Sep 07 2011
On Dealing with Crazy Christians

This was written for a Christian radio industry site, and certainly isn't for everybody.  But it might mean something to you, too, in your realm.

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Dear Other Radio People,

First of all, thank you for your work as an Other Radio Person.  This is the hardest kind of radio to do, this “Christian radio” thing.  Most of us who’ve done other formats figure that out, the first time we say something that didn’t… come out… quite right.  We figure this out, subtly, because when we say something the wrong way in this format, someone calls and tells us we are masters of deceit, leading thousands of people to eternal punishment.

In another format, when we mess up, we’re just stupid.  And that’s it.

Anyway, I’ve had to deal with a lot of crazy people, and crazy people can take it to a new level of crazy when they dish out regular-brand crazy with a heapin’ helpin’ of Bible-talk.  Radio friends have even asked me, “How do you handle it?”  And I admit, I’ve gotten frustrated with people.  I wish they’d go away, but only after replacing their “‘Fireproof’ is the finest film ever made!” selves with chai-sipping N.T. Wright fans.

In other words, I wish they’d go away, and I’d be left with more people like… me.

That’s a problem.  If this is ministry, it’s not about me.  Nor is it about my elitism, my biases, or my desire to feel superior to the people who call to wrap up every discussion, every question, no matter what, with “Jesus”, “The Bible”, or “God”.

So here’s what I remind myself:

1)  These people are family.

Because they are.  Growing up, I said things many times that embarrassed my much-cooler brother.  But I was always his brother, and the church is — truly — family.  I’m glad he put up with me, and still puts up with me.  Family is like that.

2)  They’re family, but I will not let these people define Jesus for me.

Yes, there are horrible legalists in the world, and some of them listen to Christian radio.  But while they may embody a particular American church subcultural type, they are not the total picture of the word “Christian”.  The “median” Christian, statistically speaking, is not even American.  She’s a poor woman in Africa, and hasn’t heard of Casting Crowns, Night of Joy, or WWJD? bracelets.  Fine things, all, but I’m not going to confuse our products and subculture with Jesus.

3)  Some of these people are new to the faith.

And they’re excited about it.  They should be.  And they just turned on a Christian station, and they’re elated.  The songs are speaking to them, deeply.  They didn’t even know music could be like this!  They want to hear more about God!  And then I come on, and I talk about Jesus — or about what my dog ate last night.

There’s a reason for this.  The dog thing is life, too, and I’m going to represent life, highs, lows, and even the amusing mundane, on the show.  Christ fills everything with meaning! — but I’m not going to hold it against the listener, who may be a new believer, from not getting it just yet.

You and I have no idea how long that caller has been a believer, or if she even is one.  She may be merely playing church on the “church station”, and know no better.

4)  The church has always been full of freaks.

And thank you, Lord, for that.  Otherwise, I don't get in. 

I don’t know who said it first, but the Church has been described as H.C.E.:  ”Here Comes Everybody”.  The whole motley lot of us, sprinting and jumping and limping and being wheeled and carried in on a gurney.  Cool, uncool – doesn’t matter.  Just glad you’re here.  And it’s been that way since Jesus hand-picked his first disciples.

So why would we expect any different?  ”But some of my callers and emailers seem kind of simple and needy, and, even more so than typical people, and — ”

Well, Jesus’ message has always appealed first to the needy.  Always.  Don’t be shocked, and don’t be surprised, either, when you visit a doc’s office, and the people inside seem sicker than those outside.  Makes sense.  So we can quit reacting to it.

5)  Diminishing them is just a way for me to feel superior.

And I’m not.  And you’re not, either.

Thank God.  Here comes everybody, including you and me.

Aug 15 2011
"Jesus-Juking": Some Tips

"Jesus juking", the term, is relatively new (hat tip to Jon Acuff!)  But the activity has been around for a long time  And, by golly, I'm good at it.

Not only have I participated in it, I've been employed in Christian radio, which means I've heard Jesus-juking at its highest levels, in hundreds of different contexts. It's all about adding a comment that will make everyone feel silly, and just plain unspiritual, for having the audacity to go about their daily lives.   Like I say, I've done this, too. 

So here are some tips:

 

1)  Remember that silliness cannot be tolerated.  And everything, compared to your mature spirituality, is silliness.

Him:  I really like this comedian!  His routine about getting frustrated with his broken washing machine is so true and hilarious!

You:  (sigh) I just don't see how getting angry at a machine glorifies the Lord.

 

2) "Spiritualize" EVERYTHING... and then contextualize your subtle rebuke by "tying in" to what they're talking about

Her:  I like baseball.

You:  You know, Jesus tells us we'll never truly be "safe" at "home" if we put energy into worldly things.

 

3) Make EVERYTHING about the "end days".

Him:  Huh.  Says here in the paper that "Rockstar" is now outselling "Powerade", and --

You:  We are told in scripture that "men will thirst".  Just another example that we are at the Very End of Time.

 

4) Don't let anyone get away with a hobby.

Her:  They've got this really cool model train setup in their garage, with little trees and --

You:  Wow. Wish they'd put that kind of effort into the Kingdom.

 

5) Compare sports crowds, always, to church crowds.

Him:  Wow! Touchdown! That was clutch!  Woohoo!

You:  If only people would get this excited about the Lord on Sunday mornings.

 

6) Music is easy pickings. You can juke forever.

Him:  I like this song!

You:  It's not Christian.

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Him:  I like this CHRISTIAN song!

You:  Why don't they say the word, "Jesus"?

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Him:  I like this CHRISTIAN song about JESUS!

You:  Whatever happened to songs that were just scripture?

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Him:  I like this CHRISTIAN song about JESUS that's straight from SCRIPTURE!

You:  So sad that we have to use a "club beat" that reminds people of the things of the world.

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Him:  I like this CHRISTIAN song about JESUS that's straight from SCRIPTURE and is A CAPPELLA.

You:  I prefer prayerful silence.

 

7)  Reading the Bible is awesome.  But not awesome enough.

Her:  You know, I'm reading the Bible more these days!  I'm really enjoying it.

You:  Hm. That's interesting. But you can't rely on your own, very human, flawed interpretation.  Instead, you should really read a John MacArthur Study Bible.

 

8)  Do NOT allow people to confess their weaknesses.   Pounce.  And then use "brother", or "sister".

Her:  I really struggle with prayer, and --

You:  I'll remember to pray for you, that you'll finally put your faith in God, sister.

 

9)  Relate all appreciation of nature to religious arguments.

Him:  Man, what a beautiful tree!  It's amazing, and --

You:  Amazing, isn't it, that people worship trees instead of the Creator?

 

10) Christmas is a GOLDEN opportunity to juke.

Him:  I got some neat Christmas cards with a star on them, and --

You:  It's too bad how they try to replace Jesus with a generic "star" pattern.

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Him:  I got some neat Christmas cards with baby Jesus on them, and --

You:  It's too bad society's so approving of BABY Jesus, but not the grown-up one who called down judgment.

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Him:  I got some neat Christmas cards with an adult Jesus on them, calling down judgment, and --

You:  It's too bad card-makers are trying to make money off selling pictures of Jesus.

 

10b) Combining Christmas with music?  PERFECT.

Him:  I love Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"

You:  It's a secular song.

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Him:  I love Bing Crosby's "Hark the Herald"

You:  It's too bad Bing Crosby wasn't a Christian.

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Him:  I love Kirk Franklin's "Hark the Herald"

You:  It's too bad the original melody is borrowed from a beer hall song.

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Him:  How about I just love Kirk Cameron?

You:  Okay!