Pod people: Finding God in Google searches

In this week’s Crossroads podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss whether a congregation with 75 members is “tiny” or of median size. It’s funny how many people have talked to me about that post where we learned that the median size of congregations, in terms of weekly worship, is 75 participants. My feedback indicates that both popular perception and media treatment would have assumed the median worship attendance to be much higher.

We also discussed media coverage of September 11 commemoration services. We specifically looked at the media coverage of the religious participants, or non-participants, as the case may be. Those events took place and I rather appreciated this angle that Yahoo’s News blog took:

A steady online stream of searches have accompanied the 9/11 memorial events ā€” “George W. Bush,” “Twin Towers,” “conspiracy theories,” “terror threat,” “silence,” “fdny 343 firefighters,” “pledge of allegiance,” “god bless America.”

Among these queries, many focused on Psalm 46 (“president obama reading psalm 46,” “obama psalm 46 ten anniversary”). The passage has been described as “a sure defense in desperate times.” President Obama has quoted from this passage before, during the memorial service of victims from the fatal Tucson mass shooting.

It’s a great argument for religion news coverage. The search stream indicates that people have an interest in religious angles to news stories. Yahoo went on to provide some context:

Church history scholar Scott Manetsch, speaking to an Alabama divinity school in 2010, described its “emotive power” as deriving from “blunt honesty and its sturdy confidence in the Lord.” The song has been favored among leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. An inspired nine-year-old Wolfgang Mozart composed “God is Our Refuge,” based on the psalm, in 1765. Its origins are still unknown among Biblical scholars, and may go back as far as 700 B.C.

It’s a short blog post, so I suppose that last sentence suffices.But a larger discussion of the Psalms and their authorship, including the Sons of Korah, might put that sentence in better context.

In any case, I hope everyone had a nice commemoration of 9/11 this past weekend. Let us know if you saw any coverage worth highlighting.

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  • Jerry

    I had wondered, and I was not alone, about President Obama’s choice of Bible verses the other day. There seemed to be a clear reason but I was not 100% sure. Google found the answer to that question i this specific case, but it was also interesting to read that he’s used this passage before.

    Principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest explained why Obama selected that psalm.

    “The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate — he believed it was particularly appropriate to use — to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger,” Earnest said.


  • David Van Biema

    Hey, Mollie,

    David Van Biema here. I’m doing a book about the psalms and I wondered as I read, if it were you writing what would you say about the Korahites?

    I haven’t been following the news much, so it was nice to revisit getreligion and find you had taken on the psalm reference.

    All my best,


  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Interesting correction on this Huffington Post piece about the Psalm Obama chose:

    Editor’s Note: A paragraph in this article previously referred to Psalm 46 as a Christian scripture. Psalm 46 is part of the Old Testament.