Tag Archives: odyssey “in focus”

the postal code for Vancouver is V6B4G3, and other lessons I’ll never forget

1 Aug

I grew up listening to and loving Adventures in Odyssey, a kids radio program produced by controversial ministry Focus on the Family. The show is currently in its 25th season, and while it’s gone through many changes in terms of characters and story lines, its mission has not changed. When it was created in 1987, James Dobson wanted Focus to provide quality entertainment to kids and families featuring Biblical principles and moral lessons, as an alternative to the secular media that abounded.

The way I listen to and perceive “Biblical principles and moral lessons” has changed a lot since I was ten. For one thing, once I began reading and studying the Bible, I found I didn’t always agree that a principle was Biblical. Odyssey (and Focus) can be pretty myopic; they have a definite white, middle-class, Conservative Christian perspective. As I’ve entered adulthood and become convicted of the Church’s calling to be diverse in terms of culture, and as I’ve experienced God’s call to justice for the oppressed, I’ve found that the very way I perceive the world has changed. Certainly the way I view media, “Christian” or otherwise, is altered. Even as a young child, I was a critical thinker who was disinclined to take things at face value. But the fact remains that I swallowed down a lot of lessons about Christianity and what it meant to follow Jesus without realizing how steeped they were in Conservative (White, Western, Wealthy) Christian Culture. A lot of my faith journey in recent years has been about trying to separate that “Cultural Christianity” from the actual directives of Jesus to his followers.

I still listen to Adventures in Odyssey, and I have a lot of love for the work that the writers, directors, producers, sound designers and actors create for their listeners. I always appreciate it when self-identified Christians produce good work; in the realm of radio drama, organizations like Focus on the Family and CBH Ministries (producers of the drama Down Gilead Lane, which just concluded its twelfth and final season) are doing something uniquely good. I am not aware of any secular kids radio drama that is similarly entertaining. Even when I disagree strongly with the “lesson” in an AIO episode, the fact remains that the show has a legacy of more than a quarter century producing relatively wholesome programming, and doing so with excellence.

However, because I think AIO could be doing different and/or better things with the platform they have, I will be writing a series of posts where I essentially review episodes through a critical lens. I’ll examine the lesson the episode says it is trying to impart, the lessons it actually communicates, and then discuss those lessons in the light of scripture and the teachings of Christians outside the Focus bubble.

I intend to post about episodes dealing with the themes of patriotism/American nationalism, race and ethnicity, and perhaps even gender roles. It’s possible that more topics will strike my fancy, we’ll see. I do plan to review a recent episode arc on the Fisk University Jublilee Singers which struck me as a positive departure from the show’s usual handling of race issues.

Readers, did you listen to Adventures in Odyssey growing up? Does the name James Dobson make you want to applaud, or cringe? Your thoughts and comments are always welcome to me.