I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks about the issues raised in our little blog conversation about Christian radio. It was a fun and healthy interaction and I think some good points were brought to light. So it’s time to stir the pot again with some further reflections.
Some commenters made the observation that a religious broadcaster filling a spot on the radio dial with music that is “safe for the whole family” is just good marketing. After all, there IS a market for that kind of music out there, and they’re just tapping into it. And on the surface, I agree. My kids are pretty young yet to filter through the nuances of the Fall, so I sometimes appreciate the ability to direct them uncritically to music that is “safe.”
Upon further reflection, I think what I resent is the equating of “safe” with “Christian.” Though these stations market themselves simply as “safe for the whole family” (no explicit Christian labeling), it’s clear to anyone listening that the primary music they’re playing has a distinctly Christian message. This blurring of categories confuses the gospel.
If broadcasters want to play Christian music (i.e. worship music or music with explicitly Christian themes), they should play Christian music. On the other hand, if they want to play “safe for the whole family” music, they should play all the clean pop music they can find. The problem is that they are doing neither. They are positioning themselves neither as overtly Christian nor as simply safe, but as some confusing amalgam of the two. Which leads listeners (generally Christian moms in their 30s and 40s, as wise commenters pointed out) to equate Christianity with safety.
I am reminded of the too-oft-quoted scene in The Chronicles of Narnia when Lucy inquires of Mr. Beaver as to the nature of Aslan. “Then he isn’t safe?” “Safe?” Mr. Beaver replies. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”
The subtle message given in Christian radio is that Christians can and should desire to be “safe” from the influences of the world. My contention is that this is an effeminate, idolatrous, and dangerous message. Parents certainly have a responsibility to exercise godly discretion in training their children and teaching right from wrong. But the world is not safe. And the mission of God is not safe. And picking up your cross and following Jesus is not anything close to safe.
In the previous thread, Nick asked what music I would play if I had a spot on the FM dial. I’m not sure, but my latest idea for a marketing line would be: “music that is dangerously redemptive.” As a father trying to lead my children into gospel-centered, Christ-honoring living in a fallen world, a radio station like that would motivate me toward meaningful conversations with my kids. Sure, it would take more discretion, and it wouldn’t be easy… but following Jesus is neither safe nor easy. Not even for the whole family.