Masala McGospel: A case study of CBN's solutions programme in India
Edinburgh University Press
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Contemporary Arts
When arguing for the need for the church in India to be 'Indianised', veteran American missionary E. Stanley Jones drew a poignant analogy based on North Indian marriage custom.1 After the wedding ceremony, the women friends of the bride, surrounded by musicians, accompany her to the home of the bridegroom. They then usher the bride into the presence of the bridegroom, after which they quietly take leave. That is as far as they are allowed to go. 'That,' says Jones, 'is our joyous task in India – to know Jesus, to introduce him to India and then to retire … to trust India with Christ and trust Christ with India. We can go so far. He and India must go the rest of the way' (1925: 160). To what extent have these words, written in the 1920s, been taken seriously by succeeding bands of missionaries and mission agencies in India?
This study looks at a relatively new form of missionary activity in India, trans-border televangelism brought about by satellite technology. There are currently four 24-hour Christian networks that feature televangelists in India. This openness is remarkable in light of growing tensions between Hindu militant groups and Christian missionaries and the deeply negative accusations levelled at the church that conversion to Christianity is part of an 'international conspiracy' to divide India (Dalrymple 1999: 20). Ninety-ﬁve percent of all Indian televangelism programmes are based on the genre of 'straight preaching', that is, they are mainly 15–20 minute sermons recorded during Church services or crusades and edited for television broadcast. Ninety per cent of these programmes originate from overseas countries notably USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand, and 75% are produced in the English language (James and Shoesmith 2006). In secular TV, unlike Christian televangelism, almost 'all imported programmes – talk shows, cartoons, soap operas, game shows – are 'Indianised', which entails dubbing and local hosting' (Chatterjee 1998). Whilst several Western televangelists have started dubbing their programmes, only 5% of televangelism programmes are reformatted especially for the Indian audience (James and Shoesmith 2006).