Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CHRN Evangelizes Without Talking “Religion”


Erasmus, Prince of Humanists, friend of St. Thomas More
What does Christian faith have to say about meteorology?  Does Ghostbusters echo a comedy of humors?  How can Old English poetry lead us to a new perspective on Jesus’ Passion?  The Christian Humanist Radio Network hosts a series of podcasts with a variety of scholars exploring their fields from a Christian perspective.

In 2009, three friends from the English literature graduate school at the University of Georgia launched the “Christian Humanist Podcast,” “a weekly conversation on philosophy, theology, literature, art, and other things that human beings do well.”  With topics ranging from Christmas television specials to Old English poetry to the best elements of Contemporary Christian Music they analyze and enjoy biblical theology, classical literature, and popular culture as both Christians and scholars. 

In 2013, two new shows launched.  Victoria Reynolds Farmer and a rotating set of panelists began “The Christian Feminist Podcast to examine feminist history and gender relations in contemporary culture and the church.  The entire team collaborates on long-form interviews with authors discussing their recent books on “Christian Humanist Profiles.” 

A meteorologist, psychologist, and physicist collaborate to explore faith and the natural sciences on “The Book of Nature” podcast which launched in the fall of 2014.  Historian Chris Gehrz of Bethel College recently finished the first season of “The Pietist Schoolmanwhich explores the character and purposes of Christian higher education, with particular emphasis on colleges rooted in the Pietist theological tradition.  Danny Anderson of Mount Aloysius College has guest hosted on “The Christian Humanist Podcast and plans to launch a cultural criticism program called “The Sectarian Review in September 2015.

As I was finishing Pauline Cooperator formation in 2014, I was thinking about how to participate in some media-related ministry.  I had enjoyed listening to the “Christian Humanist Podcast for some time, and fired off an email asking the hosts if I could somehow participate in their project.  I didn’t think there would be a way for me to contribute, but it didn’t hurt to ask.  They invited me to coordinate their interview program, “Christian Humanist Profiles.  I serve as the main point of contact with publishers and authors in order to request interviews and publicize the interview when they are released.  We have now released forty-eight episodes on the interview show, ranging from the vocation of Christian intellectuals, the core of the Gospel message and the profoundly Catholic vision of JRR Tolkien. 

We also publish written book reviews on our blog when authors are unavailable for recorded interviews. For example, earlier this year Nathan P. Gilmour, Protestant professor, podcaster, and blogger, enthusiastically reviewed the Society of St. Paul’s book by Benedict XVI, I Believe in One God. His opening sentence: “Believe it or not (and if you know me at all, you’ll believe it), I did ask Kristen, our press liaison, to request a podcast interview with the Pope Emeritus.  The response from the publisher, in Kristen’s words, was, ‘You’re kidding, right?’”

At the beginning of the 20th century, Father Alberione received a vision for a new congregation to spread the Gospel through the most effective means of mass media.  In the first century, St. Paul took advantage of the newly created Roman road system which made travel easier than ever before and sent letters to nurture new Christian communities around the world.  In the twentieth century, Father Alberione sought to use technological developments to spread the Gospel through publishing, films, and radio.  The dawning of the Internet age provides possibilities that Father Alberione could never have imagined.  With bargain Internet hosting and $25 microphones, the Christian Humanist Radio Network reaches thousands of listeners spanning the globe.

Dutch statesman and neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine!  This belongs to me!’” In his charismatic history of the Pauline Family, Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae, Fr. Alberione puts it like this: “Imbue all thought and human knowledge with the Gospel. Don’t talk only about religion but talk about everything in a Christian way….in accordance with reason subordinate to faith: [this is what] the Pauline Family must give” (n. 87). As the School of Jesus the Divine Master includes all of creation, the Christian Humanist Radio Network hopes to study every square inch of creation, and by doing so ultimately draw closer to the God who created it all.
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Kristen Filipic has been involved with the Pauline family since 2010 and completed the Cooperator Formation program in 2014.  She is a native Midwesterner but has lived in Boston for the last twelve years, where she works as a civil rights attorney.  She serves as a lector and a Bible study leader in her home church.