|Pardon Me, But Is There Something Missing?
by Dennis Daily
August 5, 2007
Category: Christian Living
|ECENTLY I HAVE discovered the do-it-yourself video Web site www.youtube.com. Even though, like much of the Internet, there is a lot of junk there, I found that many substantial and even religious things ARE available on the site, amid the bad home videos and thinly disguised sex clips.
I have long been a devotee of Handel's "Messiah." "I wonder if it's in there," I thought. Voilà! There were tons of audio/video clips of groups and soloists, professional and rotten, performing many of the better-known sections of the work. I even found a bass-baritone doing one of the arias in Japanese.
Next I typed "Ten Commandments" into the search line. If found a torrent of clips from both the 1923 and the 1956 versions of the movie (both directed by Cecil B. DeMille). By the way, the "parting of the waters" in the 1923 version is amazing, considering special effects of the time.
Then I put in "Ben-Hur," and both the 1925 and the1959 movies appeared on www.youtube.com. The chariot race scenes from both versions were there. I was amazed at the amount of clips from those two classic movies that were available on the site.
For some odd reason, the name "Tennessee Ernie Ford" came into my mind. Certainly someone must have downloaded something done by one of my favorite singers. I found dozens of clips. As I began watching clips from his old television program I consistently saw something you seldom if ever see on modern-day variety shows. And the fact this element is missing today can be attributed to two things: First, except for "American Idol," are there really any "variety" shows left, featuring different types of song genres? Second, America has become such a secular "don't offend anyone's religion" type of society, what is missing would hardly be permitted today.
What I saw all over the place in the Ernie Ford television show clips was ... religious music ... Hymns, both formal and "down-home." And it wasn't just the Ford show. Going to a show that I thought would be highly secular for its time, I checked out Judy Garland's TV show. There she was, singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" just days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
As a matter of fact, in the weeks following the Kennedy assassination there was a lot of religious music on all kinds of shows.
Of course, shows that were always considered to be "rural," such as "Hee-Haw" and others, always had a hymn, usually at the end. All of the major network-level country music shows of their era, from the pioneering show of Red Foley to others, had a weekly hymn segment ... sometimes more than one. Even the "secular" long-running "Lawrence Welk Show" was never afraid to feature a hymn, either sung or as an instrumental.
I just wonder what the last major American TV show to have a hymn sung or played WITHOUT apology was and when.
I remember the late cartoonist Charles Shultz telling me once that he had a difficult time getting the original Charlie Brown Christmas special on the air. "Everyone thought its message was TOO Christmas-like," he told me. "TOO Christmas-like! It's a CHRISTMAS special," he continued. Well, CBS finally decided to air the show ... and the rest is history. I can still hear in my mind the line from that special: "Isn't there anyone here who knows what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?"
If the early days of TV were filled with shows not afraid to express religious beliefs, then the Golden Days of radio were even more message - and religion -filled. Even into the 1960s, shows such as "The Great Gildersleeve" openly explained the faith of the characters. There is one great Easter-time episode of Gildersleeve in which "Gildy" holds a meeting to explain the meaning of Easter to his skeptical nephew, Leroy. He invites the family minister to come help tell the story. Actor Willard Waterman, in his deep Gildersleeve voice, does a touching job of talking about Jesus's death and resurrection. Then the family's maid, Birdie, played on radio by Lillian Randolph, sings a hymn. There is no additional sponsor mention at the end, no unnecessary talk, just Waterman wishing the audience a "Happy Easter" and an announcer saying, "This is the NBC Radio Network."
The great shows of television were never a total pulpit. It was mostly the shows whose main characters were perceived as righteous and family-oriented that were allowed time to present the gospel. Shows such as those hosted by Roy Rogers were not timid about mentioning some religious theme. Many of our favorite children's shows, from "Howdy Doody" through "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," were never shy of messages about ethics, even if no particular religion was mentioned.
But, try to hear a hymn or religious message on television today. You'll likely have go to one of the nostalgia channels and seek out an old episode of "Little House on the Prairie" or a latter day episode of "Touched by an Angel."
We live in a secular society where religion is still seen as an important fact of life. It's just that the media is afraid to mention any denomination or sect for fear of implied endorsement. Because of this, broadcasting has become devoid of nearly any religious mention, at least on its major channels.
© 2007 ASSIST News Service, used with permission.
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