Religious belief, according to Porterfield, embodies belief and brings belief to reality. The religious experience is an individual’s immediate concept of reality and involves feeling and often transformation of life experiences. Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Confucism, and Buddhist religions all include religious elements that include elements of culture, society and history. As part of incorporating religious beliefs into society and culture, each generation’s medium of communication has served to transmit religious beliefs. Television is perhaps the most ubiquitous example of spreading societal, cultural and religious beliefs across the globe by way of mass media. Televangelism is a concept that has developed from the melding of television and evangelistic efforts into media form and delivered to the public. Throughout the history of America, evangelism has spread through various charismatic movements, from the tent-revival to the television. Most recently, televangelism is the most prolific use of mass media in America to spread religious ideology. However, while televangelists espouse to be sending a message of conversion, their true motive rests in spreading the rhetoric of social morals and conservatism throughout society.
History of Televangelism
Religious groups began utilizing technological mass media with the proliferation of radio in the early 20th Century throughout American homes. From 1922 to 1925, religious programs became an important part of broadcast radio’s schedule with the proliferation of “regular church services, morning prayer programs and inspirational talks” . By the 1950’s, religious radio programming was at its height of popularity. The success of religious programs was due in part to an extremely successful economic model that included listener supported funding and on-air solicitation for funds. Hence, by the time television came into being, broadcasters recognized the profitability of religious programming and welcomed the transition of religion from radio to television.
In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, liquor and tobacco company’s were removed from television advertising and stations became open to selling time to religious broadcasters. Stations embraced mainstream protestant programs and rejected the fundamentalist organizations due to their more hostile reputation. However, as the 1980’s approached, revivalism and fundamentalism blossomed in religious broadcasting with the introduction of some of the most charismatic speakers to grace the production studios. Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts and Robert Schuller introduced a form of revivalism into televangelism that would serve to be the foundation of all future programming from then until today.
Television, Conservatism and Mass Communication