Friday, May 20, 2005

Sermons on the Run

"The difference between listening to a radio sermon and going to church is almost like the difference between calling your girl on the phone and spending an evening with her." Dwight L. Moody, American evangelist, 1837-1899

My friend Swami Uptown loves his iPod. He uses it religiously to help inspire his exercise routine. I wonder what he'd say about the latest trend of podmania -- podcasting. And its inevitable religious extension: Godcasting.

Personally, I'm all for technology that helps you grab some great Satellite or Talk Radio feeds for your iPod. But now people are downloading audio versions of weekly church sermons, and in record numbers. Even Vatican Radio is podcasting messages from the Pope and guest Godcasters.

According to, searches for online Godcasts went up 355% last month. And just a week ago, says CBS MarketWatch VP and Internet guru Frank Barnako, "searches for Godcasts were as popular as queries about TV's ER and model Naomi Campbell."

Wow. Quite a modern trilogy. Religion, guts and sex.

Though comparatively I suppose Godcasting could be viewed as a good thing. Especially for teenagers. A smidgen of spirituality, a dollop of Love Thy Neighbor, a dash of faith, even a taste of fire and brimstone -- all arguably welcome counterpoints to the chaos and violence assaulting their ears-and minds-in 50 Cent's latest release, The Massacre.

Like chicken soup, it couldn't hurt.

Or could it? Bloggers are morphing into podcasters in ever growing numbers. And in today's culture, the written word can't hold a candle to the spoken one. An auditory experience is so much more dynamic, and kinetic. It reaches out and touches the listener, literally gets into his head. That's power. And peril.

In today's climate of rampant religious extremism, there's an insidious twist to the concept of instant God in a Pod. It's the perfect platform for the Radical Right to beam their jingoistic, self-serving propaganda into the minds of the masses.

On the other hand, what happens to church coffers when all those warm bodies who used to show up on Sunday with open wallets start getting their religion fix on the Internet instead? One can only hope, and pray.

Just please, not to an iPod.



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