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A guide to local religious programming

Sunday, July 15, 2001

By Rebecca Sodergren Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On TV, preachers aren't limited to Sunday mornings. With the myriad shows and networks, people who watch religious television face the same dilemma as other viewers: Which shows to choose?

In the Pittsburgh market, several local channels and the Black Entertainment Network (BET) air religious shows opposite each other on Sunday mornings. But the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN, the Catholic network) and WPCB (Cornerstone TeleVision's local station) have religious programming all day every day, and Odyssey, WGN and the Fox Family Channel have occasional religious offerings throughout the week.

In some ways, viewers of religious programming have their choices narrowed automatically. Although there are many programs, they tend to fall into a few major categories.

For instance, the vast majority of religious programming here is Christian. Of the 21 shows we watched for this story, only one -- "World of Faith and Values" on Odyssey -- made a passing nod to Islam in an episode about police investigators that was hardly religious at all.

During June and early July, the Post-Gazette watched 21 episodes of religious shows from all the local and cable networks that offer them in our region. Here is what we found in our random survey:

TV preachers

After watching nine television preachers, we observed a thread that connected some of them: a notion that God is a heavenly vending machine dedicated to filling man's desires.

Granted, not all television preachers believe this. On "In Touch," Charles Stanley, for instance, noted that many Christians suffer even to the point of death.

But five of the nine preachers we watched espoused varying degrees of the "Health and Wealth Movement" philosophy.

Perhaps the most drastic was Creflo Dollar of "Changing Your World," who said if you "have the blessings of God on your life," you can ask for a six-figure salary at your job and get it.

Another thread connects almost all of the shows -- fund-raising efforts, including ads for book and videotape sales, pleas for donations and, in Robert Schuller's case, the promise of a porcelain figurine of Christ rescuing a lost sheep if you send $150.

Here are synopses of the nine shows:

"The Hour of Power" with Robert Schuller, 7-8 a.m. Sundays, WPXI.

Filmed in the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California, where sunlight glints off the glass walls, the show features photogenic guests, such as Dorothy Benham, Miss America 1977. Robert A. Schuller, son of show founder Robert Schuller, interviews Laura Wilkinson, who won an Olympic gold medal for diving in spite of an injury. African-American singer Leon Patillo sings "The Sky Is the Limit." Schuller preaches a sermon that suggests that you can get whatever you want if you think positively enough.

"Changing Your World" with Creflo Dollar, 8-8:30 a.m. Sundays, WPGH; 6:30-7 a.m. and 11-11:30 p.m. Sundays and 5:30-6 a.m. weekdays, BET.

Every time Dollar encounters the word "blessed" in a Bible text, he changes it to "empowered" or "enabled." He says God empowers people, but they have to make use of the power they've been given in order to get what they want. Dollar is African-American, as is most -- but not all -- of his congregation, whom he encourages to shout repeatedly, "I have the blessing!"

"Changing a Generation" with Paul S. Morton, 7:30-8 a.m. Sundays, BET.

Elder Debra B. Morton uses Forrest Gump's life to illustrate Christ's acceptance of people. Prophetess Brenda Todd uses 2 Samuel 9:7, which promises that a man will get a blessing of land after shame, to convince her mainly African-American audience that God will restore land and money taken from their ancestors. "Some of you are going to have inheritances that you didn't know about," she promises.

"Believer's Voice of Victory" with Kenneth Copeland, 8:30-9 a.m. Sundays, WPGH; 6:30-7 a.m. weekdays, WPCB; 7:30-8 a.m. weekdays, WGN.

It's Father's Day, and Copeland tells stories about his father. He says he gave his parents grief because he "didn't accept the Lord" when he was young. When he later did, he discovered that Jesus "is so ready, willing and able to turn your life around. He's in the business of bringing your dreams to pass."

"The Potter's House" with T.D. Jakes, 7-7:30 a.m. Sundays, BET; 7-7:30 p.m. Mondays and 5:30-6 p.m. Saturdays, WPCB.

In a rhythmic style, punctuated with gyrations and foot-stomping, Jakes' co-preacher, Noel Jones, tells the audience to "rush the altar" if they have needs -- for instance, if their children need to be "straightened out" -- and God will do whatever they need.

"John Hagee Today," 7-8 a.m. Sundays, WNPA; 8:30-9 a.m. weekdays and 4-4:30 a.m. Fridays, WPCB.

Filmed on location in Israel, Hagee uses colorful illustrations of the tabernacle while preaching about how every element of the tabernacle foreshadows the coming Christ.

"The Coral Ridge Hour" with D. James Kennedy, 7-8 a.m. Sundays, WPGH; 9-10 p.m. Sundays, WPCB.

From a pulpit surrounded by a sea of greenery, Kennedy speaks on Noah and the flood. He says Christ is the modern Christian's ark, providing redemption from the coming judgment. In the next segment, he highlights current events in his home region of Broward County, Fla., where the Boy Scouts' homosexuality debate arose.

"In Touch" with Charles Stanley, 7-8 p.m. Sundays, BET; 10-11 p.m. Fridays, WPCB.

"Everybody is influencing somebody either for good or for evil, to build up or to tear down," Stanley says. He preaches on how to be a godly influence, using the Book of Daniel as his text.

"The Baptist Hour," 7-7:30 a.m. Sundays, ODYS.

Frank Pollard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., preaches on the importance of the words we use. He cites Matthew 12, where Jesus says men will have to give an account on Judgment Day for their idle words.

Catholic shows

"Mother Angelica Live!" 10-11 p.m. Sundays, 2-3 a.m. nightly, 9-10 a.m. weekdays, 8-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5-6 p.m. Saturdays, EWTN.

The spirited elderly nun's show features guest Monsignor James C. Turro, a biblical studies scholar. He tackles such thorny questions as how we know the Bible is God's Word (because the church says so, he answers).

"The Journey Home," 1-2 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. Mondays, 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays, 1-2 a.m. Fridays and 11 p.m.-midnight Saturdays, EWTN.

Host Marcus Grodi's guest is Patrick Madrid, editor of the Catholic magazine Envoy. Madrid answers such questions as why the Catholic Catechism seems to suggest Muslims can be saved (Madrid answers that "if people are doing the best they can and are seeking Christ, they are eligible to go to heaven" whether they know the whole truth or not).

"The Teaching of Christ" with Bishop Donald Wuerl, 8-8:30 a.m. Sundays, KDKA.

Most of Wuerl's show features people who won the diocese's Manifesting the Kingdom Awards, given to about 200 people who exhibited exemplary service as Catholics.

Talk shows

"The 700 Club," noon-1 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. weekdays and 3-4 a.m. Saturdays, WPCB; 2-3 p.m. weekdays, WPGH; 10 a.m., 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., FOXFAM.

Pat Robertson's seminal show mixes a talk-show format with news. Segments discuss persecution of Christians in Africa, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Bush's faith-based initiatives and whether Al Gore is staging a political comeback. A woman, formerly a Muslim, offers her testimony of how a Christian neighbor shared the Gospel with her when she was suicidal, and Robertson leads viewers in the sinner's prayer afterwards.

"This Is Your Day" with Benny Hinn, 7-7:30 p.m. Sundays, 7-7:30 a.m. weekdays, 2:30-3 a.m. Wednesdays and 9-9:30 p.m. Fridays, WPCB; 6:30-7 a.m. weekdays, BET.

Guests Oral and Evelyn Roberts discuss how they've stayed married for 62 years and how Oral Roberts was "called into the healing ministry": He asked God to bring 1,000 people to his first healing service, to bring in a $160 offering and to heal someone so completely that the audience -- and Roberts -- would believe his ministry was genuine. Roberts says the three things happened, except there was an extra $3.03 in the offering plate.

Local programs

Cornerstone TeleVision produces some shows locally, including these two:

"Getting Together," 1-2 a.m., 1-2 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. weekdays, WPCB.

Representatives from three local Christian schools discuss the importance of Christian education and specifics about their schools.

"His Place," 9:30-10 p.m. and 12:30-1 a.m. weekdays, WPCB.

A talk show set in a diner, "His Place" cuts between conversations happening at a table, at the counter and between waiters. Guests are historian Jim Martin and Patty Weaver, founder/president of A Hand to Hold, a program that allows mothers anonymously to leave young babies at hospitals for adoption.

For complete listings of religious programming, check the TV Week magazine accompanying your Sunday Post-Gazette.

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