STEPHEN VAN ECK
Have you ever seen “The 700 Club”? Don’t. Your time and your brain cells are too valuable to waste. I’ve been monitoring the show, however, and I can satisfy any curiosity you many have about it.
They start off with a news segment featuring items of interest to right-wingers. The reportage is stopped frequently to allow Marion “Pat” Robertson to weigh in with his fatuous opinions.
Then they generally run a lot of self-serving features designed to separate you from your money. These stories all have the identical outline: They’re about some independent contractor or business proprietor. (Nobody ever seems to work FOR someone. They’re too ornery to take orders from someone else.) Anyway, their business is not doing well. Then, despite their financial struggles, they try tithing to the Christian Broadcasting Network. And like magic, their business starts to do gangbusters! (How much do you want to bet that in the cases where this actually happens, CBN puts out the word to its members in the area to patronize the local business?) Pat chimes in to quote the Scriptures where it says God will pay you back big time if you give His Servants money. They really make God seem like a Cosmic Slot Machine that always pays off. But it’s really not giving any more—it’s investing. There’s always an expectation of return.
Touting of tithing is usually followed by a feature on someone whose life was a mess until they gave their life to Jeezuz. This is concluded by issuing an Altar Call (Come to Jeezuz) urging the viewer to do likewise. (Really, are there many watching who aren’t already Christian?) Their improvised pitch, in an assumed gentle tone that’s offputting, goes on and on, and is truly mindnumbing.
A second little newsbreak, perhaps another tithing story, or maybe a guest who’s pushing a pious or tendentious book, or a Christian musician performing a lame-o number. Occasionally there’s a report on Operation Blessing, a division of CBN that takes advantage of natural disasters to elicit “faith commitments” from the people it helps (going so far as to turn Catholics into Protestants.) The Red Cross has no agenda, no ulterior motive. They help people for the sake of helping people. Not so Operation Blessing.
Sometimes they answer viewer’s questions in a segment called “Bring it On”. (They don’t want ME to do that!) Some days they have a Healing segment in which “Pat” or his sidekick get a “Word of Knowledge” direct from God Himself, and they announce that someone out there is suffering from sciatica or sinusitis or psittacosis or whatever, and God is now healing it! Claim it (the Word of Knowledge)! This segment reminds me of Romper Room, when the lady, at the end of the show, would look through her magic empty handmirror frame and say she sees Bobby, and Joey, and Janey, and Suzie … You could just imagine some dense little twerp thinking, “Hey! She sees ME! Wow!”
But it’s less innocuous then “Romper Room”. Those who aren’t healed (in other words, those not lucky enough for spontaneous remission) are left with no other conclusion that they lack sufficient faith—a convenient excuse for when God fails. When I was in college many years ago, I’d sometimes pass a TV room in the morning when The 700 Club was on. There was a paltry handful of students watching who had spent their lives on crutches. They are still on crutches today. I actually felt sorry for the credulous for putting false hope in flimflam.
That’s The 700 Club. Are you missing anything? No. And I won’t miss it, either—I’ve had enough. I’ll let other people report on “Pat” when he says something inflammatory, bigoted, or erroneous, which is often. He and the show are all too predictable, especially politically. Maybe one of these days, Christians will finally realize what a nut ol’ “Pat” is. They’re sure slow learners, aren’t they?