Russell Moore is right. Christian talk radio, with some great exceptions, is largely insufferable. As both a talk radio show host and a student of the format, I listen to liberal talk, Christian talk, FM guy talk, political talk, NPR — you name it. I listen to it. And I find most Christian talk and pretty much all leftwing or “progressive” talk to be some of the worst out there.
That’s putting it bluntly. And that’s not what Russell Moore even said. For those who do not know, Russell Moore is the new head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s, if you will, their head policy guy. He replaced a hero of mine, Richard Land. When Land was there, he was like the Baptist Buckley, standing athwart history yelling “Jesus.” Moore is following in Land’s footsteps and he’s getting bullets and arrows fired at him from secularists and the professional victims within the religious community.
What Russell Moore actually said, in a very long speech, is just a couple of sentences that have the collective panties of Christian talk radio in a wad.
I listened on the way back up here from my hometown, to some Christian talk radio this week, against my doctor’s orders. And honestly, if all that I knew of Christianity was what I heard on Christian talk radio, I’d hate it too.
There are some people who believe that fidelity to the gospel simply means speaking, “You kids get off my lawn.” That is not the message that has been given to us. If the call to repentance does not end with the invitation that is grounded in the bloody cross and the empty tomb of Jesus we are speaking a different word than the word that we have been given.
That’s mild compared to what I’d say.
I brought Russell onto my radio show this past Friday and asked him to explain what he was talking about given all the outrage I was hearing from people. He made clear he wasn’t talking about all Christian talk and that, in fact, he thinks some of it is very good. You can hear our whole conversation here.
There is some very good Christian talk radio out there. Unfortunately, some of the most heavily packaged and pushed Christian talk is largely victim radio, much like progressive radio. It is all about Christianity under assault, the evil world, who is and is not Christian enough, and the need for Christians to fight back.
In this format, there is very little about Christian engagement in the world, Christian charity, Christian love, and hope. Listen for an hour and get both an ulcer and a conviction that we’re all going to hell fire quickly. I don’t want to be subjected to that. My blood pressure, stress, and anxiety levels could not cope.
I have a secular, mostly political, talk show. I certainly weave my faith into it and do an entire show on faith for four hours every Good Friday. But even then, it is not a show about anger and victimization and poor whoa as me. It’s a show about why I believe what I believe, how it shapes my world view, and how Christians must still be salt and light in the world. I spend a whole lot more time laughing at the folly of the fools out there. Certainly there’s a place to highlight Christianity under assault in the United States. I spend time on that. I just don’t spend hours and hours on it sandwiched between monotone interviews.
The purely Christian talk shows that lift people up and share the gospel are terrific. They are worth listening to and they elevate the soul. But a lot of voices out there don’t have the humor that comes with the hope and the mercy that comes with grace. They’ve got a stack of stories about Christians being attacked and they are angry and want you to be angry too.
If people are mad at Russell Moore for a couple of sentences in a very long speech, they’re kind of proving his point.