Ohio History Journal

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"Nothing to Advertise Except God":

Christian Radio and the Creation

of an Evangelical Subculture in

Northeast Ohio, 1958-1972




"How I praise God for friends like you!" exclaimed an excited Elise

Marshall in a 1961 letter. "There have been times in my life when I felt very

lonely.... Now I have many friends who love my precious Lord the same

as I do, and I have sweet fellowship with each one of you even though I may

never see you."1 Testimonials like this were frequent in the 1960s among an

expanding circle of northeast Ohio residents who happened upon a common

source of strength and encouragement. But, ironically, most recipients of this

"hope," like Mrs. Marshall, would never actually meet their encouraging

"friends." They had discovered a haven of Christian fellowship, not within

their church or among neighbors and relatives, but through listening hour af-

ter hour to WCRF, a Cleveland-based Christian radio station.

Christian uses of the electronic mass media have profoundly influenced the

shape of American religion in the twentieth century. Although attention is

generally directed toward Christianity's more flamboyant involvement with

television, Christian radio has also made substantial contributions to

America's religious life. Since first introduced for popular consumption in

1921, radio has been used as a uniquely powerful tool for the proliferation of

religious ideas. The extent of its specific effect on those who have listened to

it, however, remains a neglected topic in American religious history.2 In or-



Jay D. Green is a doctoral candidate in history at Kent State University. He wishes to thank

WCRF manager Dick Lee and members of his staff for generously making station records and

facilities available to him. He also extends his thanks to Larry Eskridge, John Fea, Dr. John C.

Green, Dr. John Jameson, Eric J. Miller, Dr. David Morgan, and Dr. Robert P. Swierenga for

reading various drafts of the manuscript and offering helpful suggestions. A version of this

piece was presented at the Conference on Media, Religion, and Culture at the University of

Colorado in January of 1996.


1. Elise Marshall, Chardon,Ohio to WCRF-FM, [no date, 1961 file], "WCRF Listener

Letters," WCRF Radio Station, Brecksville, Ohio. (All subsequent letters referred to in this pa-

per are in the WCRF Listener Letter File.)

2. There have been relatively few scholarly discussions of religious radio. The following

articles consist of broad but helpful historical sketches on major personalities and programs, as

well as important developments between Protestant radio and the FCC. However, they offer no

real insights regarding radio's influence and meaning for American religious life, nor for its