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Matt Batten

August 17th, 2023

Can you do theology on TikTok?

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Matt Batten

August 17th, 2023

Can you do theology on TikTok?

0 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Where TikTok requires creativity, collaboration, and reciprocal communication with your audiences, could this be an ideal site for theological dialogue? Communications expert and theologian Matt Batten looks at new ways of doing theology online. 

As theologians, we are used to being on established social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and many of us will have featured on a webinar or lecture series uploaded to YouTube. Why then are so few of us practising theology on TikTok –  the world’s most popular social network? Given that the church is desperate to reach a younger demographic and will often criticise the decline in religious literacy, why are we not alongside the people we so desperately want to reach? In this article I argue that theologians need to see TikTok as more than a place for ethnographic study but rather as a legitimate space in which to engage in theological dialogue.

Why are people on TikTok?

TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to create and share short videos. It is the fastest growing social media platform to date, and will reach 1 billion users faster than any other social network. It has successfully positioned itself as the most popular app for Gen Zers, having generated over 3.5 billion downloads. Younger generations are increasingly using TikTok and with 40% not having a Facebook account, for many, this will be their introduction to social media. According to a 2021 report into young people’s digital habits, children spent 62% more time on TikTok than on YouTube – a platform that previously dominated the Gen Z market. What was once a platform known for dance challenges has become a cultural phenomenon.

People are on TikTok to be informed and entertained. For content to be successful it needs to be entertaining and creative as well as educational and informative. TikTok users love bite-sized educational videos where they learn something new. Jewish TikTok creators, for example, often share historical and cultural insights, going behind the scenes as they prepare for significant festivals, explaining traditions or highlighting lesser-known facts such as why some Orthodox Jews cut their toilet roll in half before Shabbat. These videos can provide a glimpse into different cultures, promote cultural awareness, and expand viewers’ knowledge of religion.

Could Christian theologians use TikTok in a similar way? Perhaps explaining theological concepts using pop-culture references, reviewing popular theology books for the influential #BookTok hashtag (many bookshops have a Trending on TikTok section), or outlining theological perspectives on breaking news stories. While it may not be the most conventional platform for theological discussions, I believe practising theology in creative and innovative ways means it is possible to engage with theology on TikTok. These videos can be a helpful starting point for individuals interested in learning about theology.

Doing TikTok Theology

TikTok is a community building platform that favours relatable content to provide a pleasurable shared experience. It’s a platform whose algorithm provides highly personalised content curated to your interests where ordinary people participating in TikTok challenges and trends can go viral. TikTok content is about affirmation, engagement and fun. Is this a place to practise theology?

I believe TikTok offers theologians a platform outside of academic silos to engage with ordinary people who may not consider theology as having anything relevant to say. Through popular hashtags and trending content the algorithm exposes people to social justice movements and political activism and so theologians on TikTok can help make sense of the world around us. Take the murder of Sarah Everard, for example. Writing in TikTok Cultures and the United StatesShauna Pomerantz and Miriam Field discuss how knowledge of Sarah’s brutal murder by a South London Police Officer came to Miriam and her daughter from watching a TikTok video. In this instance, TikTok became a facilitator of feminist discourse between mother and daughter where misogyny and the treatment of women in society was discussed. Where are the theologians in this space? On matters of social justice and activism we have something important to say. We have a perspective that can add value to social justice debates. Feminist Theology can greatly contribute to this conversation as do theologians specialising in Religious Ethics.

Similarly with biblical and religious literacy which we often hear is declining. On Good Friday this year I attended a church service where 40 people were present. Later that day I watched The Pope’s Exorcist in a cinema playing to a full house of young people – an audience the church wants so hard to engage with. Theology permeated that film and a series of TikTok explainer videos could have provided an ideal jumping off point to discuss Christian faith and biblical literacy in a creative and engaging way.

To be clear; I am not talking about individual theologians taking to TikTok to make videos. For us to make an impact on the platform we have to think creatively and strategically. Simply uploading a lecture won’t cut it. TikTok’s algorithm rewards creativity. I advocate for a coordinated approach where theologians from similar disciplines come together to make a series of informative and creative TikTok videos. Could The British and Irish Association for Practical Theology (BIAPT) coordinate a series of videos responding to social issues from a Practical Theology point of view? Perhaps Queer Theologians can collaborate together to respond to transphobic and homophobic content that uses the Bible as justification for hate.

Students and academics could also collaborate as a way of bringing non-academic voices into discussions. During recent debates about the ethics of AI I searched TikTok for a theological response. There was very little apart from videos of AI explaining God or AI creating religious art. Is this a space that Digital Theology students and academics from the Global Network for Digital Theology could be part of – creating explainer videos on topics such as transhumanism in sci fi films or a series of short videos exploring sacraments in a digital space? It’s an approach that could potentially break theology out of its academic silos and into a more public space.

The Problem with TikTok

TikTok is primarily a short-form video platform that emphasises quick and entertaining content. While it can be a place for conversations and discussions, the platform’s format and design make it more challenging to have nuanced conversations or explore complex theological topics. This format can sometimes be perceived as dumbing down educational content because content often needs to be simplified or condensed to fit video length and attention spans. Should we be dumbing down content simply to fit the platform?

TikTok’s video duration limit of up to three minutes restricts the depth and complexity of these conversations and misunderstanding can easily escalate. This often plays out in the comments section or using the duet function – essentially a call-and-response function that allows users to create videos that respond to other TikTok users’ content which then appear side-by-side as splitscreen. There is little incentive for TikTok – or any social media platform – to address this because controversy drives engagement. Which is why many black content creators argue that TikTok has a race problem and Jewish creators are subjected to anti-Jew hate. TikTok claims it opposes hate speech and will remove offensive content that goes against their community guidelines. Yet the problems persist. Content by Black-creators continues to appear below similar white-created content in search results. Can theologians justify being on a platform that facilitates extremist views?

The other challenge we should consider is whether people are on TikTok to engage in theology? TikTok’s algorithm bases its recommendations on users’ interactions with content on the platform which provides insight about the type of content the user likes or doesn’t like. TikTok then funnels users into silos and echo chambers by recommending content based on your interactions. As such it could easily be another channel for theologians and academics to talk to each other rather than using the platform to inform and educate people on matters of faith, biblical literacy and spirituality.

What content works on TikTok?

As I mentioned previously, TikTok is a platform whose algorithm rewards short creative and relatable content. What tactics can theologians use to practise theology on this platform?

Meme Culture

Great theological content is already viral on TikTok – it just doesn’t look like the content we’re used to seeing. Christian meme culture is rich with biblical and theological messages. During Holy Week, content creators were going viral with videos showing Jesus’ reaction to stepping out of the tomb after rising from the dead. Essentially, these videos are short-form stories. Yes, they are humorous which is likely to cause offence to some Christians, but they tell a Christian story in a creative and relatable way to an audience who are unlikely to engage in typical church or academic content. I see parallels here to how Jesus communicated. Parables are short stories which use everyday language to convey deep spiritual truths. Jesus often used everyday objects, events, or characters in his parables to connect with his audience. Similarly, in TikTok videos, incorporating relatable experiences or popular trends such as memes can help viewers connect with theology on a personal level. Imagine a duet video explaining the theological details in Christian memes and showing that in a classroom to spark discussion. If done well, theologians can use meme culture to explain complex theological thought and increase biblical literacy.

Educational Content

TikTok users love bite-sized educational videos where they learn something new. Content that is fun and surprising does well. They might explain theological concepts, explore different religious beliefs, or discuss the historical context of religious texts. Damien Garcia is a good example of this. In this video he responds to a question posed by a viewer asking how queer theology responds to God creating male and female. Garcia uses the study of hermeneutics and biblical interpretation to suggest that Genesis can be read as poetry in which we search for meaning and messages in the symbolism. Says Garcia, “The only reason it’s listed as a binary like that is because of the dualistic poetic device that is being used.” Such videos can be a helpful starting point for individuals interested in learning about theology who are then signposted to a website or further reading to explore the subject in more detail.

Interfaith Awareness

TikTok provides an opportunity for people from different religious backgrounds to engage in interfaith dialogue. Users can create videos discussing their beliefs, sharing personal experiences, or addressing common misconceptions about their faith. Search Jewish TikTok to see some examples. These interactions can foster understanding and promote tolerance among diverse communities.

Q&A Sessions

TikTok’s comment section enables users to engage in question-and-answer sessions. Theological content creators can invite viewers to ask questions about faith, religion, and spirituality, and then respond to them through videos or comments. This format allows for interactive discussions and the exploration of various theological perspectives. Fr Andrew Mumby does this particularly well. Similar to Garcia, Fr Andrew encourages discussion by listening and responding to his audience. He uses their questions as a starting point for discussing the Christian faith and creates a video to respond. Questions range from What is a Lady Chapel to the more theological Can a family be born cursed. This is a refreshing way of doing theology – it’s not academic and it’s not a lecture or article which we traditionally use to engage in theological discourse. Fr Andrew uses conversation as a starting point to answer questions about the issues that matter to his viewers. He brings a refreshing, welcoming and engaging aspect to online theology.


TikTok provides an avenue for sharing theological insights and perspectives. Working collaboratively, theologians can create videos to address important topics, spark conversations, or share educational content. We can engage with the content through comments or by creating response videos and engage in conversation. It can serve as a starting point for individuals seeking to engage with theology in a more accessible and engaging format. It just means as theologians we need to be more creative with how we present our content.

This article was originally published at Practical Theology Hub. To find more of Matt’s work, visit

About the author

Matt Batten

Matt is an experienced communications and engagement professional with a passion for helping churches thrive. Matt has a strong academic background in Theology; he has a degree in Religious Studies, a Masters in Ecumenical Studies and is studying for a Masters in Digital Theology. Matt is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Institute of Internal Communication. He lives in Cardiff and is passionate about Welsh language and culture.

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