The demonising Dr Phil

My wife and I often watch broadcasts of the Dr Phil show when we have lunch together. I won’t be doing that anymore and I need to tell you why.

I was impressed by Dr Phil’s shows in the early days when he seemed so dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the confused and hurting. However, over time the show changed a lot and seemed to me to be focusing more and more on self-promotion and viewership ratings. But still I watched.

Yesterday I watched a Dr Phil expose of a certain Doug Perry and his Fellowship of the Martyrs ministry. As the show progressed I became increasingly uneasy and heavy-spirited. It became obvious to both Pat and me that the coverage was biased and that the good doctor was running a distinct agenda, despite his early protestations that he was ‘open minded’.

I had never heard of Doug Perry and some of his responses on the show raised theological warning flags for me. But on the whole he came across as gentle and restrained. Phil on the other hand came across as a morose bully. I found a clip produced by Doug in 2011 which says much about his heart and convictions – it is just 10 minutes long and worth listening to.

The Dr Phil show ended with what was obviously intended as a coup de gras – a few second’s long video clip of Doug saying that he had prayed that God would kill everyone on the planet. The audience sucked in its collective breath in outrage and Phil turned to look into the camera and declare, “that’s just stupid’. Doug offered to provide context for what he had said but the indignant doctor cut him short with a curt and angry, “I don’t care what the context is…” Hear for yourself what Doug Perry actually did say.
The transcript of the key phrase is as follows: ‘I prayed that God would kill everyone on the planet; that they would be dead to self and useful to His purposes…’ Dead to self does not mean physically dead but is a reference to a denial of self-interest and a commitment to the way that Jesus taught. It has its origin in Romans 6:11; ‘In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus’.

Dr Phil ended the show by rudely talking over Doug’s protestations with a repeated “and you ought not to do that”. Yes indeed, words that Phil himself should have taken to heart.

I have titled this post ‘The demonising Dr Phil’ not because of the many references to demons in Phil’s ‘expose’ of Doug Perry (and there were several), but because of what that word means. The Bing Dictionary defines ‘demonize’ as, ‘to cause somebody or something to appear evil or threatening in the eyes of others – to describe someone or something as very bad or dangerous although they are not.’ Well that certainly describes what Dr Phil was doing to Doug Perry on that particular show.

As I stated up front, I don’t know much about Doug Perry and can only observe that he comes across as sincere and well meaning. I can’t make a judgement call concerning him but I can concerning Dr Phil. He has a large team that investigates each of his subjects and he is fully briefed and scripted before he goes on air. I don’t know what his motives were or how his thinking was influenced, but I can say that both Pat and I were so disturbed by the hatchet job we witnessed that we both went off and independently did some internet-based digging. I can find no evidence that Phil has retracted anything or apologised in any way, in fact his website still carries the horribly biased account that was presented on television.

So what is my take away from all this? Firstly, don’t believe everything you hear, even from the self-proclaimed experts. Secondly, decide what not to watch on TV – I certainly have in this case. Thirdly, pray for those who are subjected to such disingenuous propaganda and hope that it never happens to you.


7 Responses

  1. Lance

    Everyone seems to have a self serving agenda. I expect that from a Dr Phil who will do anything to get ratings and wealth but unfortunately I have found that a lot of Christian leaders also have themselves and their ministry as the number one priority. Often Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – from safety upwards – are the overriding driver when dealing with the world.

  2. Kevin Smith

    Dear Chris
    Thank you for this eye-opening blog. This and the previous post about Dawkins have been really meaningful pieces (in my humble opinion).
    Thank you

  3. Keith Strugnell

    Chris, your definition of “demonising” certainly fits your description of this talk show host and way he conducted his interview. Taking statements out of context is the worst form of debate, and the way you checked your facts before committing yourself to write about it is exactly what talk show hosts should do!

  4. natasha Goliath

    Thank you, Pastor Chris.i really appreciate your blogs. Some of them really challenge me.

  5. Adam

    Fantastic article Chris. Great insight, as always, into practical day-to-day issues. Blessings, Adam

  6. Charmian

    Well, you know that when I stayed with you recently I was most disenchanted with Dr Phil – he had changed his show into a sensational, self serving, Jerry Springer-like production which I found most distasteful. Thank you for this latest report of his demonizing attack. He will most definitely be on my “what not to watch” program in future. I shall pray for Doug Perry who must be battling to come to terms with this cruel and unfair treatment.

  7. Autumn Keller

    I had already been watching a few YouTube videos by doug perry when I saw the dr. Phil show. I knew instantly that he took that clip out of context.
    It turns out that Doug perry has messed up beliefs according to a former “spiritual wife”, but that doesn’t mean dr. Phil was right to spin things and be misleading.

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