The Beast and Bible Podcast: Finding Meaning in Popular Culture, Monsters, and Religion

Written by: 
December 3, 2022

The Beast and Bible podcast debuted on October 31st, a date that alludes to topics that would subsequently be covered in later episodes. Sponsored by the Adventist Learning Community, the Beast and Bible podcast description reads as “exploring the intersection of the monstrous, religion, and popular culture.” Dr. Seth Pierce is the podcast’s host and producer. He teaches communications and religion courses at Union College and was a pastor for 16 years beforehand.

Before this podcast came to light, his background in theology and communications presented the opportunity to create an entirely new college course: Monsters, Faith, and Pop Culture.

The course was piloted during the spring semester of 2022. Many Union students expressed strong interest in taking the course based solely on the title and course description. Pierce says, “It [Monsters, Faith, and Pop Culture] became more popular than we anticipated. Union, being a smaller campus. You don’t normally see massive numbers unless you have anatomy and physiology or a major general education course. We had 50 students sign up for the course before we capped it.” The course did well and received positive feedback from students.

Pierce made a comment about Monsters, Faith, and Pop Culture on Facebook and Twitter, and Dr. Adam Fenner, director of the Adventist Learning Community (ALC), happened to see the announcement. In reaching out to Pierce, ALC originally suggested doing a topic on communications, drawing inspiration from Pierce's book, Seeking an Understanding, to which Pierce suggested adding the element of monsters. Ultimately, they decided to focus on communicating about popular culture and how monster stories affect our communication with others and influence our beliefs with people who are different from one another. Thus, Beast and Bible was greenlit to produce one season of 16 episodes.

The three episodes released so far cover a variety of subjects, including how to handle the racist remark made at a potluck, how to hunt monsters like Pokémon without becoming a monster ourselves, and as of the most recent episode, how holiness and horror are related. Every episode contains references to contemporary pop culture while also relating back to a more profound theme. In explaining his extensive knowledge of pop culture, Pierce explains, “Growing up with different cartoons, shows, movies, novels already put me in that world, and even if I’m not reading or watching, I may catch some of it through magazines, academic journals, social media, and vlogs, or working with college students. I am just logging it away and seeing if there are ways to build bridges with that.” Ultimately, each episode stays true to the podcast's overarching goal of creating opportunities for healthy dialogue while incorporating the ideal combination of monsters, current events, and biblical allusions.

And while his college course and current podcasts have sparked interest, Pierce notes that it hasn't happened without apprehension from certain individuals over the connection of biblical creatures and popular culture, an apprehension he passionately refutes. He explains:

When you look at the Bible and Christian art, or Christian thinkers like Augustine who elaborate on monsters and theology, you start to realize that, as much as we might not be comfortable with the topic, monsters are clearly in the Bible, Christian history, and belief; and according to the Bible, all scripture is useful and inspired, so you can’t ignore it just because it makes you uncomfortable or concerned. I would actually suggest that when something is uncomfortable or concerning, that is when we need to intentionally explore it carefully to see what it says and how it impacts how we think about God and how we think about religion instead of ignoring it or becoming sensationalist about it.

Pierce hopes that in tuning in to the podcast, listeners “find tools to read pop culture without becoming a pop-culture apologist—where basically everything is great, consume it all—or a pop-culture sensationalist—where everything is a plot of the Illuminati, or an underground satanic network.”

The Beast and Bible episodes release every other week on Spotify, Google, and Apple podcasts. Follow the podcast on Facebook and Instagram.

Raquel Mentor is an associate editor and social media manager for Spectrum.

Photo by: Seth Pierce and Beast and Bible podcast

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