August 1, 2019

Healed of a Rush Limbaugh Addiction

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 – radio, internet and cable news – until the day I began to walk into the healing of my Rush Limbaugh addiction. Doing so forever changed my life – for the better.

Limbaugh is one of the all-time media greats… The problem, however, is Limbaugh’s gain has come at a big cost to our culture and to the spiritual life of Christians.

Now before you click out of this blog convinced this is a political rant that might not fit your narrative, hear me out. I’ve served much of my life in media and, without question, Rush Limbaugh is one of the all-time media greats. He took a niche genre and revolutionized it. He has, rightly, garnered fame and fortune for that achievement. The problem, however, is I believe Limbaugh’s gain has come at a big cost to our culture and to the spiritual life of Christians. Allow me to explain with my story.

A few years ago, I experienced a renewal journey in my spiritual life. After years of placing my faith on life’s back burner, I found a renewed passion for God. The dry spiritual side of my life suddenly became exciting and invigorated. A void in my spirit was being filled by interacting with my faith. But something wasn’t fitting into this new passion. Something in my life seemed to an outlier in this time of spiritual reconnection.

At a time when inner peace was starting to replace my “angry young man” inner turmoil I found those changes more difficult to hold on to as I listened to Rush. When “entertained” by Limbaugh, I found myself agitated, struggling to live up to a new passion to love people as Christ demonstrated in the Bible. Listening to Rush caused me to be suspicious of people and people groups and to view them as being a hazard to my wellbeing. I decided to try an experiment. What would happened, I wondered, if did a “Rush fast?” The answer was stunning. But I’ll get back to that.

As mentioned, I worked in media for more than three decades. I used to tell my staff that the job of a radio host is to cause people to “emote.” When emotion comes into a conversation, connection has occurred, and it will bring them back time and again. For example, the San Francisco Giants win in the 2010 World Series as one adult male after another called my show, with their voice cracking, as they expressed how special it was to finally see their team win it all for the first time in their life. Some recounted how they watched with their dad or children – others remembered a deceased loved one who must have been “watching from heaven.” The emotion of that show built a connection between me and my audience that some still recount to this day.

What guys like Rush Limbaugh, Stephen A. Smith on ESPN and Howard Stern on XM radio understand is you actually get more listenership from people who hate you or hate the topic of your show. Limbaugh has expertly tapped into the emotional anger of a generation and feeds the fear behind that anger. Fear is the easiest emotion to invoke in people and conservative media has utilized this to its full potential – getting the audience angry and keeping them angry – even as they are laughing at funny jokes.

The Bible says “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8.) As I listened to Rush Limbaugh during this renewal 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?”

Later, as I moved into leadership of a church community, I often found myself advising those struggling with anger, fear and depression to review their intake of media and whenever I was able to convince such a person to follow my lead in this type of “fast” the results were similar – life was happier without conservative media. Not only is this my personal experience, there’s actually 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. In other words, those of a conservative political bent tend 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 – heavy doses of conservative talk radio or conservative news is hazardous to the health of hope in one’s life.

Please note, I didn’t say I changed my beliefs, my political affiliation or my core values. None of those things happened immediately – although I certainly have been on a journey to consistently have my mind renewed and decide where my mindset has been healthy and where it’s needed updating – the change was more internal than external. Expunging conservative media from my daily life helped me to better live each day in the spiritual teaching I was taking in. “Love your enemies” and “blessed are the peacemakers” are not messages often heard in conservative talk yet are the cornerstones of living a Christian life that looks different than the divisive culture around us.

That’s why I’m so happy I was healed of my addiction to Rush Limbaugh.

The Bible instructs a follower of Christ that, as much as is possible for us, we are to be at peace with people. Today’s religiously political Church loses that peaceful posture in our “us vs. them” mentality. Politics requires enemies, the Bible says God will make even our enemies to be at peace with us. Politics declares the other side evil and/or stupid. The Bible says God will pour out his spirit on everyone. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Bible, wanted to trap Jesus with politically controversial questions but Jesus refused to have his message dampened by the marginalization of a hard-political stance. I want to live my life as much like Jesus did.

Some might say Left-leaning media has the same impact on your spirit and I’m not going to argue that point here. I am just aware how many Christians are adherents to follow these conservative outlets and I’ve seen first-hand its destructive nature. I expect Christians to desire to live to the higher standards Jesus set for us – so “but everyone is doing it” has never carried much weight with me.

What do you think? Are large doses of conservative media dangerous? If you’re one who watches a lot of Fox News, or listens to large quantities of conservative radio, blogs or internet chatter, I dare you to try it. Fast from conservative media for a week and see if your life isn’t happier. God healed my addiction to Rush Limbaugh and my life was radically changed for the better. Could be true for you, as well.

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