Orlando, Evangelicals and the TV Culture (1994)

An essay that no one wanted to publish

DATE: 8/1/94
FROM: Prof. Terry Mattingly 
TO: Christianity Today
RE: Orlando and the role of television

This is a short test for evangelicals.Name three American cities that are known as centers for:

  1. Cultural liberalism.
  2. The news and entertainment media.
  3. Evangelical Christianity.

Whenever this test is used, two cities always top the list on question No. 1 -- New York City and Los Angeles. A number of cities compete for third, with Washington, D.C., and San Francisco usually strong contenders. On question No. 2, New York City and Los Angeles, or Hollywood, win again. In fact, many people cannot think of a third powerful media center. Some will name Washington, D.C.

On question No. 3, most people name Wheaton, Ill., and Colorado Springs, Co. Picking a third place finisher is a challenge and answers are often based on denominational ties. Some say Grand Rapids, Mich. Others will say Cincinatti, or Dallas, or Tulsa, Okla. Many will nominate Orlando, Fla.

People use this test to illustrate why evangelicals have so little impact in secular media, and why cultural liberals have so much power. Clearly, when it comes to creating the media signals that shape our society, evangelicals live in the wrong zip codes.

Doing that Episcopal Sex Thang (1994 - Present)

God, Sex, Soap, Other gods, Agnostics and the Fall of the Church  

WASHINGTON BUREAU: Terry Mattingly's religion column for 6/01/94.

It's hard to discuss what the Bible says about sex without mentioning marriage.

Nevertheless, the Episcopal House of Bishops is studying eight guidelines for sexual morality that call for lifelong relationships between "mature adults'' without making a single reference to marriages between husbands and wives. This latest modernized sex creed also embraces same-sex unions.

The guidelines wrap up the fourth draft of a text that is as ambitious and convoluted as its title, "Continuing the Dialogue: A Pastoral Teaching of the House of Bishops to the Church as it Considers Issues of Human Sexuality.'' The document will be revised again before it is aired at the Episcopal Church's 71st General Convention, which will meet Aug. 24-Sept. 2 in Indianapolis.

The sixth guideline proclaims: "We believe sexual relationships reach their fullest potential as healthy relationships and minimize their capacity for ill when in the context of chaste, faithful, and committed lifelong union between mature adults. We believe that this is as true for homosexual as for heterosexual relationships and that such relationships need and should receive the pastoral care of the Church.''

The complete 42-page text has not been officially released, but many of its critics and defenders are circulating detailed commentaries that dissect the early drafts. It is impossible to keep church debates behind closed doors in the age of photocopy and fax machines, not to mention electronic mail.

Why Journalists Love the Episcopal Church (1994)

Sex, Politics, Vestments, Urban Addresses -- We've Got It All!  

People phrase the question in many different ways.

Some do not mince words. "Why in the world,'' they say, "does the Episcopal Church get so much media coverage?''

In major media, the nation's 2 million or so Episcopalians often receive just as much, and sometimes much more, attention than the members of major denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church or the Assemblies of God.

I've heard a few leaders of other churches and religious groups ask variations on this question with a slightly anxious, or even jealous, sound in their voices. What they are really asking is this: Why doesn't my church get as much press coverage as those Episcopalians?

With good reason, many Episcopalians are amused by this question. It is difficult to conceive of a reason why any sane religious leader would welcome the media attention that is given, year after year, to the Episcopal Church. Who would covet someone else's root canal?

Thus, when many Episcopalians ask about the waves of coverage that the media give their church, the question that they are actually asking is: Why are the secular media always picking on us?

I will propose several answers for this question.

The Theological Impact of Microphones (1994)

People Just Don't Shout About Heaven and Hell Anymore  

The images of the old-fashioned pulpit pounders are remarkably vivid, even though they seem locked in the past. Everyone knows that preachers used to wave their Bibles and shout. But does anyone remember what they used to shout about?

It's easy to say that they shouted about everything. But there is truth in the old stereotype that preachers tended to work up a sweat and shout when they were talking about sin, damnation, hell, judgment and the wrath of a holy God. After talking about these hot subjects, it wasn't surprising that preachers also tended to get excited about mercy of God and the glories of heaven.

If a preacher shouted ``Sinner!'', it helped to end the sermon by shouting ``Saved!''

Today, preachers rarely shout. Also, many commentators in recent decades have noted that preachers don't seem to preach as much as they used to about sin and judgment. This, in turn, may have softened the church's messages about salvation. How long has it been since you heard a good sermon on hell, or heaven?

I've been thinking about high-volume preaching ever since I spent a few days at Gordon-Conwell Seminary with Dr. Haddon Robinson, the author of the classic ``Biblical Preaching.'' It's hard to talk to Robinson without being challenged to probe the act, and the art, of preaching. He has trained hundreds of preachers while teaching in Dallas, Denver and now in New England.

Today, most preachers use a friendly, conversational tone, said Robinson. They also tell gentle, humorous stories.

This raises an obvious question: Why?