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Rush Limbaugh died today and what a legacy he left behind.
With “talent on loan from God,” Rush was on the air for more than 33 years broadcasting behind the “golden EIB microphone” while shuffling papers with “his formerly nicotine-stained fingers.” However, lung cancer finally caught up to the famous cigar aficionado who literally saved AM radio when it was struggling to find a space in the rapidly-changing media landscape.
He debuted his show in 1988 and was immediately embroiled in controversy, partly because people could not understand his sense of humor. For example, in a swipe against who he called “feminazis” during the early days of his show, Rush decided he would not allow a woman to call into the program unless she first mailed him a picture.
Almost everyone on the political right knew he was joking and tens of thousands of conservative women mailed him a photo and wished him well. But, the controversial policy generated a lot of media attention, which is just what the fledgling show needed to attract listeners.
There is no way Rush could have gotten away with that publicity stunt in today’s cancel culture. It’s kind of funny that whenever a radio station would succumb to pressure and drop his show, Rush’s popularity usually ensured that a cross-town rival station would immediately pick it up.
Rush was a money-making machine worth about $600 million when he died. With a daily audience of nearly 43 million people, according to I Heart Radio, which owned the show, that easily made him the most listened to news personality in the world.
A purposeful entertainer
Let’s face it, Rush was a premier entertainer and he knew exactly what buttons to push to elicit a response. But, the messages he delivered every day truly resonated with a vast number of people. In fact, some commentators described his ability to convert casual listeners to fans in this way:
- First, he makes them angry.
- Then he makes them laugh.
- Then he makes sense.
That pretty much described my experience with the show. The first few times I listened to him, I remember thinking, “Did he just say that?”
But, the more I listened to Rush, the more I could understand where he was coming from. Many of his opinions were a breath of fresh air for people who really didn’t have a way to express their own. For many years, Rush truly stood alone in media circles by representing a conservative philosophy for which a wide swath of the American population agreed.
He is credited with paving the way for Christian radio and certainly saving talk radio, and he would often discuss his faith in very human terms. Today, a number of Christian leaders are eulogizing Rush for his “voice of reason.”
It was refreshing to know that I wasn’t alone in thinking that some policies being embraced in Washington would take the country down the wrong path. Rush Limbaugh gave people permission – and a microphone — to question the wisdom of those policies.
Rush was not a saint. Far from it. He battled his own demons, and often from within a very public fishbowl.
He was married four times. After injuring his back, Rush became heavily addicted to oxycodone and hydrocodone to the point he was arrested in 2006. Prior to that, he went off the air in 2003 to be admitted to an in-patient addiction treatment center.
He eventually overcame that beast, but prolonged use of painkillers took his hearing and he went completely deaf in 2001. His hearing was partially restored after having a cochlear implant installed on his left side, and fully restored after another one was installed on his right. He gave all credit to God for the gift.
I listened to Rush’s show consistently for many years, and even became a member of his website so that I could tune in while working. I guess that made me an official “dittohead,” a reference to fans calling his show who would always start off saying things like, “long-time listener, love your show, you changed my life,” etc. After one caller followed by another kept saying basically the same things, to speed things up, Rush encouraged them to just say, “Ditto” and get to their point.
However, I stopped listening several years ago when I realized the impact of embroiling myself in worldly politics was having on my attitude and outlook. I came to the conclusion that, if I was personally powerless to do anything about an issue, then I should not be fretting about it.
If there was a big story and I wondered what Rush’s take was on the matter, I would tune in, but usually couldn’t listen to an entire show. It was too aggravating. I listened to my final show the day after the election last November as I was driving from Wisconsin back to Arizona.
Rush’s use of the term “talent on loan from God” rankled a lot of people who accused him of being arrogant or even blasphemous. But, I knew what he meant, and he was right.
We are all uniquely given a special talent to use during our short time on earth. Use of that talent can be withdrawn at any time, as it was today for Rush Limbaugh.
What Rush proved beyond a doubt was that when someone operates in the sweet spot of using his God-given talent in purpose with God’s will for his life, then work is never really work.
Jesus said he wants us to enjoy life to the full. Rush Limbaugh certainly did. His presence and voice will be dearly missed.
***** UPDATE *****
Joel Rosenberg, writing at All Israel News, reported after Rush’s death was announced that the broadcast legend had given his life to Christ.
“I learned the greatest possible news – that just the year before, in 2019, Rush had given his life wholly and completely to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Maybe he had made a decision to receive Christ by faith when he was much younger and had, like many of us, struggled to walk closely with Christ after that decision. That, I cannot say.
“But I now knew that he was studying the Bible like he had never done before.
“He was praying like he’d never done before.
“He was growing spiritually and it was transforming him.
“And it wasn’t out of desperation. It wasn’t simply because he was contemplating his own death.
“It was because he had truly wrestled through the claims of Jesus for himself, and come to the conclusion that Jesus really did die on the cross, rise again, and was the Messiah, the Savior and the King of the universe.”
It’s another great tribute to a man who had his ups and downs through life, but learned to make the right decision before time ran out and the door was closed forever. You can read Rosenberg’s story at All Israel News.