GodTube Offers Internet Alternative

GodTube draws in the faithful, and the nonbelievers too.

October 18, 2007, 3:52 PM

Oct. 18, 2007 — -- On YouTube, the wildly popular video-sharing site, the most-watched video clips include David Letterman's public evisceration of Paris Hilton, music videos by Rihanna and Soulja Boy, and, of course, a young man's heartfelt plea to "leave Britney alone."

But YouTube's ocean of clips — some of them trivial, offensive or just bizarre — now find themselves competing with a Web site from a higher authority — GodTube.

GodTube, the Christian response to YouTube, is the fastest-growing Web site on the Internet, and the site's top videos reveal a community that couldn't be more different than YouTube's.

There are music videos, here, too: Christian music ranging from serious original content to parodies of popular rap songs.

Case in point -- a parody of Rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot's 1992 hit song, "Baby Got Back." GodTube user David Smith flipped the popular ode to the female posterior into a humorous send up of big Bibles, calling it "Baby Got Book."

"I like big bibles and I cannot lie

You Christian brothers can't deny

When a girls walks in with a KJB with a bookmark and proverbs you get stung,

got a name engraved so you know this girl is saved.

Looks like one of those large ones with plenty of space in the margins

Oh baby I want to read with ya cause your bible's got pictures

My minister tried to console me but that book you got makes me so holy."

And while music video parodies are commonplace on other video sharing sites, you'll also find content not likely to turn up on YouTube -- like one video, "A Letter from Hell" featuring a dramatic letter written by Josh, a fictitious dead high school student, to his best friend Zack. Josh scolds Zack for not sharing his personal relationship with Jesus and consequently being indirectly responsible for his ending up in Hell for eternity.

Chris Wyatt, a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, launched GodTube earlier this year after reading a study that forecast a 50 percent decline in the number of U.S. churchgoers by 2050. He decided to reach teenagers and young adults in their playing field — the Internet -- hoping to incite excitement for the church and ensure a following for the future.

By September, GodTube was growing at a rate of 973 percent a month. Wyatt made it clear that he, his colleagues and backers were thinking big — very big.

"You know, 2.1 billion Christians out there in the world, but really we're talking not only the Christians but also the 4 billion out there that are seeking faith," Wyatt said. "Now we're going to take on the world. You know, all of a sudden it's GodTube U.S. Then you're going to see GodTube in Español and in multiple languages."

Beyond his religious motivation, Wyatt is looking to revolutionize the conception of online social networks and video sharing sites.

"We see ourselves as really the next-generation television network whereby the users interact as well as create programming for the network in the same time that we do," Wyatt said.

And while online social networks have been blamed for actually distancing people, Wyatt contends that GodTube is different as a result of the groundbreaking communication tools made available to its users.

"You're going to be able to not only upload video, share and watch video but at the same time be able to speak in real time with people around the world in one of our chat rooms," Wyatt said. "You'll be able to go hear and attend an online church service or an online Bible study and you'll be able to hear, interact with and see those people."

"Right now, what we have is primarily the teens and 20-somethings," Wyatt said. "Christians across America and actually around the world that are … already familiar with the technology have a passion about Christianity."

Wyatt, now 39, became a Christian about three years ago.

"You know, I finally got to that place in my life where I think a lot of people do, where they have that hole in their heart and they're trying to fill it up with everything but Jesus," Wyatt said. "I kind of came to the end of the search and you know I said, 'Mom, something's missing,' and she said, 'Absolutely. Your personal relationship with Jesus,' and that's how it happened."

Wyatt's hope is that GodTube, with its virtual services, funny music videos and social networking, will inspire others like himself to turn to Christianity.

Wyatt said he didn't make the site for Christians, but for nonbelievers, who he said are watching.

"We get e-mails every day. And that really is the whole point. It's to spread the Gospel to those who have not heard it. We have a number of different channels. One is called 'Non-Believers Seeking Answers,' and we have a number of atheists uploading videos asking questions about the faith and challenging us," Wyatt said. "We welcome that. That's really what the basis of GodTube.com is about."

But one of the dangers of reaching out on the Internet is that you never know what you might find -- including porn, predators and hate speech.

Yet Wyatt boasts that GodTube is "family friendly and kid safe." To live up to that slogan, GodTube has set up an elaborate security system: Absolutely everything is monitored, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the "video police."

So far, there are 800,000 hours of uploaded video on GodTube, and almost 2 million people have logged on.

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