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.
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.