Journalism through a global lens

October 11, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Elna Boesak discusses the effects of the American televangelists in South Africa

News | Emma Nichols 

Journalism through a global lens

Elna Boesak articulates social dynamics to Bethel faculty and students. | Matt Kelley

“How does one construct a worldview?” was the question pondered at an early Monday morning breakfast at Bethel, while discussing journalism through the eyes of one who has experienced cross-cultural writing and media.

Elna Boesak, South African independent journalist and media creator for social change, spoke on campus on Monday, Sept. 24, at a breakfast held in her honor.

Boesak is the wife of anti-apartheid activist and cleric Allan Boesak, who also spoke at Chapel on the same day concerning the issue of reconciliation.

Elna Boesak has been writing and creating media through radio, documentaries and published articles for 30 years, and has been a strong activist for social change in South Africa, particularly for gender equality.

“I am working constantly for cross-continental conversations,” she said. In South Africa, she explains, there is no liberation or democracy within the media, even though legislation has been put into effect in the past. She is working to create change in this area and to create a friendlier global media circuit.

She explained that the strongest desire for the South African is the desire to be accepted as an insider. She cites struggles for economic power, education and security as reasons a citizen may feel outside the sphere of acceptance.

Boesak is particularly interested in North American televangelism and its effect on the South African mindset. Televangelism is defined as the use of television to convey the Christian faith to a wider audience. Boesak notes that nearly every single South African household, no matter how small or poor, has a television.

Though television can reach a large amount of people around the world, Boesak defines televangelism as more that just television; she expands it to radio, journalism, and social media sources as well.

“Televangelism is molding Christians in South Africa to the conservative American worldview, which is linked to issues of gender equality” she says. She explains that North America is the main source of globalized televangelism, using it to spread American views and patriotism. “They do not necessarily realize the effect ‘globalization’ has on the world,” she says.

Boesak explains that the line between Church and State in South Africa has been blurred because of this spread of American Christianity, just like it was in the past.

In addition to changing worldviews, Boesak cites patriarchy as a major problem for South Africans, particularly women. “If you ask any South African woman, she will say the number one stumbling block for her is the problem of patriarchy in this country,” she says.

Through personalities like Joyce Meyer, Boesak explains, televangelism encourages American views that are out of South African context. “It is dangerous to tell a woman it’s okay to challenge patriarchy, and Americans don’t understand that,” she says.

Quoting theologian Karl Barth, Boesak states: “we must preach with a Bible and one hand and a newspaper in the other. But this raises the question, where do I get my news?”


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