My problem with evangelical radio

For years I have had my liberal ears scorched by brief daily exposures to evangelical theology on my clock radio, dialed to a local ‘Family Radio’ station.  It’s eye-opening, certainly, and it prevents me from getting too comfortable in bed.

I used to wake up to a regular sermon spot by the late Adrian Rogers (the spot went away after he died).  Preachers like Rogers are fascinating.  Coming on all southern-fried with that big Johnny Cash voice, but I still remember one ‘family sermon’ that got my goat.

He started with an unobjectionable mix of moral and religious exhortation, a simple Doctor Phil wisdom with a Christian spin that would help anyone raising a family.

“Kids learn from example,”
“Parents should practice what they preach,”
“Love heals all wounds,” etc.

Well, yeah.

Next, a touching family story, with a moral (“…which just goes to show you, friends, we’d be lost without our families”)… at which point I’m thinking, “Man he’s right, I would be lost without my family!”

Then he sets a more serious tone.  A call for soul-searching, a gentle scolding, a little “nobody’s perfect,” “make an effort with the kids,” “stay with it for better or for worse,” etc.  All of this secular wisdom and morality; by now I’m thinking, where’s the Gospel?

But there wasn’t going to be any gospel.  Rogers suddenly and very simply forgets everything Jesus stands for.  His voice grows grim with warning tones, he places undue emphasis on some hard-boiled, out-of-the way place in the Bible, and then finds a point Jesus was trying to make and gives it a kind of nasty, judgmental spin that takes the heart right out of it.

I listen in horror as this old silvertongue leads me into dry and drier pastures, apart from all waters, until he takes away all my strength.  He has carefully spread a banquet of perfect calumny and fear in the presence of my enemies.  I hear how there’s a dangerous devourer of families out there, a cosmic enemy, who wants to bring an end to all our families.  All that sweetness and light I find is at stake in a terrific battle with Satan.

Finally – his ‘good news’ – I can be very thankful that this great cosmic evil is being ably challenged by … by Dr. James Dobson (er what!?).

And last comes the clincher:  the devil is very crafty, and the battle is a lot tougher than it needs to be, because a lot of well-meaning but utterly misguided and dangerous efforts are coming from “the Libruls” – who are just making the enemy’s work that much easier… etc.


Friends, preaching like this has not gone away, and it must certainly be contributing to the destruction of our national discourse.  If our evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ appear unduly scared and angry, it’s because they have been flat-out lied to by their bad-shepherds – about the Bible, about God’s will, and about the motives of over half their fellow Americans.


3 thoughts on “My problem with evangelical radio

  1. Pingback: My problem with evangelical radio « Next Theology | Mike Spieles on Parenting Today

  2. John, thankfully for those who do not live in the American colonies we are not subject to such firebrandism. Rather we are the audience of a wholly different style of insanity; the old priest waffling endlessly-on about being good in cliches and anecdotes about the holy family and his experiences as a child in some backwater village in rural Ireland that, no doubt, still has only one flushing toilet.

    It often strikes me that such ‘evangelism’ is nothing more than preaching to the choir. The minds behind southern-fried and rural Catholic radio and television sermonising consistently fail to see that the choir is growing thin and increasingly less intelligent. For those of us singing in the garage rock band the choir has become a joke, and our backing musicians now refuse even to engage with the choristers.

    It comes down to a question of cultural relevance, does it not? A number of years ago I was in the company of a middle aged nun who had been invited to address the University’s Theological Society. I was prejudiced from the start. I have an irrational fear of Irish nuns. As expected, she opened up with this dull-as-dish-water monologue about Jesus and Mary and the Saints and the simple pietism of the poorer people in Dublin. Then she stops dead in her tracks, looks up and smiles and at last proclaimed, “bollocks to that!”

    This caught my attention. For more than an hour after this she delivered this earth-moving oration about the reality of poverty and the indifference of ‘religious’ people. She spoke about the life of ‘hoors (prostitutes)’ and ‘junkies (drug addicts) in the inner city, and the failure of the Church to be with them at their own level. She spoke about sexuality, sex, the alcohol culture of modern Ireland. She knew people in these conditions by their first names and loved the bones of them. By the end of it we were on our feet applauding and there was not a dry eye in the house.

    But you would never hear her on the radio or see her on the television. Modernity demands and easy to swallow Christianity.

    Now I had always wondered why television evangelists dressed as salesmen. As it turns out the answer is obvious; they are trying to sell something. Authentic Christianity is highly sought after and never needs a good sales team.

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