Weird -- I've just been writing a short piece for the Wall Street Journal's "Houses of Worship" column on the Gospel Music Channel (more on that article in a future post), which is (according to their publicity materials) the first 24-7 advertiser-supported cable channel devoted to "uplifting and inspiring Christian music." "Rock, Pop, Country, Soul. It's all Gospel," the station's slogan goes. Unlike any radio station I know, the GMC broadcasts artists as diverse as Ricky Skaggs, Jars of Clay, Yolanda Adams, and Kirk Franklin, as well as a variety of gospel rappers that I've never heard of.
The station's founder is Charley Humbard, son of Rex Humbard, who passed away yesterday just as I was in the midst of working on this piece. Rex Humbard pioneered televison evangelism, and eschewed politics as assiduously as electronic evangelists today gravitate towards it. One may contrast the life and work, for example, of the recently deceased James Kennedy (discussed below, scroll down), the theocrat, with Humbard, who said "I hate for politics to get into religion, and religion to get into politics."
As part of the publicity materials for the Gospel Music Channel, I got a wonderful stuffed icon I dubbed Thelonious the Gospel Lamb, complete with choir robe and cross. By pressing on his hoof, the fuzzy creature springs into action and song, with Kirk Franklin's voice shouting "put your hands together, let's have a Holy Ghost Party," as a gospel chorus backs him up and he waves his arms in spirit-filled style. Rex Humbard was painfully square, more Lawrence Welk than Jimmy Swaggart, but Elvis Presley was one of his biggest fans, so he couldn't have been too bad. I hope The King makes an appearance on the GMC as well, even if only during "classic gospel" broadcasts. And Thelonious is righteous!