I’m a recovering conservative media addict. Whew, feels good to get that off my chest. It’s true. For years I was a daily consumer of conservative media – until I experienced a “healing of my Rush Limbaugh addiction.” And it changed my life for the better.
Limbaugh’s Gain was My Pain
Wait – don’t click away. This is not a political rant – it’s just my story. I’ve served much of my professional life in media and, without question, Limbaugh is one of the all-time media greats – garnering him great fame and fortune. The problem is, however, I believe Limbaugh’s gain has come at a big cost to our culture and to the spiritual lives of Christians.
Several years ago I experienced a renewed passion in my spiritual life but something wasn’t working for me in the process. A new inner peace was replacing my “angry young man” inner turmoil, but that peace seemed elusive when I was “entertained” by Rush. The show made me agitated, less loving of people, and suspicious of people groups who I viewed as a threat to my well being. I decided to try and shut off Rush and conservative media for a week. The results of this “Rush fast” were stunning. But I’ll get back to that.
Limbaugh is one of the all-time media greats… The problem is, however, Limbaugh’s gain has come at a big cost to our culture and to the spiritual lives of Christians.
Media’s Impact on People
As mentioned, I worked in media for more than three decades. I learned an effective tool in my job as a radio host was to engage the emotions of my audience. Emotion creates a connection that will bring listeners back to their radio time and again.
The day after the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series I had one adult male after another calling into my show. With their voices cracking, they expressed the memories of watching games with their dad or children or a loved one “watching from heaven” – and the pure joy to finally see the Giants win that long, elusive title. The emotion of that show built a connection between me and my audience that some still recount to this day.
It doesn’t just take happy emotions to make that strong connection. In fact, anger and fear are the easiest emotions to tap and hosts like Limbaugh, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Howard Stern understand this well. Give people the chance to hate you or hate the topic of your show and they’ll come back day after day. Nobody is better than Rush at expertly tripping the anger of a generation. Keep the people scared and angry, even as you make them laugh has always been Limbaugh’s motif and the rest of conservative media learned to follow suit.
The Bible says “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable… think about these things” (Phil. 4:8.) As I listened to Rush Limbaugh during this renewed period of my life I began to ask myself – “does a daily 1-3 hour dose of this content line up with this instruction for how to live?”
I decided to “fast” Rush for a week. The change after five days without Limbaugh and conservative cable news was beyond imagination. I felt happier, relaxed, less agitated. I half-jokingly tell people the color of the sky changed to blue and grass become green. The peace that had come into my life wasn’t chased away everyday by a stint of angry-guy media. As my peace returned, I decided to never go back to a life as a regular conservative media consumer.
As a leader of a church and mentor to civic leaders I often ask those struggling with their well being to review their media intake. Those who’ve followed my advice to limit conservative media have reported, without fail, an improvement in their life outlook. By the way, there’s actual science to support my view.
In 2014, a study at the University of Nebraska found that people who leaned conservative in their politics tended to carry a “negativity bias” in their lives. Conservatives tended to be “physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments.” The scientists had backed up what my spiritual awakening had revealed to me – conservative media taps into a natural, negative bent of their listeners. That’s why I believe conservative news and talk radio is “hazardous to the health” of hope in one’s life.
When I stopped listening to Rush, I didn’t change my beliefs, my political affiliation or my core values. But, there’s no question that my ability was improved to live a life that Jesus modeled. A life following the biblical principals to “love your enemies,” to “be at peace with others as much as it’s in your hands,” and to be “blessed as a peacemaker.”
There’s a better way to live – a transformational and generational mindset that can actually make the world a better place to live. For me, daily doses of conservative media don’t serve that mindset well. That’s why I’m so happy to have been healed of my Rush Limbaugh addiction.
What do you think? If you’re one who watches large blocks of Fox News, or listens to large quantities of conservative radio, blogs or internet chatter, let me challenge you to try a “media fast” and see if my story could be true for you, and your mindset, as well.