KJOY or NPR?

I’ve been driving a lot lately, as part of my job, and I’ve had a lot of time to sample the local radio stations. One station, with the call letters KJOY* is, as you might expect, a Christian station. Like most radio stations, they sing their jingle about once every 3 minutes or so. (An aside—for some reason, those jingle are apparently an international industry standard. The Barcelona radio stations sing their call letters to the same tune, with the same voices. It’s spooky.) But KJOY always accompanies its call letters with the phrase, “positive and uplifting KJOY! Programming that’s safe and encouraging for the whole family!”

Every time I hear that phrase, I cringe. On one hand, I can see the value of having a place on the dial that believers can go to listen to teaching and the Word during the week, and I do understand the attraction that a “safe” station could have for parents. But there’s something about the phrase, and the mentality it suggests, that bothers me.

I tune into the Christian station and hear platitudes and “uplifting” sermonettes. I turn to NPR, and I hear some of the best thinkers in the nation wrestling with the most difficult, most pressing issues of our day. As believers, shouldn’t we be wrestling alongside the rest of our country? Shouldn’t we add our Spirit-led voices to these difficult debates? It’s not that there’s no value in what is being said on the Christian stations, but the “safe programming” often seems to me like a retreat from the issues that the world is thinking about.

Where are the Jeremiahs and Isaiahs, the prophets who called the people of God to account for the actions of their country and problems of their countrymen?

The rest of the nation is wrestling through the tough issues of a broken world, and every time I switch back to “KJOY,” I can’t help but think that we have locked ourselves away in a “positive and uplifting” closet on the Titanic while the grownups try to figure out what to do with the sinking boat. We don’t stone the prophets these days, but we’re certainly not going to give them any airspace.

*not the actual call letters–my purpose is not point a finger at one specific station, but at a type of station, and the mindset behind it.

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