Yesterday I heard that KTMW – TV20 had cancelled Shawn McCraney’s show, “Heart of the Matter.” This is an unfortunate turn of events since Shawn McCraney said absolutely nothing that merits that kind of response. Now, I have no idea what the real motivations were for canceling Shawn’s show. But, if they are, as I suspect, an example of Evangelical “blackballing” I want to say that it’s wrong.
I want to share a few things, and I know by doing so I run the risk of angering some. The nice thing about being me is that I have a thick skin and don’t care much about making people angry. First, I want to share the gracious response for Shawn McCraney as it was posted on the Heart of the Matter web page:
Dear Fans, Friends, (and even all you enemies out there) -
On Tuesday night, January 1st 2013, we announced on our television program Heart of the Matter that after seven years of passionately “going after” Mormonism with relentless and factual tenacity we were going to use 2013 to shine a light on our own house – namely, on American Evangelical Christianity. Five days later we received written notice from the owners and management of KTMW TV20 that they were officially severing all ties with Alathea Ministries and this decision was non-negotiable.
We wish to extend to the owners and management of KTMW TV20 our deepest gratitude for allowing us to use their facilities over the years in our attempt at bringing all who would hear to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has blessed these efforts abundantly and they never would have occurred without the constant support from KTMW TV-20.
We invite any and all who have questions, concerns, or objections to this decision to refrain from responding to this event in the flesh but to instead pray – for TV-20′s continued success, for the LDS, for the Body, and for Alathea Ministries. God almighty has been, is, and will forever be in charge. To this we are convinced.
If you should desire to experience church stripped of most of the modern evangelical cultural trappings plaguing the Body today we invite any and all to visit us on any given Sunday at the University of Utah.
God bless you, one and all. And thank you for your prayers and support over the years.
This is a response to a difficult situation that is both gracious and encouraging. Shawn doesn’t express any ill-will towards the station or anyone else. This is an exemplary response to an apparent over-reaction. And, now to explain why I believe this is an over-reaction and a probable example of blackballing of the worst sort. On January 4th I was forwarded a message by a dear friend who asked my opinion on a set of two email messages bearing the curious subject line “Shawn McCraney’s last days?” The message was originally sent to a number of pastors in Utah and contained the following, including an original message from an apparent employee of TV20 linking to a YouTube video representing a sped up excerpt of Shawn’s announcement of his 2013 focus:
Ok, pastors, here’s a sped up version of Shawn McCraney’s program of last Tuesday night (New Year’s Day eve) where he discusses his plans to denounce evangelical Christianity with the same vengeance as he has done against Mormonism for the last eight years. You can watch this sped up version that does not have the phone calls included in about 15 minutes. This attack against the Body of Christ in Utah must not be allowed to take place, this is divisive and wrong. I believe this is something we could all agree on, the unity of the Body of Christ is worth standing up for!
Feel free to pass on your concerns to channel 20 and Denny Ermel (they actually need to hear from Utah Pastors) if you are concerned about Shawn’s new agenda.
FYI, TV 20 sent me this link to Shawn’s last show. It’s “sped up” which allows you to watch the entire show in 15 minutes! Interesting 2013 focus for Shawn! ;-)
Hi Bill, here you go…
This message is entirely inappropriate because Shawn said absolutely nothing. He laid out his intent to criticize his own camp (Evangelicalism) regarding excesses that he believes need to be addressed. Was his tone combative, of course. That’s how Shawn works on Heart of the Matter. It’s not an approach that I find appealing to imbibe, but it’s what he is known for. And, it is what others have supported as he went after Mormonism. But, as soon as Shawn decided to criticize the problems within Evangelicalism it was described as an “attack against the Body of Christ.” I want to be very clear: Evangelicalism is NOT the Body of Christ. Evangelicalism is an inter-denominational movement made up of people who may or may not be part of the Body of Christ, individually. Evangelicalism is NOT the Church.
The failure of Greg Johnson, of Standing Together Utah, to understand that distinction is the heart of the current problem. The failure of those who took Greg’s advice and chose to “pass on [their] concerns to channel 20″ to also see this fundamental error is at the heart of the current problem. What we see is an example of Evangelicals wielding power in a worldly way, suppressing and silencing a critic, before any real criticism has been made. This is the behavior of a coward and a bully. Again, I want to be very clear: Evangelicalism in Utah has now shown itself to be both cowardly and bullying towards someone they had treated as one of their own.
What Shawn McCraney said in his January 1st show did not constitute an “attack against the Body of Christ,” nor was it “divisive and wrong.” Shawn didn’t say anything of substance, and thanks to the over-reaction of TV20 and those who encouraged their action, Shawn has been wrongly silenced. Shawn did not attack “the unity of the Body of Christ.” Shawn expressed an opinion that there were problems in American Evangelical Christianity that needed to be addressed, and that he was going to use his television show as a platform to try and address them. That is a worthy endeavor. An endeavor I had concerns about. But, I was willing to wait until Shawn actually spoke and made plain his concerns, rather than acting on a knee-jerk reaction and seeking the silencing of the messenger.
As a follow-up to Shawn’s cancellation I was forwarded another message by another friend in the ministry, also sent by Greg Johnson:
Pastors, just an fyi (if you don’t already know), channel 20 hand delivered Shawn his termination letter today, Heart of the Matter and Shawn McCraney are done at the station.
Not sure what the fallout will be from his supporters (some of which attend your churches), but I wanted you to be properly informed before things went public on Tuesday.
In all seriousness, this is a sad ending for Shawn. He is a passionate man and he runs hard after God, but his approach has gotten the best of him and his platform has been removed. I’m sure he will try to continue, but without TV, he is very limited.
I hope he responds to some of you that have attempted to reach out to him personally, but in the mean time remember to say a prayer for Shawn and ask that the Lord help him respond appropriately.
One last thing, say a prayer for Ch. 20 itself as this decision will not come without some backlash. Perhaps this is an important time to reach out to Denny and the station with support and encouragement. Send them an e-mail, consider helping them make up the financial lost they will take by canceling Shawn’s show (he paid them $400 an episode), for doing the right thing and canceling him. If you end up sending them $25 or $50 a month let everyone know so that we can see how the Lord might meet the needs of the station. By the way, they would love to film a commercial for any interested church and air it throughout the week, so by supporting them you will be blessed too.
Anyone interested in filming a 30 to 60 second commercial, just let me know and we’ll arrange it.
With a hopeful heart for the future of Ch. 20,
This message strikes me as a bit disingenuous as it expresses sadness over the cancellation of Shawn’s program, after this same author encouraged pastors to call the station and “pass on [their] concerns.” Those pastors, and possibly others did was was asked and “Shawn’s last days” came about, just as the subject of the original message portended. Shawn’s last days on TV20 were ushered in at the encouragement of this man who now expresses that “this is a sad ending for Shawn.” A sad ending for whom? Clearly it is a sad day for Shawn and his ministry; to be silenced before you can even speak can’t be a good thing to endure. But, it is exactly the sort of ending that Greg Johnson and others sought. For them, this should be a good day and a pleasurable ending.
This is evidence that Evangelicalism is sick and in need of some healthy introspection. There are practices that pervade many Evangelical churches that are unbiblical and unhealthy. Shawn McCraney isn’t the first to seek to address them; nor will he be the last. David Platt has spoken extensively on this subject, as has John Piper, and others. Shawn McCraney though was silenced because it was easy to do so, and that simply wasn’t right. Shame on Utah Evangelicals for not being willing to hear hard words that may have been good for the unity and health of the body. Now, we may never know what good could have come. This wasn’t right!
I will be posting a follow-up by Friday that will include a letter Shawn McCraney sent to TV20’s station manager alongside an official statement from the station.
A staff person at the station has told me that the official statement will not be ready until tomorrow. Depending on when the statement is made available, I may not have it and the other materials I’ve received ready to post tomorrow.
Also, I’ve had one particular complaint about the tone and conclusions of this post that lead me to want to make something clear, if it wasn’t already: this is an opinion piece. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a guy with a blog. I stated at the outset that I did not have any information at the time of writing about the internal reasons for TV20 canceling Shawn’s programming. I drew conclusions based on materials given to me and stated my opinions. As opinions, everything I’ve stated may be subject to correction based on additional information being made available. At this time I stand by my belief that the station over-reacted and that Greg Johnson helped to drive that over-reaction. Should the station’s official statement reveal new information, my opinion is subject to change. Along with that I believe that portions of the letter than Shawn McCraney apparently sent to the station’s owner may have also fueled the over-reaction, and plan to address that along with dealing with whatever the station decides to officially say about the matter.
I’ve now published the letter Shawn sent to the station, along with their official response. You can read all the updates here.