The Christian radio echo chamber: We are under siege by our enemies (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) On my recent 4,100-mile pilgrimage across the U.S., I occasionally used my radio’s “seek” function to find stations.

I often stopped on a “Christian radio” station, sometimes a national network such as American Family Radio, sometimes a local effort featuring preachers from area churches, always conservative.

I did so because I enjoy gospel music and I was curious what the radio preachers were saying.

Christian Radio, the EchochamberThey tended to be excellent speakers and well-prepared. But their message seemed frozen in time, as if nothing had changed in America since the 1950s, except for the identities of enemies who are allegedly “attacking Christians,” “attacking Christian values” and “attacking the American way of life.”

This siege mentality seemed basic to every preacher I heard. I suppose it’s one way to rally the troops. Get them fearful, angry and suspicious. It also prevents scrutiny of whether an attack actually exists, who’s attacking whom and what God’s stake might actually be.

In the 1950s, alleged attacks came from a “worldwide communist conspiracy.” Those attacks proved to be nonexistent, and Christianity wasn’t its target anyway.

Later, enemies included the supposed “free-love” culture of 1960s “hippies” and the anti-racism efforts of civil rights leaders. Today fear-mongering preachers name a black president and growing progressive movement that are out to destroy Christianity and to promote radical Islam or “secular humanism.”

The goal of these angry preachers seemed specific: promote laws and lawmakers who will restrict accepted morality to the narrow 1950s parameters of women under male control, gays in the closet, whites firmly in charge and free-market capitalism as true to the gospel. Never mind that Jesus taught the opposite of each principle. Never mind that white power, white privilege, limits on freedom, demonization of minorities and stifling of diversity have absolutely nothing to do with what God wants. These goals are what white conservative men want and what corporate interests will fund.

“It’s all about the ‘Benjamins,’” as they say. “Follow the money.”

It concerned me that so much well-funded and well-produced radio programming is selling this toxic waste as America’s only salvation. No wonder our political world is so angry and divided. When a sizable portion are being told that they are under attack — their faith, their Bible, their children, their homes, their nation — anger and its companion, fear, are the inevitable result, followed by armed aggression.

Another inevitable result is hubris: overweening pride based on the delusion of imminent attack means importance. If I am under attack, it must mean I am the center of all things. Hubris produces an “echo chamber,” in which people are told what they want to hear and reinforced in their outrage.

What I heard on stations from Arizona to New York was bad biblical scholarship — a flawed understanding of Scripture and thus of the God revealed in Scripture — feeding self-importance and a siege mentality, leading to isolation, resentment, ideological warfare and take-no-prisoners politics.

I couldn’t tell how much of this any one preacher intended or even saw. But I heard so much of the same thing that it alarmed me. I think American democracy hangs in the balance. Not to mention the gospel that Jesus actually proclaimed.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

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51 Comments on "The Christian radio echo chamber: We are under siege by our enemies (COMMENTARY)"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Bruce Davis
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American democracy is imperiled by radio preachers? Radio preachers have been doing their thing since the advent of radio and the republic has survived.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Interesting comment putting things into perspective. We have had would-be homegrown fascists on the radio since its inception including the antisemites Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Charles Coughli, Billy James Hargis, Garner Ted Armstrong, James Dobson, Dennis Rainey, and continuing on to the rest of crazies on the religious right of today. The danger is not so much to the nation as to the poor souls who get sucked into craziness.

james
Guest
Mr. Shuler: I keep thinking it would be better not to “visit” with you, but……….. Wes introduced me to the Wesleyan.org website. I visit it most days. In my unlearned opinion the following site will lead you to a very thought provoking devotion. https://www.wesleyan.org/3149/whos-got-the-truth It caused me to think about the Chick Fil A story that I copied and pasted in response to an other article that is still on the active UMR page and the response that you afforded me in that paste. I have a Catholic acquaintance who must have been raised by a parent who was very… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
eh I think I knbow where you’re coming from, but, to me, this sort of cold porridge gospel is not very joyous. A creator who requires his creations to say the magic words before permitting them eternal life in his presence isn’t a very loving god and any who would characterize such a diety in that manner would have to be deluded. Reminds me a lot of a line from a Tom Waits song: “You know there’s no devil/it’s just God when he’s drunk.” In the alcoholic famuily some children seek to become the “star child” to appease Drunk Daddy,… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

The money quote from George “my lot in life is due to from whose crotch I emerged”. Tells me all I need to know about him and why engaging in dialogue is a waste of time. His bitterness and anger and maybe his mommy issues have pushed him pretty far out there. He is clearly living in a different world. Lashing out at those who were born more fortunate than he was is his only enjoyment. Hardly a recipe for happiness.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Bitterness? You flatter yourself. My life is full of exuberance, and it’s animating to fight for justice against those like you who fight against it.

My dear friend, it is you and your faction whic h are “far out there.” Your faction is but a rear guard, fighting a losing battle, not unlike the grandfathers and teenagers who were last men standing for the Confederacy and the Third Reich.

David Goudie
Guest
George, One final thought, take it or leave it. The author concludes “Not to mention the gospel that Jesus actually proclaimed.” So it seemed that underlying his whole article he was asking in a way the same question I proposed that is “Are conservative radio preachers, trusting (and replacing the message of Jesus with) an their ideology and conservative viewpoint .. Instead of looking to the person of Jesus Christ? … (ei … spreading fear, instead of the good news of Jesus). My question then was a reflective question for all of us to ask ourselves, myself included … which… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
When you put it that way, it sounds reasonable. The way you put it before though was offensive, and the sniping comment from the other right-wing activist was downright bullying. One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs is “Man in Black,” in which he explains his choice to wear black and what it signifies. He does not include this part simply because it’s snappy lyrics: ” I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But is… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest

Fair enough. I’ll ask the question of myself and leave you to do with it as you see fit. Grace and peace.

james
Guest

as stated by someone–somewhere- way back when–in all of this blogging exercise–it feels like Mr. Shuler is employed by the UMR. must admit he does a whale of a job for the progressive side of things……………………………

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I don’t even know what the UMR is.

Elaine T
Guest

Praying for clarity… U nited M ethodist R eporter.

Wes Andrews
Guest
Judging Jesus followers who trust in the authority of Scripture by the more extreme of TV and Radio preachers is like citizens of a Central American country judging U.S. Americans by watching reality T.V. This article just continues to make the point that progressives are more interested in tearing down than building up. In fact the majority of teaching in churches that trust in the authority of Scripture is about God’s unconditional love, grace, and desire to forgive, heal and redeem. Very rarely is it about politics. Funny thing, is this writer seeming to be oblivious to historical fact. The… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Otay. Hadn’t heard anything like that since about 1957. It’s a wacky world, isn’t it?

David Goudie
Guest
We probably could go on all day …I can see some of your points …but just one last question for you to consider …are liberals/progressives free from rasism and sin ? …because you come across as though They are ..and so it seems for you the ultimate solution is for liberalism/progesiivism theology to prevail. Is is this ideology that will save us? …or is it Jesus? …because while I am obviously more in line with conservative theology …I and I believe many Conservative preachers would agree …that our ‘agenda’ and even my preaching is not what saves us …its the… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
David G said “to say marriage is meaningless to anyone below middle class …is a sad view you have of marriage and commitment as though it is only a fiscal agreement” There you go again with the “as though.” You’re intuiting things which are not so. Overgeneralizing. All I can say is, considering divorce rates, domestic violence, and the marginalization of single parents, I stand by what I’ve said. Take for example, Phil “Duck Dynasty” Robertson saying guys need to pick girls to marry when they’re 15 or 16 because they’re not as self-assured and can be dominated. That is… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

You might want to try that “exercising self control” thing.
It’s no secret I’d like to see the UMC become more liberal. That’s reasonable to inquire regarding, Some of the fundamentalist caucus here however feel carte blanche to play gotcha and I don’t play that. BTW, the “No true Christian does x” argument is just the old “no true Scotsman” fallacious rhetoric and as such its employment is not appropriate. As they say above the comment box, “We cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others.”

Paul W.
Guest
Silly me. So, let me get this straight: On a forum about the issues and events regarding a Christian denomination, where most of the issues come down to differences regarding what individual groups within the denomination believe about the Bible, Scriptural authority, and the nature of God and Christ, you consider it offensive to ask about the beliefs underlying a person’s positions? You are certainly an interesting individual with a unique set of rules. My experience is that I have yet to meet a true Christian who did not welcome sincere inquiries regarding their beliefs or were offended in the… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Hot button, LOL. Oh, my poor deluded friend, it’s always so easy to project your own anxieties onto another, isn’t it? You just don’t get it – questions like that, especially to someone you do not know, are especially offensive and serve only to mask the power and control your faction seeks over other persons. EVERYONE should be resistant to any and all authority at every opportunity. The day your two-year-old cries “NO!” is a day to celebrate the joyous exuberance of self-realization he or she has obtained by doing so. The volume which you hear is your own failed… Read more »
Paul W.
Guest

David, you touched on George’s hot button. He steadfastly refuses to discuss whether or not he is a Christian or even how he defines the term “Christian”. He viciously attacks anyone who holds to orthodox belief, but if you try to figure out what he believes, he tells you off for “having no authority over him”. (Interesting how “authority” is such bug-a-boo for him; obviously, no one’s the boss of George”. 🙂 ) His refusal to discuss his faith (or lack thereof) speaks volumes and, unfortunately, I think fully answers your question.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

My friend, you have crossed a line here. Youir inquiries toward me are impertinent and inappropriate. You possess no authority over me, so you need to get off your high horse here. You are in no position to be telling me what I need to do. You need to look innthe mirror, not out the window. I had thought you might be an affable fellow but this burst of self-righteousness is something of which you need to be sorely ashamed.

David Goudie
Guest

I do know people who trust more in their ideology than God.. So once again I simply ask you to prayerfully ask yourself …”How much am I trusting an ideology and my intellect/viewpoint .. Instead of looking to the person of Jesus Christ? .. Have to leave the discussion there and focus on my other duties . Grace and peace to you.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
I’ve never said ideology, programs, or legislation “saves” us. I do not know any liberal Christians who think that. There are people in all strata who are prone to act like certain orifices. I find your use of the term “acted like” interesting and revealing. It reminds me of those who refer to President Obama as ‘cocky,” “uppity” [in the case of that word, dog-whistling to racists their own agreement with them], “arrogant,” etc. Knowing what I know of BHO and the White House operations under him, I find that especially baffling. The man did get a Law Degree from… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest
Without beating a dead issue …the points I can see are from your first response on Equity .. As said before we could argue about sexualization of our society, abortion and marriage (by the way to sa y marriage is meaningless to anyone below middle class …is a sad view you have of marriage and commitment as though it is only a fiscal agreement) ..and check on articles regarding sex traficing and the sale of persons by Rev Chris momany ..also featured in um reporter … To say its always been there and always will is rather dismissive of a… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest

PS please excise the typos …I’m writing this on my smart phone.

David Goudie
Guest

‘Excuse’

Wes Andrews
Guest
Judging Jesus followers who trust in the authority of Scripture by the more extreme of TV and Radio preachers is like citizens of a Central American country judging U.S. Americans by watching reality T.V. This article just continues to make the point that progressives are more interested in tearing down than building up. In fact the majority of teaching in churches that trust in the authority of Scripture is about God’s unconditional love, grace, and desire to forgive, heal and redeem. Very rarely is it about politics. Funny thing, is this writer seeming to be oblivious to historical fact. The… Read more »
James Ballard
Guest

Blah Blah Blah What is the point of the article…again? This is just one guys conservaphobia. There is treatment for that, its called reading the scripture.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
My friend, the bulk of the little indignities and the big ones are atrributable to what is today called ‘conservatism.” It is “conservatism” which leads to police shooting unarmed african-American teenagers. It is “conservatism” which led to the kidnapping and hiding in Nicaragua of a child of a lesbian mother. It is “conservatism” which screams racist, sexist, homophobic catcalls at women entering healthcare facilities. It is “conservatism” which claims to revere “American exceptionalism” and use same to boss around the rest of the world. The late Joe Baegant in his sweet memoir “Deer Hunting with Jesus” knew it was “conservatism”… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest

Yes “conservativism” is the root of all hatred, sexism, bigotry and sin right? And it is the “enemy we are under seige by”. Sound the alarm, raise the fear. ‘The Christian conservatives” are the real enemy’. “the sky is falling” if they are allowed to voice their views. … sounds to me this is what you are saying … the very thing the author is accusing all christian radio of doing…. just that you end up demonizing on the other end of the spectrum.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Well, the problem with that is, it’s too much of an “allness” statement. But it’s not liberals/progressives advocating such things. I guess you could demonize us because we don’t do such things, huh?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
David G said: “No I could demonize all progressives ‘for creating a promiscuous culture of sex…” Of course you could, but not with any accuracy. Yoiu can thank God Almighty for that because that’s how we’re made. “… abortion on demand…” This too is inaccurate, but it is also reprehensible. There is “demand” being made for abortion. It is a woman’s right to obtain one through qualified medical practitioners and in doing so she “demands,” as you disgustingly say it, nothing other than her natural rights and attempts to mlimit same are among the most evil usurpations of human autonomy… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest
No I could demonize all progressives ‘for creating a promiscuous culture of sex, abortion on demand, and the devaluing of marriage that aids in things like sex trafficking and the like’. But I am not going to. Because I know progressives who do not do this. Which is my very point. That you and the writer are judging “conservative Christian radio” by a few people. Which is the very notion of prejudice. So yes I am reading ‘your definition of allness’ as judging all Christian radio based on your limited experience. For if you really want to calm the rhetoric… Read more »
David Goudie
Guest

So are you suggesting the ‘enemy’ we are to be afraid of instead are ‘Orthodox, conservative Christian radio preacher’? Because It sounds like you are prejudging all Christian radio …putting them in a box. And in your self satisfaction gradize your own view .. Creating a we verses them …furthering the hatred and demonization of fellow Christians.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

You’re arguing an invalid slippery slope fantasy here. Let’s break down your assertions here: “Orthodox” as you’ve used it merely means politically correct. As far as “Christian radio” goes, if I’d have ever heard one which was not all about grift and espousing hatred and prejudice but I haven’t, except maybe when C. Weldon Gaddy had a show on Sunday mornings on the now defunct Air America network. I don’t believe the fellow is “self-satisfied;” he’s sad people are being exploited by those who appeal to their ignorance.

David Goudie
Guest

‘If I’ve ever heard a Christian radio station which was not about Grift or espousing hatred…’ So in other words because your vast experience you can lump every radio program into one? . Which means you must have listened to them all or you are prejudging them…. And saying the way I used the word Orthodox as politically correct is not the case. If anything Christian radio is far from oolitally correct …because it is built on culture acceptable view …which is what the radio preachers are ‘railing against’ as this author suggests.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Not quite. Political correctness is not exclusive to one ideology or another. Some right-wing speakers rail against “the culture” but in doing so they ignore the fact they have a culture as well. It’s like how the Puritans fled England because of their oppression, but, once they got to Massachusetts, they enacted severe oppression themselves. That’s why the founders of Rhode Island are so dear to my heart – they advocated a strange thing, freedom of conscience. They were pirates and rouges, but their morality was eminently superior to that of those they fled from just north of their enclave.
Paul W.
Guest
Is this “let’s stick it to orthodox believers” week at UMR? Something must be going on for UMR to decide to post hateful articles like this Seriously, can an editor weigh in to explain what they were possibly thinking in posting this tripe? Examples of the hate: – “siege mentality” – “Get them fearful, angry and suspicious.” – “The goal of these angry preachers seemed specific: promote laws and lawmakers who will restrict accepted morality to the narrow 1950s parameters of women under male control, gays in the closet, whites firmly in charge and free-market capitalism as true to the… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

Paul,
Whacky isn’t it? Mr. Erich is safe and sound back in New York. Having survived his frightful foray among the Troglodytes he can now think of ways to help save American democracy from the frightful people out there. I am actually thankful that UMR posted this. Really helps put things in perspective.
Imagine having a conversation with this guy. Be like talking to an alien from another planet. And yet we keep trying.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Hyperbole much? He never claimed to have done as you said. You’ve bourne false witness against him.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

You’re confusing criticism with hatred. We have the right to freedom of speech, but not to freedom of speech free from criticism.

Don
Guest

So this guy gets out of the concrete jungle, hears the truth, rejects it, and runs back to daddy government control. And its news why? Wasted effort.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Huh?

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