RELIGIOUS TELEVISION SHOWS
One of the most overlooked genres of television history is televangelism, led by the incredibly influential crop of dynamic Reverends, Pastors, and Priests who brought the Word of God into millions of living rooms each day. Names like George Vandeman, Rex Humbard, and Fulton Sheen have mostly retreated into the annals of trivia and hazy nostalgia. Yet the reach and impact of these controversial figureheads is worth a far deeper critical examination. Did you know, for example, that Rex Humbard constructed a massive, International Style megachurch outside of Akron? For more on this massive construction and other stories and clips related to the religious television industry, scroll and click on...
If you have any religious memorabilia, tapes, historical information, or theories about televangelism, we need as much help as we can get in building the history of this fascinating movement that has so intensely influenced the current state of American culture and politics.
George Edward Vandeman
Click: Learn more about George E Vandeman
In the mid-1950s Vandeman started work on a series of television programs called "It Is Written", which he planned to air for several weeks in an area as a warmup to an evangelistic program. In spring 1956, It Is Written launched its first telecast in black and white—a full-message, Bible study telecast in Washington, D.C. The program later became one of the first religious television programs to air in color. The program's title was based on the Bible verse Matthew 4:4, "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
Vandeman ran the first It Is Written campaign in Fresno, California in 1958, and later in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia and other cities. The telecast was launched to all of California in 1962, and this effort was followed by a month-long series at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. By the mid-1960s it was being broadcast internationally on a weekly basis.
Bishop Fulton Sheen Life Is Worth Living Dumont
Hosted by Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen, the series consisted of Sheen speaking to the camera and discussing moral issues of the day, often using blackboard drawings and lists to help explain the topic.
When the blackboard was filled he would move to another part of the set, and request one of his "angels" (one of the TV crew) to clean the blackboard.
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In 1952, DuMont was searching for programming ideas and tried a rotating series of religious programs hosted by a Protestant minister, a Jewish rabbi, or a Catholic bishop. While the other shows did not catch on, the bishop (Sheen) was a hit, found a sponsor in Admiral television sets, and became DuMont's only Emmy Award winner during its decade of broadcasting. Life Is Worth Living held the distinction of being aired on more stations (169) than any other regularly scheduled DuMont program, and is believed to have been the most widely viewed religious series in the history of television.
Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard
I have over forty 16mm B&W and Color Cathedral of Tomorrow episodes needing to be restored.
Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard was born on August 13, 1919, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Pentecostal evangelists. He began attending church revivals all across the country and began to know God as a little boy, while withstanding the order from his father in learning how to play guitar while in church.
Humbard was also the first evangelist to have a weekly nationwide television program in the United States, running from 1952 to 1983, although his first television broadcast was in 1949. Humbard's $4 million Cathedral of Tomorrow church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a suburb of nearby Akron, was built in 1958 specifically to accommodate television equipment, crew and chorus, as well as seating for 5,400 people.
He was termed one of the "Top 25 Principal Architects of the American Century" by U.S. News & World Report on December 27, 1999.
REX HUMBARD--Volume One (approx 60 min)
Evangelist Rex Humbard from the 1970's, speaking on the return of Jesus and the coming apocalypse, the end of the era of Holy Ghost dispensation, and the increasing incidence of earthquakes, famine, and pestilence as evidence that the End Times are coming sooner rather than later. "Man's days are short, but eternity is forever, and ever, and ever," Humbard declares, supported by the singers of the Cathedral of Tomorrow near Akron, Ohio, and songs like "Jesus Is Coming, and He's Coming Soon" and "When It All Starts Happenin' I Want To Be There."