Today's big news in the St. Louis region is that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has decided to sell KFUO-FM. To sell it, in fact, to a "praise music" broadcasting outfit that plans to rename it "Joy FM."
I guess I'm just going to have to retract everything I said before about whether the LCMS should sell Classic-99. Because, as everyone knows, the Missouri Synod is the true visible church on earth and, therefore, by definition, must be correct in all that it says and does. You can't criticize your church, right?
Well, nuts! I can't help it. I am ashamed of my Synod today. If this deal goes forward, it will become an accessory to two crimes: one cultural, the other spiritual.
The cultural crime is that it will cease to bear witness to the best that the fine arts and classical music have to offer to our society and our church. After 60 years on the air, the region's best classical radio station will become a purveyor of musical junk food.
The spiritual crime is that it will yield airplay, or bandwidth, or whatever you call it, to a religious tradition that peddles false teaching. Sorry, folks, but I have to call a spade a spade. What "Joy FM" will offer is theological snake-oil - man-centered, materialistic, moralizing (or, in some cases, demoralizing), synergistic, decisionistic, emotion-centered, commercialistic, triumphalistic... my vocabulary expands as I think about it, and none of the words herald good news. Its music is a reflection of its doctrine: cheap, trashy, aimed at the lowest common denominator, aimed at the bottom line. It's a perversion of Christianity that exists to pick people's pockets, and that only aims to make "disciples" of those with deep enough pockets to keep the spiritual Ponzi scheme going.
That the LCMS would sell its beacon of culture and humanity to such a "ministry" should scandalize everyone who cares about Lutheranism, and everyone who is proud of what KFUO-FM represents. But what can we do? The Synod is broke. It has to liquidate its assets to keep up with the bills. Once they're gone, though, it will be harder to recover such assets than to build them in the first place. And then what will the LCMS do? Go bankrupt, evidently.
Maybe when a church has become ethically and spiritually bankrupt, the other kind of bankruptcy isn't such a big step. Maybe, when we cease to offer a real alternative to teachings and practices that other church bodies have been doing longer and better, it's even inevitable. But if I were on the Synod's Board of Directors, I would argue - alone, perhaps - that it would be better to hold out for a buyer who wanted to program classical music than to insist, as I understand the BOD did, on selling to a "Christian" group. How ironic! While they may have intended well by this decision, I misgive whether the LCMS will live down the scandal it will cause.