I drive a fair amount in my job. I like to listen to radio preachers while I drive. This is odd, considering that I’m not particularly religious nor do I enjoy listening to preaching in church. There is something about radio preachers that always catches my interest. My travel is largely confined to Eastern Kentucky (business) and the southern United States (vacation). These areas are a mother load of radio preaching.
This post is not a theological piece nor is it intended as a criticism–or defense–of Radio Preachers. Also, please do not take it as some anti-Christian screed. It just so happens that Radio Preachers are Christians. That’s a fact. I’ve never heard a radio rabbi or imam, although I’m sure they exist. Many of my devoutly Christian friends believe they are persecuted because of their beliefs. That may well be true, but this post is not part of that persecution. These are just some of my observations from my years of listening.
Radio Preachers enjoy talking about Hell. Now, whether you believe there is a Hell or not, Hell sounds like no fun. I guess that’s the point. While driving through Alabama recently, I heard this description:
Listen to me, young people. THERE IS NO PARTY ROOM IN HELL! There is no good time! If you think there is, you are WRONG! You will be too busy weeping and wailing and burning to have a good time!
Wow. That sums it up, I guess. Of course, it got me thinking: Is there some group of misguided youngsters in Alabama who think–like the great band AC/DC–that “Hell ain’t a bad place to be?” If so, why? If you believe in Hell, then you surely know that in addition to weeping and wailing, there will gnashing of teeth and eternal damnation. You might even tear at your robes (they did that a lot in the Bible), assuming your clothes haven’t been burned off. None of that will be good.
Hell is the bad cop to Heaven’s good cop. The radio preachers make it clear that it’s really easy to go straight to Hell. It’s discouraging.
I’ve always been baffled by why Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time threatening to send people to Hell if they stepped out of line. Even the most casual reader of the New Testament will notice that the Disciples–for all the good they did–were kind of pain to deal with. Ever notice how many times they question Jesus? I think this is why he taught in parables. These guys just weren’t that bright. Honestly, I don’t think Jesus was all that concerned about Hell. If he had been, he would have said something like: “Step out of line one more time, and it’s straight to Hell. I mean it.”
The only time I think about Hell is when I listen to a radio preacher. Sadly, they usually convince me that I’m GOING to Hell. I don’t want that. It would be bad. No party room.
Radio Preachers are always torn between Jesus the man and Jesus the Savior. Or at least it seems that way. They always stress that Jesus was (“is”) God’s son, but he was also a man. As God’s son, He was God incarnate; thus, infallible. As a man, He was flesh; thus, flawed–but not really, because He was Jesus. It’s like they want you to know that Jesus was human, but don’t want you to really believe that. Very confusing.
I figure Jesus was a regular guy. He was a carpenter. I’ve known a bunch of carpenters, and they’re all pretty normal. Jesus probably was, too. If they had sports, he would have liked them (although, I’m not sure he would have like that “Kick The Goat’s Head” game they play in Iraq). Jesus was Jewish. He probably looked like Dustin Hoffman. Radio Preachers, it seems, are concerned that if they make Him sound too human, then they’ll take away his God qualities. This makes no sense to me, but what do I know?
As everyone knows, the New Testament has a big gap in Jesus’s life. I figure it’s because he was just working as a carpenter and living a normal life during that time. Probably not much to report. He certainly didn’t have disciples charting his every move.
Radio Preachers take everything related to Jesus and make it as dramatic as possible. Here’s a recent description I heard about the Sermon on the Mount:
And the multitudes had gathered to see Jesus and touch the hem of his garments. Jesus stood before them. Oh, can’t you see Him with His arms raised to the Heavens? Can’t you imagine the glorious moment when He spoke? He then spake unto them: [Radio Preacher then goes on to read from the Sermon on the Mount].
Now, I really enjoy the Sermon on the Mount. It’s real preaching, and good stuff, too. But, it’s pretty clear that the folks gathered there were the sick and demon-possessed. That means sick and INSANE. And sick means REALLY sick. Leprosy sick. Thanks to modern medicine I’ve never known anyone with leprosy, but back then people were slap eat up with it. They made you wear a big old damn bell around your neck to warn people. Notice what Jesus did? He healed them. He didn’t say: “Oh, don’t worry about that leprosy. Just ring your bell.” Even Jesus didn’t mess with it. He just got rid of it. Imagine what a motley and disturbed bunch this was. It would have been horrifying. This is what Jesus was able to draw as a crowd. This is not a bad thing. These are the folks who were the outcasts and needed help. Frankly, that makes for a better story; however, there was probably a certain grunginess to it.
My other favorite Jesus story is in the garden of Gethsemane. Radio Preachers love this story, especially around Easter. To me, it’s the story that makes Jesus human. He’s doing what I would do, saying: “Hey, I’ll do this if I have to, but I’m okay with you getting me out of it, too.” Nothing wrong with that. It’s a great, great story. Radio Preachers spin it to say that Jesus was REALLY saying that he was ready to roll. Maybe so. I’m no theologian, but I don’t take it that way.
Radio Preachers also like to call on Jesus to perform miracles, usually to heal people. This presumes that Jesus is like a genie in a bottle. Conjure him up and “POOF!” he takes care of things. What was Jesus’s first miracle? I think it’s when he turned water into wine. Kind of a magic trick really but pretty cool. Importantly, though, you’ll notice that he didn’t say: “Oh, and if you ever need me to do any of these things for you, just give me a holler.” Sorry, Radio Preacher.
God Is A Republican
Radio Preachers don’t hesitate to talk about politics. In fact, they love it. I’ve learned one fact which is undeniable: God is a Republican. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but it’s a fact. He supports Republican candidates for all public offices. Jesus may have said “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”, but God wanted Caesar to join the GOP.
Radio Preachers tell me that I need to pray for God to elect certain folks to office. Here’s my problem: If God decides who wins, why do I need to make a request? Is He really confused? Does He need MY input? I don’t think so. Now, if God’s candidate loses, which happens from time to time, what does that mean? Here’s what it means to me: God doesn’t care about elections.
Interestingly, Jesus was Jewish. Seems like a lot of Jewish folks are Democrats. It wouldn’t be the first time that a son took a different political view than his Father, I suppose.
End of Days
This is probably the most popular topic for Radio Preachers–the end of times. Why? I guess because it’s terrifying and segues nicely into talking about Hell. Much like Hell, I’ve determined that the end times will be awful. Just a total mess.
Evidently, we are in the end times, because the world has just gone to Hell (not literally, of course). There are wars, earthquakes, famines, immorality, homosexuality, abortion and all manner of debauchery afoot. Really. We’re probably the 1000th generation who thought the same thing. Why? Because we’re alive RIGHT NOW. Everything going on now is more important, because it’s happening to us! I find it all rather entertaining, since this presumes that the past was all butterfly kisses and unicorn rides.
Google the word “pederasty.” That’s a nasty little practice of a grown man taking on an underaged male lover. Used to be quite common and accepted by polite society. A harmless relationship between two consenting adults is pretty tame compared to that. Read the works of the Marquis de Sade. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything more vile today. How about slavery? Witch burnings (this means BURNED ALIVE)? Nice stuff. There have been quite a few famines and natural disasters throughout history. Ask our friends in China, Africa and Ireland about famines. War? Name a time when there wasn’t a war. We’re humans. We like to kill each other, especially over real estate. The upshot of it is that we don’t have anything better or worse going on now that ever before. Chill out, Radio Preacher.
I always heard that the end would come when we least expect it, like a thief in the night. I’m confident that the Radio Preachers don’t know any more about it than the rest of us, but it’s still entertaining to hear about.
One last thing, whenever end times are discussed, the book of Revelation has to be mentioned. First, it’s REVELATION, as in the Revelation of John. It is NOT RevelationS. I’ll stop listening when the Radio Preacher calls it Revelations (which is 90% of the time). Secondly, let’s all be honest–it’s totally incomprehensible. Most of the Bible is enjoyable to read, but this book is like something Hunter Thompson would have written in the midst of an acid trip. If you can figure out the imagery of horses, pale riders, 666, Whore of Babylon, etc., you yourself are a prophet. If so, please just write something coherent for the rest of us. I’ll tell one thing that doesn’t help: A Radio Preacher screaming about it. It just makes things worse.
Radio Preachers need money. Your money. Well, it’s not your money. It’s God’s money, but God wants you to send it to the Radio Preacher as sort of a trustee for the benefit of God. God doesn’t trust you with His money. He trusts the Radio Preacher. You should, too.
I’ll keep driving and listening. You may think that I’m a horrible cynic with no religious faith at all. Not true. Okay, the cynic part is probably true. I have my faith and my views of God, but I’m the type that keeps it to myself. I don’t really doubt the sincerity of the preachers I hear. Some of them are quite good and very persuasive. I’m just irreverent. As I heard the other day: “Brothers and sisters, Hell can’t fill up! There’s always room for one more!” Ouch.