Have I ever talked about the television evangelist I watch every morning?
Well, I will now.
“Take your bank card and use it like a cheque.”
I use the television in my bedroom as an alarm clock. I discovered long ago that I do not handle a snooze bar well. I will snooze until I am late for work. So I switched to using the alarm built into the TV. For years this has worked great. But since I started working for SGPS in January I’ve been having the alarm go off at 5:15 am in the morning. There are limited choices of shows to watch at 5:15 am in the morning. The news starts at 5:30 am. I have infomercials and Life:Today.
I watch Life: Today.
“Or take a cheque and make it out to Life. But calls us and let us know you are mailing it.”
Life: Today is a 30 minute program. Between 25 and 10 of those minutes every day is spent asking for money to support their various Life: Outreach programs: food for the starving, water wells for clean drinking water, and saving children from the sex trade. Their call centre is itself another Outreach I’ve gathered as is the program itself, but they never raise money explicitly for those.
Some preaching happens in the first half of the show, but I normally miss most of that before the alarm goes off. I only catch the money pitch. On Wednesday’s they often have a guest preacher and she is given a full 20 minutes. I get to hear the tail end of her lesson before the main fellow comes back on to ask for my money.
For two months they’ll run the food outreach – everyday the same pictures of kids starving. And the Life missionaries giving them slop in bright red bowls. Then two months of building wells. “$4800 will build a well and give life saving water to a whole village for Life!” Then two weeks pushing their latest lecture series – during the normal course the books and DVDs come as free gifts with your donation, but during these two weeks you are just getting the lectures. Then a month of orphanages in areas ravaged by the sex trade where they rescue kids off the street or even from their families before they are sold into bondage.
“Don’t look away.”
The problems I have with the show are many. The messages are not quite what I believe. The preacher often cries during both his lessons and the money pitch. (In my mind, to paraphrase A League of their Own, “There’s no crying in sermons.”) The correlation between achieving salvation and giving money to the show. The fact that there is never a statement of how much goes to the Outreaches directly, how much is administrative, how the Outreaches manage in countries known for their insane amounts of corruption, etc. The fact that the money pitch urges you to give more than you can afford. (Not in itself a bad thing since I think most of us could probably afford to give more to charity and less to frivolous things – I know I can – but there is something in the pitch that irks me.)
Now I’m going to assume that the show is on the complete up and up. I think the preacher is mostly genuine. I think their primary goal is helping people other than themselves.
No what really bugs me is the three quotes I’ve used above. They are part of the standard spiel almost everyday. What does it mean to use my bank card like a cheque? Am I supposed to put it in an envelope with my PIN and mail it to him with instructions? “Please save 10 lives and then mail it back to me.” The whole point of the bank card is that it is not a cheque.
Why would I call to let you know I just mailed a cheque? Either the cheque gets there and has all the info they need or it gets lost. A prior phone call doesn’t help either way. ‘ like their accounting would let them pre-spend the money. I start to assume it is so they can upsell me during the phone call. Maybe I am not being generous, but I can’t think of another reason.
“Don’t look away.” The show shows sick and dying children, rows of tiny graves, 11 year olds getting into cars from street corners. There are ugly, ugly pictures during the money pitch. I think it is important that we acknowledge the extreme suffering in the world. That we have compassion for it. But those images are pretty hard to view as the first thing I see in the morning. Not looking away only engages my guilt in part of the hard sell. It is a gimmick rather than compassion and it irks me.
My favorite mornings are when I’m so groggy that I don’t even register the tv until the news starts at 5:30 am… Of course those mornings suck because i’m so groggy I don’t register what’s going on around me for 15 minutes, but you can’t have everything!