Coming Soon: Powers & Principalities
A new podcast focused on the systems & institutions that propagate white evangelical & Christian nationalist power.
Four years ago, I started the podcast Exvangelical with the intent of exploring the reasons why people leave evangelicalism. It has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. It was not the first project or podcast to explore the damaging effects of white evangelicalism on individual lives, and it will not be the last. In fact, there has been an explosion of public voices and communities that meet the myriad needs of people coping with religious trauma, purity culture, racism and sexism, in all the permutations they have taken in our lives. Each work, whether it is a podcast or a YouTube channel or a Facebook group or a blog or an Instagram account, has its own goals and audience in mind, from fostering a queer spirituality to creating atheist and anti-theist content for people who’ve left conservative religion.
Yet in 2020, it is now more essential than ever to contextualize the systems and institutions that propagate white evangelical & Christian nationalist sociopolitical power. While the assumption in mid-July 2020 is that Trump is not viable for re-election given his incompetent response to the coronavirus pandemic, his cruel racist responses to the ongoing protests for racial justice and police abolition, and double digit unemployment—that gives us no less reason to stay vigilant. Christian nationalist groups are well-heeled and well-connected in the halls of power, and are well-funded by groups intent on hoarding power for as long as they can. While we continue to use our voices, all of these ex & post-evangelical projects pale in comparison to the lobbying force of Christian nationalists.
To that end, I am developing a new podcast series called Powers & Principalities to examine the role these powerful systems and institutions have in the lives of Americans and citizens around the world. In the first season I will speak to authors, academics, and experts whose work has focused on topics like the Religious Right, Christian nationalism, the Christian reconstruction movement, and Trump’s appeal to white evangelicals.
A note on methodology and scope
This project is built by me, a cis white male. I will choose the guests who will appear on the show based on their expertise on white evangelicalism and Christian nationalism, as well as the timeliness of their books and projects. I welcome input from readers and listeners about potential future guests and topics, as well as any feedback about how these topics are discussed and framed. I have no funding other than the small number of patrons to Exvangelical and paid subscribers to this newsletter. I hold a full-time job and have a family, and will be navigating the same sort of uncertain landscape of e-learning and working from home as millions of others for the foreseeable future. But I believe this work—of creating accessible content for a broad audience that reveals the extent of white evangelical power—is important, and will do all I can to make the best possible show I can under these circumstances.
Throughout this show, I will not shy away from discussing the Christian nationalist links to white supremacy, the pervasive racism found in American Christianity, and the necessity of anti-racist education and action. I also acknowledge that I do not have the nuance, expertise, or lived experience to discuss these topics with the authority others already creating content can.
If this series is met with success, I hope to dedicate an entire season or more to the topic of racism specifically . If that is the content you are looking for right now, please listen to podcasts like White Homework by Tori Douglass, Hope & Hard Pills by Andre Henry, The Next Question by Austin Channing Brown, Chi Chi Okwu, Jenny Potter, and Freedom Road podcast by Lisa Sharon Harper.
If I am able to responsibly compensate people for this type of work in the future, I hope to do it—because racial justice, learning anti-racism, and the lifelong journey of people from white evangelical backgrounds working to unlearn their whiteness and join the struggle alongside others building a better present and future is essential work that will never stop being relevant—but these projects already exist and deserve your attention and support.
Follow along and support the work right here
Look for the first episode to drop in late August 2020, and keep reading here for more details. Prior to the late-August launch, an episode 0 will be published featuring an interview with Diana Butler Bass, in the coming weeks. The conversation was surprising, and bridges these two projects perfectly.
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Sounds good! I think there is widespread disorientation on all aspects of this subject, and I have no idea who, if anyone, has much of a handle on it. I have mostly questions.
A couple of potentially helpful questions/problems to hold in mind may be these three:
1) "Systems and institutions" may be less important or only significant relative to unorganized, non-system, and non-institutional actors, forces, and movements — many of which are not contained to the US but are international. Theorists of 4th and 5th generation warfare (Lind) and "empire" (Hardt and Negri) offer views of the continuation of the world wars and cold war into the post-Soviet era and the present that may be helpful for framing the situation for Evangelicals whose insularity and parochialism is a bit of a stereotype — often valid but coexisting with the colonialism of international missions/charities/adoptions/schools/politics. Hot, cold, and "culture" wars are part of one continuous American story Evangelicals have both formed and been formed by; the culture wars have domestic and international editions, as Chrissy (and others) have shown many times.
(I wonder if you could get Hardt or someone in his circle to do an interview; I don't know his work very well, but he does engage with religion, and he has connected notions of communism with St. Francis as a seminal figure — as an academic he's an unusual and fascinating person who I think currently has a hand in private efforts to rescue refugees adrift in the Mediterranean, in opposition to European reactionaries.)
2) The relationship between "white evangelical" and "Christian nationalist" is still emerging and seemingly ad hoc — even a contrived category/name. I would bet most of the former who have been lifelong Republicans and Trumpers do not consider themselves "Christian nationalists" or have any deep sense of what this may mean. The people and ideas who form a kind of lineage of the national-conservative religious and/or libertarian and secular type used to be called "paleoconservatives" (pre-Buckley/Goldwater/fusionist Republicans in the North with greater variation and complexity in the Southern varieties). They were "thrown out" of the NeoEvangelical and the NeoConservative movements, which are two sides of the same coin. (E.g. Pew prevailing with Henry to eject Rushdoony at Christianity Today; similarly National Review has a long history of attracting, breeding, and then purging antisemites and racists when they *shockingly* "go too far.") The ways mainstream movement evangelicals and conservatives have always cooperated under the table with more visible extremists they want to hold at arm's length is possibly a rich vein of stories to tap about scoundrels and why they are always (shockingly!) to be found in polite and pious "mainstream" Evangelical circles. This approach avoids the idea of Trump as an aberration; he is increasingly being seen as a logical progression for the GOP by everyone except those still clinging around a chimerical centrism — but how is he a logical progression for Evangelicals? This story seems to be under-explored so far. (Kristin KdM is the obvious scholar to start with on that topic.)
3) I'm not sure how much time you have to get this show off the ground before the election, but it would be fascinating and valuable to explore the assumption Trump is *not* viable for re-election. This is the mistake that keeps being made. Why not assume he is viable? (He is an incumbent, fixing and fraud has all been set up in favour of the right since Bush II, and he is one of two choices. Biden's health, mouth, and party all could do more harm to his chances than anything else.) You might explore how the pandemic and mass unemployment is not seen as Trump's fault but a reason to keep him in power by people who also find "his cruel racist responses to the ongoing protests for racial justice and police abolition" to be his safeguarding of "the rule of law." Real unemployment, not how the government counts it, including those who have taken themselves out of the workforce, has been double digits for a long time. Suicide, overdoses, declining life expectancy, and other deaths of despair in white America may have propelled Trump into office in the first place; why would their worsening make him lose support? Might the opposite be true? (To be clear though, I would not use these old, obsolete indicators of "national health" in a time of acute climate crisis to assess any presidential administration. They do seem to drive reactionary politics at a level to keep pace or exceed progressive responses. Why that is so now and was not in the era of Bryan is a good question to ask a historian too.)
I would love to hear you talk to great scholars like Corey Robin who seem not to be engaged much with Evangelicals but are quite tuned into their thinking and politics. Something like the Know Your Enemy podcast — invite those guys on too, IIRC, they're an ex-conservative evangelical and catholic. 👍
Looking forward to your new podcast, Blake!