A Catholic on National Talk Radio

Allen Hunt says he’s engaging the culture: ‘Let’s talk and have a civil conversation.’

(photo: The Allen Hunt Show)

A scan on the radio dial at just about any time of the day will surface a handful of radio talk shows with hosts clamoring to be the voice of reason and to have the answers to solving problems of all types.

One host, however, is very confident that he truly does have something to offer as he unabashedly gives his Catholic take on today’s headline issues. His name is Allen Hunt, and his show, the Allen Hunt Show can be heard each weeknight on 150 stations across the nation.

His viewpoint wasn’t always Catholic, however. He recently sat down to talk about his conversion to the Catholic faith and how it has shaped his radio platform.

Tell me about your journey from Methodist pastor for 20 years to entering the Catholic Church.

I grew up in a culture of Methodist pastors. My uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Methodist pastors. I didn’t know much about the Catholic Church when I was growing up. After I finished seminary at Emory University in Atlanta, I went on to do some graduate-level work at Yale University on early Christian history and the New Testament.

My first exposure to the Catholic Church came while I was there in New England. Much of it came from my friendship with a Dominican friar who was also in the graduate program. That was in the 1990s, and many seeds were planted then. In the next decade or so, God used a number of experiences to bring me home to the Church. I became Catholic on Jan. 6, 2008, on the feast of the Epiphany.

What finally brought you home?

There were three big things that led to me entering the Church. First was a growing sense of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. Secondly is what I call doctrine by democracy. In general, in the Protestant church, everything is up to a vote every few years. For instance, in the Methodist church, every four years we would get together to vote whether or not homosexual behavior is acceptable or not and whether it was time to ordain openly gay pastors.

The third area of reflection was Jesus’ prayer in John 17. There, Jesus pleads for unity in the body of Christ. The Protestant church has split into 33,000 different strands. What message does that fractioning send to the world? As well, how much this division must grieve God’s heart.

I am only one person, but am trying to repair some of that damage by coming home to the mother Church.

At the time of your decision to pursue the Catholic Church you were leading a megachurch in Atlanta. How did your congregation react to your decision?

I had stepped down from my role as senior pastor July 1, 2007, to go into full-time radio ministry. Once I had left the role of pastor, it gave me the freedom to explore and discover the faith.

By and large, most people were supportive of my decision. As is typical of many megachurches, a lot of the members are ex-Catholics. I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls from people who were asking, “What do you see that I don’t see?” There were only a handful of people who were hostile towards me. But after years of being a pastor, I was used to people being hostile towards me.

Tell me about the Allen Hunt Show.

We started the show in 2006 with just a few hours on Sunday afternoon. We didn’t plan on being on Christian or Catholic radio. The show began as a way to engage the mainstream on all the issues of life through the lens of faith.

We want to come at things with a moral compass and engage people of all walks of life. I am unapologetic and non-defensive on who I am, what I stand for and where I’m coming from. It is mainstream radio done for you by a very Catholic guy.

Is there an evangelization element to your program?

I share my Catholic faith, but I don’t promote it — and I think that is at the heart of the show. I am who I am, and I am comfortable with who I am. I want to engage people who agree or disagree with me in a grace-filled way, as opposed to bomb throwing, which seems to be the standard these days. 

I think a lot of people find it very heartening that there is someone like them on mainstream radio. Then there is another group of people who find this fact strange to them. And then there is a small, vocal group who can’t stand my faith, but they keep listening. As long as they are listening, I’m content with that. Let’s talk and have a civil conversation.

What’s the future for you and the program?

We need to continue to do what God wants us to do. I think what that means is to continue to engage the culture with a reasonable voice of faith. Our long-term goal is to be on over 300 stations each week, Monday through Friday.

What is your take on the debate on whether or not conservative talk radio was to blame for the Tuscon shooting, the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?

Neither talk radio nor inflamed political rhetoric caused a mentally deranged young man to indiscriminately shoot people in Tucson any more than they caused the Virginia Tech massacre or even the silly Dunkin Donuts drive-through tirade last month regarding the lack of sprinkled donuts.

As you talk to America, day in and day out, what are two or three issues or themes that come up again and again? What is the temperament or the mood of the nation, so to speak?

In general, there is a self-confidence crisis in America. We have forgotten who we are. People are concerned and feel like we have lost something, even though they cannot always pinpoint what that is. Part of this is a natural response to a very long recession that has drained a lot of people’s passion and optimism. They worry we may never emerge from it. Part of this is a response to the lack of moral compass that we now routinely experience in our public life together, in our entertainment and even in our public schools.

Register correspondent Eddie O’Neill writes from Green Bay, Wisconsin.