Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the Road

Every time I hit the highway with nothing ahead of me but open road and a few hours toward a destination, I think of Jack Kerouac's classic traveler, Sal Paradise. One of two fictional characters in Kerouac's iconic On The Road, Sal emerged in literary history as the founder of the "beat generation," and ended up paving the way for every free spirit whose mantra is seize the day. Life is holy and every moment is precious, says Sal. I couldn't agree more. But I'd rather not hear about it on the radio. In Christian rock songs. Scanning the I-don't-have-satellite-radio dial this week on a long stretch of mind-numbing interstate, I found the strongest signal between Waco and Austin to be coming from KSUR, an American Family Radio station, aka family values radio station, aka Christian radio station. The music was pleasant enough, for a song or two. The words were easy to pick up, thanks to an ingrained vocabulary of churchiness: hosanna, glory, holy, majesty - repeated over and over and over. And Jesus, of course - Lord, Savior, God, Holy One of Israel. But after about two songs and a long commercial break and some DJ blabber, I was ready to drive my car into a highway crash barrel. I wonder what the world's faith community thinks about Christianity when it hears this? That's what crossed my mind. I found myself wishing for a pop culture radio version of Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism that I could tune in to for traveling entertainment. Every person of faith should have to suffer the humiliation I'm feeling, I thought. Do you know you can email your prayer requests to the hyper-talking DJ at KSUR? You can also enter your pastor in a drawing for a trip to the Holy Land on El Al Airlines ("it's not just an airline, it's Israel"). And, you can hear the news that includes the latest update on how abortion is being "smuggled" into health care reform by liberal democrats. It's all there for you - plus the advertisers who, of course, are the nicest Christian capitalists around, and certainly deserve your business. That's entertainment. I believe in the right to free speech. I know it is my inalienable right to turn the dial when I'm disgusted by what I'm hearing (insert Rush Limbaugh's name here). I know Christian rock music is as viable a genre as ska punk or gangsta rap or screamo...and that it probably needs a unique venue on the radio dial. But I was embarrassed to hear Christianity presented at such a bubble gum, happy talking, commercialized level. So I turned off the radio and let my idle mind wander back to Sal: Life is holy and every moment is precious. The road toward home was suddenly much more interesting. I'm packing for a two week vacation today. I think I'll throw NPR & Balmorhea CDs into my bag. And a copy of On The Road. As I sit in the coming days, reveling in the colors of sunset, magnified by an expanse of easy water, I'll repeat after Sal: Life is holy, and every moment is precious. Who needs the radio? Peace, all. Happy trails.

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