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Story:Reclaiming the Past

      But the mood inside the studio changes before the hour ends. Glancing at the question before him on his computer monitor, Saavedra says he knows the call is going to be tough.

      A woman named Ruth is bothered by a comment made during the previous week’s show to a husband who said his wife had stopped sleeping with him.

      Saavedra told the man that his wife was violating the conditions of marriage by withholding sex. Ruth sounded distressed, her voice shaking as she began speaking. She accuses him of giving an answer that amounted to “ Sorry honey if you don’t feel like it,” instead of exploring the reasons that a woman would not want to sleep with her partner.

      Saavedra leans away from the microphone. “You can tell she’s nervous,” he says.
Before she can finish her thought, he moves in. “Ruth, has anybody ever forced you to do something,” he says, projecting a deeper tone than he usually uses. She says yes.

       “If you think for one second that there aren’t legitimate reasons, physical and emotional reasons-- I get that --and you know I get that. But there’s something that hits you differently.”
While he sympathizes with her, his position remains firm. Marriage is a voluntary agreement two people make to take care of each other, he says, “not just when you feel like it.”

       He compares sex to other needs that must be met, like conversation or food. But when it comes to sex “everybody gets creeped out. It implies some bizarre connection to rape,” he says.

      He knows she is still troubled by his message, so he asks her to stay on the line during the break. He apologizes for the pain she’s gone through , and thanks her for the call.

      “You are so brave,” he says.

Playing the role

       Saavedra’s most imperative job on air is to appear serene and in control at all times. Even if he’s freaking out on the inside, he must play the part consistently. This morning, his calm is rankled when a caller named Tom, a self-described atheist, dances around revealing the show’s premise during a conversation about the flaws of Christianity.

      “I know you’re not... I mean I appreciate the show and everything but I know you’re not…” he says repeatedly, stopping before he finishes the sentence.

      Saavedra is worried Tom’s about to complete that thought with ‘I know you’re not Jesus,’ and is waiting to dump him at any moment.

      Suspension of disbelief is crucial to enjoy the show. While most listeners understand the voice of Jesus coming through their radio, the consistent tone of the show makes it easy to forget.

       That is by design.“You can learn a lot from a show - if you get past the premise,”  Saavedra says. Referring to him as anything other than Jesus makes that impossible.

      Ultimately, Saavedra keeps the caller on the air. Tom, the caller, liked to argue – and Saavedra says he loves a good debate.  During a typical call, Saavedra will put the caller on mute, or hang up, to respond once they’ve asked their questions. Otherwise they can keep cutting in, or the background noises distract other listeners. But if the more antagonistic the caller is, the more likely he will keep him on. Saavedra says he thrives on confrontation – it keeps him challenged and makes for entertaining radio. Some of the shows best moments come out of calls like these.

Suspension of disbelief is crucial to enjoy the show. While most listeners understand the voice of Jesus coming through their radio, the consistent tone of the show makes it easy to forget. You can learn a lot from a show - if you get past the premise.

      “There’s no such thing as an intellectual atheist,” he tells Tom.

      Saavedra uses the phrase often, both as Jesus and as himself. He believes most atheists hide behind intellectuality, when in fact, their disbelief stems from emotion associated with hurtful life experiences.

      “But to be an atheist, you have to be comfortable with the statement there is no god.” No creator in any form. He says no thinking person could say that in absolute terms.  “If I were generous, I’d saw we know about 1 percent of the universe – that’s if I were generous.”

       When the call ends, Saavedra is left visibly shaken, even though Tom didn’t go over the line. “If I felt he was going to ruin it for everyone I would have dumped him,” he says afterward.
“But I peed a little,” he says, still nervous.

      Surprisingly, he says in the six years the show’s been on-air, he’s only had to dump one person for purposely ruining the illusion, when a caller got angry during a debate over good and evil and countered Jesus’s comments with, “Well that’s your opinion – Neil.”

      Saavedra says he doesn’t remember what the offending comments was.



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