God goes online

If you have an MP3 player and Internet access you’re probably already an aficionado of podcasts. But if you’re also religious and hip, you’ll be spreading the word about the latest online trend: Godcasts.

Godcasts span the entire religious spectrum from the Abrahamic faiths to new-age religions. Like most things Internet, they range from the serious to the seriously wacky. You can find virtual rosaries, chants, recitations, meditations and spiritual coaching sessions on how to enjoy menial tasks or keep your spouse happy – all in a short audio or video clip.

You might prefer Rachel’s Choice in which a five-year-old introduces a Christian rock song and recites a piece of scripture (in one Godcast the improbable kindergartener “selects” a bible quote condemning adultery) or video clips of The Lord’s Generation, a ministry that preaches to youth with rock bands, light shows and head banging.

“This is the creepiest thing I have ever seen,” suggested one viewer on WHAT YOU TUBE?” Is this some type of parody?” Errr no. It’s very real and, by the power of the Internet, God is getting onto a computer screen near you.

For the most part, Godcasts are no different to live religious events, radio or TV. Only now they’re portable and you have more power over the programming selection. This is not surprising. Lorne Dawson and Douglas Cowan, who wrote the book Religion Online, say the Internet is “both a mirror and a shadow of the offline world” and that “much of today’s online activity is rather pedestrian and anticlimactic when compared with the initial hype and rhetoric”.

Reverend Peter Langerman of the Durbanville Presbyterian Church (DPC) is a fan of Godcasts. He follows a number of them on a weekly basis, downloading them to his MP3 player and listening to them in the car as he drives. The Reverend’s own sermons are available for download on the DPC’s website. He says the advantage of getting your religion online is that “it opens your eyes to what’s out there” but he admits that most of the people who download his podcasts are members of his own congregation who like to collect sermons.

Naysayers have been prophesying the end of organised religion since the very first bible went online but Rev Langerman is sceptical. “It hasn’t happened because of the interaction and social connection that people get from actually coming to church,” he says. For Langerman and many others, Godcasts are a supplement to religion, not a replacement.

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