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Story:Reclaiming the Past

      Across the ideological spectrum, Dr. Britt Minshall, theologian and pastor from the liberal United Church of Christ also takes issue with the premise. “Christianity is about a direct connection with God – and he is putting himself between them, said the former “Freedom Rider” during the 1960’s civil rights movement.

      “That’s a heck of a lot of responsibility.”

      But Saavedra downplays any danger. He says he’s never tried to answer a question he felt he didn’t have the background or knowledge to answer and  says most of his responses as Jesus are steeped in common sense. “It’s like, don’t chew glass.”  He says he believes he is on air to confirm what callers already know, not provide new information.

      “I’m here to inspire,” he says.

      In a society that prides itself on labels, Saavedra is hard to put into a box.  He’s a Reagan Republican  but aligns closer to the Libertarian party than his own. He believes in micro-evolution, or evolution of traits within a single species, but adamantly denies the existence of macro, arguing  the theory  could never explain love and emotion. As a means to procreation, “it’s so impractical,” he says. He respects people of all faiths, but he doesn’t believe they are going to the same place he is after death. The Bible is pretty clear about that, he says. He gets frustrated when people focus on questioning why God would only give man one way to ascend into heaven, instead of asking “why is there a way at all.”

      Saavedra is fond of analogies, uses a story about person trapped in a burning building who tells the fire department he’d rather go out a triangle after they cut a circle for him to escape. “Well, who gives a rats ass?" he asks.

      He is devout, but not above poking fun at his own religion. He spends his mornings at KFI cracking jokes with Bill Handle about Jesus’ crucifixion and an ancient Handle, Moishe, who must have sold the Romans the nails.

      “He is the most fascinating religious guy I’ve ever met,” says Handle, adding “he’s a fundamentalist religious crackpot.”

Striking a chord with listeners

      A growing audience is responding to The “Jesus Christ Show.”  Sunday from 6-9 am, KFI is the highest rated out of all 40 stations in the market. “The Jesus Christ Show” beats its second AM competitor, KNX, and FM competitor, KSCA, by more than 20,000 listeners. Fan e-mail has come as far away as China and Australia.

Calls come from all walks of life:
atheists looking to debate, gays looking for reassurance from Jesus Christ, agnostics thinking about becoming Christians...

      While the show doesn’t collect religion and lifestyle data about listeners, calls come from all walks of life: atheists looking to debate, gays looking for reassurance from Jesus Christ, agnostics thinking about becoming Christians.

      Although Saavedra tells his Christian listeners that his program is no substitute for church, he says most are not regular Church goers and many have actually turned away after being hurt by their religion in the past.

      There’s a rapidly growing population of Christians who are looking for alternate means of worship, said Mathew Paul Turner, the 32-year old author of The Christian Culture Survival Guide: The Misadventures of an Outsider on the Insider. “There are so many people who have been hurt by the Church,” said Turner, who grew up in a strict fundamentalist Church from which he deflected as a teenager. Still craving a connection to God, they need to be “spiritually fed,” he said, and Saavedra provides that outlet. “He is so eloquent and careful and good at it,” he said.

      Plus, Jesus has a sense of humor. Turner remembers shortly before the Super Bowl when a caller asked if Jesus knew who was going to win the game. “He says “Yes,” and hangs up – it was hilarious,” Turner says.



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