An Interview with Tara Jean Stevens, Host of Heaven Bent

A new podcast season focused on Redding’s Bethel Church releases it’s first episode today, March 1st. Annelise Pierce interviews the host.

*This piece is tagged “community interest” because it represents information of interest or importance to the Shasta County community that should not be mistaken for objective news reporting or sponsored material.  Shasta Scout’s policy is to clearly label and differentiate news, commentary and sponsored content.

Redding’s Bethel Church is the focus of the second season of the podcast Heaven Bent. The first episode was released today, March 1st.  Here’s how host Tara Jean describes the season:

“Supernatural healings. Gold dust falling from the ceiling. Resurrections. Bethel Church, in Redding, California, is one of the largest and most unusual churches in America. What goes on inside it’s bewildering School of Supernatural Ministry? Is Bethel as powerful as its critics believe it to be? And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, why are most high profile leaders defying public health orders?”

Annelise Pierce, of Shasta Scout, was among many people interviewed for this season of Heaven Bent.  Today, she interviews Tara Jean about the podcast.

Tara Jean, welcome to Shasta Scout. Why did you decide to focus your podcast on Bethel Church? What path led you here?

Thanks for having me! Back in the ‘90s, a bizarre spiritual movement spread to my childhood church, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It was a tiny Pentecostal Church, but, suddenly, we weren’t just dancing in the aisles and speaking in tongues…we were laughing, shaking, and falling to the ground. One of my wildest memories is of people in my church telling us that God had supernaturally placed gold teeth in their mouths. These memories have sort of haunted me my whole adult life. What really happened? In season 1 of Heaven Bent, I start my exploration into what’s known as the “Toronto Blessing” movement. In season 2, I track the spread of this same movement to Redding…to Bethel.

Will your podcast be of interest to people with a variety of perspectives on Bethel Church?

This is absolutely not some scathing investigation: if that’s what you’re looking for, this is not the podcast for you. This is, however, a very in-depth and thought-provoking exploration into Bethel’s people, its beliefs, and its impact on the city of Redding-its impact on America, really. My guests include some of Bethel’s own, some of its biggest critics, scientists, historians…a local journalist. And all of this happens under the dark cloud of the pandemic, and through the turmoil of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Do you view Heaven Bent as education or entertainment? Do you try to tell this story objectively?

This is a podcast – a docuseries. There are no hard and fast rules about whether or not I have to remain unbiased, as the host and creator. I do however take great delight in all the times a listener has commented that they feel I do, in fact, present things in a pretty objective light. I am not a Christian (anymore). This is not a Christian podcast. But, I have no agenda here. My hope is merely that, by the end of this new season, we all have enough information to come to our own conclusions about this bewildering and, ya, extremely controversial church.

And, I’d probably use the word informative, rather than educational. I’m merely following my own curiosity and taking my listeners along for the ride. And, on top of that, definitely ‘yes’, it’s entertaining!

With this season wrapped up, do you feel you’ve been able to answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity about Bethel Church?

Even though I’m launching episode 1, this new season isn’t actually wrapped up yet! Eek! It’s still a living, breathing story, and I don’t know how it’s going to end. As you all in Redding know, Bethel has a knack for making headlines, so I keep dragging out my conclusion to all this; waiting to see what’s going to happen next! This also allows me time to potentially hear from more people who have a Bethel-tale to tell.

Can we expect future seasons of your podcast? And if so, what might you be investigating next?

I’m not making any promises, but the dream is, of course, to have future seasons of Heaven Bent. There are so many avenues of exploration to consider, as I continue this “examination of divine intervention”. I still dream of sharing the story of Justin Bieber’s connection to the “Toronto Blessing”, and his growing Christian-influence on American pop-culture today.

Thank you Tara Jean.

You can listen to the podcast here.  Tara Jean can be reached by email at [email protected] She may be interacting with the comments section on this post on Shasta Scout’s Facebook page.

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