Journal Article - Diplomatic History

Infernal Handiwork: Trinity Broadcasting Network Aids Apartheid South Africa, 1980–1994

| September 2021


This article explores the symbiotic relationship between right-wing evangelicals and the apartheid state in undercutting racial equality in South Africa. 

Paul Crouch, the founder of the world’s largest religious television network, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), knew the force hindering his 1985 plan to expand his operation in South Africa: the Devil. "The infernal handiwork" of Crouch's arch-enemy—Satan—threatened TBN's designs on the country.1 Facing technological problems, the sudden death of his go-between to South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha, and U.S. Congressional resistance to network expansion, Crouch felt the fate of the world, and the afterworld, hanging in the balance. Calling for spiritual reinforcements, Crouch reminded his millions of subscribers that "South Africa [was] the key to the LAST MAJOR BATTLE" that stood between TBN and God's glorious kingdom.2 For Crouch and TBN, South Africa represented an essential location to initiate the second coming of Jesus Christ, opening all of the "dark continent" for conversion. The stakes for TBN could not have been higher, and Crouch and his followers became apartheid apologists to obtain the South African government's support for TBN's "higher battle" of theological expansion.

TBN's expansion into South Africa offers a window into one part of what I deem the "pro-apartheid movement" of the 1980s and 1990s. The "pro-apartheid movement" existed as a transnational white supremacist collective of political, religious, and economic actors explicitly focused on undercutting attempts to end white rule in South Africa....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Dell'Omo, Augusta. "Infernal Handiwork: Trinity Broadcasting Network Aids Apartheid South Africa, 1980–1994." Diplomatic History, vol. 45. no. 4. (September 2021): 767–793 .