By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Have I been a good person? I enter with eyes closed. The four other visitors rush in. I hear a voice. Again, it’s the techno-angel. She says: ”Good afternoon. I hope you enjoyed your journey through the streets of Jerusalem. You are about to see The Revolutionary, which was shot in high-definition video, and the sound is being presented in this theater over 48 speakers. These two technologies combined create your virtual-reality experience of Jesus‘ life.“ Another movie theater -- always heaven on Earth.
Three other movies are offered at varying times: Revolutionary II (further adventures of Jesus), The Emissary (highlights of apostle Paul’s scenes from the Book of Acts) and The Omega Code. The last, produced by Paul Crouch Jr., opened in commercial theaters last year. It is based on the belief that the Bible contains a secret, three-dimensional code that holds answers to the world‘s problematic state of affairs, apparently indicated in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. We can only now decode it with our powerful computers -- again, a perfect example of the Digital Spirit. All are unabashed action movies, titillating the supposedly bored with special effects. I’m sure the Crouches are at work on Jesus Bond, who will always be battling the villain who wants to control the world, Satan. By now Q must have developed a remote-control crown of thorns that explodes on impact. Tie-in action figures could be sold in the GF&M gift shop.
I separate from my tourmates and search for the heart of the complex -- the TV studio in the Demos Shakarian Memorial Building. I climb a gilded spiral staircase to the second floor and find my way, though I am first confronted with California Penal Code Section 302a, prominently displayed at the entrance. It is a reminder to the Sunday telecongregation that this is live television, seen around the world by millions, and that disturbing religious worship by ”profane discourse“ and other rude behavior is a misdemeanor. In other words, TBN is not a community church for a few hundred people.
No one else is present in the studio. Several cameras rest on listless cranes and tripods, pointing toward the stage. The Crouches emphasize in their literature that TBN was built as a working studio, and one through which people can take self-guided behind-the-scenes tours. Is this transparency meant to reinforce the idea that anyone can have a direct relationship with God, whether one owns a TV network or not? A very Protestant notion, despite the very Catholic decor of gold, cherubs and other idolatrous stereotypes of ”beauty“ throughout the building.
The Crouches‘ tissue box sits on a gilded coffee table, center stage. I am drawn to it because it is the most mundane of all the props, as if it were the Holy Grail hiding itself, waiting for the truly faithful to see through its layers of tarnish and recognize it as the chalice from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. I take a tissue. I want to have a good cry, but I can’t and won‘t. The Holy Beamers are dark. There is no TV audience, lying in bed, to view my tears.