28 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part Two)

by Dan Phillips

Introduction: see Part One. In this interview, Janet has the opportunity to share her thoughts and perspectives on some matters on which until now her voice hasn't been heard, or to which she has not yet been able to respond. Here, too, is the explanation of her move from her Salem Radio Network show.
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DJP:  What was the distinctive aim of your show? 
JM: Everyone always asks me that, and I never feel like I have a great answer.

We always billed the show as taking “a Christ-centered look at the news of the day, both in the church and in the world.” But I really wanted the show, from the very beginning, to be very Christ-centered and not a nonstop “culture war” show. I certainly covered politics and cultural goings-on, but I didn’t want the show be just politics or cultural stuff.

 I wanted non-Christians to hear the gospel, so I would share the gospel. I tried to encourage Christians who were listening to really trust the Lord, to obey Him, to honor Him. I did a lot of theological and biblical topics, and those were probably my favorite shows.

Along the way, I also thought it was important to tell the truth about a lot of things going on in the church that are just wrong and dishonoring to Christ, so that also wound its way into what I did on the air. And in that last category, I think we ended up distinguishing ourselves a little bit from other shows. I hate heresy and corruption, and I am outraged by the rampant child sexual abuse in evangelical churches. So I tried to speak out about those things whenever I could. 
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DJP:  Were you surprised at anyone who agreed to be a guest?
JM: Three come to mind: former Vice President Dick Cheney, Brother Andrew and the man who knew in advance he was going to get some tough questions and agreed to come on, anyway. And you know who that was.
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DJP:  Who was the most intimidating to interview, and why?
JM: Hands down, R.C. Sproul. He’s so biblically and philosophically brilliant, but he also has that good-natured ribbing edge to him that can come out. I just didn’t want to ask him anything stupid. If I did end up doing that, and I probably did, he was too much of a gentleman to point it out!
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DJP:  What were some of the greatest surprises in interviews, unexpected turns?
JM: There were a lot of funny moments.

I had one guest who was supposed to be on the air for an hour. But every time I asked him a question, he took a while to answer, and you could hear him loudly opening and closing doors and slamming cabinets in the background. I think he even went to the bathroom once; no joke. Uh, are you aware you’re doing a national radio interview, sir? Think you could hold it until the break? You have to
wonder what these guys are thinking. I had to cut him loose. 

Now and then, I would also get the guests (usually fellow radio hosts) who would just completely hijack the interviews and not let me get a word in edgewise. I also had a guest burst into tears on the air once. That was a little awkward.

But the end of the Mark Driscoll interview -- when he just didn’t answer at all and then hung up – was probably the most unexpected moment. Though if you listen to the preceding half-hour of that interchange, I guess it wasn’t at all surprising!
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DJP:  What feedback or contact from your audience stands out over the years?
JM: Again, the Mark Driscoll interview and its huge fallout would have to be the most memorable. I received so much hate mail, especially in the early days after the interview. That was tough. I was called everything from an “arrogant female” to “Satan.”

But there was a lot of supportive feedback, too, especially as time went on and I was vindicated in my accusations that Driscoll was a serial plagiarizer and worse. The emails that definitely meant the most to me were from inside Mars Hill -- from people who’d been personally abused by Driscoll or finally saw the light about him because of that interview. 
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DJP:  Did you have any relationship with Justin Taylor before his infamous Tweet? Have you had any contact from him since?
JM: He’d been a guest on my show once early on, but I didn’t know him at all. After that infamous tweet, someone also sent me a diatribe he wrote about me in the comment section of his own blog. He basically ripped me and falsely accused me of being a liar about the Driscoll hang-up, despite the fact that we’d released the raw audio and put out a statement about exactly what happened.

From the beginning, I told the absolute truth. But think about it: What possible motivation would I even have for staging a fake hang-up at the end of an interview in which I’d already proven  that Driscoll was a plagiarizer? The truly damning portion of the interview was already over at that point. It makes no sense, and I wouldn’t and didn’t lie about it.

On the other hand, a megapastor with a long history of lying and deceit and ties to The Gospel Coalition got the full benefit of the doubt from his Gospel Buddies. And in addition to playing footsie with Driscoll for years, Taylor’s M.O. was so obvious. He is the publisher for books at Crossway. Crossway has published a lot of Driscoll books. There’s a lot of money tied up in Driscoll. And there’s probably more plagiarism in them thar hills. KILL THE MESSENGER! Or at least discredit her so no one will listen to her. That’s all he was trying to do.

But no, he’s never contacted me to apologize for anything. Let’s be honest; that’s not what the Gospel Boys do. Repentance is just something they tell the little cash cows to do.
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DJP:  Tell us about the process that led you to decide to end the show?
JM: There were a lot of reasons for my decision to end the show, but one of the main reasons was the toll that my job was taking on my life and on my family.

I was talking not long ago with Dick Bott, founder of the Bott Radio Network, and he described my life better than anyone: “Doing three hours of live radio every single day is just a monster to feed.” He nailed it. If you want to do it right, and I did, it’s the kind of job that absolutely engulfs your life, 24/7.

For over five years, I was working on the show all the time, every day, weekends, evenings, even on vacations. I was staying on top of the news, reading books and articles, choosing guests, finding topics, doing social media. I was traveling. I was speaking at events. I had been approached to write a book, so I was working on that. And all the while I had a lot to do at home, too. I have a husband and four children, who I love more than my own life, and who I just missed all the time. I had no time to even be involved in something as basic as a group Bible study, which I did for years -- I even led a women’s Bible study for years -- and desperately needed and wanted and missed.

I did the best I could, but I was constantly exhausted and stressed out, and there was never any let-up. I eventually just reached my breaking point. Very few jobs are worth your life. So in January, I asked Salem to let me out of my contract early, and they agreed to let me do that. And I haven’t had one moment of regret. Sometimes the Lord just calls you to do something for a season, and then He calls you out. He’s definitely called me out of this particular job.
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DJP:  What’s next?
JM: Spiritual and physical detox. Uninterrupted time with the Lord and with my family. I’ve also got some more irons in the fire. I’ll have more to announce in the next month or so. Stay tuned. 
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DJP:  What talk show(s) will you listen to or recommend, now that you’re off the air?
JM: I’ve been a huge listener to talk radio for years. But I’m on a prolonged, intentional break from all talk shows right now. If I tune into any talk show in the next few months, it probably will be Mark Levin’s; he’s great. The only Christian radio I’m tuning into at the moment is KFUO via app. I’m not technically a Lutheran, but I love the hymns and the sacred music on that station. Soothes the savage, tired soul like nothing else.
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DJP:  Finally: as an expert interviewer, what question should I have asked?
JM: I can’t believe you didn’t ask me my life verse. Then again, I could never just pick one Bible verse as my favorite. 
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Thanks, Janet, for all you've done for the truths we hold precious. Godspeed.

Dan Phillips's signature


Michael Coughlin said...

Hopefully, Janet will join the comments and let us know her life verse.

That was a fun two part interview. God bless Janet and I'm glad she's prioritizing her time with the Lord and her family.

FX Turk said...

I'll be the first one to say that JT never even apologized for foisting a false version of the interview audio on the world courtesy of Mars Hill Political Office.

For all he ought to apologize for, that's at the top of the list, and he should be ashamed of himself.

JM said...

RC Sproul may be brilliant, but he ought to think twice about allowing his publisher to print the over-the-top praise of him that appears on the jacket of his St Andrews commentary series. The successor to Lloyd-Jones? Please. Driscoll is not the only Refomista that needs a moment. It's very embarrassing, esp.. coming from the camp that hypes Calvin for being buried in an unmarked grave.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to see JT's tweeted this. Somehow I either have forgotten or never saw this tweet before.