The Dallas Gazette recently published the following interesting obituary.
Dick Howell, 75, Christian media mogul who Time magazine called one of the most influential men in America, has died at his home in Dallas, Texas after suffering a massive heart attack. Mr. Howell is survived by his wife Nancy and two sons, Cleve, an executive with Howell Enterprises, and Seth, a local nightclub singer.
Mr. Howell began his long career in media in 1965. Shortly after converting to Christianity, he purchased KKAK, a fledgling country music radio station in Waco and immediately changed the programming to a Christian talk format.
At a time when Christian radio stations received their funding through audience donations, Mr. Howell revolutionized the world of Christian media—and caused no little stir at the time—by selling advertising time. To the astonishment of many and the chagrin of some, his station turned a profit during its first year of operation.
KKAK’s success emboldened Mr. Howell to purchase another station, which also became profitable. He repeated this successful business formula many times over the years until his corporation, Howell Enterprises, had amassed 75 Christian radio stations.
“Dick had an amazing ability to discern, not only what the Christian public wanted, but also what they wouldn’t put up with,” stated longtime friend Jeb Long. “He didn’t go in for preachers who railed about sin and worldliness and so on. No sir.”
“Dick Howell probably did more to shape the Christian message of the past half century than any other man,” added Sam Shepherd, current president of the National Religious Broadcasters. “He had a simple philosophy about ministry: success was the surest sign of God’s favor. If a preacher had a following, Dick wanted him on his stations.”
“If there’s one thing I could say about my dad, it was that he had presence,” said his son Cleve. “When he walked into a room—and I mean a room full of the most famous preachers in America—everyone felt it. He was bigger than life itself. This was the passing of a giant.”
Yes, Dick Howell was an ambitious businessman with a real knack for making sound business moves, but before you join this chorus of praise about him, there are a couple things I think you should know.
For one thing, whatever may have been his introduction to Christianity back in the 60’s, it didn’t translate into a life of kindness and concern for others. He was an unloving husband and an absent father to his boys; he was regularly rude to his subordinates and was known to use his influence to ruin the careers of those who crossed him.
Dick Howell was, above all else, a savvy businessman. The programming decisions he made were driven by questions regarding profit-and-loss, not spiritual quality. So long as one of his featured speakers didn’t say something outlandish—something that would embarrass his empire—he honestly didn’t care about what they taught.
There’s another thing you should know. This man, whose programming literally affected entire generations, never sought God’s will or guidance regarding the vital decisions he routinely made. One would think that with such an enormous level of influence and heavy burden of responsibility, he would earnestly pray about which ministers to feature and what kind of programming he would offer. But the truth is that he felt no need for God’s help to do what he was sure he was utterly capable to accomplish on his own.
Okay, Dick Howell is only a fictional character, but his story is a fairly accurate representation of what has occurred in the realm of Christian media: powerful and often carnal men deciding the type of teachings that God’s people are fed on a regular basis.
That is the apostasy.
Passing of a Giant,