Despite portraying some heartfelt ministry among a popular cast of Los Angeles preachers, the show is riddled with problems. One issue in particular is with the preoccupation of a commercialization of Christianity and marketability of the personal/private life. Ours is a society that is so drawn to viewing the lives of others that oft times one's very own life is lived out in neglect. This type of all-consuming interest in other's has become even more concerning in light of our hyper-technological age, where we are plugged-in, tuned-up, and turned-on 24-7. We can't seem to wait for our favorite television programs to air from week to week without taking to the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, talk shows or other social media outlets to get an even more in-depth (and sometimes salacious) scoop.
Like other reality programing, "The Preachers of L.A." has generated a buzz among a new target group of watchers, sending even ordinary Church goers to forms of social media they would otherwise not log-on to. Similar to most reality television programing, this new show depicts personal lives which are played out before millions weekly. Essentially, both the recorded subjects and the viewing audience are targets of a not so healthy appetite of marketplace consumerism.
Even while trying to "Keep Up With the Kardashians," we, the viewing audience, are publicly witnessing parental relationships fall apart and unhealthy sibling rivalry; this same thing happened, even spilling over into the tabloids, talk shows, and social media, of the principal players of the show, "Jon and Kate Plus 8." The breakdown of families and predominant dysfunction of personal relationships seem to be the underlying theme and tone of most reality television, and serves as the underbelly behind shows like "The Housewives of Atlanta," "The Housewives of New Jersey," The Housewives of Beverly Hills," "Love and Hip-Hop in Atlanta," "Basketball Wives," "Married to Medicine," and the list goes on.
Another problematic issue related to "The Preachers of L.A," is that whereas narrative and scripted television is meant to depict reality, or, in other cases, promote a kind of fairy tale encounter - a kind of Disneyland, fantasy-enchantment moment, these reality shows depict a type of reality while at the same time affording audiences a way of escaping (as if on a drug) from their own reality. As such, we (the viewing audience) are able to live vicariously through the characters we perpetually watch.
This reality is not to be confused with television documentaries, which depict reality circumstances as a way of conveying a precise idea; examples of this type of programing can be seen in the "Scared Straight Series", "Supersize Me", and other shows.
Reality shows are a mix bag - a type of reality that is staged in such a way as to sensationalize or largely glorify key personalities. The staging of these shows is also meant to create an over-the-top dramatic experience mixed with a hint of 'the scandalous.' All of this makes for good television. The big question becomes, is this the kind of context from which "The Preachers of L.A.," want to publicly portray their own personal lives, and Christian ministry? The follow up question then becomes, if their ministries and personal lives are conducive to public portrayal in a realty show context, then in what way does this really convey the way they (and by extension us) understand and portray ministry, Christianity and the message of Christ? Is it a kind of super-sensationalized reality that makes for good drama with a hint of the scandalous? Is this the subliminal message that "The Preachers of L.A." is sending viewing audiences? Like most reality television, "The Preachers of L.A." certainly is depicted this way.
For "The Preachers of L.A.", a nationwide viewing audience has become its congregation in the same way audiences view a Tyler Perry movie.
Overall, outside of the bizarre justification of a minister needing an entourage to do effective ministry (this same personality also owns a 7 million dollar home), the show depicts the all-male preacher cast as human and imperfect. Although this reality is merely an ancillary focus on the part of the show's executives, it is not quite clear what the show is meant to fully depict, teach or promote. There is much self-glorifying as well as a kind of dismissive attitude with regard to marital- extra- marital relationships and over excessive bling; perhaps the two go hand in hand under the banner and theological matrix of prosperity Gospel.
Only in our current post-Christian and iconoclastic society could one of the show's cast members, Detrieck Haddon, serve as a pastor who has impregnated his current girlfriend while at the time still being married to his wife. Although now fully divorced from his first wife, on the show (at least up to this point) Haddon is now a devoted baby-daddy and fiancé to his girlfriend. Again, the purpose and overall message of the show remains unclear. Perhaps it's merely the Gospel According to Entertainment!
[Jamal-Dominique Hopkins (Ph.D., University of Manchester, U.K.) is Executive Director of the non-profit Christian think-tank, the Institute for Advanced African American Christian Thought (IAAACT). He is the author of Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts and Reflections on Life, Faith, Culture and Crisis (Journal Publication, 2013), and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. To contact him or to give a tax-deductible contribute to IAAACT, visit www.iaaact.weebly.com.]