Down and Out in Denver

Christian Radio Road Trip

Posted in politics, travel by Blake on August 21, 2010

My regular driving pals: Renée and Steve

I recently completed a little road trip all by my lonesome: San Francisco to D-Town.  Before leaving I dutifully printed out my NPR map (courtesy of NPRroadtrip.com).  I can hardly stand to be in my car without Steve & Renée; Robert, Melissa, and Michele. What I had forgotten, however, was that good portions of the drive through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming on I-80 leave you out of range of local NPR stations.  I did have some CDs with me but for whatever reason I ended up just flipping through various radio stations until NPR came back to me.  And guess what I found?  Christian radio.  Lots and lots of Christian radio.

I don’t want to get into a long discussion here about religion. This post is meant to be about Christian radio specifically, not Christianity as a whole.  Here’s my beef: no matter the subject up for discussion the answer to every single question, problem, conundrum, or mystery is the same on Christian radio: God.  Why did it happen? God.  Who made it happen? God. How did it happen? God. When did it happen?  Whenever God felt like it should.  To whom did it happen? Whomever God chose. This may well be the party line in certain Christian denominations but it makes for incredibly boring radio.  In under an hour you quickly realize that there are not going to be any surprises coming your way.

Until I realized that there were indeed surprises, and not particularly pleasant ones either.  In one segment the host was interviewing Lynn Cherry, co-author (with her daughter) of Kalyn’s Secret, the story of Kalyn’s abuse by an older member of the Cherrys’ church.  While this is clearly a serious issue, it quickly spiraled into a condemnation of the “teaching” of homosexuality in schools, and of Islam, as the host trotted out the specter of the prophet Mohammed’s child bride.  But Kalyn, of course, was abused by a male fellow parishioner in the church where her father was pastor.  In other words, not a lesbian or a Muslim.  I was flabbergasted.  How on earth could these things be related? Was no one else stunned by these leaps?

And that’s just the news and “debate” portion of the show (the latter in quotation because there never really is any debate). The music, too, is all about God (or his kid).  Almost every singer either praises the Lord or hopes desperately that s/he could return to properly loving God.  While secular music tends to dwell on one theme (love and sex) a little more than most others, at least other themes do exist (revenge, sadness, joy, depression, California gurls being unforgettable).  Not so much on Christian radio.

Driving through Eastern Nevada (surely one of the ugliest places in this great nation of ours) I heard an interview with Cathy Liggett, author of Beaded Hope, a novel about four Ohio women who embark on a mission to South Africa to help AIDS patients. While Liggett was extremely articulate about South Africa, AIDS, and the novel’s theme of female friendship across racial and national divides, she also fell back into the same old rhetoric when explaining how she came to write the book. Why did it take her so long to finish the novel after she’d started it?  God’s plan.  How did she come to have the money to journey to South Africa to do the research for the novel?  Once again, the Big G.

I tune in to the radio either for music or to learn something new about the world, something that I didn’t know before.  It became clear to me that Christian radio might offer the former but not so much on the latter.  It simply confirmed — over and over and over again — what listeners presumably believed already.  It also offered up passivity and abnegation of responsibility as a strategy for living. If everything is God’s plan, what decisions do we actually make for ourselves?  Who is responsible for his or her life?  Most of the people on Christian radio seemed to think that God was.  And that left me a wee bit scared.

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2 Responses

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  1. Historiann said, on August 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Love this description. Any second-grader (or Dr. Laura) knows that you need conflict in literature to keep it interesting. I suppose that’s why they needed to inject “the other” (i.e. homosexuality and Islam) into conversations that really aren’t appropriate.

    These God-bags really know how to make some soporific radio, which could be dangerous to you on your long, lonely drives. As the old joke goes, if God is the Answer, what’s the Question?

    • Blake said, on August 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

      That’s really the thing, Historiann. It was just so boring. Difficulties with Christianity aside, they just need better radio!


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