A rather interesting rift in the televangelism community has developed over the past week or so. TBN, the Santa Ana, California-based religious network, founded by Paul and Jan Crouch, has dumped several long-running programs, apparently because they portray Muslims in an "unfavorable" light.
Among the shows axed is Hal Lindsey's "International Intelligence Briefing," which aired twice weekly on the network. TBN originally placed the show on hiatus in early December, in favor of "seasonal" programming, then announced that the program would no longer air, because the program "placed Arabs in a negative light." Programs featuring evangelists Jack Van Impe and John Hagee were reportedly cancelled for similar reasons.
A TBN lawyer claims that Lindsey's programs on radical Islam were hurting evangelism efforts in the Middle East, where the network operates several television stations. Lindsey charges that the network tried to censor his commentary, requiring him to submit his scripts for approval in advance.
Who's right? You might say both sides are. TBN is a viewer-supported network, and as long as the Crouch family runs the show, they can call the shots and decide what goes out over the airwaves. I also understand that Muslim-bashing programs may undermine network-sponsored evangelistic efforts in a very volatile region. But as a Christian, I also believe they are making a mistake by refusing to air programs that expose the real threat of radical Islam. TBN's decision to only portray Muslims in a more "positive" light sounds vaguely reminiscent of the politically-correct MSM, which labels terrorists as "insurgents" and shows only sanitized images of the 9-11 attacks.
I've got problems with Mr. Lindsey, too. Much of his "analysis" is little more than sensationalism. Check out his recent article on Iran; his central premise is correct, Iran probably is the most dangerous nation on earth, but some of his assessments on the Iranian missile program are flat-out wrong, hyping threats that really don't exist (at least for now). Of course, Hal has been successfully marketing doomsday scenarios for years; his best-known book, "The Late, Great Planet Earth" has sold more than 32 million copies worldwide since 1972.
But Lindsey is spot-on in recognizing the threat radical Islam poses to both the west and Christianity. For that reason alone, I believe he deserves a spot on TBN, which is the world's most-watched Christian network. Unfortunately, his perspective on that threat is no longer welcome on the network. I suppose this "kinder, gentler" TBN is the broadcast equivalent of Christ's admonition to "turn the other cheek." But Jesus also recognized--and condemned--evil in his time. It would be nice if TBN had the same courage in their convictions.