“My Son Just Found Out He Has a Baby; Should I Meet This Child?”
“How Can I Get Past the Hurt of My Husband Looking at Dirty Magazines?”
But instead of squabbling over such things on the famously lurid TV talk show, they were discussed on a Christian radio program.
“We could do an entire show called ‘Porn Talk,”’ host Steve Arterburn says of the type of calls he gets on “New Life Live,” a syndicated radio program produced in Laguna Beach that airs on nearly 200 radio stations.
The hour-long call-in show, on the air since 1990, provides a Christian take on inner demons of all kinds, notably sex, drug and addiction. Two million listeners tune in five days a week.
Now, with the recent debut of “New Life Live” on TV and iconic radio personality Dr. Laura set to go off the air in January, Arterburn sees a huge opportunity for his program.
“If you like her, you’ll love us,” says Arterburn, author and founder of New Life Ministries.
Like the callers to his show, the 57-year-old Arterburn shatters the stereotype that Christians somehow are more immune from others when it comes to fetishes, addictions and downright deplorable behavior.
The caller, from Harrisburg, Penn., was bummed.
Three years ago, he lost his job. Then his house. Then, his wife cheated on him.
He wondered: Where’s God in all of this?
Listening intently with co-hosts Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Jill Hubbard, Arterburn told the caller, Steve, that he had gone through the same thing – that his ex-wife also cheated on him.
“I wanted to kill her,” Arterburn told Steve. “Then, I wanted her to die on her own.”
Eventually, he prayed for her.
Be patient, Arterburn told Steve. God is there for you – he will come.
Get connected with people, Townsend offered. Get involved in a divorce recovery group.
Another caller, Vanessa, from Indiana, has a husband who is addicted to porn.
Arterburn advised her to confront him and “offer him a path.” He suggested a counselor, and mentioned a weekend workshop, “Every Man’s Battle,” that New Life Ministry offers.
During a break, Arterburn joked: “Why are Christians so sick?”
Arterburn travels a lot, mainly for speaking engagements but also to visit supporters of his ministry. In all, the ministry has about 5,000 regular donors, some of whom give $1,000 a month.
Splitting time between his main home in Indiana and a second home in Laguna Beach, Arterburn blew in to Irvine recently after a swing through Indianapolis, Chicago and Detroit – on his way to San Jose and, again, back to Indiana.
He made it to Concordia University in time to catch the start of his daughter’s soccer game. Madeline, 19, attends Azusa Pacific University.
A polished speaker, Arterburn, one-on-one, cultivates an image of casual, Midwestern charm – aging, but cool enough to pair bright blue sneakers with jeans and a coat over a casual shirt.
“These shoes either make me look hip, or pre-nursing home,” Arterburn jokes.
Although his program is anchored in faith, Arterburn takes a more secular, everyman approach – which may explain the appeal of “New Life Live,” whose audience, he says, has doubled over the last five years. (Locally, the show can be heard weekdays at 2 p.m. on KKLA-FM 99.5).
In June, the Christian call-in show started airing on the daily TV lineup of Dallas-based FamilyNet Television, which reaches more than 15 million homes. In October, “New Life Live” began airing weekdays at noon (eastern time) on the Christian-based National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Network.
Arterburn says he’s in talks — but not serious negotiations — with radio producers to try to step into the shoes of Dr. Laura, whose audience is 9 million per week.
He has hired a Hollywood agent to pitch his program, which features a rotating panel of experts joining him in a tag-team approach to offering advice.
Hubbard, Townsend and Arterburn all chime in during each 3- to 4-minute call, dispensing advice with the occasional Bible reference.
“We try to hear their pain,” says Townsend, “and convince them that there’s another way of looking at things.”
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