studios. Amazingly, the sum was subscribed almost within a week. And their demand today is 20 million pound sterling for modernising their studios and updating the equipments to accommodate the latest technology in telecasting. Money is pouring in, though not as fast as after their first demand. 20 million pound sterling is Rs. 150 crores. In our currency.
Pastor Benny Hinn who attracts large crowds for his crusades all over the world claims to spend millions of dollars for his crusades. If one observed the vast arrangements made for his crusades one will be able to realise the truth of his statements. For his Bangalore crusade in January 2005, he said, he spent two million dollars. And he conducts a crusade almost every month through the course of the year, in one country or the other around the globe.
Paul Dinakaran once said that they (the family) run 40 different programmes every week in various languages and that on an average each programme costs Rs.25,000 from the stage of planning and preparation to its telecasting. This means an expenditure of rupees five crores every year. ( In the Jesus Calls programme on 1st of May 2005 it was announced that they run 100 programmes in a week!) And this, in brief, is the financial aspect of TV evangelism. And who bears the burden? It is everybody’s guess.
Most of these programmes carry clippings from films on Jesus. These ‘cuts’ from films made by western producers are used either to motivate the viewers or to fill in ‘gaps’ in their programmes. The miracles performed by Jesus are repeatedly shown as also his suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers and His crucifixion, in order to touch the hearts of the viewers and arouse their compassion. How many times can one watch the same visuals exhibited over and over again in one or the other channel? For a non-Christian viewer this might look ridiculous. Too frequent an exposition of the films on the life of Christ becomes a mockery and serious violation of God’s command not to represent Him in any form including visual. Jesus was human , no doubt, during the period he lived on this earth as depicted in these pictures but he was also divine, Son of God.
The influence of commercial cinema can be seen in the shooting and exhibition of song and dance sequences in religious broadcasts, the songs, in any case, are not very musical to the ear. Some of these songs are supplemented by body movements of the singer or a group of singers , such as hand gestures, jerking of the legs and gyration of hips along with zoom-in or zoom-out background shots of rivers in spate, water falls, cascades of water leaping over and between rocks, flower beds in parks, flight of colourful birds, rural scenes of moving bullock carts on village tank bunds etc. The display of dances and fanciful backdrops distract the attention of the viewer more than be helpful in conveying the real message of the programme.
The solemn and beautifully worded church hymns and lyrics have been dumped in to the dust bin by the TV evangelical programmers. . We hardly hear them sung even by church choirs in these programmes. Dinakaran (sr) comes out occasionally with a lyric sung in deep guttural voice. Another gentleman singer in the robes of a priest goes almost into a trance while singing his own compositions, very sentimental, very emotional. He also breaks in to a dance movement somewhat resembling “kummi”, as it is known in Tamil. I understand he is in great favour with Christians whose musical appreciation is quite primitive and emotional susceptibility high.
Another unhealthy trend in TV evangelism is the use of group dances similar to those in commercial cinemas . This has nothing to do with the spreading of Christian knowledge. The dancers are extravagantly and expensively dressed , dances choreographed by amateurs and the performance mainly aimed at highlighting the children of the family of evangelists.
Presenting one act plays called “short Plays” or “Kuru Natakam” in Tamil as introductory part of a programme is another hazard of watching these programmes. The people who act these plays neither have histrionic talent nor artistic inclination. The plays are meant to highlight morals which are derived from the scriptures. Themes like a drunkard husband, son addicted to drugs, office clerk indifferent and disobedient to his boss, a family deep in debt etc. At the end of the play comes a quotation