. The experts suggest a group of senior citizens skiing downhill, singing choruses. Now there is suspense.


Science or Not?

The arguments in support of Arkansas Act 590, “Creationism: A Case for Equal Time” [Mar. 19], fail to address the real issue, which is whether creation science can indeed be considered science. The vast majority of scientists think not, but they are prejudiced, according to Geisler. However, what are his scientific qualifications to make such a statement?

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I have studied the creationist literature extensively, and as a physicist, I have to agree with Young [“A Law to Limit the Options,” Mar. 19] that scientific creationism is simply bad science. Reading the Creation Research Society Quarterly makes one feel like being in scientific wonderland, where all the rules by which scientists operate have been turned topsy-turvy. Scientists were opposed to Velikovsky’s theories also, not because of prejudice, but because these theories were simply incorrect.


Corning, N. Y.

Evangelicals are fervently stumping for “balanced treatment” in the teaching of so-called creation science and evolution science in the public schools. Let them beware. They may smile with benign approval at the presentation of the ideas and writings of such men as Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln in social studies classes. But how would those same evangelicals react to a strident demand for the presentation of the ideas and writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin in the public schools in the name of a “balanced treatment” of capitalism and communism? Whether creationism is scientifically valid or not, communism has far more political adherents than creationism has scientific adherents.


Portland, Oreg.

If our churches were supplying a satisfactory theology of evolution, we would not have to worry about what our children were taught in science classes in school, or saw on television, or read in books and magazines. They would supply the facts and the theories, and religion would supply the interpretation.


Columbus, Ohio

Church and Politics

“Who, Now, Will Shape the Meaning of America?” [Mar. 19] is well written and needs to be taken seriously by those of us who are mainline or liberal Protestants. We cannot rest on the laurels of previous accomplishments or denounce the Religious Right as irrelevant. We may have some serious theological differences, but we should welcome the dialogue. We may even find some common ground. If the New Right is calling for less government, the social responsibilities of Christian churches will be greatly increased. If today’s liberal Christians are sometimes perceived as being against America, we are in good biblical company. The risk for the Religious Right is failing to discern patriotism from Christianity. The risk to the mainlines is sounding a prophetic voice and ignoring the spiritual needs of our people. Hopefully, there is much we can learn from each other.

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First Christian Church

Bloomington, Ill.

Neuhaus continues to promote the stereotype that Jerry Falwell is not involved in social ministry. He is and has been for 25 years.

He suggests that only those with advanced degrees are qualified to set the social and political agenda. But not all fundamentalists are fools, though some may be; and not all well-educated people are intelligent, though a few may be.


The Moral Majority

Washington, D.C.

One of the biggest problems of getting the church into politics is that it becomes judgmental of others, trying to legislate their morals. I am reminded of Jesus’ comment to Peter when he raised a question about another disciple: “What is that to you? Follow me.”

I’d like to see the churches less involved in politics and more involved in salvation. That is a big enough job in itself. So I hope Mr. Neuhaus is inviting us as individuals to get involved in politics and that he is not inviting the churches to do so.


Greenwich, Conn.

Advertising Clarified

I read with interest your article on “Turn-on 13” [News, Mar. 19]. I write this basically to help clarify the advertisement statements in the last two paragraphs. Some are turned off by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes, but it must be noted that they were already a sponsor of “Turn-on 13,” Remy’s regular weekly game show into which he incorporated the Bible quiz. The popular two-hour show was used first with a one-half-hour Bible portion. That was extended to a whole hour to include the Christian music competition. Remy did this with extreme criticism from the industry, as well as some of his staff and some sponsors.

This is not a religious program, but a regular commercial venture capitalizing on the opportunity to share God’s good news with the audience throughout the archipelago! The liquor (of which I am not aware) and cigarette advertisements are not sponsoring the religious portion of the program.


Guidelines, Inc.

Laguna Hills, Calif.

One Factual Error

Your otherwise excellent editorial, “Is Every Life Worth Living?” [Mar. 19], was marred by one factual error. You cannot choose “at an early stage to abort a fetus after testing of the amniotic fluid shows that the child would be radically incapable of functioning as a live baby.” The earliest an amniocentesis can be done reliably and safely is at 16 weeks gestation. It takes roughly four weeks of culturing the cells and other procedures before a diagnosis can be made. This brings us to 20 weeks gestation—hardly an early stage at which to abort the unborn child.

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University Health Center

Northern Michigan University

Marquette, Mich.

Shared Blame

“Trying to Add Flesh to Scriptures ‘Bare Bones’ ” [Mar. 5] was both eloquent and appropriate. But Skillen was too easy on the publishers, who also must assume responsibility. Aren’t they often guilty of straining to give readers a sanctified version of whatever they want? Or, less graciously, whatever will sell?

Can we really afford to let the marketing tail wag the editorial dog?


Campus Life

Carol Stream, Ill.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published. Since all are subject to condensation, those of 100 to 150 words are preferred. Address letters to Eutychus and His Kin, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60187.

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