Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Radio Slogan

Tomorrow at 5:30 am I will be rowing on lake Mendota!!!!! I am so excited and nervous I don't think I will be able to sleep tonight. I couldn't sleep last night because I was quizzing myself on rowing vocabulary and trying to remember if there is a difference in port and starboard oars (I think there is). I want to know what kind of shells they have and the pattern on the oars.

I've been wanting to talk about Christian radio station slogans. We heard one this past weekend that was truly unique. Caleb and I were driving home from visiting his parents. We spent the first hour of the ride with the windows down and Switchfoot blasting. We never ride like this, but we were happy and the weather was great and it was the weekend. When we got tired of driving like that (let's face it, you can't sustain that kind of drive for four hours), we rolled up the windows and switched to radio. After a couple of songs, we heard the slogan: "88.7... bringing the good news to sinful Iowa." We both sucked in our breath and exclaimed, "Whoaaa!!" at the same time. Caleb said, "and with such a soothing voice, too." We are bringing the good news to all you filthy sinners out there in the great state of Iowa, where we both happen to live and work. We have a church too, if you ever want to come to it, you sinner. What person who hears that slogan is going to want to have anything to do with Christians, judgmental or otherwise?

I mean, we're all in need of some good news, right? Wheaties, remember the chapter in Bonheoffer's Life Together when he talks about being shocked to discover a sinner in our midst? Christians still sin, so I don't think we should be so quick to create stark dichotomies between those who possess the good news and those who do not in terms of their sinfulness. It's not just one side that has sin issues. Both sides do. How about bringing the good news to ourselves and getting rid of that superiority sentiment? How about embracing an attitude of humility? If we put up walls and project to the world that it's so sinful and so different from us that we can't relate to it, the church will not grow.

It's this kind of pretending that causes even bigger credibility problems for the church-- like when it turns out a pastor has been sleeping with members of his congregation. Pretending that all sin and temptation has vanished from our lives and projecting that image to American society sets us up for big problems when the truth comes out that, oh, I'm really not perfect.

Another problem with this handy little slogan is that it assumes that non-Christians should, and do, try to live up to Christian standards for "holy living." Why would they when they don't believe in Christianity? Christians condemn non-Christians for not living in accordance with something they don't believe. Now, that's twisted. If a Buddhist condemned me for not following the Buddhist principles, I would say, hey man, I'm not a Buddhist. And he would say okay. And that would be the end of it. But Christians can agitate so much! and get away with it on the radio!

If I'm not a Christian and I flip to 88.7 on scan and hear "bringing the good news to sinful Iowa" I will either feel judged, confused, guilty for vague reasons, or angry. Calling people "sinful" creates distance instead of an environment of care and welcoming. What about getting to know someone instead of slapping on that "sinful" label? Ask them what they care about. People are very different, and a lot of times this creates fear in Christians. But what reason do we have to be afraid? Fear of people's thoughts, fear of things they're involved in, fear of being wrong, fear of being labeled. These are common fears. When we are firmly grounded in our identity (in Christ, etc.), we don't have to be afraid. Maybe who we are is just what was needed to reach someone (D. Klee). I'm not a pro, but it's somewhere to start.


  1. Seriously, you bring up an interesting point. As Christians, are we "sinners saved by grace" or are we " the saints?" It was my understanding (from teachings that I heard) that to continually refer to ourselves as sinners kept us in that place (which was a negative thing). To call ourselves saints was some kind of positive thinking, like you said in your last post "Saying who I am helps me to become it more. "
    My other thought was that the slogan was a reflection of an older age of Christianity, and that part of the country. Your generation has been raised with much more tolerance. And let's face it -- you have never gone to a traditional church where they preached that kind of stuff regularly. Be thankful for that!
    Anyway, those are some thoughts I had after reading and thinking about what you wrote. I could go on, but then I would be preaching too!

  2. I think we are both saints and sinners saved by grace. Dr. Ryken did a great chapel talk on this last year-- we have to hold them both in tension. We're not worms, but we're also not perfect. Our righteousness comes through grace-- it's not because of what we do, and so, there's no place for pride. We don't harp on ourselves for being sinners, "when we were still sinners, Christ died for us," but we don't pretend the flesh doesn't exist either. We are redeemed and being made holy. Talking about it like this emphasizes that it's a process-- growing and knowing God more and more, being made like him. What do you think?