“Can’t a preacher make a fun YouTube video without everyone debating about his religion?”
A YouTube user named “Iamclayinhishands” posted that question to the comment board of pastor Jefferson Bethke’s YouTube channel after a video of Bethke and his wife doing the “Harlem Shake” incited a religious debate. But that very religious debate between trolls on both sides of the dogmatic fence might just have been the reason for the video in the first place.
“Religion” is failing in America — ironically, in part because the medium of video is breaking down the notion of “faith.” We are increasingly subscribing to the call of “pics or it didn’t happen.” And guess what? So far, as far as religion is concerned, it isn’t happening. But now, it seems religion has gotten hipper, and is trying to use video to spread their word. Of course, few non-believers would voluntarily click on a religious video, so the “shepherds” have to work in more mysterious ways.
Take the above video of an old dude doing “kung fu” in a Food Lion parking lot. It has racked up 5.6 million views (so far) in just three days, and seems quite capably poised to become the “next big thing” on YouTube. Of course, what really sells the clip is the narrator filming the whole thing. He seems funny and endearing, so you maybe want to go to his channel and see what else he’s posted … after all, he’s got 36 other videos …. at least one of them has to be good. And then you see that the lion’s share of his other videos are all filmed sermons, and that his perfectly cool YouTube handle Aamon17 is actually for the Reverend Aamon R. Miller (needle scratches on record player).
Another creator, Steven Anderson, just posted a viral video of himself being passive aggressive with border patrol agents, only to have pretty much the entirety of his channel’s content be his allegedly controversial sermons. So is this the emerging new trend in gospel? Appeal to the youth through their love of random content and then reel them in with the proselytizing?
Before anybody gets too strung out over this question, note that I am not confirming the validity of the tactic, nor am I discouraging it. Absolutely, this conversation could be had with any group or affiliated individual who posts a video — are we being opened up to the sway of their main doctrine via our endorsement of their side project? If someone in the Ku Klux Klan posts a cute cat video, are we affirming our allegiance to the “white knights”? Hell no. But there is a certain amount of awareness and consideration that needs to be present in anything you say or do on the internet (as in real life). Just because the stranger has a van full of candy and puppies, it doesn’t make him a friend.