National Religious Broadcasters, an association of Christian broadcasters, is hosting its annual convention this month. Proclaim 16 will take place on February 23-26 in Nashville, Tennessee and will feature workshops, luncheons, and films for figures in the Christian broadcasting industry. Proclaim 16 will also include a presidential candidate forum. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have confirmed their attendance, according to a press release posted at Religion News Service.
I had hoped that the event would serve as a snapshot of Christian broadcasting, with Christians across the social and political spectrum in attendance. Unfortunately, a noticeable right-wing current runs through the event, as evidenced by its speakers and workshops.
This year's convention will feature right-wing speakers such as Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, Southern Baptist Theological Seminar president Albert Mohler, Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, Jeanine Pirro of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, Christian filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick (of Fireproof and War Room fame), and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy.
Among the exhibitors are not only Christian publishers, radio stations, and networks, but Religious Right groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Answers in Genesis, and the American Family Association.
The convention's workshop schedule offers both professional broadcasting advice and fundamentalist propaganda. Many of the workshops are devoted to innocuous topics such as social media, marketing, advertising, and international outreach. Others, such as "When A Crisis Happens, and Reporters Come Knocking", sound both amusing and revealing.
"Honestly, it just takes one thing. One mistake. One accusation - true or false. One misstatement or one misstep, and your entire ministry, organization, or business can come crumbling down around you. The truth is that Christian organizations are often the worst at handling the press, and if you don't manage them, they will manage you. So, what are you going to do if your senior pastor or senior executive is caught in an affair, if your right hand is accused of embezzling money, or if a disgruntled employee goes to a reporter with lies or launches a social media campaign against you? How are you going to handle it when the press comes knocking? You had better have a game plan ready because they are on their way, whether you're guilty, or not.""Israel: Hope in a Region of Crisis", describes Israel as a lone island of stability in the Middle East (because Jordan, Turkey, etc. apparently don't count).
"As the entire Middle East is being dramatically shaken and undergoing historic changes, there is one place of stability — the state of Israel. Nevertheless, Israel faces a relentless campaign of misinformation that requires a robust response and educational programing. This session of well-informed speakers will give Christian broadcasters a better understanding of the issues and of what God is doing in the midst of it all.""Christian Genocide" highlights a grim reality -- persecution of Christians in the Middle East -- but also accuses the government and media of silence. The workshop organizers conveniently forgot that global persecution of Christians and other religious minorities has received ample attention from the U.S. government and media for some time.
"ISIS and other Islamic terrorists are persecuting and executing Christians, destroying church buildings, and driving believers out of the Middle East. Hear first-hand stories of what has happened, and why. This session will also expose the media and government silence on this issue. It will also show you how to pray, how to speak up, and how to stand up for the persecuted Church. ""The Future of Our Freedoms in America" will feature familiar fundamentalist tropes about alleged Christian persecution and supposedly subverted religious liberty.
"Court decisions, executive orders, legislation and regulations have subverted the rule of law in America and placed our fellow citizens and organizations at risk. Freedom of speech and religious liberty have come under unprecedented pressures and economic freedom in America has drastically declined over the past seven years."Other workshops, such as "Why the Jihadists Want to Take Away Our Freedom of Speech - And How Our Government and the Left are Helping Them Do it" and "Losing the Freedom to Believe: Redefining Marriage", will likely do the same.
It disappoints me that a convention devoted to Christian broadcasting wouldn't make more room for progressive Christian voices. Progressive Christians can be found among both broadcasters and the listening public, and their voices could enrich the convention. Unfortunately, this convention leans stubbornly right.