The Associated Press, Mar. 29, 2003
HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) — A roving evangelist who walked into this struggling former coal town several years ago, barefoot and clad in messianic white robes, now has a local television show.
“The idea of this is to help fill a void that’s in the media industry. There’s a need to present the spiritual more … and focus on the good news to counteract this tendency to focus excessively on the negative things in the world,” said Carl Joseph, whose show debuted in mid-March in the Hazleton area.
When anyone asked his name shortly after he came to town in late 1999, he replied “What’s Your Name?” He said it was part of a Hebrew tradition to not reveal one’s name to a person until you become their friend, and it is what the locals came to call him.
The half-hour broadcast titled “What’s Your Name?” airs Wednesdays on a local cable channel in Hazleton and will begin airing in the Easton-Bethlehem area on Tuesday.
Sam Lesante Sr., the show’s producer, said he expects the broadcast will be picked up in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Philadelphia areas and reach more than 3 million households by May.
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Joseph said the show reaches out to people “to examine their lives, what’s happening spiritually, how they’ve progressed and what needs to be accomplished in the future” using “the same Gospel message that’s been promoted for 2,000 years.”
Joseph said his 1991 misdemeanor charge for entering an adult movie theater without a ticket — a revelation that came to light after he became a hugely popular preacher in the region — likely will not hurt his image. The incident happened before he began his new way of life and proves he’s only human, he said.
He was also arrested in Greenfield, Ohio, in 2000 on charges of disorderly conduct but the case was dismissed. Greenfield police Lt. Tim Hester said Joseph was “embraced by the community” and the arrest “really gave the city government and the police department a black eye.”
Joseph believes he would not be as well-received if he didn’t wear a tunic, sandals, long hair and beard. He said he wears the tunic because he takes literally Jesus’ instructions to the apostles — to go out with one tunic, no food, water, money or extra clothes. “And it does, of course, portray an image that reminds people of God.”
Joseph said he sees the program as an opportunity to reach more people.
“This program has the potential to be picked up in areas all over the world. And if that’s God’s will, that would be tremendous.”