Reviewing national television coverage of General Eisenhower’s funeral, James Reston wrote:
It demonstrated how national television can bring before the people the things that touch their noblest instincts, and in the process reminded us of how seldom we use their remarkable power for this purpose.
Eisenhower, the church and television were unifying forces of tremendous power for good in America in these last few tragic days. They touched some old and worthy echo in the American spirit which politics, religion and television usually repel.
… And through this remarkable instrument of television, the people responded to it with a solemnity and sincerity no cynic could deny.
Reston’s analysis in his New York Times column challenges both the Church and the television industry. It says that if the Church and television can come to terms, television can emerge from its cultural wasteland and the Church can escape its Sunday-morning ghetto. The Eisenhower funeral showed that television has the potential to reach the spirit of man, and that the Church can merit prime-time attention.
As a seasoned Washington correspondent and national observer (and now vice-president of the Times), Reston has suggested a formula: Take an open network attitude toward religious programming, combine it with a church willing to plumb creatively the depths of visual communication, and blend well. The result can be imaginative prime-time telecasting that projects the spiritual, not the animal, nature of man.
This isn’t being done consistently today. Television has the principle that programs should follow Sunday-service and material fare. The Church has not made a strong effort to gain representative video exposure. And the Christian public has not demanded ...1
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