Thursday, June 25, 2009

Road Trip & Late Night (Christian) Radio

Okay, it wasn’t that late but it did remind me of an old John Denver song by the same name (Late-Night Radio) and I was getting sleepy. Everyone else in the car was already in deep somber but me. We were far removed from our jagged and wet coastal N. Cascades and journeying across the rolling and dry eastern Washington plain. There is a sharp contrast between the liberal, new-agers who live on our rocky island and this cowboy land.

My NPR station out of Seattle was fading in the back shadow of the mountains. With more static than words (or classical music) I gave up and hit the seek button on the radio. It spun through the entire range of the dial and came to a very loud and clear Christian station. I’m not a fan of Christian radio although Denise still is. I hit the button again. It spun through the entire hertz of frequency and rested back on the Christian station just like shooing a seagull from your picnic table at the beach, only to have it circle high in the air and land right back were it was.

The radio was broadcasting a children’s program and it blared so loudly that it awaken everyone in the car . . . including me. The radio kids were singing sweetly and with great enthusiasm about Noah or Peter and the other fishermen. It reminded me of our countless road trips in our old blue VW van with the kids were young. We didn’t rely on Christian radio that much but we had a whole library of evangelical, kids-tapes that sounded the same. Focus on the Family put out volumes of such material.

The next segment of the radio program was title (can’t remember for sure) “Uncle Bob’s Question Time.” That sounded interesting.

At this point I’m going to recreate that program as best as I can remember. I will try to keep my commentary to a minimal as I don’t want to sound critical again like I just can’t help myself from deconstructing everything Evangelical. I will let the reader (if there are any) deconstruct this in their own minds. My only point, and it’s a personal one, is that sometimes I am amazed how far I have drifted from my Evangelical roots. I started to diverge twenty years ago with a failed missionary experience. But the process has been gradual. So, while listening to this Christian radio, first I felt a kinship, remember the old days with James Dobson and the Adventures in Odyssey. But then when Uncle Bob started talking, I felt like I reside in a parallel (maybe a perpendicular) universe.

Uncle Bob’s voice is one of those playful ones that’s a little over the top—somewhat like Pee Wee Herman’s in his Big Playhouse. This episode began with an introduction. While whimsical music played Bob’s voice said, “Welcome to Uncle Bob’s Question Time. Boys and Girls did you know that every question that you will ever have has an answer in God’s word?” The music then decrescendos into silence.

Uncle Bob:
Today we have a letter from one of our listeners in Kansas City, named Coy. Coy asks, ‘Uncle Bob . . . my uncle Dave died from AIDs last year. Will I get to see him in Heaven?’”

(Oddly Uncle Bob continues but begins his answer with a chuckle in his voice. Why is he happy about the poor girl’s uncle dying? Okay, sorry, I said I would try not to do commentary.)

Uncle Bob:
“Well Coy, that is a great question! You know Heaven is a wonderful place. There will be no tears, no suffering, no regrets, no sorrows and no grief. So you will not miss your uncle because then you will be in Heaven.

But let’s turn to God’s word." (He turns to a passage in Matthew 19:4:

Haven't you read, he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,'and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'

You see, Jesus says that gay lifestyle is sin. You can not go to Heaven if you are in the gay lifestyle because Jesus says so. But you will not be sad about not seeing Dave when you are in Heaven because you will be with Jesus.

Also Coy, Dave would not be happy in Heaven anyway. In Heaven will only be people who love God and desire godliness. This will make people like Dave very uncomfortable.”

I didn’t notice that Ramsey and Amy, in the back seat, were wide awake and listening to this program. They immediately and simultaneously burst out laughing. I didn’t get the chance to ask them why because it is hard from me to hear them from the front driver’s seat when the car is loud.

So what is wrong with this? I really try not to be critical. There is so much in life that is wonderful and worthy to spend energy thinking about, so I have to learn to stay away from Christian radio. But sometimes, I forget how far I’ve diverged and I start tiptoeing back into the evangelical waters.

I know that I'm breaking my promise (about not deconstructing Uncle Bob) but I am left with a few questions. 1) Really Bob, the Bible has a very precise answer for every question? Then tell me who the were the Neanderthals and you are not allowed to use tangential meanings from obscure verses to answer that question? 2) Why does all knowing Uncle Bob assume that Dave died from AIDs because he was “practicing the gay lifestyle?” That’s a huge assumption (and they say, to “assume” is to make an ass out of u and me). 3) Okay, now assume (now I’m doing it) that Dave was, indeed gay. If we believe in a gospel where once we are saved, we are still not perfect, then how much gay sin discounts the entire gospel in that’s person’s life? This raises a very important question.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m sure (if he is like most Evangelicals) that Bob believes if George, a good Baptist minister, is caught bonking (is that a decent term?) one of the women in the church, does that sin of adultery nullify his entire conversion experience? I bet even uncle Bob would say no. So how does Dave having AIDs convince Bob that Dave had done something to pave his way to hell?

3) Lastly, so Bob is saying that Dave would RATHER experience hell’s fires for all eternity (and worse . . . separation from God) than be UNCOMFORTABLE around good Christian people in the glories of Heaven? I admit that we Christians are sometimes obnoxious, but that statement seems a little bizarre.

I just purchased a novel on CD so I can avoid radio for the rest of the trip and just enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the creative words of a great author.


pennyyak said...

I used to love to listen to Unshackled on the radio. Somehow, some really awful sinner would get saved, and in my adolescent mind, I think I thought they never did (whatever bad thing) again. Perfection! However, that didn't work out at all like that in my life. But it was high drama - Perry Mason for Christians.

Scott in Boston said...

I used to get hooked by "UNSHACKLED!" too...I chuckle a bit (like Uncle Bob?) at your Perry Mason may know, as I only months ago learned, that the late and iconic Raymond Burr was a very gay man...perhaps (in the afterlife) he should cross examine Uncle Bob?

As an erstwhile veteran Evangelical Christian Radio Announcer (something like ten years...and always SOMEWHAT critical), now I just CAN'T STAND IT.

The only times I ever turn it on (in deference to NPR, jazz, classical, traffic reports) are on road trips like Mike related, or those Sunday mornings when I either couldn't drag myself out of bed or find a parking space around Beacon Hill: I listen to the sermon on our church broadcast, but have to switch it off immediately after it's over.

Anonymous said...

(Oddly Uncle Bob continues but begins his answer with a chuckle in his voice. Why is he happy about the poor girl’s uncle dying? Okay, sorry, I said I would try not to do commentary.)

I suspect it's an obligatory Happy Clappy chuckle that's expected of both a children's show host and a Happy Clappy Joyful Christian (TM).

However, the light chuckle combined with the subject matter is what makes it so creepy and surreal.

Especially when the subject slides into "Yes, Virginia, there Really is a Hell and your Fag uncle is burning in it." And being Christian (apparently on one of the upper floors), Uncle Bob is completely clueless as to how creepy this sounds to an outsider.

As for the automatic assumption that dying of AIDS automatically means (in the words of Lenny Bruce's townsman in "Thank You Masked Man") "FAAAG! FAAAAG! FAAAAAG!"? Well, Christians are just as obsessed with homosexuality as any Gay Pride Parade down Castro Street or West Hollywood, just in the complete opposite direction. Nothing triggers an automatic Two Minutes Hate reaction among Evangelicals than anything to do with homosexuality. (Except maybe abortion and/or evolution.) We reserve the greatest Moral Indignation for those sins we have no chance of committing ourselves.

I stopped listening to Christian (TM) radio when Rich Buhler's "Talk from the Heart" (great afternoon talk show) went off the air. These days I get my High Weirdness by Radio fix from Art Bell's "Coast to Coast". Much easier on the blood pressure and depresso attack triggers.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Tom S. said...

"I used to love to listen to Unshackled on the radio. Somehow, some really awful sinner would get saved. . ."

I too used to love Unshackled - you're life too can be filled to overflowing! I guess it's a good thing from the perspective of Uncle Bob that the distinguished evangelical governor of South Carolina and the evangelical senator from Nevada only committed adultery with other women because if they had homosexual liaisons (like Ted Haggard) they would really be in trouble!

“Welcome to Uncle Bob’s Question Time. Boys and Girls did you know that every question that you will ever have has an answer in God’s word?”

It was reported recently in New Scientist that "Astronomers have spotted the most distant object yet confirmed in the universe – a self-destructing star that exploded 13.1 billion light years from Earth." I would like to know, Uncle Bob, how we could see such an object if the earth is only 6000 years old? Oh, that's right, Uncle Bob, all the answers to such questions can be found in Genesis due to the scientific nature of the book.

"I just purchased a novel on CD so I can avoid radio for the rest of the trip."

Excellent plan! Let me guess, your novel was not written by an evangelical Christian.

pennyyak said...

No Scott, I didn't know Raymond Burr was gay. I brought a set of "Perry Mason" DVD's not long ago, that's why I thought of that. He was great in that part, but outside of work, he was an interesting person with some depth of interest in this and that. More to him than many actors.

Anonymous said...


I avoid our Christian radio stations like the plague. The weird thing is that I used to listen to them like an addict. I remember being a new mother up here and tuning into the Moody felt so good to get The Answers. It felt so good to know somebody out there *had* The Answers.

Ten years later, I prefer audio books, NPR or similar talk radio if I have a long drive. I'm decidedly allergic to anything that proclaims it as The Answers.

craig v. said...

I have a bias against anything labeled 'Christian'. That's probably unfair. If I went to a 'Christian' store and saw a 'Christian' broom, I would assume it was overpriced junk. I wonder where that bias comes from.

Anna A said...


That bias probably comes from factual experience. As a scientist, I frequently feel the same way about seeing simple things labeled "scientific". I expect that it will be more expensive.

For a surreal experience while driving, listen to the soundtrack of "Into Great Silence". (For those who might not know, that is the movie about Carthusian monks. The only sounds are those that occurred naturally, like chant etc.)

MJ said...

Great comments. I'm glad that I don't live alone in this perpendicular universe. I am concerned about what we are pumping into the heads of the little evangelical tots. What do they become when they grow up? I know, they leave Christianity completely as hogwash.

I had one other thought about uncle Bob. I sense that he had an agenda with the fact that he chose (or wrote himself) that particular letter.

Yeah Scott, I forgot about your unique perspective or working in both Christian radio and NPR.

Back on the road. It was a great novel, "Til Death Do Us Part by Kate White" mystery some-what of a chick-flick though (made Amy and Denise more interested). It was the only decent book on CD at the Helena used bookstore.

Turcano said...

Man, as soon as I read the question I thought, "Don't go there, Uncle Bob." Looks like I had the misfortune of being right on the money.

And put me down as another Unshackled fan; it's probably because it doesn't take itself seriously.