Of all of the Easter traditions on television, I hope a new one was born this past weekend. Easter came to network television, and I hope it continues for years to come.
On just about every weekend since the 60’s, ABC has shown Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments.” AMC, TMC, and other movie channels often show classics such as 1948’s “Easter Parade” with Judy Garland. News channels always show clips of the Pope’s Easter message.
But this past weekend, Fox News did something that’s never happened before, and they repeated it six times. They showed an Easter church service, in this case from Saddleback Community Church.
Pastor Rick Warren gave the Easter message, in between musical excerpts and commercials. Fox News’ Lauren Greene also interviewed him. It was not a sponsored show–such as “Hour of Power” or “Joel Osteen.” It was a Fox News Presentation.
Now I may have just lost some of you because I mentioned Fox News and a TV Preacher in the same paragraph! But this isn’t your typical Fox News program, nor is it your typical television preacher.
Rev. Warren–who also gave the hotly debated Invocation at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration–neither looked nor sounded like the kind of televangelists that have shaped public opinion about religion on television. He wore an un-pressed shirt than hung out casually over his jeans. He stuttered a few times. He was hardly polished, nor was the congregation (including those in the choir). They looked like neighbors. The church which started in 1980 with 203 people, now has about 22,000 weekend attendees, not including the various extended campuses and the internet campus. 2400 people became members last month.
Rev. Warren’s Easter message was simple. He pointed out that television shows like “Lost” are hard to watch if you join in the middle of the story, and said the Easter story is the same. He thus shared the full context of the Easter story in five simple sentences. God created it all. Adam messed it up. Jesus came to restore. God gives us a choice. And Heaven awaits those who follow Christ.
George Stephanopoulos’s “This Week” had invited Rev. Warren onto its Easter show to discuss his views on the California gay rights amendment, but he had to cancel due to illness and fatigue with four services down and four still to go. Many media outlets see his political stands or his reasons for not appearing as the big stories of the weekend. That’s where they get it wrong.
On this year’s Easter weekend, Fox News got it right. They had an Easter message playing several times. It is the biggest news of the weekend, every year. And it should be. Perhaps more networks will take note for next year. If Fox News and Rick Warren don’t represent your views, perhaps CNN or CNBC would feature a different speaker from a different part of the country. Call ‘em and request it. We’re a spiritual country and it is news when we consider what we believe and celebrate it.