There’s a reason they call him “the mouth of the South.” Now he’s at it again.
Recently Ted Turner was all over the news, not because he started a new cable channel or married another celebrity or even gave another billion to the United Nations. No, the news was that Ted insulted some Christians who work at CNN.
It seems that Ted dropped in on Bernard Shaw’s retirement party, which was held on Ash Wednesday. Some of the CNN staff in attendance had the marks on their forehead representing this day of humility reverence and spiritual preparation. Seeing them, Ted (in that gracious style we’ve all come to know and love) proclaimed loudly something along the lines of, “What are you, a bunch of Jesus freaks? You should be working at Fox.”
There was much media discussion about this event, and I’m sure it was disconcerting if you were present. One of the key business anchors at CNN was so fed up he resigned. Perhaps it even contributed to the growing ratings of the Fox News Network. I knew there were Christians at Fox News (such as Fred Barnes and Tony Snow) but until Turner’s remarks I wasn’t aware that the network which airs “Ally McBeal” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire” was a hotbed of Jesus Freak activity.
Actually, I wish we would call off the assault on poor old Ted. He gets in these scrapes every few years (like the time he sounded off on the foolishness of the Ten Commandments). His comments as an adult reflect a youth that was involved in just enough church activities to learn a little of the language but not enough to really change anything.
The fact is, Ted Turner’s belittling of Christians is only news because he did it so publicly. What he said (and the attitude behind it) reflects the prevailing attitude of the nation’s cultural elite toward authentic Christian faith. What Ted said, many others think. That wouldn’t be so dangerous, except that this is the same group that tends to run our major universities, manage and write for our key national media outlets, and set many of the cultural trends that impact our families and communities through television, film and music.
I’m not sure a majority of evangelical Christians in the U.S. are fully aware of the way in which an elite group of intellectual and cultural leaders has profoundly rejected the nation’s religious heritage and is committed to a sweeping secularization of our nation. All one need do is consider the moral values reflected in most prime-time television and popular music to understand that some influential people want us to assume that sexual promiscuity is the norm, homosexuality is a legitimate alternative lifestyle which must be accepted, “choice” is the only legitimate position to adopt, and religious values and commitments must be restricted to the sanctuary and must not be invoked in public life.
In most national media, the only time Christians are on display is in a negative setting. In fact, I can only think of two prime-time programs in which the lead characters regularly attend church: “Seventh Heaven” (about a minister’s family) and “The Simpsons.”
Rather than lament such twisted treatment, I believe our task as Christian communicators and church leaders is to present a very different reality in ways that cannot be ignored. Let’s become discerning students of the media, and teach our congregations to be able to make wise Christian judgements about what they watch and listen to. Let’s speak to the media with intelligence and good humor, presenting our views with kindness and a win-some spirit.
Perhaps most important, let’s call out from our congregations young people who can get the training and experience that will enable them to move into those same media outposts as talented professionals who are also articulate advocates of a Christian worldview. And then, maybe someday, a future media kingpin will exclaim, “Shouldn’t you Jesus Freaks be over at CNN?”

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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