ATLANTA, Ga. (BP) – For many, the Christmas season doesn’t always feel like the most wonderful time of the year. As conservative radio host Erick Erickson found out, this sentiment is something SBC President Bart Barber can relate to.
Barber recently recorded a short interview for Erickson’s Christmas show, which will air on Friday, Dec. 23. During the interview, Erickson asked Barber how he would pastor those for whom the Christmas season is a difficult time.
Barber proceeded to tell a deeply personal story about his mother’s recent health struggles, and how the family has been relying on Christ during the tough season. A short clip of the conversation shared by Erickson quickly went viral.
Erickson said other than tweeting about Barber’s love for the St. Louis Cardinals, the two had never spoken before. He was moved by Barber’s candid response.
“I was honestly floored by his willingness to share something that personal,” Erickson said. “The fact that he was willing to share something like that left an impression on me that lingered throughout the rest of the day.
“For the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to be as transparent with strangers about that situation with his family, I think it’s really helpful. He’s willing to kind of lay it out on the table that ‘my Christmas isn’t going great this year either and here’s why.’
“For him to be struggling in that way, I think has a more meaningful impact than something abstract because this is something so many people experience with their parents whether it’s Alzheimer’s or the death of a parent or some other situation that leaves them in a Christmas season where they’re just not in the right spirit.”
Erickson is an Atlanta-based radio host whose self-titled “Erick Erickson Show” airs daily from 12-3 p.m. on 95.5 WSB and is nationally syndicated on many other stations.
Each year, Erickson hosts special shows on Christmas and Easter, in which he particularly focuses on Christian theology and beliefs.
He has interviewed several famous theologians and pastors as a part of the shows, including Tim Keller, Ligon Duncan and former SBC President Ed Litton.
One characteristic Erickson noticed about Barber and many of the pastors he has spoken to over the years are their ability to practically apply Christian doctrine to daily life.
“I’ve interviewed academic theologians, and I’ve interviewed theologians who are also leading churches, and the ones who are pastoring churches never sacrifice their theology for a practical relationship with people,” Erickson said. “In their speaking and their tone, they are very personal.
“I do think there is a real difference between a pastor’s view of the world and the sort of ‘ivory tower’ view of the world where your theology is sound but you don’t have to deal with people in the mess of the world on a daily basis.”
Erickson and his wife grew up in Southern Baptist churches and now affiliate with the Presbyterian Church of America. He believes Baptists make up a large share of his audience, and he said Barber is a departure from the perception he had when he was younger.
“I just remember when I was a kid you had your local pastor, but the president of the Southern Baptist Convention was a little bit of an academic abstraction to me,” Erickson said.
But Barber has a “relatable life,” Erickson said, and is “not trying to be someone he’s not.”
“This is a man whose family is going through something rough, and he was willing to share the roughness of it as transparently as possible, which makes him seem like a very relatable person,” Erickson said.
When the show airs on Friday, Erickson hopes Barber’s sentiments encourage audiences to remember the true meaning of Christmas through whatever season they may be in.
“I hope people take away that your Christmas season is really about Christ coming for us,” he said. “It’s really not about the commercialism, the perfect memory or the perfect gift. The perfect gift was born in a manger and we should be way more focused on that than whether or not our presents are packaged just right.”