CWC: The Radio Show, Season 11

“You mean, like ‘CWC: The Radio Show’?”

So asked my friend Stacey one June morning in 2006. It was our annual faculty workshop for the team-taught, multidisciplinary, 1st year course Christianity and Western Culture (CWC), and we had asked one of Bethel’s faculty IT consultants, Bob Kistler, to take us through some of the new media then emerging. One thing he mentioned was blogging; CWC: The Blog was up that fall, and ran on fumes perhaps a few weeks into 2007. (My only prior attempt at blogging.)

But he also talked to us about something called a “podcast.” Bob got done with his introduction to this newfangled technology, and might have even suggested that we try it out in CWC. Cue Stacey and her fateful question.

Now, this was a time when academic podcasting consisted of little more than recording lectures, so I credit Stacey for suggesting (if only jokingly) something more creative. I doubt she meant it to go any further. But our friend Sam was sitting by quietly, realizing that his dreams of becoming a radio producer were about to come true.

Over the summer he proceeded to make CWC: The Radio Show a reality. Modeling it initially after sports talk radio, Sam devised a forty-five minute, weekly podcast that featured Stacey and me (Sam didn’t talk much in those days). In the first segment, the two of us would simply converse about, well, anything. The idea, in part, was to let Bethel students listen in on a faculty conversation, to model for them a couple of fairly articulate evangelical Christians engaging with their culture in ways a bit less musty than the history we were presenting every week in class. We also hoped to do our bit to cultivate what Stacey called an “intellectual subculture” at Bethel, so we devoted a second segment to interviewing faculty, administrators, student leaders, pastors, chapel speakers, and others who could lend some depth to the topics arising in class discussions. Then the third segment featured listener e-mail and a weekly quiz and prize designed to encourage students to listen (it wasn’t a course requirement).

CWC: The Radio Show logoOver 150 episodes later, we’re now at the beginning of our 11th semester-long “season” of CWC: The Radio Show. Looking back, it’s had all sorts of interesting effects in my professional life.

  1. It’s encouraged Sam and me to attempt other podcasting experiments; we’ve even led a few workshops on the subject. (Read more about this and the other podcasts on the “Find Me on iTunes U” link above.)
  2. We’ve found that our listeners included not just current students, but Bethel alumni and (thanks to iTunes U) people we would never have met or heard from (including our friends at The Christian Humanist Podcast, who recently started their new season as well).
  3. We’ve had the chance to interview some really interesting subjects, including Shane Claiborne, Greg Boyd, Ed Gilbreath, and Efrem Smith. Though we’ve now moved to a format in which the second segment features a more vocal Sam, me, and two other colleagues, Sara Shady and Amy Poppinga, talking with each other about a single topic that troubles, inspires, or confuses us (e.g., miracles, Christian unity, hagiography, sexism, the end of the world).
  4. So we’ve both deepened some professional relationships and convinced ourselves that there are more creative ways to approach the connections between the historical and the contemporary in the class itself.

If you’re interested in listening to the show, our first episode for Season 11 is now available on iTunes U. You can click here to download episodes or subscribe to the entire season. (If you don’t have the iTunes application already, it’s available free from Apple.) Be sure to write in with your comments, suggestions, and questions!

As new episodes come out, I’ll post brief summaries in the “Updates” section of this blog, and you’ll soon see a new widget with the podcast logo that, when clicked, will take you directly to our iTunes U page. And stay tuned for the return of another Bethel podcast in January-February 2012…

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