No, I’m not talking about those pilgrims. Though the thought does raise the question of whether William Bradford would have created the Plymouth Plantation Podcast had such wizardry existed in his time. I’m using the term pilgrim in the more general sense of one who goes on a physical or spiritual journey. I wore my history hat last month and shared some of the history podcasts I have found helpful. This month I don my religious studies hat and share a few of those podcasts I have found useful, provocative, and just plain fun. These podcasts are not devotional in nature, though it is very possible to experience some devotional moments listening to them. There are plenty of good podcasts geared towards a more contemplative or devotional perspective, but the ones I present this week are educational, entertaining, and a little therapeutic if you were raised evangelical and wonder how to relate where you are growing to the roots from which you grew.
Educational and Cultural Religious Studies Podcasts
Inspired– Inspired covers general topics in religious studies across the spectrum of various faith traditions. It is produced by Interfaith Voices for public radio. This podcast offers a deep dive for people who already have a decent general knowledge of world religions and want to know how people are practicing those belief systems in the contemporary world. The program provides a good window for encountering some of these religions for the first time as well, giving some personal stories to whet the appetite of those willing to explore further. Host Amber Kahn guides interviews well and provides interesting commentary between each segment. The program drops weekly. Recent episodes have included a focus on Quaker music, the spiritual challenges of social distancing, and Shinto nature walks. https://interfaithradio.org/Home
Keeping It 101: A Killjoy’s Introduction to Religion– Keeping It 101 ushers you into that introductory course in world religions that you always wanted to take but never had the chance. Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst and Megan Goodwin bring their experiences as teachers and scholars to bear on themes related to how religion influences the world around us all the time. They serve the education with a healthy dose of humor that makes it go down in the most delightful way. The podcast runs weekly. Recent episodes have included “Religion in the Age of ‘Rona” and “You Might Be Done with Religion, but Religion Is Not Done with You.” https://keepingit101.com/
NT Pod– Mark Goodacre, Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, hosts this podcast devoted to the New Testament and Christian origins. Episodes center on Goodacre’s presentation of pivotal issues in New Testament scholarship with occasional guest interviews as well. The podcast drops sporadically due to Goodacre’s shifting schedule, but he has produced ninety-three episodes that treat a number of fascinating topics. Recent episodes have included a multi-episode arc on how the spurious document known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” was proved to be a forgery and a review of various pop culture productions about the life of Jesus. https://podacre.blogspot.com
Good Christian Fun delivers a comedic look at the “strange upside-down world of Christian pop culture” from the perspectives of Kevin T. Porter and Caroline Ely. They describe the show as made for “skeptics and believers alike.” The weekly program looks at a variety of topics in Christian pop culture and features a different guest host to dialogue with Ely and Porter. From the Left Behind books to Carmania, the show brings back memories for anyone raised in youth group during the eighties, nineties, and early 2000s. For many of those people, the memories can carry a weird mix of trauma and nostalgia depending on their spiritual journey. Porter and Ely poke irreverent fun at the eccentricities and contradictions of Christian pop culture while taking seriously the continuing struggle of believers and skeptics alike to come to terms with its influence on their lives. Only Christians with a healthy sense of humor and the ability to mock their own sacred cows will truly appreciate the podcast. Those who can will find an entertaining hilarious journey in-store. Recent topics have included the Left Behind movie adaptations, the search for the worst Christian Christmas song ever, and Audio Adrenaline. https://www.goodchristianfun.com/
Weird Religion offers the witty commentary of professors Leah Payne and Brian Doak on the religious elements of popular culture. The tagline of the series is, “A podcast for people who know religion is weird but love it anyway.” Many episodes center on a concept or theme with connections to popular culture products that illustrate the theme. One episode looks at fan reactions to George Lucas’ choices with the Star Wars saga and how the phenomenon helps us grapple with the concept of authorial intent. Another episode highlights the theme of being chosen with Buffy the Vampire Slayer providing the pop culture element. The show is in its fourth season and episodes are generally around thirty minutes, making it an easy show to follow for the busy but interested. https://www.weirdreligion.com/
As I said last month, these are a few of my favorites. There are many more, and more are being created all the time. I look forward to hearing some of your favorites as well. Be safe, stay well, and enjoy the rich material available for us to enjoy for free as we shelter together.