Rex Humbard, Elvis, and Thelonious the Gospel Lamb

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!


Phil said…
Paul's post brings to mind a topic I've been thinking about for a few years now--the children of prominent American evangelicals who follow (similar and different) "ministry paths" of their fathers/mothers/parents.

One might travel to the eighteenth century to study Jonathan Edwards and JE, Jr., or more recently Franklin Graham, Robert Schuller, Jay Bakker, Donnie Swaggart, Anne Graham Lotz, and many, many others. From my cursory glances, it seems that the "kids" rarely move out of the "ministry shadow" of their parents to achieve more noterity.

One exception here may be Joel Osteen, who seems to have outshined his father John tremendously. Perhaps it's a more affable message to a wider audience, a keen marketing team, a healthy business acumen, and access to more technology.

Any thoughts on this one?
John Fea said…
Phil: This would make a really interesting study. Jonathan Falwell (Jerry), Dexter and MLK III (MLK Jr.), Gilbert Tennent (William), C.T. McIntire (Carl), Bob Jones Jr. and III (Bob Sr.) and the Beecher children (Lyman) also come to mind and I am sure that readers can come up with a lot more.
Anonymous said…
I think, generally speaking, that those of us who were not born to prominent parents are better off for it. The shadow can be crushing. The thought, btw, of Dexter King as an heir to his father's prophetic legacy is just hilarious. He is heir to certain dimensions of his father's legacy, but it sure wouldn't be that one.
Tim Lacy said…
If they work Johnny and June Carter Cash into the lineup, I might become a Gospel Music Chanel enthusiast. The problem right now, however, is that we don't even have a cable TV subscription. - TL

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