Students curate podcast dedicated to religious dialogue

Podcasters interview Reverend Tadao Koyama of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple.
Photo courtesy of Noah Wilson and Xavier Nazzal

In a day and age of increased connectedness, quick access to information, and misinformation, juniors Xavier Nazzal, Rylan Jordan, Balin Kanno, and Noah Wilson set out to create an educational podcast, entitled The GodCast, on comparative religion and the development of Christianity which has evolved to focus on interviews with local religious leaders of different faiths.

Currently, the podcasters have interviewed Reverend Tadao Koyama of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, a rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth El who is also an associate professor at PLU, and Waqas Malik, an Ahmadi Muslim from the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Monroe. The group is currently communicating with Dr. Abdulhakim Mohamed of the Islamic Center of Tacoma as well as the Baha’is of Tacoma about potential further interviews.

Wilson, an admirer of Islam and a syncretic practitioner of the religion, said the following about his role in the podcast. “I really enjoy being able to help run the podcast behind the scenes, and obviously this was an idea that Xavier, I, and Balin came up with a little while ago. When we originally talked around the end of the year, we came up with this idea for a podcast. I thought it was a great idea. Xavier got it launched over the summer. We started near the end of the summer. I said I wanted to be a guest on there to improve my debate [skills]. I went on as a guest to improve my debate skills and give my perspective as a syncretic practitioner. I was a guest on Episode 3. I’d say I’ve been getting more and more involved with the podcast since being a guest on there. I really enjoyed doing the interview episodes and look forward to more interviews in the future. We have a YouTube channel planned and I am really looking forward to helping out with the scripts and hopefully the videos. I really hope this can help my career in the future. So, yeah. Check out the YouTube channel.”

The GodCast, created initially with a focus on Biblical scholarship and lesser-known dualistic religions such as Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism as well as heretical religious trends such as gnosticism and its various sects now includes the teachings of the Dao De Jing, the central text of Daoism, an ancient Chinese philosophical and religious traditional, and The Book of Mormon, a religious text that Latter-day Saints believe to be another testament to Jesus Christ.

Podcasters interview Rabbi Bruce Kadden and learn about Reform Judaism, the Torah, Jewish holy days, Jewish history, and the theology of Judaism.
Photo courtesy of Noah Wilson and Xavier Nazzal

Rylan Jordan reflects on his experience as a podcaster and where he hopes the podcast will lead, saying, “In a year’s time, a year from now, I hope to have grown the podcast to 100 listeners. I hope we can branch out more and talk about religions we have yet to cover. We haven’t really talked about anything in Africa, really. I am happy about where we are now. We had a couple interviews.”

Kanno hopes to move the podcast in the direction of magic, mythology, and polytheism, stating, “Although it is good to remember one’s current faith, we should not forget the roots of these faiths in the far more ancient cultures that, although may be dead or in small numbers, should still be remembered as much as any other religion or culture.”

When reflecting upon his experiences managing the podcast and the areas in which he hopes to focus the program, Nazzal said, “Due to the workload of school and sports, we are currently attempting to move the podcast in the direction of interviews. I have contacted the Yarsanis in Iran, the Druze in Lebanon and America, the Baha’is in India and Tacoma, a professor of Islamic Law in Wisconsin, and the worldwide Ismaili community for the podcast. We want as many religious perspectives as possible, because that, paired with skepticism, is the only way progress can be made.”

Nazzal is an open proponent of skepticism while Wilson espouses a more universalist outlook, viewing the New Testament, the Torah, the Qur’an, the Vedas, and other scriptures as divinely inspired in that general order. When thinking about God, Wilson has said, “I am more of a monotheist. I believe that God is one entity whether that is in a more physical way or merely just a soul without a body. I believe that God is one entity with multiple personalities that could include gods from Hinduism or Jesus, not being a god, but part of His personality.”

The GodCast currently works to explore the views of all religions and allow the viewer to select certain philosophies for themselves. Skepticism plus religion plus dialogue is currently the formula for The GodCast.

Podcasters interview Waqas Malik, an expert in Ahmadiyya Islam.
Photo courtesy of Noah Wilson and Xavier Nazzal