The Problem with Christian Radio
Wednesday, August 8, 2012Tweet
Today I want to talk about Christian music stations.
This is not a discussion about the entire industry of Christian music. It's not about the quality of contemporary Christian music or the careers of Christian music artists or the dual goals of praising God and making money.
It's about my experience as a Christian wanting to listen to Christian music in my car.
Yes, I know the critiques of Christian music: that all the songs sound the same, that all the singers use the same weird breathy way of singing, that radio stations have been playing "I Can Only Imagine" 50 times a week for the past decade. I don't care. I like it, and I like having it on rotation with my classic rock and oldies stations in my car. It makes me calmer, it makes me happy, it helps me put my life in perspective, and it keeps me close to God.
What I've discovered in the past few years, though, is that listening to Christian radio is one piece of the lifestyle of a "proper" conservative Christian in America -- the lifestyle package that includes how you dress, how you date, how you speak, how you parent, and how you vote. And as a result, that lifestyle is reflected back by Christian radio itself.
When after college I re-discovered Christian radio, something that had occupied three of six saved stations in my car in high school, I found that either I had changed or the stations had (probably both). Suddenly I had to have quick reflexes to change the station in order to avoid getting angry and/or offended at the parts other than music. It might be a Focus on the Family segment telling me what my God-ordained role as a wife was. It might be a "positive and encouraging" news segment creatively edited to be about how awesome churches are or celebrating that some religious organization had earned the right to discriminate against people for being gay or not Christian enough. Or it might be the morning show hosts making an offhand comment that they didn't even realize was political because an issue's been twisted up to be one and the same with Christianity.
I thought I'd found a Christian station I felt safe listening to out here in Whoville, up until last week when suddenly the DJ started talking excitedly about "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" and how we needed to show our support for Dan Cathy for saying he supported the "biblical definition" of marriage.
I swore loudly and banged the power button to shut the radio off.
All I want is to listen to Christian music. I should be able to do that without being made to feel that my family isn't holy enough or my political beliefs are sinful.
Here's something else: I've never heard a Christian station call themselves "Christian." They're always the "family-friendly" station, or the "positive and encouraging" station. The one that's "inspirational" or "safe for the whole family." But the irony? It's the Christian stations that I feel the least safe listening to.
When I'm listening to a classic rock station, I may not be hearing music praising God. I may not be challenged to reflect on Jesus' sacrifice or how I'm loving my neighbor. I may hear swearing or references to sex and drugs. But I know that the DJ isn't going to start making political comments, casting judgment on my friends, or celebrating someone's discriminatory actions. Somehow the things that secular radio realizes are completely inappropriate are more than fair game for Christian radio stations.
Christians come in all flavors, so why is Christian radio dominated by a single perspective?