(I should note, for those unfamiliar: My current job is as a syndicated morning radio host on a Christian radio network.)
Dan Kimball wrote this book They Like Jesus But Not the Church. Or something like that. It's a great book.
I mean, I suspect it is. I haven't read it. I don't think I need to. I get it: People outside the church think Christians are judgmental, simplistic, etc. etc. Got it. But Jesus? He's challenging, revolutionary, fascinating, insightful, mind-blowing, mysterious.
After working in both mainstream and Christian radio, I think I'm ready to write my own book about the many I encounter: They Like Church But Not Jesus.
I mean it. I wrote before: Based on my observation, Jesus is simply not the most influential guy around. I've seen it over, and over, and over. In fact, I'd say it's a theme at my job: People just aren't that into Jesus. He ticks people off.
I've been corrected many times by Christians -- after reading something Jesus actually said. They don't like it. I'm serious. "You know, all the commandments can be summed up with love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that, and..."
Ringing phones. "Hello?"
"You forgot one: Evangelize."
Jesus stands corrected.
"Well, it's not quite that simple, you see, because..."
No, no. It can't be that simple. Not here.
You see, we actually talk about Jesus quite a bit on the show. In fact -- and I've been around a bit, including doing mornings at the single most-listened-to CCM station in the country -- and I've never, ever heard a show that talks more about Jesus. We do some bizarre stuff, too (like my award-winning game "Is My Head in a Case?" or playing "Rapper's Delight" in German, etc.) but we talk about Jesus more than any music show I've ever heard.
(Not bragging here. I just think we're doing something kind of experimental. If you're in Christian radio, reading this, and you're doing the same thing -- that's cool. I just don't get out much.)
So more Jesus...but less Christian? How can this be?
I'll connect the dots for me: The things Jesus said, the way of life he gave us, his themes and priorites -- they're simply don't seem very Christian.
If we were to sprinkle in some more hey-I'm-on-your-team-here insider terms, or talk about how America is under attack by (you name it) or just stick to quoting Paul, even -- problem solved. Now it's Christian. Jesus? Mmm -- not so much.
I know you think I may be exaggerating. I'm not. Not in the least. Today, I read where Jesus told us that when we're praying, we shouldn't babble on "like the pagans do".
I got three very Christian emails of protest, citing scripture to rebut Jesus.
No big deal, but -- so you know -- it happens again and again. This is where my "If Jesus Had a Blog" stuff comes from, by the way. Real conversations with learned Christians, and real objections to stuff Jesus said.
People do love the Bible. But not the Gospels. They quote Biblical stuff to me all the time, but it's not ever stuff Jesus said.
I can't tell you how thankful I am for my job. Ironically -- and all of us here love irony -- I effectively killed my ambition a couple years ago, and since, my platform has grown. It happened immediately after I stopped caring.
I can't believe how understanding my bosses have been. Those of you who are understandably down on Christian radio would be heartened by some of what transpires where I work.
And we get a remarkable number of emails/facebook messages/texts from people who say, "I have never thought about Jesus this way before. Thank you." It can bring tears to a guy's eyes. I wish those people called more on the phone, to be honest, but most people will never call a radio station and talk to an on-air "personality", especially when his head is in a case.
So that's just it. You've got "How can he say that?" on one side, and "I've never thought about Jesus like this before," on another, and there's quite a bit of both, and hundreds of thousands of listeners, and -- I just think something's going to happen. Maybe I'm nuts.
We've had conversations that, I'm quite sure, have never been held on Christian radio before. Sometimes, several of them a day.
The scary part is: I think some people are starting to get it. How long can that continue?
I have to pray every day for God to help me love these people, the frustrating ones, the Christians bugged by Jesus-talk. I've told my wife, and a few friends, that eventually they will come for me. If I keep talking about Jesus, and keep probing the stuff he said, they're going to come for me. I'm only half-joking.
I'm not worried about the A.C.L.U. It'll be religious leaders. I think there's precedent for that.
Please pray for me. I'm not writing this because I'm desperate, or there's anything new here. I just take my job very seriously. It matters a LOT to me what people think of Jesus. At the same time, I always have my own stupid concerns about me.
I want to do great radio, not great Christian radio.
And I want to convey how remarkable Jesus is. How smart he is. How he understands our nature. How infuriating he can be to those in power. I want to subvert a culture that turns the church into an incredibly expensive and remarkably harmless spectator sport. I want people to understand how revolutionary the love of Jesus is.
I don't want to preach at them. I want to be a friend. Doing this is really, really hard. I know your job is hard, too. Thing is, my job has an interesting, seeming, paradox: If I focus a lot on Jesus, I'm going to upset a lot of Christians.
I may not have put any of this very well, but please pray for me.