Don't Touch That Dial
Those of you who track religious news through outlets like ChristianityToday.com's daily Weblog will have picked up some pops and crackles emanating from the National Religious Broadcasters. The trouble began in January, when the organization's new president, Wayne Pederson, said in an interview that Christian radio had become too political (specifically, too far right) and that spiritual subjects like theology and evangelism should be broadcasters' focus. Immediately, radio personalities for whom conservative social commentary is a staple—James Dobson, Donald Wildmon, and Tim LaHaye among them—suggested that Pederson's views did not represent the NRB.
Under pressure, Pederson resigned in February. The NRB executive committee voted 7-1 to accept Pederson's resignation (compared to a 47-36 margin in the full board vote). But it ain't over.
Alleging that "power boys" and "600-pound gorillas" unduly influenced earlier proceedings, Moody Broadcasting VP Robert Neff has written a letter demanding Pederson's reinstatement and criticizing opponents' behavior. Dobson called the letter "vicious and uncalled for," then declared the conflict a "full-scale split in evangelicalism."
Dobson overstates his point. Lots of people who consider themselves evangelicals don't even listen to Christian radio, let alone care who leads the NRB. Sixty years ago, waves in the broadcast community might have sent tsunamis through evangelicalism, because religious radio was one of just a few things binding conservative Christians together. Today, though, the effect likely will be a ripple.
In his very helpful book Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (Oxford, 1997), Calvin College history professor and provost Joel A. Carpenter argues ...