From Ode to Joy-FM
James Hitchcock on the Sale of a Lutheran Classical Station
Shortly after nine o’clock on a hot night this past July, the closing strains of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony carried over the radio, bringing with them an end to a venerable St. Louis institution. The finale of KFUO-FM also brought into focus some of the anomalies of the relationship between the Church and contemporary culture.
KFUO-FM was, as listeners were reminded each day, “owned and operated by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (LCMS). It had broadcast classical music for 62 years and, during that time, had ceased to be a Christian station, devoting itself almost exclusively to the classics and featuring religious music only around Christmas and Easter. Presumably it attracted aneducated and financially successful audience—the station was richinadvertisements, including ones for automobiles and gourmet restaurants.
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James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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