Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back To Your Corner!

Interesting off-air experience on The Morning Cruise this morning: Dave and I picked up the phone during a song, just after a break we did on some remarks made yesterday by President Bill Clinton. Seems that the former President was quoted as recently throwing out a hypothetical: "Suppose you're a voter, and you've got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that candidate can deliver anything. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you gonna' vote for?" I paraphrased this, then suggested a universal experience. You know how you listen to something as it comes out of your mouth, and a half second later you say, "Whoops, that might be taken the wrong way!" Apparently, that happened to Clinton, who, realizing Senator Hillary Clinton was about to make her speech at the DNC said, "This has nothing to do with what's going on now." To me, the mishap seems very human and slightly humorous. Not so to our friend on the phone.

Phone rings, we answer: "Hi, The Morning Cruise."

"Hey. I've been listening to you guys for a while now. You really should stick to your mission and not talk about politics!"


Click. Drone.

Oh well, it was a critical call. We get those from time to time. No worries. I do wish the guy had engaged us in conversation, though. Instead he threw the grenade and bolted (a common tactic in spousal communications, by the way, and not very effective). I don't know if he was angry, in a hurry, driving or just dropped the phone. Anyway, while I have no problem with this gentleman's distaste for our content, I do have a problem -- a big one -- with the underlying pre-supposition that a "religious" station should avoid certain topics of conversation. Now, I've been doing this job for a while, and I know there are certain topics that our target audience finds so distasteful they should generally be avoided. Politics is one of them. So why did I do this, and what's my problem with the caller's criticism? I did the story because while the content was politics, the subject was the universal experience of foot-in-mouth moments. My problem with the criticism is the implication that our mission disallows us to share an observation or opinion about what's going on in the world of U.S. politics, or any other "secular" subject, for that matter.

That mentality illustrates what's been wrong with American Evangelical Christianity for the last 80 years. Rejecting our call to arms in the culture wars following the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies and the embarassing 1925 Scopes trial, we built ourselves a religious ghetto, safe from the messy conflicts in the real world "out there." I had a small opportunity today, as part of our mission, to counter that isolationist tendency. If you heard the break (around 9:25 A.M.), you know I was very careful to use the honorific titles President and Senator, I did not voice any partisan position and I used President Clinton's faux pas to illustrate something "we all do."

Don't you think we need Evangelical Christians to model respectful, engaged interaction with the real world machinations of our democratic republic? I thought Rick Warren did an excellent job of it with Senators Obama and McCain during the Saddleback Civil Forum. True, he was "civil," and roundly criticized for it in the unimaginative media. Yet hundreds of comments I read highlighted the beauty of a discussion with two political rivals that did not focus on rhetoric and rivalry, but substantive issues like character flaws, personal and national values and the dynamics of world leadership. I couldn't even tell if Rick was a Democrat or a Republican. I just knew he was interested and engaged. He had a platform, and he used it to benefit humanity -- everyone, not just the activist crowd.

There really is no interest on The Morning Cruise, or The JOY FM for that matter, in more political content or commentary. There are plenty of media outlets that can supply political news, views...bruise and snooze, whatever. What I am scrapping for in this rant is the right to perform our mission, "encouraging people and strengthening the church," by refusing to stay in the "religion" corner. The day any subect of real life in the real world (suited for our family audience) becomes in principle off-limits is the day we fail to fulfil our mission. Chuckling at our shared humanity encourages people. Demonstrating respectful, aware, engaged interaction with the leading news of the day equips Christians for dialogue with the real world and thus strengthens the church.

I only wish the gentleman who called would have been willing to have this conversation rather than simply relegate us to the well-marked, easy to manage corner of his mind reserved for "religion." God help us if we have to stay there.


Anonymous said...

Amen Brother Bill! We all need to work harder at being deeper IN the world and having some relevance there. Love the blog. You rock.

Susan said...

Agree with the other commenter. I didn't hear any of this during the morning, but I love it when Christians who are "in the public eye" DON'T stick their heads in the sand and pretend life is not happening in the world around us. I think it's the only thing that's going to help us bridge the gap between the church and the world. And, for what it's worth, I totally think noticing how no one is exempt from that ugly "foot in mouth" disease is good. It helps us realize that at the core of every human being is...well...a human!

I think this post is right on target.

:-) Susan

WendySue said...

Interesting, and yes - I too, agree. Why should "politics" or any other topic be "off limits"?? I just really respect someone who can calmly, rationally and intellectually respond to someone when being questioned or critized. Bill...I remember when Ken and you use to "banter" theology topics via email back in 1996, 1997... he always was impressed with your conversations together and points you'd make.
Good blog!

Anonymous said...

God bless you and your gift of educating. In this world we will have troubles but we take heart for Jesus has overcome the world.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is our responsiblity as christians to take an active part in politics. Everyone gripes and complains when someone gets into office and passes bills that are against christian values, and moral standings. Yet, they are the ones to look the other way when this person is running for office. They don't want to get involve, and think that their vote wouldn't make a difference either way. They think their decision wouldn't change how they are living in their immediate living environment, then when the law gets passed that changes the economy or anything else, they complain that the government is taking control over the people, and that they had no choice. Why shouldn't a christian radio station talk about politics? It is not taboo, it is what is makes up the government of this country.

On a second note, I don't believe the comment you made really had to do with politics, as much as it did quoting something that a politician said.

Thirdly, I pity people who complain and run, they never get the opportunity to really understand the issue at hand, their view is totally onesided. They keep blinders on, and they live in a little box. Never truly understanding anything.

Unknown said...

It is our responsbility to help shape this place into a more Christian world. God made this land and we are to take care of it. When we lived in Orlando we attended Northland church and the lead pastor there was very much of the thought that we needed to be involved and it makes sense. People are all too often "offended" in today's world.

Jeff said...

If Christ truly rules our life, then there should be no division between the 'secular' and the 'divine.' Christ should be involved with (and influence and reign in) every aspect of our life.

Besides, the JoyFM, as other Christian radio stations, does not just have one type of program, but has a variety. "The Morning Show" is not the same as John MacArthur's "Grace to You" program. In other words, "The Morning Show" is not a Bible study. Though the main purpose of both programs should be to ultimately glorify Christ, the precise topics covered are not going to be the same.

Bill Martin said...

I love the discussion going on here. Anyone else is welcome to comment, agree or dissent. That's the spirit of the post, after all.

Stacy said...

I am glad that I can listen to you guys and hear all that I need to about God and other things in the world. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you Bill. That was not at all a political discussion. I have found that when we (I am included in that) are too thin skinned about topics that maybe we need to take a look at that area. Politics is an issue that I think most Christians and non-Christians over complicate. There are a lot of issues that can divert the focus from the core value issues that we should all be looking at. As a Christian I feel that although issues like the economy and foreign relations are important, they do not come close to the moral standard of abortion and marriage. I think that as a people we should try to take a step back and try to remember what the big picture looks like.

Anonymous said...

100% agree. There's a great book by Michael Horton, "Where in the World is the CHurch", where the author describes the Evangelical retreat into 'holy huddles' lest we be tainted by the world. We have ceded our once prominent positions in the arts, science, education, government to a totally secular, generally humanist, and often hostile world.

It is long past time for us to remind the world of just Who is Sovereign, carrying the love of Christ into the world, rather than awaiting its destruction with folded hands.

Anonymous said...


brandi said...

It is quite evident from the position that our world is currently in, and I am not just speaking about the economy, but also morally; that as Christian we need to stand up and speak about the values which our future leaders will be voting on. There are many morals which are clearly spoken about within the Bible and we need to know the stance that our future leaders take on those morals. Roe vs. Wade is 1 vote from being over turned; if there is a particular stance that as a Christian you take on this subject then as a voter you needed to be informed on who stands where. I am tired of the “shhh” Christian. Lets stand up and let our voice be heard. Praise God that we live in a country where we can vote!