NOTES from McLaren and Smith in Giroux, H, Simon, R et al (eds) (1989) Popular Culture, Schooling and Every day Life, Mass: Bergin and Garvey Publishers Ltd
Televangelism can be seen as having the characteristics of an educational apparatus. It could be analysed using Bernstein's notion of pedagogic discourse leading to a focus on acquisition, evaluation and transmission of knowledge (148). For Frow, pedagogic discourse is based on a set of principles for embedding and relating other discourses, delocating and relocating them.
The New Christian Right has emerged as a force in the USA [there is a brief history 150 f], and it is best located among social marginals with strong negative views of society and of social change, based especially on reactions to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, economic decline, social instability and an apparent threat to personal morality. Thus religious structures are only quasi-autonomous. Christians became a major structuring agent following their link to New Right politicians generally, and their connection with traditional US values. They also have pre-millennial elements. McLaren and Smith argue that they share the same terrain as the New Left, but have been much more successful (155).
They see themselves as having to nominate a political agenda, colonise the moral void left by liberalism and pluralism (156). They face contradictions, however, including their inability to grasp the real reasons for poverty. The potential broad appeal is clearly limited by their 'political demonology' (157). However , they have contributed to American popular culture by appearing as the people's religion, attempting to link their doctrines with informal knowledge. They operate with a classic restricted code and a limited range of signifieds.
They attempt to represent the audience to itself. There are several complex articulations with the audience as well. They feature a great deal of viewer participation, for example, offering a series of feedback loops and enabling them to develop 'parapersonal communication' (161). They offer a rhetoric of miracles as mundane rather than exceptional -- 'contingency miracles' (162).
However, the main pleasure for the viewer arises from being offered easy bimodal choices, such as those between good and evil, and narratives to solve the complexities of the world. Jimmy Swaggert, for example, appeared as a 'prime knower', apparently unifying the subjectivity of others, and appearing as a heroic ordinary person (164) [ he knows our doubts and confusiosn, he shares them, he has been there, he is only an ordinary man who is as confused as the rest of us -- but he can offer a way out -- through evangelism which has worked for him] . Apparently, he knowingly deployed a number of movie cliches of the charismatic preacher.
Affect was crucial, leading to a whole affective structure for televangelism -- condemnation of the other, sameness, the emotional intensity of being saved. The rhetoric tended to move between extreme highs and lows. The offer was for unified subjectivity for the common man, based on common sense, but also appearing to be theologically authoritative. Viewers were to bring their own concerns and ideologies.