For some time Chris has been urging me to watch the God TV, a British television station run by Christian Communications. My excuse for not watching has been that my television (Freesat) does not have it. Needless to say it is not difficult to find these broadcasts online, so it is probably laziness that I have not followed up Chris’ invitation, together with a visceral dislike of ‘Christian’ broadcasting. I finally got round to watching a little when Chris alerted me to a scandal that has broken in the past few months, the departure of one of the founders of God TV following a ‘moral failure’ during the past 12 months. Apparently the founder, Rory Alec is now living with a woman, not his wife, in South Africa. His name no longer appears with that of his wife, Wendy, as one of the directors of the enterprise.
Having finally gritted my teeth to watch a little of this broadcasting which apparently goes all over the world, I found it to follow a fairly predictable pattern in many ways. Being rooted in the theology, known as Health and Wealth Gospel, it is all about persuading the viewer that God wants them to possess the blessings of plenty, wholeness and success. The presentation is slick and the presenters are well dressed and superficially attractive. For me, this whole way of selling the Christian faith arouses considerable distaste. I find that the type of showmanship that is combined with this broadcast preaching makes me feel somewhat nauseous. There is little attractive about the make-believe sugary world that the viewer is offered. People are being encouraged to think that the sending of money to the television station will enable them to sort out all the problems in their lives. They will then have the same ‘miracles’ which are being enacted by the likes of Benny Hinn in America. An internet search on this particular man will show considerable interest by mainstream evangelicals in America questioning both his theology and ministry claims. Any study online of individuals who conduct television ‘ministries’ leads one to conclude that the ‘Gospel’ is being regularly milked to provide the maximum financial benefit for the organisers. I do not, in fact, know of any reputable church leader who has used the medium of television for honourable ends. Perhaps one of my readers can tell me if there is in fact a place where one can view wholesome material.
To return to Rory Alec and his ‘moral failure’. Chris believes that this failure will discourage thousands of vulnerable people who have come to depend on God TV as their spiritual home. Their faith in the founder, and through him in God, will waver when they see him disappear from their screens and their lives. My own reaction is more sanguine. Other television ministries in America have survived scandals, such as those affecting Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Their television channels have continued, albeit somewhat reduced for a time. Already I have looked at the comments columns connected with the ‘scandal’ and already earnest Christians are telling Rory that God will forgive him and is willing to restore him. Returning to his wife is, in fact, apparently not an option so the tidy solution of repentance and restoration that they would like to see, is not going to happen. In other words the typical supporter of Rory Alec is unable and unwilling to process what has actually happened to their hero.
What is it about tele-evangelists that open them up to moral failure that causes their down-fall? But before attempting to answer this question, I would comment that, from my perspective, the twenty years of preaching the Health and Wealth Gospel to tens of thousands of vulnerable people is by far the greatest moral failure in Rory Alec’s life. Enriching himself at their expense and offering promises that cannot be met, is just as intolerable as abandoning his wife for another woman. It is strange how sexual sin is always portrayed in some Christian circles as the worst possible kind of sin. It is of course serious but there is something equally bad in betraying people, cheating them by taking their money and cynically creating in them a dependence on a version of Christianity that at best is corrupt and at worst a cynical perversion of anything that Jesus stood for. The viewers of God TV have been thoroughly let down long before Rory Alec decided to leave his marriage.
I have already indicated in a previous piece on my blog the reasons why I believe that the sexual exploitation of women is a constant theme in some churches with a charismatic flavour. The reason for this, in summary, is because the leaders of these church become addicted to the exhilarating sense of being at the centre of the power generated by the worship sessions. It is but a small step to becoming addicted to power for its own sake. This blog has before explored how power addiction generally expresses itself in three ways, sex, money and being the constant centre of attention. Some leaders stray into all these areas. It seems appropriate to these leaders, in their power-obsessed consciousness, to feel entitled to all the trappings of power – wealth, adulation and constant access to sex. The psychological drama that is being worked out in this scenario is one that I have written about before, and it concerns both addiction and a diagnosis of the personality disorder involving narcissism.
The ‘scandal’ of the God Channel is then, in my perspective, not just the moral failure of the founder going to live with another woman. I would indeed be surprised if such episodes had not occurred before and the gossip mill does suggest this to be the case. Sexual misbehaviour in this type of charismatic environment goes with the territory. The greater immorality, and indeed evil, is the drip, drip undermining and exploitation of the naivety and idealism of countless would-be Christians. They have been and continue to be betrayed by such men and women of God. Their desperation and longing for help of various kinds is being ruthlessly taken advantage of. Chris tells me that he knows personally some of these people and their situation is tragic and sad in the extreme. This blog would love to do something to help them.