27 March 2008


I've noticed that when teenagers see, hear, or experience something unbelievable, they simply say, "Wow," and with a subtle yet clear tone of dry cynicism. That's my response to today's installment of the Issues, Etc. saga. (And please pardon me for being late to the party, but being on the road all day will do that to you. ;-) So, at first I say, "Wow!" in the sense of astonishment at all that I missed today. But my more heartfelt reaction after catching up on the saga is "Wow!" in the sense of a teenager's dryly cynical incredulity.

Mr. David Strand has now issued a letter that supposedly explains more about the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. and fire Pr. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz. You can read his letter here. I wonder: why did it take so long - nine days - to reveal this detailed information? Even more important and pressing: Why was none of this shared with Wilken and Schwarz when, on March 18 (Holy Tuesday), they explicitly asked for real reasons for the sudden, life-altering decision that sent them to the unemployment line?


Mr. Strand's letter has some incredible-looking details in it - massive budget deficits, low listener numbers, etc. But is this the complete picture? Perhaps we need to consult Dr. Erich Heidenreich's questions (given on Pr. Weedon's blog and at Augsburg1530, among other places) and receive answers to them. It sure appears that answering those questions would fill in some gaping holes given in Mr. Strand's letter!


The details of how many people listened to Issues, Etc. during its live broadcasts, according to Mr. Strand's letter, do look alarmingly low. I wonder, though. On what are these figures based? How are they ascertained? (After all, some listeners, like me, may tune in and out as we get in and out of our cars as we carry out our God-given daily vocations. Did I really get counted those many times I had the show on for 10-15 minutes between shut-in calls?) And how can the "average Joe" get access to such data? I also wonder: how do these figures compare to other programs in their respective, regular time slots on KFUO-AM?

What is glaringly absent, though, is the download activity. Sure, streaming audio during the live broadcast is indicated (can it really be that low?), but what about downloads for MP3 files? Many of us, myself included, simply cannot listen during live broadcasts, at least not the entire time, but we can download the files and listen when it's more convenient and when better attention can be given to the content of the show. You can look at some data on MP3 downloads here. And, as I've just read, this data does not include downloads on iTunes, which is the preferred method for many more listeners (myself included).

Once again, Wow!

And, finally, before swallowing the Strand letter's reasons and statistics hook, line, and sinker, I highly recommend looking at some more thoughts and questions here. "Obfuscation" does *not* seem like too strong a word! I must be honest as well as a bit blunt: something is not passing the smell test here. To which I can only say:


We're actually supposed to believe and accept these late-coming and seemingly incomplete "business reasons"? (Which, by the way, leads me to ask, with Augsburg1530: and when shall we hear about the "programmatic reasons"?)

So, we're still left asking WHY? And the fact that satisfactory answers are still wanting leads me to say, yet again, "Wow!"


Rev. Jeffrey Ries said...

Pr. Asbury,

Thought you'd be interested in seeing the WALL STREET JOURNAL article on all this:


Randy Asburry said...

Thanks, Pr. Ries,

I did see it, as my following post shows. I just couldn't post it until later in the day.

Albert McIlhenny said...

I am not a Lutheran but the program was extremely edifying and sorely missed by the whole church. I felt obligated to send my opinion to the LCMS:

I see that you have, after nine days, revised your original statement about the cancellation of Issues, Etc. I am sure by now you realize that this belated attempt at an explanation is not convincing anyone - and, in fact, has made people more suspicious of your true motives. I would consider myself among that numher. Originally, I considered it a case of bureaucratic incompetence that would be corrected in due time. Now I see something far more disturbing that has manifested itself in what can only be described as a deceptive manipulation of the facts.

I originally discovered Issues, Etc. on a Christian radio station through its Sunday night sydicated version back when Don Matzat was the host. I thought the program became even better under Rev. Wilken's leadership and was perhaps the best Christian radio broadcast on the airwaves. I later discovered the radio archives and was able to listen to the program on a daily basis and share this resource with friends. As the quick reaction to the cancellation has demonstrated, I was not alone in this and yet you conveniently failed to mention this aspect of the ministry in your new response. Why?

Issues, Etc. provided was one of the most spiritually and intellectually edifying programs ever broadcast on Christian radio. Cancelling it only serves to confirm the suspicions that the LCMS has cast its lot with the "seeker sensitive" movement (which has been thoroughly critiqued on Issues, Etc.) just at the time when that movement is being exposed as the Emporer with his new clothes.

Furthermore, the handling of the entire fiasco underscores the hostility towards the program by those handling the cancellation. Giving no prior notice and no chance for the hosts to say farewell to their listeners and doing it during Holy Week marks the sign of the vengeance of the petty. Even worse, the bland and, frankly, cowardly statement by the LCMS president that he knew of the affair but neither approved nor disapproved sounds like something that would have come from the mouth of Pontius Pilate - not the head of a Christian church.

I would have more respect for the leadership of the LCMS and KFUO if they simply told the truth fromt the outset - namely, that they were no longer interested in the historical faith and practice of confessional Lutheranism and Issues, Etc. was a thorn in their side. At least then you would not have to keep sending out revised explanations on a weekly basis.

Randy Asburry said...

Great letter, Albert! Thanks for posting it. I hope you don't mind, but I'm going post it on a new blog post. I think your words deserve a much broader reading than just the comments section! Thanks again.