CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 1, 2023 – Why are televangelists so sleazy and Christian movies so cheesy?

This should be a great mystery, but it isn’t really.

The Gospel message needs to be relayed in spirit and in truth. That means, only people who truly believe the Gospel message can relay it without the cheese factor, as it’s not the people doing the relaying, it’s God’s Spirit working through their willing and submissive heart. So no matter how good an actor you are, if you’re not a genuine believer who is genuinely born-again, and if you’re not speaking as the Spirit moves you in real time, you’re going to fail in the sincerity factor. That’s a guarantee and it explains why televangelists are always sleazy and Christian movies are always cheesy.

Remember how people listening to Jesus were in awe at how he spoke with such authority? The people were overwhelmed by the force of his words, since they were used to the lacklustre delivery of the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes. Their delivery was lacklustre and lacked authority because they didn’t really believe what they were preaching. They just dialed it in and collected their paycheck, the same way as televangelists don’t really believe what they’re preaching and actors in Christian movies don’t really believe what they’re portraying. It’s all just words to them, not the Word.

Years ago, when I was atheist, I played Mary Magdalene in the musical Godspell. The guy who played Jesus was also an atheist (he’s a preacher now). Godspell is based on Matthew’s Gospel, but it takes generous liberties with scripture. To me, at the time, it was all just words that had to be memorized and spoken on cue. It was a script, like any other script. Nothing special.

Did our performance have the cheese factor? You betcha! But Godspell was meant to be cheesy. I mean, the Jesus character is written as a clown. Everything is over-the-top and tongue-in-cheek. The innate cheesiness of the musical served to hide the normal cheesiness of a Christian performance. It was double-cheesy, which made it almost palatable. Also, no-one in our cast was pretending to be a Christian. We were all just pretending to be goofy clownlike characters. That’s how the play was written.

I hate to knock Christian movies because I know that, in most cases, the people who make them and the people who act in them have a sincere desire to spread God’s Word. You can’t fault them for that, I guess. They mean well. But you know what they say about good intentions….

Our God is a living God. His Word is as alive as he is. Remember how Jesus says that when we’re hauled before a judge, we shouldn’t plan our defence in advance? He says we should let God’s Holy Spirit speak through us when the time comes for us to speak. I think that whenever we preach or teach the Word, the same principle applies. We can read scripture aloud any time because it has God’s seal of approval, but reciting some other kind of script, even if it’s based on God’s Word, is not going to have the same impact as the Word spoken by genuine believers who are letting God’s Spirit speak through them in real time.

This is how you avoid the sleaze and the cheese factor – by letting God and Jesus do the talking through you, by God’s Spirit. But televangelists and Christian movie actors fail right out of the gate in that regard, because they push God and Jesus out of the way and hog the stage. Essentially all they’re doing is reading a script. And no matter how clever or well-written the script is, if God and Jesus aren’t speaking through the actors in real time, it won’t have any authority.

Jesus was accused of being a lot of things during his ministry years, but he was never accused of being sleazy or cheesy. Blasphemous, yes, radical, of course, an outlaw, you betcha, but never a phony. People were drawn to him because of the power and authority of his words. Even those who hated him had to grudgingly concede he was sincere in his beliefs.

If televangelists and Christian movies are not delivering the same level of sincerity as Jesus, they’re doing the Kingdom a disservice. It would be better if they didn’t say anything at all and simply disappeared off the stage. Their only saving grace is that God may be able to use them in some way for his purposes, but they’ll still be held responsible for their lukewarm delivery or bald-faced hypocrisy.

When you take on the responsibility of speaking on God’s behalf, you’d better be sure that God sent you and that God’s Holy Spirit is informing you. Otherwise, it’s best to stay silent.

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