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The "Hour of Power" is Running Out of Time

Due to the escalating costs of television broadcasting, competition from "info-mercials," and continuing repercussions from the televangelist scandals of recent years, Robert Schuller's nationally syndicated "Hour of Power" program has hit some hard times as of late. The situation is so dire that Schuller reportedly told the Orange County Register that he will shut down the "Hour of Power" in all or some of the 179 U.S. broadcast markets unless viewers donate $3.2 million to cover the debt of the program.

Despite the fact that Schuller's empire consists of the $20 million Crystal Cathedral, a $23 million Family Life Center, and untold millions in prime real estate holdings, Schuller refuses to sell off assets to help defray the programming costs of the "Hour of Power." "We could sell a chunk," Schuller noted, "but that would be like the government subsidizing something that should be paid for by the private sector."

Before we jump on the no-government-subsidy bandwagon inherent in Schuller's analogy, consider the following blip in Schuller's reasoning: while "Hour of Power" viewers contributed $17 million of the $20 million needed to build the Crystal Cathedral (and another $14.7 million to Schuller's local congregation), Schuller now refuses to sell off some of his empire's viewer-funded assets in order to assist the "Hour of Power" in its time of need.

On his own analogy, who subsidizes whom? Didn't the "private sector" already contribute its fair share? Predictably, Schuller now touts that good business dictates that he not co-mingle funds. In essence, what Schuller's position reduces to is the following: as long as benefits continued to flow in, it was good business to co-mingle, but now that benefits need to flow out, its good business not to co-mingle.

True, Schuller may not resort to sensationalistic antics such as climbing to the top of a tower and refusing to come down. And he may not implore people to put their hand on the television so they can "feel the warmth of the Lord." But like such faith healers, he has told people what they wanted to hear, tickling their ears and pandering to their man-centered worldview.

Perhaps his present difficulties are due at least in part to the fact that his theology -- or rather anthropology -- has left viewers spiritually malnourished. And maybe, just maybe, after a steady diet of this pap, his viewers are beginning to discover that they could find the same nutritional value in Psychology Today, albeit without the baptized vocabulary. After all, at least Psychology Today doesn't ask for donations.

DGH


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