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"I hope that I will never let you down"
"And I know that this can be more than just flashing lights and sound"
(Vacation Bible School Podcast feeds are now live. Here are links to a bunch!)
So my employer, Vox Media, placed me and many of my favorite co-workers on furlough for three months, which happens to coincide with this humongous Podcasting The Entire Bible Like It’s An Old TV Series project. Now that I suddenly have time to start it, I guess I have to do the whole thing for years! Sure!
The Friday night after our furloughs became official, about 100 of us gathered on Zoom for drinks and jokes. Imagine a co-worker from a half-decade earlier popping on a call and getting hailed with love by smiling faces all across the country and beyond, sometimes without ever having met any of these people in person.
And then last night, our college football podcast recorded its last episode for the foreseeable future. It hasn’t yet hit me that the funniest, weirdest, and most professionally rewarding part of my life for nearly a decade is sorta over. I might never, ever be a part of anything people love more than they loved the Shutdown Fullcast.
For all we know, these are our last full revels. If so, we die as we lived: far apart in body, close in spirit.
Hey, let’s chase that some more!
At the big-group level, only two other crowds have ever mattered to me quite like this. One is my immediate family. The other taught me to look at Satan’s face and laugh.
I grew up Southern Baptist. The church molded me, for better and EHHH.
I have like two or three social skills, and 100% of them come from youth group. I found a beautiful tribe of normal weird dirtbags. Church gave me lifelong friends, some of whom I even still talk to lol. I would be married to somebody besides Emily if not for Christian metalcore bands. There’s a Hands Lifted In Praise sheen over my pre-adult memories.
That’s cool and great!
Of course, my brain spent a lot of time crumbling beneath HELL IS LITERALLY REAL AND MOST PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SPEND INFINITE CENTURIES IN IT, INCLUDING OUR SCHOOL FRIENDS, ESPECIALLY THE GAY AND ATHEIST AND MUSLIM ONES, UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW, AND IF WE DON’T, MAYBE WE’LL GO TOO. HERE IS THE TIP JAR.
That’s not cool or great! In fact, it sucks!
As of 2020, I’m a thoroughly de-churched semi-deist semi-agnostic universalist whatever who knows a flicker of Christian faith will burn in my brain until my brain dies, whether I choose to fuel that flicker or not.
Hey Jesus, sounds like you’re locked in here with me, Buddy! We might as well podcast!!
I wanna give you a podcast that engages on an internet-brain level with the wild artifact at the heart of American culture.
1: Let’s make a Bible thing with zero objective other than fun, weird nerdery.
This isn’t the kind of church thing that wears cool jeans so it can tell you it’s not here to judge you and it just wants to love on you and give you Christian coffee until you turn into Christian coffee and lay up cool jeans in Heaven.
This is the kind of church thing that is unconvinced pants have ever existed.
If one side of the supposed dichotomy is HELL TICKETS and the other is COOL JEANS, let’s skate past and critique the Old Testament’s war books as if they’re in Civ 6.
(Also, I don’t want this to be an exclusively Christian or post-Christian podcast anyway, and I’d like the guest list to reflect this in a few ways. For one thing, most of the book wasn’t “ours” to begin with, and “our” retcons have been really hit or miss. Speaking of guests, Fullcast listeners already know one of the episodes Ryan has to do, and I already have duties I feel led to offer Holly and Spencer.)
At my day job, our podcast had people saying things like, “I think I get all the rabbithole jokes even though I don’t care about college football.” That’s the vibe.
2: Most of the smart questions have been asked. Smart people debated them for thousands of years. Look where that got us. It’s time we ask the stupid questions.
Is American Christianity really a monotheist religion? Only an idiot could ponder such a notion. (Not talking about the Trinity. The Trinity is unnecessary fan-theory headcanon. Not talking about the God of Mammon either. Somehow, not scary enough.)
3: Take the most serious book ever written only as seriously as it must be taken.
As a content planner, one idea I share with writers is: take silly things seriously, and vice versa.
But when it comes to the Bible, many of us are a step behind that process. We often haven’t acknowledged the glaring fact that so much of it is astoundingly silly.
This 1907 painting from Puck Magazine is a political spoof of a Bible story. This is Teddy Roosevelt siccing bears against Wall Street. Insanely silly. But the actual Bible story is so much sillier than its own spoof.
The 6,000-year-old omniverse and Loki Snake aren’t even the silliest things from just the first two chapters.
4: Embrace the fact that the Bible fits not just within Big Important World History Culture, but also the culture we actually enjoy.
We’re all pretty comfortable with putting the Bible in the context of Large Old God Books. “The Bible has things in common with Gilgamesh and the Iliad and the Itihasa,” your astounded college-freshman self reports to you, having read the wiki summary of each.
We’re also fine with our inner sophomores thinking of the Bible as Important Literature, like it’s Shakespeare with fewer fart jokes and sloppier horse dicks.
Ezekiel 23:20: There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
Then, our college-junior selves are semi-enlightened enough to send us nine hours of Richard Dawkins dogma.
Finally, the fully enlightened college-senior brain, serene as the lotus, sees the words “Richard Dawkins” and can only think of:
This is our mindset: who or what is BOFA, spiritually?
We’ll discuss how the first 33 verses were quite possibly written about two or three totally different Gods, sure. But more importantly, we’ll show how God is Jean, Magneto, Storm, Rogue, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Xavier. The Gambit influence is minimal.
5: The mythology parts are cool. There’s something to gain even from stuff that is overtly artificial, and nobody gets to tell us what “gain” means.
How old is the earth, based on a literal interpretation of the Bible?
Nowhere near as old as it actually is.
That was easy.
So ask a weirder question. Let’s consider which “beginning” we’re talking about “in the beginning.” If we approach that word with a fresh mind, we begin to see the Bible not as a literal history of the universe, but as the most ambitious character study ever crowdsourced.
Let’s be as confidently foolish as Jacob. Let’s wrestle God until God renames us THE GOD-WRESTLER. (This is all canon.)
Is the Bible just history? Just mythology? Just poetry? Just folklore? Just bizarre rules? Just the direct transcript of divine inspiration? Just a deranged argument for murder and colonialism? Just a large PDF? Just a gleaming light source? Just a way to make friends when you’re bad at high school? Just desert ramblings by random stoners?
In the words of our greatest poet, “Oh hell naw. But yet, it’s that too.”
(Also I’m writing a novel-like thing. Here’s one early working title: Ready Prayer One. Aka Non-Mean Girls. Aka 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in the Mid90s. Aka Love, Simon Peter. Aka Jesus Camp Anawanna. Aka Sonlight. Aka Book(of Revelation)smart. Aka Magic: The Gathering in His Name. Aka AT-Hell. Aka Everybody Hates Chris(tian). Aka Shadow Jesus Island. Ok that’s enough.)