In the Faith Works book tour this spring, perhaps the greatest surprise and satisfaction came in many interviews on "Christian radio." The talk shows on National Public Radio stations, network affiliates, and various community radio outlets were more typical for me. But I was greatly encouraged by the interest from local and national Christian radio, and even more heartened by the response.
What I found on conservative Christian radio shows was a deepening concern for people who are poor, on the part of both interviewers and callers. Most significant was the breaking out of old ideological categories. In an interview on the Salem Network (the largest chain of Christian radio stations in the country), the host said to me and to his audience, "You know, poverty is not a left-wing issue; it’s a Christian issue, and it’s time for us all to recognize that." Another show’s host acknowledged, "You know, Jim, most of us wouldn’t have had anything to do with you just a few years ago. We thought talking about poverty was left wing. But many of us are coming around and want to be with you now." Comment after comment and caller after caller expressed similar views.
Christian radio is changing; but maybe I am, too. I now believe that if poverty is to be overcome, it will take the insights and energies of both conservatives and liberals. As long as poverty fighting is seen as merely a left-wing issue, we will never succeed. And it’s not just a matter of perception, it’s also a question of content.