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attacks on his fundraising methods, Swaggart was convicted of tax fraud and Robertson was criticised for his involvement in politics with his attempts to secure the Republican Presidential nomination.
The best show of all was reserved for Jim and Tammy Bakker. Jim had apparently been having a drug-fuelled affair with church secretary Jessica Hahn, while Tammy had been canoodling with a country singer. Jim broke down and confessed all tearfully on TV, while Tammy sobbed along and Jessica sneaked off to pose naked fOr Playboy. This might have been thought to be the death knell for the TV evangelists, but they‘re still thriving, still enjoying huge audiences, although admittedly the brashness and venality has been more muted oflate.
This was all viewed from this side of the Atlantic with a mixture of disbeliefand hilarity. It couldn’t happen here, could it? After all, Britain doesn’t have that audience of religious unsophisticates, and besides there were strict controls on . religious broadcasting. weren’t there?
These conditions have changed since the 805. The year 1991 is the beginning of the Decade of Evangelism for British churches, and what was once a subject of some ridicule and suspicion has become a buzzword in the churches’ campaign to get 'bums on pews‘. American preacher Billy Graham is regarded by the established churches as the acceptable face of US Evangelism and, on his last visit to the UK in the mid 80s, packed football stadiums rather more impressively than their regular Saturday afternoon occupants.
Graham’s style is a mixture of extravagant emotional rhetoric, showbizzy staging and exhortations to people to come forward and be saved. An interdenominational committee, Mission Scotland, is bringing Graham to Scotland in May, when he will address rallies at Murrayfield, Pittodrie and Parkhcad. The size of the venues indicates that Graham’s direct style is set to tap into a large audience.
lithe audience is there, so too are the opportunities for broadcasters. The new Broadcasting Bill, set to be made law before the end of the year, will abolish current restrictions on religious broadcasting and create a potential avenue for fundamentalist or evangelist shows to be either
home-grown or bought in. Hitherto,
most religious broadcasting has been very much a case of the BBC or ITV companies working closely with the church establishment which is naturally hostile to any development to threaten this cosy situation.
On the other hand, churches are becoming more open to the opportunities of selling themselves. The Church of England has appointed a PR agency (although the Church of Scotland does not plan to follow suit) and the newly formed Independent Television Commission will be reviewing the ban on religious advertising, provoking unlikely daydreams of future ads along the lines of ‘C of E: Cooler than Catholics’.
Craig Swann, co-presenter of
-Eikon, Scottish Television’s
innovative religious programme that tackles social issues and their Spiritual significance from a straight journalistic perspective, believes that fundamentalist tele-evangelism is unlikely to infiltrate mainstream TV in the UK. ‘I think that it will be restricted to satellite or cable ,’ he says. ‘Religious broadcasting has always been closely linked with worship-based programmes, like High way or Songs Of Praise, and that’s not going to change overnight.’
Eikon is at the opposite end of the spectrum, offering no editorialising, or denominational viewpoint, preferring to report on religious attitudes than express them. ‘We thought it was important to get away from the ‘God slot’ and to be objective,’ says Swann. ‘We look at things like the churches’ attitude to rape, social issues, bands with Satanic images, anything that has a link, however tenuous, with religious belief.’
If Eikon is a welcome dogma-free contribution to religious broadcasting hitherto dominated by the ‘more tea, vicar’-style smug singalong, it seems likely to be a one-off. Despite establishment reassurances to the contrary, there is plenty of potential for the tele—evangelists to start making inroads in an increasingly fragmented TV market. The then Home Office minister David Mellor made it perfectly clear that religious groups would not be barred from owning satellite or cable channels regardless of how innovative or non-mainstream they might be.
And should we be worried anyway? From a purely entertainment point of view, given the choice between Jim Bakker tearfully confessing all about him and Jessica in the motel room with the love potions, and Thora Hird munching an Eccles cake and introducing He Who Would Valiant Be, I know who I‘d plump for every time. Hallelujah!
Eikon, Scottish Television, Tuesdays 7. 30pm; Usher Hall Prayer Rally with guest speaker Cliff Burrows from the Billy Graham Organisation, Thurs 17Jan, 7.30pm. Tickets £1.
Tiberius, long consigned to the catalogue of history’s nasties - principally by his ruthless biographer Tacitus- has been granted a conditional pardon by Allan Massie, an author with a mission. The second novel in Massie’s Roman trilogy, ‘leerius’ amends the “lying truth’ of
‘ Tacitus’s factual, but shamelessly
mutilaling account of the Roman emperor with the spine of a liberal.
Cleverly loreworded by ‘a dlsclalmer’, the ‘author’ nevertheless justifies his labours: ‘liction— if this is fiction, may offer truths to which neither biography nor even autobiography can inspire.’ Massie’s truthful fiction takes the bones of Tiberius’s awesome reputation as tyrant, and envelopes them in the flesh of a real man who, at the helm of the hideous machine of the Roman empire, is at once entranced and repelled by its workings. Recognising Tiberius as a Roman with a Romantic sensibility- he quotes Nietzsche in his ‘autobiography’ - Massie touches a contemporary nerve, painting him as a universal soul. Possessing the timeless desire to escape reality in pursuit of some unreachable ideal, and tired of walking the tightrope between his beloved republic and the empire which so offends his libertarian tastes, Tiberius abdicates responsibility in a self-imposed exile.
Although Massie eliminates the image of a pathetic figure hiding his lace in the laps of young boys, he does not protect Tiberius from the guilt of abdication. Whilst blanketed in the
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warmth of the paradisal Rhodes, Tiberius surrenders his family and friends' lives to the indiscriminate will of the Senate, and in the name of Liberty, the last vestiges of the Republic are buried.
With some righteous immodesty and a mischievous sense of irony, Massie describes, in the introduction, his own fictional work: ‘a remarkable portrait of one of the greatest, and certainly the unhappiest of Roman emperors.’ Hardly surprising, then, is the final twist of the knife in Tacitus's back when Massie has hls Tiberius crowned with the same thorny jewel as the King who was crucified during his reign, declaring him to have possessed ‘as Christian a disposition as any unbaptised Pagan may exhibit.’ (Kathleen Morgan) Tiberius is published by Hodder and Stoughton, priced £13.95.
POETRY - MUMBonMBo
I The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison (Viking £13.99) Jim Morrison‘s gaze is one of the most recognisable to come out of the 60s — a marketing man's dream, available alongside Dean and Monroe in handy postcard format. So as the records still sell, and Oliver Stone has made the movie, publishing the man‘s complete writings was inevitable.
This collection offers us Soul Kitchen (copyright Doors Music Co): l’aris Journal. a great pudding of a poem containing profundities like ‘eating pussy/ till the mind runs/ clean': and only very occasionally works that. while less than finished. actually seem worth publishing. Planes A re (iroaning Mothers. The .S'idewalkers Moved . and The Hitchhiker, for example. all cry out to be reworked by the author, but are nevertheless powerful.
But really the collection is a con. The editors claim they trusted in
their subject’s genius whenever they came up against something obscure. In which case they missed the point that even most of the ‘mature’ verse could be bettered by a bookish 14-year-old. and that The American Night is largely unreadable. (Thomas Quinn)
I How To Be Well-Versed In Poetry ed. E.O. Parrott (Viking£l2.99) This is the one! The textbook which guarantees success in the poetry section of your English Lit degree. After only 30 minutes you‘ll be able to rap with confidence about rhopalics, mnemonics, double acrostics and even the odd ghazal. Astound tutors with your recital ofa third asclepiad; gain friends through a quick amphibrachic: and. ifyou have a real hunger for poetry. try some macaronic metre.
The author, who died late last year, previously produced How To Become Ridiculously Well-Read In One Evening; ifyou enjoyed that,
errth List it — mainly 199i