Eugene Cho

GodTube-Good or Bad?

As I alluded to during the most recent Friday Brain Dead Cinema, a new video sharing website has been introduced called GodTube. Released in early January, it received ‘good’ publicity in Newseek Magazine in March. If you don’t know what it is, it’s simply a carbon copy christianized version of YouTube – using the banner of ‘Boadcast Him.’ This venture is the brainchild of Chris Wyatt – someone with connections at Dallas Seminary and ‘former television producer.’ It’s currently in beta version and yet, supposedly boasts somewhere between 50k-60k unique visitors each day. So, here are the questions:

  • Is this good or bad? Is it both? How?
  • Is this engaging culture or disengaging culture?
  • If the mantra is ‘Broadcast Him,’ then the question is, “To Whom are you broadcasting to…?”
  • Will anyone but Christians access this site?
  • Is this reactive or proactive?
  • For those who are parents, how have your views on such matters changed if any?

Your thoughts to these questions are very important because this is happening all over the place. Don’t believe me. Just check out Conservipedia (the conservative version of Wikipedia), DittyTalk and YourChristianSpace (couple of the many attempted Christian versions of MySpace), etc. I have my thoughts but I’ll reserve them for now. I’ll just say one thing: I don’t want to be hater. I applaud Chris Wyatt and others in their ‘Christian venture’ but I caution anyone if our motivation or actions lead us and others (including our children) to think we’re ‘arrived people’ that build shop and settle in our Christians camps rather than understanding what it means to be ‘sent people.’

But it is interesting to read what one source, Wired, thinks about GodTube:

For the record, what is disturbing about many of GodTube’s videos is not that they are done by Christians, or enthusiastically discuss topics like Intelligent Design, the immorality of homosexuality, etc. What is disturbing about GodTube is that it is an observable microcosm of the way that fundamentalist Christians have shut themselves off from any outside perspective. The result is mental and creative poverty [emphasis added]. GodTube’s videos are no more stupid than any of YouTube’s videos because they mutter gibberish about intelligent design, or indulge in lame Christian-themed parodies of mainstream media. But they sure as hell are a heck of a lot funnier. [read more]

Is it just me or did they peg us pretty good in that quote?

Filed under: christianity, culture, emerging church

23 Responses

  1. Randall says:

    “I don’t want to be hater.”

    I agree with that statement, Pastor Eugene, but it’s hard not to come down hard on sites like these (at least for me). IMHO, it’s completely missing the point of what Christ wants from his people. We’re saved and redeemed so we can go back out into a broken world and make it a bit more like the Kingdom of God in whatever way we can – big or small.

    We are NOT called to huddle together in little “sin-safe” arenas. We are explicitly told not to conform to this world yet time and time again, we follow the world’s lead with watered down derivatives. In this way we can be thought of as being of the world but not in it.

    I don’t have kids but I can understand how Christian parents would want a clean, safe alternative for their children. Thing is, there are non-Christian parents who feel the same way. My suggestion to those in the Christian entertainment industry is to go for it – to create family friendly television programs, websites, movies, etc. but do it in a way that blesses all the parents, not just the Christian ones. Of course that means they need to up the quality of their production and their writing and that’s hard work but whose standards should we be aspiring to – those of a narrow segment of the Christian community or that of the God of the universe, the ultimate source of creativity?

  2. david says:

    oh man, where to begin. sadly, godtube is the same old story for christians- a sanitized mirroring of secular creativity. these imitation alternatives intended to christianize the ‘pagan’ world in fact do just the opposite- they encourage christians to retreat from the dominant culture into an insular enclave of brainwashed homogeneous monotony, aka christian entertainment. in these isolated enclaves, christians become so disconnected from reality that the created environment and the outside environment get switched around, and soon you have delusional christians ranting from their fortresses of morality about the depravity of the world, all the while not recongizing that it got that way because christians abandoned it in the first place by withdrawing from the broader marketplace. it’s pathetic.

  3. david says:

    and the fact that wired gets it and churches don’t just adds insult (and embarassment) to injury. it should alarm us when people outside of the church understand our predicament better than the people on the inside.

  4. Jeff says:

    yep, pretty embarrassing.

  5. Sarah says:

    So I totally agree with David’s point – that these sites are 2nd generation facsimiles of popular secular culture. And I think that Wired got it with its little quip on the “Baby Got Bible” parody:

    “Unfortunately, it took almost twenty years for Christians to get around to parodying a song made famous in 1992, when Christians were still busy trying to come up with 11 minutes of Christian-themed lyrics to insert into Don McLean’s “American Pie.””

    BUT honestly, I don’t know if it’s worth taking umbrage about these sites. I think there will ALWAYS be misguided attempts by Christians to “engage culture” in a “wholesome” way, and to some extent I think that they are helpful… not in swaying anyone towards Christianity, but perhaps in helping the average mainstream conservative Christian to take him/herself a bit less seriously.

    Perhaps the destructive nature comes when these sites become the main petri dish into which the broader culture peeks. Christianity is just as diverse within its boundaries… to focus on a narrow aspect is pretty unhealthy.

  6. Wayne Park says:

    badtube.
    totally missing the mark…

  7. David Park says:

    the world is not impressed with stuff that it has already seen just repackaged in christian veneer. this only helps christians feel like they are engaging culture, but duplication isn’t engagement, it’s subscription — which is why “christians” have abdicated influence on the culture at large because the people who claim to be without fear have so many.

  8. Blake says:

    Why is it that all of these Christian versions of secular pop-culture items have such corny names? Seriously. “GodTube?” What the heck?

    Why not innovate as much as the world does? Why try to chase the world’s lead? It’s that lead that gets us in trouble. Gah!

    It’s stuff like this that makes me value the work of Craig Gross and the crew at http://www.xxxchurch.com even more. They’re innovating and engaging. Go team!

  9. John says:

    i don’t want to come down too hard on GodTube. after all, there’s clearly a market there. you can’t blame people for seizing that opportunity. and biblically there seems to be a mandate for encouraging fellow believers.

    i think it is fair to say however that this is the result of Christians segmenting their faith from the rest of their lives. “Christian culture” says Christians must listen to certain things, wear certain clothes, use certain religious words, etc. that’s unfortunate as we are to be salt and light in the world and not hide our light under a basket. if we stick only to “Christian efforts,” it is difficult to do that.

  10. Dennis says:

    While I applaud the effort, I’m curious what the economic factors are behind the venture. If the gist of the venture is engaging culture, what we can learn in the comparisonod between Godtube and xxxchurch.com?

  11. linda k. says:

    in rome i made a painting about how we worship money instead of God. to communicate that, i painted a figure of jesus and mary on a throne, but made them out of money. i thought i was getting my point across, until one of the critics fired off on a rant because the mere image of anything ‘christian’ just completely disgusted her. she missed my message completely, because her brain immediately shut off and she was repulsed when she recognized the ‘christian’ flavor of it. that was not a fun day, but i learned a lot.
    especially in the fields of creativity, communication, and media, it’s dangerous and ineffective to create even more of a separation and a moat with uh, the world, when what we should be doing is to transcend boundaries.

  12. e cho says:

    david: tell us how you really feel. 🙂

  13. daniel so says:

    This sounds a lot like what has been going on over the last several years in Christian music circles. For quite awhile, the struggle was simply creating quality product. I like Petra as much as the next guy (actually, probably *more* than the next guy!) but they had nothing on GNR (sorry!).

    Unfortunately, while the quality problem has been addressed in many cases (“Check out [latest CCM artist]. They’re just as good as [mainstream equivalent]!”), it begs the question: Is the point of art simply to create a parallel Christian-related universe? Reminds me of Bizarro-Superman. They should just call their site Bizarro-Tube😉

    By the way, I just moved into the WordPress neighborhood (my new site is simply headsparks.com) …

  14. Blake says:

    Good point, Daniel.🙂 That is precisely the question that needs to be asked.

  15. Yung says:

    Reading these comments, it seems the majority of the people here are pretty negative about this Godtube. I checked out the site and the their mission stated was to spread the gospel. I suppose it would be pretty hard to spread the gospel when a major portion of visitors are Christians. If the mission was to connect Christians together in dialog and community, I think its a good idea with a terrible name. The youtube style look doesn’t help it, but I think there’s a place for this.

    To me, this is just a symptom of whats being preached on the pulpit and the push back from secular voices on all things Christian related.

  16. e cho says:

    yung: what would you call it?

    linda: but what if the point of your painting was to be ‘prophetic’…in some ways, it is supposed to provoke some sort of response. i hope you don’t get discouraged because of one or two critics. everyone will have critics. can i see the painting? can we see the painting?

  17. linda k. says:

    i think that i was trying to be ‘prophetic’, but because christian imagery is such a loaded visual subject matter, it just wasn’t a good choice. i don’t think i’m at a point in my understanding and skill to work with something that bold. it’s like when a guy in my class made a little model of st. peter’s basilica and attached a condom to it to make a statement about the catholic church and birth control. as soon as i saw the condom with such a sacred symbol, i immediately felt sick and walked straight past it, as did some other people. i didn’t even try to interpret it at all because my initial response of disgust and offense was so strong.
    i guess what i learned was that, while the painting might have been okay for the church setting, it might not be a good idea for people outside of it. to non-christians it’s very cold and impersonal. it expressed a very blunt, didactic viewpoint in a very preachy manner. the painting just said way too much and didn’t leave room for personal interpretation because of the loaded christian imagery i chose. the critic told me that what people would rather see is what God is to me as an individual, as a person with her own identity and story – no one wants to hear cold christian morals being preached at them (ppl get enough of that), but people will want to know about the artist themself as a person who lives in the same modern world as everyone else. i think contemporary visual art is about questioning the boundaries that are put on us, whether it be in our beliefs, culture, sexuality, whatever…especially when fundamentalist voices rain on our parade. for her, my piece only fortified these walls.
    at first i was discouraged and the situation was pretty awkward. i had to defend myself in front of the whole group (as the only christian), while the critic was fuming from her rant. however, we reconciled very nicely later on, and i realized how much i learned from the experience.
    i do have some photos of the painting. the actual piece went into the hands of the italian garbage men, simply because it was too much trouble to haul over. i guess i could put it on my blog sometime?

  18. storbakken says:

    GodTube does seem very slanted and whitewashed. It’d be nice to have various voices from the Christian faith.

    http://www.morefire.wordpress.com

  19. Yung says:

    I gonna go even a step further and disagree with most people here. Godtube is GOOD with really BAD content along with being completely UNCREATIVE and POORLY executed. Let me explain.

    Yes, it is a ripoff of Youtube for Christians. All the content on Godtube pretty much sucks. The mission statement of spreading the gospel doesn’t intersect with its audience. I guess you can point out this is another example of Christians sanitizing and censoring their own world. There are many things about it you can criticize.

    Look past the terrible content and blatant Youtube duplication(I know its hard). At its core its a centralized video sharing site for the wider Christian community. The content is bad because there is no focus. Its a random collection of crap. One of the channels is militant islamic ok? I shudder at the thought of people actually learning things from an amateur user created video.

    This biggest problem with the site is that it’s not useful due to its confusing slogan, “Broadcast HIM?” It means absolutely nothing. Something like this needs to be more focused with its content which will make it more useful.

    Not too long in the future, everyone will have a webcam, equipment to record video anywhere, and access to the internet. I’m even talking about 3rd countries due to emerging wireless technologies which require minimal infrastructure.

    Imagine a Christian video sharing site where the focus are missionaries and aid workers. Missionaries can share their experiences, update supporters, or even show the fruits of their labor. Viewers can respond by posting videos of encouraging words or become supporters via links from the videos. Aid workers can show the challenges they face or stories of faith. Connecting those in the developed regions with those in developing ones. Creating a community of subscribers and supporters engaged with the world.

    This is what Godtube v.3.0 could look like. If we as Christians are serious about compassion, social justice, and evangelism, I see no reason why a site like what I described couldn’t be successful. Its just that we have to stomach Godtube v.1.0 first.

  20. Rebecca says:

    I agree with Yung and Daniel’s comments, as well as David’s lament. Why aren’t we innovating, instead of imitating and creating parodies? Godtube’s current library does not serve its stated mission. A parody of Baby Got Back does nothing to spread the Gospel. Seriously, who wants to be a Christian after watching that?

    As Christians, we are supposed to be seeking to be like Christ, and He is the source of creative power. We stifle the Spirit both by withdrawing from the larger culture and attempting to be merely “purified” versions of them. We don’t have to compromise our moral convictions to participate in the creative marketplace.

    But don’t knock Petra, man. That was good stuff.😉

  21. e cho says:

    yung: i think you’re on to something. what you described about using a venue such as godtube for the purpose of compassion, social justice, and evangelism would be incredibly beneficial. but, i think the bottom line will 98% of the time come down to economics. my two cents.

  22. […] for the GodTube folks since they must have worked really hard.  But I have to admit that when it came out last year, I rolled by eyes and dry heaved.  To be honest, I still don’t get it but hey, more power […]

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