I don’t know about your household, but Hallmark has quickly become the go-to for our family in recent years because of its family-friendly and values-based content. In fact, during the Christmas season, my wife, daughter and daughter-in-law carve out significant portions of time to watch the new Christmas movies the Hallmark Channel offers.
Contrary to what some think, Southern Baptists have been on the forefront of technology advancement at times during the storied history of the denomination. In fact, the Hallmark Channel has a connection to the old Southern Baptist Radio-Television Commission.
What is now Hallmark Channel has roots in the religious cable channel American Christian Television System – know by its acronym ACTS.
ACTS was one of the initiatives that came out of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Radio-Television Commission, which was merged with the Brotherhood Commission into the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in 1997.
ACTS started operations in 1984, and was owned by the SBC. Programming included evangelical and conservative non-charismatic Christian groups, including evangelists such as Jerry Falwell, Charles Stanley and James Kennedy. ACTS aired several hours a week of religious children’s programming, including Sunshine Factory, Joy Junction, Davey and Goliath and my personal favorite, Jot.
In 1993 ACTS was renamed the Faith and Values Channel and began airing a few secular programs such as fitness shows, health and cooking shows and family-oriented drama series and films.
In 1995, cable conglomerate Tele-Communications Inc.’s Liberty Media acquired a 49 percent ownership stake in the Faith and Values Channel and took over operational control of the network. It added more secular programming to the network and reduced religious programming to about 10 hours per day. In 1996, the network was rebranded as the Odyssey Network.
Hallmark Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company bought significant stakes, paid in part through programming commitments, in Odyssey in late 1998. On August 5, 2001, the channel underwent yet another rebranding as the Hallmark Channel and began quickly adding original programming.
As you can see, today’s popular Hallmark Channel – which reaches nearly 75 percent of paying TV households (85.4 million) in the United States – can trace a portion of its roots to the original Southern Baptist ACTS channel.
According to my own informal straw polling of friends and family, the popularity of the Hallmark Channel among evangelicals Christians is huge.
However, that might soon change.
In case you missed it, executives at Hallmark Channel’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, has announced that the network is seeking to produce and air more holiday movies focused on LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) characters, according to media reports.
“We are continuing to expand our diversity,” Michelle Vicary, Crown Media’s executive vice president of programming, told thewrap.com, a website covering the business of entertainment and media. “We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies … and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
Stephen Kokx, writing in an opinion piece for westernjournal.com, seemed puzzled by the move, stating, “The channel’s reputation for airing wholesome, feel-good stories is widely known and greatly appreciated by millions of Americans who detest the radical nature of the LGBT movement’s demands.”
If what is happening at Hallmark sounds familiar, it should. In my last column, I wrote about Chick-fil-A’s apparent capitulation to LGBTQ lobbyists to quit supporting Christian charities with perceived anti-LGBTQ biases.
Kokx wrote that lifesitenews.com, a pro-life, pro-family Christian website, has started an online petition of the Hallmark Channel, warning the network could risk losing a big part of their market if it gives in to the LGBT agenda.
“Hallmark should also know that if they give-in to the LGBT agenda, the LGBT activists will never be satisfied,” wrote Kokx.
The petition had garnered more than 47,000 signatures as of press time. An online poll at westernjournal.com that asked readers, “Will you continue to watch the Hallmark Channel?” resulted in 97 percent responding “No.”
In spite of mainstream media’s liberal narrative, much of the United States is made up of God-fearing folks who are deeply conservative in their thinking. They love those who hold different views, but look to God as their compass when it comes to issues involving homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Unfortunately, as we have seen with actions taken by Chick-Fil-A and now the Hallmark Channel, it is the almighty dollar – not Almighty God – that influences many companies’ actions.
May God give Southern Baptists, and the broader evangelical community, wisdom in these days as we continue to be a witness in a culture which is becoming more and more caustic to the things of God and the truth of Scripture.
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.
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