TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, is now available on Freeview. I would not pay for such a thing, but wonder what it is like. What have they to say to us? “For you- for life.”
The schedule is the same each day. At 4pm there is “Veggietales”: Join Bob the Tomato, Larry the cucumber, and all their veggie friends. Perfect for young families, this laugh-out-loud comedy seamlessly weaves good moral values into each episode in a fun, exciting…
I put aside my Yuck reflex. The episode I watch retells The Prince and The Pauper, updated- the prince is a pop-star- in a way you might see on CBeebies apart from the American accents. But Bob and Larry top and tail it with heavy-handed moralising- “It’s not good to compare yourself to others, and to want what they have,” intones Bob. It depends what you do with that want, I suppose. Then he quotes Jeremiah 1:5a, which appears on the screen, after a woman croons You see we know that GOD’s word is for everyone….
Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you aside to serve me. Actually, I am not sure that the call of a prophet is for everyone.
“We need to trust God that his plan is the right plan” says Larry. “Always remember God made you special and he loves you very much.”
Much of the programming is of rock concerts. The music is relentlessly optimistic- fast or slow, it is Thank you God for loving me, Everything is alright because God loves us, Jesus came to save, etc. Audiences sway, their hands raised in praise. This could get addictive- a stream of constant reassurance, drawing you in. However bad the World is, God cares, if only you believe enough. I caught a snatch of Joel Osteen, big hair, big teeth, big warm smile, crooning the same message- join a Bible-believing church and have faith. That is, insulate yourself from reality- though he has that get-out clause: if things go wrong it must be your faith which is at fault.
Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, originally from Sydney but now with campuses all over Australia and spreading into Europe, preached to the Hillsong Conference 2013, calling his flock into the Mystery of God, the great unknown, following God’s will: like Peter, stepping onto the water when he saw Jesus walking. He started by shocking me: when John’s disciples buried his head and body, did they dig one hole or two? Who would think of that, apart from Brian? Preaching for fifty minutes, he has little content but much repetition: step into the Mystery where feet may fail. Go when Jesus says go, but how we know it comes from Jesus he does not say. Humans like control and predictability but God is full of surprises. There is nothing boring or mundane about the mystery of serving Jesus.
What service does he expect? That they will found more campuses for Hillsong church, buying buildings, taking new ground, preaching to the hurt and the broken and bringing them in. I disagreed with him about the tongues of angels- 1 Cor. 14:10, Paul values speaking in words but Brian says you can speak God’s own tongue.
I do not find this illusion and rabble-rousing healthy. Brian believes “the writings of Paul are clear” about gays.