Above the waist Philip oozed calm confidence, but underneath the desk his foot tapped like a woodpecker. Opposite him, the young executive leaned back in his swivel chair, Philip’s CV in one hand and a twirling pen in the other.
“I see that you’ve got plenty of experience in television, Mr Hendrickson.”
“Yes,” said Philip.
Say something else, you idiot!
“Yes,” Philip repeated. “Plenty of experience.”
Well, that was fantastic.
“It’s good,” the executive continued, “that you know what it takes to provide high quality amusement. That’s what we need.”
“’Amusement’?” said Philip.
“Sorry?” said the executive.
“You said ‘amusement’? I thought this was more of a…an educational type of channel.”
The executive laughed. “Entertainment is education, Mr Hendrickson.”
“Of course,” said Philip, blushing. Entertainment is education? What did that even mean?
“I have to say,” said the executive, ignoring Philip’s embarrassment, “that I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen today. I think you’ll fit in well at Big Jesus TV. Very well.”
Philip’s nervous foot slowed to a stop.
“You’re offering me the job?”
“Well,” the executive placed the CV on his desk and threw Philip a winning smile, “let’s just say that you can expect an encouraging phone call later today.”
“Great!” Philip really meant it.
“Do you have any questions?” the executive leaned forward, elbows on the desk and hands clasped together.
“Actually, I do. You want me to work on this program, Super Amazing Mission Stories, about people telling others about Jesus, right?”
“Yes.” The executive rested his head on his intertwined fingers and grinned.
“Well, I was wondering, where do the stories come from?”
The executive lifted himself from the desk, leaned back in his chair again and gestured vaguely.
“Here and there. Books. The Internet. We get them from all over the place really. Most of them need, you know, tweaking a bit.”
“Tweaking?” said Philip.
“Yeah, to make them more…interesting. More exciting.” The executive tapped the side of his nose knowingly. “So that God gets more glory, of course.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying that you make bits up?” he said, eventually.
“Bingo,” said the executive, his finger swooping to point at Philip as though he were picking him out of a crowd.
“Is that…is that OK?” said Philip.
The executive shrugged. “Jesus made stories up all the time. It’s basically the same thing.”
“Oh,” said Philip. He’d never thought about it like that before.
“It’s our goal, to beam exciting and inspirational stories to the millions who subscribe to our service. But not too inspirational, hey?” said the executive, with a conspiratorial wink.
“But isn’t that the point? To inspire others to share their faith?”
“Philip,” said the executive, shaking his head, “can I call you Philip?”
“Philip, think about it. If people are out there,” the executive said, waving his hand at the wall, “sharing their faith, what aren’t they doing?”
“Ummmm,” said Philip, “watching TV?”
“Exactly! We don’t provide Big Jesus TV in order to encourage people to not watch Big Jesus TV. Can you imagine that? What would our advertisers say?”
The executive burst out laughing, as though he’d just heard the punchline to an exceptionally good joke.
“So you want people to be watching your channel rather than actually doing stuff for God?” said Philip.
“Watching our channel is doing stuff for God. When you’re watching Big Jesus TV you’re being edified and built up. You can’t be out shoplifting or committing adultery while you’re watching us, can you?”
“No, I suppose not,” said Philip. He thought he was beginning to understand. “I guess that if people are going to be consumers, they should at least be consuming something worthwhile.”
“I knew you’d fit in here!” The executive slammed his fist on the desk. “That’s the Big Jesus mindset to a tee. Though I don’t like to call people ‘consumers’. It’s a bit demeaning. I prefer the term ‘addicts’.”
“Yes. Consumers are wishy-washy and will head off as soon as they get the slightest sniff of a better bargain. Addicts are dependable. They’ll never leave you in the lurch. Being addicted to God is good, right?”
“And being addicted to Big Jesus TV?” said Philip.
“For most people, it’s the same thing,” said the executive. “Trust me.”