Dr. Seth Pierce, director of Union’s Communication Program, has turned his passion for monster theory into a podcast. Using material from his most popular class, Monsters, Faith and Pop Culture, he’s collaborated with Adventist Learning Community to create Beast and Bible — a podcast focused on how the monstrous in popular culture and scripture intersects with Christianity.
A chance conversation sparked Pierce’s interest in this niche part of church history. “Someone asked me out loud at a potluck if the curse of Cain had to do with making someone’s skin black,” said Pierce. “It was a horrifically awkward moment that neither my theology classes at Union nor my Master of Divinity at Andrews had prepared me for. Besides just saying, ‘No, that’s absolutely not correct,’ I had no idea what to say, because I had no idea where that question came from.”
Pierce went home to study the origin of this bizarre statement. He discovered its origins in Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, which speculates on not only why some people have dark skin, but also the origin of monsters. He said, “That experience really opened up an area of inquiry into Christian texts dealing not only in the monsters in Daniel and Revelation, but also into mythical beasts, folklore and really strange ideas about the world. There is a lot of odd and interesting theological history wrapped up in what people consider monstrous. Once I started researching it, all sorts of ideas for sharing what I’d learned opened up.”
Pierce turned his research into a communication studies and religion class: Monsters, Faith and Pop Culture. The first session attracted 50 students.
“It is important to address these things from a Christian worldview to understand them better and see how they are not something to be scared of.” said Pierce. “We can’t ignore the difficult monstrous moments in Scripture and in Christian life; instead, we need to figure out how they fit into our picture of a loving God.”
When Adventist Learning Community (ALC) heard about Pierce’s class, they reached out to see if he’d be interested in making a podcast. ALC is a web-based platform designed to provide professionals and volunteers in the North American Division with continuing education and training, as well as to share uniquely Adventist content with the church community and the world. “I’d been interviewed on podcasts before, But I’d never made or produced one,” said Pierce. “I thought it would be a good experience to grow as a communication professor.” And so, Beast and Bible was born.
In the first few podcast episodes, Pierce discusses how monster theory relates to Christianity and the Bible. “We start with a bit of history and theology — establishing what monster theory is,” he said. As the season progresses, Pierce is joined by various guests, including Dr. Jeffery Cohen, the creator of monster theory; Dr. Emily Zarka, the host of PBS’ Monstrum, and Old Testament scholars Dr. Rahel Wells and Dr. Brandon Grafius. “All our guests have been phenomenal,” said Pierce. “I was pleasantly surprised that they were all willing to come share on a podcast that had just started.”
“It’s been interesting learning how to use the mixing board ALC sent me,” Pierce shared. “I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with the sound equipment and my voice. It’s always nicer when there’s a guest; it feels more natural. When you don’t have an audience in front of you to gauge a reaction from, it’s a little more challenging. But I’m getting used to it.”
Pierce records the episodes himself, then sends them off to ALC for further editing and production. “Shout out to the production team at ALC,” he said. “They’ve been absolutely wonderful to work with, and there is no way I could do this without them. They do almost all of the editing and social media management for Beast and Bible. Heather Moor, Adam Fenner, Chelsya Ernina and Ethan Gueck have been phenomenal in making this project come together.”
Reactions to Beast and Bible have been overwhelmingly positive. Pierce and the ALC team have received emails from monster enthusiasts in the United States and abroad, expressing their enjoyment of the content. “It’s a very niche topic, but it’s a fun place to work in,” said Pierce. Although the podcast is only halfway through its first season, it has already been greenlit for season two.
Beast and Bible is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, as well as on alcpodcasts.com. To learn more about Adventist Learning Community and view their catalog of resources, visit adventistlearningcommunity.com
by Annika Cambigue, senior communication and English major