Podcasting as Faith-Based Activism

by jonathan w. stone

My argument in this sonic disputatio is that activism within conservative religious traditions is a crucial, if often overlooked, form of social change. In recent years, conservative Christianity (across a number of denominations and creeds) has become subject to increased scrutiny due to what many see as antiquated and even discriminatory beliefs and practices, particularly related to gender and sexuality. While external criticism is par for the religious course, such scrutiny provides exigence for internal adherants to interrogate and question their faith. Because questioning religious dogma in a church setting can be treacherous, emerging online platforms have become a safe place to discuss faith, doubt, and religious dissolution.

Among other digital platforms, podcasts have become an excellent medium for such conversations, where meaningful debate around hot-button religious topics can flourish. Significantly, many of the most popular podcasts are not interested in undermining or disproving the central elements of Christian truth-claims. Rather, the Christian activists hosting and appearing on these podcasts advocate for new ways of interfacing with religious authority including more informed and affirming ways of reading the Bible itelf. These debates and discussions reverberate beyond their digital platforms and back into brick-and-mortar churches, where slow but incremental changes appear to be happening.

In the five tracks below, I use a sounded format (akin to a podcast) to examine several such podcasts with an ear to the sonic rhetorical approaches used in such work. My hope is that listeners in rhetoric and composition—whether they come from a religious background or not—will tune in to the ways that podcasting might bring sonic nuances to activism in other seemingly calcified conservative or orthodox communities.

Click each link below to listen to the five parts of this sonic disputatio: