Friday, February 6, 2009

Ideological Entertainers...that's all

I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio from 1993-95 because my fellow co-workers had his show on daily (I worked at a bank). I thought Limbaugh was pretty intelligent, possessing generally solid analytical skills and I found myself agreeing with him on many issues. The chief problem with Rush Limbaugh was his seeming belief that a certain brand of politics or a particular ideology was the gospel. If elected officials would govern the way Rush thought, everything would be great.

Ultimately I turned off Rush because political ideologies are not the real answer to man's manifold needs, particularly his ultimate one- the forgiveness of sins. Secondarily, I found my attitude growing increasingly negative while listening to his daily onslaught against the Clinton administration. It wasn't healthy for my sanctification. I don't begrudge Rush Limbaugh, and from time to time I'll see him interviewed and generally appreciate his insights, but still, I think it's unfortunate how much Christians seem to hang on this guy's every word. I don't know his faith commitment, but if he does trust Christ and is a member of a solid, faithful, church, I am unaware and it doesn't come through in what he says. There's no sign of a holistic biblical worldview, that's for sure.

Two other commentators that I find myself agreeing with on various matters don't strike me as intelligent as Limbaugh but are enjoying quite a following these days, especially by many of my Christian friends. Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. I have always thought Bill O'Reilly was an intellectual lightweight. He's a crafty lawyer for sure, but in reality he's an entertainer looking to strike a populist chord just a touch right of center. As for Sean Hannity, he was tolerable when Colmes was on the show to keep him fairly honest, but now that Colmes is gone- I think his show absolutely stinks. It's pathetic. I can't figure out who would like Hannity's approach. Again, like Rush, neither of these guys possesses a Christian worldview, they espouse some nebulous political ideology as the answer to man's problems. Sorry guys, you're missing it too.
Here's the deal- they have "shows". They are entertainers. More specifically they are "ideological entertainers" which is all the medium of television really allows. Quick quotes, sound bites, fast interviews, images flashing, show over in 30 minutes.

The three guys I enjoy listening to don't have their own shows, but seem to appear all over. Ron Paul for his economic insights, Newt Gingrich for his understanding of congressional dealings and international affairs, and Allen Keyes for his rock solid commitment to God-honoring morals. Further, I catch glimpses of a Christian worldview possessed by Keyes at least. Paul has a solid personal statement of faith and I have heard that Gingrich has experienced some kind of personal renewal in his professed Christian faith in very recent years. I don't know for sure. The "news show" stuff on television isn't all bad, however turning ideology in to entertainment is a blurry, weird thing that is having a profound effect on our culture. What would Neil Postman be saying?

So, whether it's Hannity, Colbert, Matthews, Olberman, Maddow, Anderson, Huckabee, The View, Oprah-right/left, liberal/conservative, whoever or whatever: they are all ideological entertainers.
Listen with great caution, if you really must listen at all.


Zach said...

Tony, I agree on all 6 evaluations. Rush is good, and seems to respect Christians immensely, but is there a personal faith there?

O'Reilly seems to be a lax Catholic and has no core ideology, while Hannity is a cafeteria Catholic who rarely even addresses the most important issues (God, family, morals).

Newt (a fellow Georgia boy) is reportedly becoming a Catholic at Easter, and Keyes is a solid Catholic who may be the best current political speaker on the aforementioned important issues. Paul is wonderful. He appears to be a Heinz 57 Christian (although a strong one), going from Presbyterian to Episcopalian to Baptist. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have voted for Paul or Keyes in the KS primary.

Have you ever listened to Bill Bennett's radio show? I don't think he's syndicated in our market, but it's probably the best, most thoughtful political talk show I've ever heard. I also like Laura Ingraham.

Frontier Forest said...

Pastor, I absolutely couldn’t agree with you more, especially on Rush and Hannity. I never have been much of a “Rush-to the right” fan, but during the campaign, we really enjoyed Hannity and Colmes…. that is before Colmes decided he had enough! And now, like you, Hannity is soooo far right, I think his extreme verbiage pushed the envelope over the edge for me! But we don’t ever miss O’Reilly, he acts and smacks, “Fair and balanced!” I find his views refreshing and he indeed, “Always looking out for the little guy!” The night he came unglued with the crook Barney Franks, and just Tuesday night when he blasted the 2 liberal lawyers who were trying to defend the women in California now “selling the rights” to throw 8 babies to a media frenzy, was “being angry at sin and sinning not.” Proving he earns the right to stand up for us little guys!
Newt is wise and very well informed, but Newt cooked his goose a long time ago. I agree also with Zach, Bill Bennett is wise, fair and calm, gaining great respect from all sides.
We have enough conservative Catholics on board, why don’t you host your own “Right, Reformed and Redeemed” talk show?

Rick Calohan said...

Interesting analysis, Rush Limbaugh and his family are members of the Methodist church. Because my work is in a cave that does not receive radio receptions and I am blocked from video or audio streaming at work I do not listen them as much as I use to.
To me Rush perhaps had the most political transformation influence, (OK we know the Holy Spirit is Republican and Conservative and that in sanctification liberated me from my liberal upbringing) so without Rush talk radio would be nothing more than NPR, Larry King and Art Bell..

On my drive in to work I listen to Laura Ingraham (former Baptist now Catholic), Glen Beck (Catholic now Mormon) and on the way home Michael Savage (Jewish with a Unitarian worldview) it is interested how politically I may agree with them but I know that their World View is not always Orthodox Christianity.

As for Sean Hannity (Catholic), I still listen to tidbits, who literally repeated everything Rush had said three hours earlier, so if you missed Rush that day listen to Hannity. As for Bill O’Reilly (Catholic), I think he is a populist at best and probably of all the commentators represents the average American view.

Really as far as my political idols and come on in reality that is truly what they were the late William F. Buckley Jr. (Catholic) and former President Ronald Reagan (Father Catholic, Mom Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian by Marriage) the vision was clear and it was a delight watching Bill Buckley on Firingline or to read National Review. While Reagan was President I espoused the Marxist views of my Secular Government School teachers. However, around 1994 was my political conversion, I could not support abortion on demand, homosexual civil rights, and tax and spend liberalism which is theft of the people. Sadly the “borrow and spend” neo-cons is theft of the national treasury.

Yes these men and women are Ideological Entertainers, however considering the filth and garbage in the music, movies, network television, sometimes the only other alternative is to tune them all out and off and perhaps for 2009 read something on John Calvin, or better yet that book that is collecting dust on many a shelf, The Bible. I think in age of instant entertainment and gratification we have seen the Oprahfication and dumbing down of America which obviously is reflected in the majority of our leaders, and as much as we may despise our Government they are a reflection of us. You get what you pay for.

Frontier Forest said...

Great points and refreshing views Rick. Sad to hear Glen Beck is Mormon. I just finished his book, "The Christmas Sweater" and I was quite moved. I felt the resounding message was clear, God's grace and forgivness through Christ's redeeming love.

jeff said...

I used to listen to Sean H. back during the Clinton impeachment when he was only on in the NY market on WABC. Then, once he got syndicated, his show lost all of it's local flavor, and all he does now is reuse the same few phrases over and over again. He's gotten obnoxious (in my opinion), and I really can't stand listening to him.

As far as his "faith" is concerned, he seems to, again, reuse and recycle the same couple of phrases and "christian" words/phrases to come off as a man of deep faith. It just doesn't ring true to me.

The only radio show I listen to regularly is Dave Ramsey on my iPod. Solid Biblical financial teaching. I also enjoy listening to Mark Levin and Laura Ingram from time to time.

Qayaq said...

I often find myself falling into the trap of following politics and listening to Rush, Hannity and watching Fox new, but I find that I wind up getting very upset about the way things are, in their view, and the problem is that I get very angry about something that I can not do anything about it, so I have to just tune them out.

Especially now, all they talk about it Obama and how he is screwing everything up and how American is heading down the wrong path. But once again, there is nothing I can do about it so I must tune them out for the sake of my mood.

Plus, I find myself making comments to people at work and they are a bunch of dyed in the wool democrats and if I make too many comments I wind up looking like one of those people who leave you with the impression that you are not truly a Christian unless you vote republican.

Malcolm said...

Hannity simply doesn't listen on his radio show. I don't watch his tv show. What makes these show interesting in hearing 2 different points of view and a spirited arguement. Hannity gives no one a chance to argue. I would recommend that you give Dennis Miller a listen on 1510 in KC in the mornings. He has a refreshing sense of conservatism and is very comfortable in his skin. His language is a little showy some times, but his callers are the best of any show I have listened to. It has been interesting how he has been influenced lately by the old comedian and tv guy from the 60's, Orson Bean. Orson has presented the Gospel to Dennis with a sense of humor and it has really opened Dennis' heart to learning more about the word of the Lord.

Brian T. Johnson said...

I have responded to your post at

Essentially, I see where you're coming from, but I think these talkers serve a useful purpose. I listen to talk radio and enjoy Rush in particular, but listening to them - they are entertainers, as you noted - should not be at the expense of serious reading on the same topics. And while politics does involve questions of values, obviously these are not the forums to seek eternal truth.

Reepicheep said...

Fair comments Brian. I appreciate your perspective.

Good blog! I'm putting it on my personal reader to keep up with your insights. Keep it up!

crcreecy said...

I have to put in a plug for Glen Beck. He's the only that has ever told us that we have a responsibility to pray for our new president since it is God who placed him in the position.