TV and RADIO
THE second part of Central television's documentary on American fundamentalists was shown on Tuesday (10.30pm ITV). It focussed on Dallas, known to millions of TV soap opera fans as the home of JR and the oil rich Ewings.
But real life millionaires are also thick on the ground in Dallas, and hordes of them belong to Dallas's First Baptist Church. This is presided over by the ever so smooth Dr Crisswell, who has spent many, many years soothing his wealthy parishioners, and ensuring that they are not forced to mix with the less wealthy members of society or with other races. His First Baptist church is carefully segregated, with Hispanic and black members worshipping in their own churches.
Dallas has the largest declared Christian community of any city in the United States. It also has the highest crime rate and the highest divorce rate. Dr Crisswell put the latter problems down to the large number of black and hispanic people living in the city. His church promotes success, the successful and the wealthy seem to be the chosen people. They are the winners, the succeeders, and they are going to succeed in the after-life too.
Zig Zigler, a fundamentalist preacher who has built up a multi-million dollar corporation' selling positive thinking in a religious context, preached to the well-heeled of Dallas, reassuring them of their position. In his opulent organisation headquarters, all telephones are answered with the greeting "it's a-great day at Zig Ziglers,". . .
On the other side of town, Dr Criswells preachers preach to the down and outs. A sad, weary and dejected assembly of people sit and listen to a two hour tirade on the evils of failure, on the sins that have brought them to this sorry state so that any feelings of guilt they might have are reinforced. After this they are given soup and sandwiches. Charity is not given easily by one of the wealthiest churches in the United States.
Dallas First Baptist Church embraces nurseries, schools, colleges and a college for training preachers. One young theologian gave a lecture on creation, which he said took place in six literal days. He then told his audience that by adding up the ages of all those named at the beginning of the Bible it was possible to prove that man had existed for just three thousand years before Christ, and no longer. Potenial preachers are told how to dress, how often to get their hair cut and are taught how to be positive in their approach to everything.
The Church is big business, and owns large chunks of prime Dallas property, but its leaders are confident about their actions and about their future. Once they had been born again, they said, everything they had done in the past was wiped out, and nothing they did in the future could effect their redemption. They were guaranteed a ticket to eternity. Anyone who was not born again, was damned.
As the presenter pointed out, it is the fundamentalist churches who are going out and preaching in the 1980s. They see themselves as a missionary fo-Fee, and not one confined to North America. This was a powerful and disturbing documentary and it gave a clear insight into how easy it is to manipulate good.
Roger Royle has returned to fundamentals in a different way for the last two Sundays. Good Morning Sunday has been broadcast from on board a cruise ship which has been retracing the footsteps of St Paul. Always innovative and enjoyable, the programme added an extra spark to the Easter celebrations.
Sunday May 3, 9.30am Morning Service, Radio 4. 1 lam Morning Worship ITV, From Central IviTf•—hodist Church, Bishop Auckland, Co Durham. 2.00pm Revelations ITV, Mary Kenny 'enfant terrible' of the Sixties, shocked her way from a Catholic Dublin to London and Paris, on a merry-go-round of hedonism and rebellion. Now, however, she is a respectable journalist championing morality and religious values? What changed her? 6.45pm Highway ITV, This week, Harry Secombe visits the most southerly town in Britain, St Helier, the capital of Jersey, and talks to a vicar's wife who has studied the life of the saint after whom the town was named. 10.15pm When I get to Heaven BBCI, Distinguished writer and explorer Sir Laurens Van Der Post talks to Richard Holloway about his view of life after death.