- For the Love of Money? Distributing the Go$pel beyond the United States
Click for larger view
View full resolution
[End Page 609]
“Where your treasure is, there too is your heart,” Rev. Al Miller, a popular preacher and local televangelist, warned his congregation early one Sunday morning, as they sat in their large, worn sanctuary in the heart of Half-Way Tree, one of the centers of urban life in Kingston, Jamaica. “Take out a piece of paper and on one side make a list of where you spend most of your time and money.” Moments later, under the smirks and smiles of his congregation, he then had them make a second list indicating the things they “loved” the most. As congregants jotted down their two lists, Miller explained emphatically, “The scripture does not say, ‘where your heart is, there too is your treasure.’ No, no, no, it says, where your treasure is, there too is your heart.” Theoretically, the two lists should align, the things we say we “love” should reflect the things that consume our time and money and vice versa, but too often they don’t. “Your heart,” he insisted, “follows your treasure.” Investments build loyalty. Your heart will grow to love the things on which you spend your time, talent, and resources. Rev. Miller’s challenge to his congregation seemed to resemble the critique he rendered of Jamaica. Constantly battling the dwindling sense of safety and community life in Kingston, Rev. Miller challenged his congregation to reorder their priorities—to establish God, family, and community as their primary concerns—over and against, he implied, quests for money and power.
Earlier that year he called together politicians, pastors, and lay people in one of Kingston’s largest arenas to discuss the ongoing social and political crisis facing the country. His concern was for Jamaicans and he wanted them to know that their treasures needed to be in line with their professed values of love for family and country. Over the course of my ethnographic fieldwork, I’d talked with him and heard him preach on several occasions about the challenges facing the nation. Interestingly, in order to summon support for advancing the work ahead, he called in international televangelists to help Jamaicans understand how their faith should operate in the world. Over the course of two years, he flew in pastors like Pastor Sundae Adelaja of the Ukraine, Bishop Miles Monroe of the Caribbean, and Bishop T. D. Jakes from the United States.
In many ways the presence of Adelaja, Monroe, and Jakes speaks to the growing sense of religious globalization and the fluid boundaries emerging between religious communities across the globe. Much of this cross-fertilization, while taking place in the context of large conferences and Mega meetings, happens much more surreptitiously through the power of religious broadcasting. Over the last forty years religious broadcasting has grown exponentially across the United States, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia with TBN, the world’s leading religious broadcaster, reaching into nearly ninety-million homes in the United States alone. The expansion of religious networks, however, is often [End Page 610] talked about in terms of the major religious producers—those televangelists like T. D. Jakes who magnetically capture the public imagination. Less so, do scholars attend to the consumers of religious broadcasting and seemingly even less so the distributors, the large conglomerates that shape and export the messages from one locale to another.
In this paper, I wrestle with the power of religious globalization as it relates to the expansion of American media markets in Jamaica. By looking at the influence of United States-based, market driven models of religious broadcasting on local religious distributors like Mercy and Truth Ministries and Love TV in Jamaica, this paper teases out the ways in which market logics intersect and at times undermine altruistic claims to the work of ministry. In these instances the kind of love—absent preoccupations with money and power—that Rev. Miller spoke of is often usurped by the very real costs of ministry. Religious broadcasting has taken the gospel, which many evangelical Christians consider “the Greatest...