One of the great jokes of Jerry Falwell's career was that the TV program that made his name was called The Old Time Gospel Hour. Was there really anything old-time about that show? Television itself was young when the series debuted, and even the radio preachers had been around for only a few decades; the idea that you might get some or all of your weekly dose of the Lord from an electric picture-box was a fairly radical idea. To many old-time devotees of the gospel, TV itself was a suspicious export from the secular world, best kept outside the home. As far as they were concerned, the revelation would not be televised.
Not so for Falwell, who died May 15 at age 73. He and his fellow televangelists overturned those old assumptions, and in the process radically transformed American media, American politics, and American religion. Like so many alleged reactionaries, they actually functioned as fierce modernizers, turning isolated, apolitical, denominationally diverse religious communities into a national and increasingly ecumenical political movement. Like earlier generations of conservative Christians, Falwell's audience was alienated from the modern world, especially the government and the mass media. Unlike those earlier generations, Falwell's audience dealt with this alienation by plunging headfirst into the modern world, including the government and the mass media.
And there's more! Abbie Hoffman has a cameo, as do William Jennings Bryan, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and the FCC. Enjoy.