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Episode 111

Christian Nationalism & Extreme Religion featuring Bradley Onishi and Daniel Miller

Episode  111
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Brad Onishi and Dan Miller are authors, scholars, educators and thought leaders who share similar histories as Christian ministers who have migrated beyond their flock. From this unique and compelling perspective, they are perfectly positioned to observe and discuss the rise and current political influence of Christian Nationalism. Their hit podcast, Straight White American Jesus explores the Christian Right’s emerging influence in shaping our political landscape.

We chat with Brad and Dan about their experiences within the church and its teachings and why their perspectives began to shift. We delve into the role played by Orange County, California in the birth of the religious right, (Brad preached at a Yorba Linda megachurch). We consider how Evangelicals square their values with their votes for Donald Trump and so much more.

More Path Links

Straight White American Jesus

Brad Onishi's Website

The Orange Wave - A History of the Religious Right Since 1960

SWAJ Live Event

SWAJ on Patreon

Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism--and What Comes Next by Bradley Onishi

Daniel Miller on Amazon

Rachel Maddox’s new podcast ULTRA 

Holding The Line by Geoffrey Berman

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Louise Palanker (00:00:03):

Welcome to Media Path. I am Louise Palanker.

Fritz Coleman (00:00:05):

And I'm Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:00:07):

Today on the show we've got religious scholars and podcasters, Bradley Onishi and Daniel Miller. They both grew up within the Christian faith, became evangelical ministers, studied theology and religion, and are now able to look at politics, religion, and the Christian. Right. From that reference point. Through their lens, they're able to help us better understand Christian nationalism, what is motivating the political right wing, and how they came to embrace such an unch Christlike figure as Trump. But first Fritz, we have to talk about our friend Judy Tanada.

Fritz Coleman (00:00:38):

I am so sad about that. She was such a beautiful, sweet spirit and totally adverse to her act on stage

Louise Palanker (00:00:48):


Fritz Coleman (00:00:48):

The love goddess.

Louise Palanker (00:00:49):

But she was a genius. I

Fritz Coleman (00:00:50):

Mean, she was a genius. And I, I think where I respected the most, uh, most about her, where she was extremely funny, but she also had the, uh, the, uh, the nerve to be so different. I mean, she started in the mid seventies, and when her act was out there, people didn't know what to make of her, and she braved it out and became this. She had massive followings around the world. I'm so sad to hear that news

Louise Palanker (00:01:16):

And in, in terms of creating a stage persona that was multifaceted and as complex as any human being. You know, she could be sweet, she could be angry, <laugh>, she could be sexy, she could be scolding. She was just, it was so inventive. And I put it up there with Steve Martin in terms of creating an act that was so much fun to watch that even if you had seen it a hundred times, you'd watch her again. And

Fritz Coleman (00:01:40):

One of the five best comedians with an accordion.

Louise Palanker (00:01:44):

And we recently got to have a wonderful conversation with Judy on episode 85. Yes, she was a musician. Judy was a musician. So if you would love to see some of Judy's actual lovely, beautiful personality, it's, uh, it's there within her conversation with us on episode 85. But first, uh, and second, Fritz <laugh> <laugh>. And it's hard to segue from, right.

Fritz Coleman (00:02:07):

I, I'm, I'm looking forward to telling people about this. Okay. This is Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra. This is an MSNBC production available in all podcasting platforms. Uh, the first two episodes dropped Monday. If I, if you had the pleasure of seeing Rachel's first, or listening to Rachel's first podcast about a year ago, about Vice President Spiro Agnew and his illicit dealings, including taking $50,000 in cash while standing in the White House, <laugh> her amazing storytelling skills. Continue with this. One, ULTRA stands for ultra-right ultra extremists. The podcast is a, about a little known example of violent ultra-right extremism dating back to just before World War ii. It's about violent ultra-right extremists groups plotting to overthrow the United States government, but with the help of elected officials. Sound

Louise Palanker (00:03:02):

Familiar? That is a haunting

Fritz Coleman (00:03:03):

Refrain. Yes, it is. It's deeply reminiscent of today. Uh, episode one tells the story of Minnesota Senator Ernest Lundine, who was a Nazi collaborator being paid by Hitler's government. And he got into a very mysterious plane crash, which is a great subplot. Episode two is called the Brooklyn Boys, and it's about a group of young men who are armed to the teeth and joined a Catholic priest in Detroit in plotting the violent overthrow of the United States. And a person whose name is invoked in this one is Father Coghlan. And I can't wait to get our great guest opinion about him, because he was a dangerous human being. He was the most popular radio personality at the time. He was a fascist, he was an anti-Semite. And in today's numbers, he would have the equivalent of 80 million people a time listening to him, which is mind blowing.

Louise Palanker (00:03:58):

He was just darling, if you don't mind, murder. Yeah,

Fritz Coleman (00:04:01):

<laugh>. The point of this podcast is that worrying about fringe groups plotting the violent overthrow of our democracy is unfortunately hauntingly familiar territory for us in the United States right now. It's excellent. There are eight episodes. First who dropped yesterday. So

Louise Palanker (00:04:15):

What was really interesting for me about this is that when it comes to sort of white supremacy, back in the forties, they had, through Jim Crow, successfully placed black folks far from their families. And, and yet Jewish folks were infiltrating, they were doing well, and they were thriving. And so when, you know, when you watch something like a, a gentleman's agreement, you know, you, you come to understand like how prevalent anti-Semitism was. And, and it was open. It wasn't a secret.

Fritz Coleman (00:04:52):

It was like a low grade fever in post-World War II Society. Actually,

Louise Palanker (00:04:56):

There were country clubs, there were gentlemen's lunch groups. There was just no Jews allowed, was wasn't something that was even whispered, you know? And so when it, when we're ramping up towards World War ii, you can see how some folks might have been thinking, Hey, Germany's really getting a handle on these Jews. This is great. And, and it wasn't until the, the attack at on, on Pearl Harbor that everyone kind of got on board and said, oh, this looks like an axis of evil, let's get going. But yeah, for a while I could see where there would've been a lot of German sympathizers, because there was a lot of antisemitism in America.

Fritz Coleman (00:05:34):

And the frightening thing was the name of the party back then was America First, just what we have today. And Charles Lindbergh was the preeminent figure in that, cuz he was the most famous man in the world. And then you had Father Coghlan and all these other nightmare people. And it's a great podcast. And, and and I, I th uh, there, there's a, just a, a tad of relief and understanding that we have been in these, these circumstances before, and that was probably a lot worse than what we have right now. But we survived it somehow. Um, I don't know if they considered it that much of a threat of democracy back then, but cuz they were filling Madison Square Garden with, you know, uh, the boon, you know, the American version of a Nazi party. So, I don't know.

Louise Palanker (00:06:14):

I, I think that it was just as much of a threat. It's just that it's kind of like Rachel's bringing it back to the light, but it was sort of buried because maybe it was embarrassing, you know, that we let things get that far, or that we didn't have a handle on all of those underlying threats that were happening within polite society. And of course, all the way up into the halls of Congress. Um, I, my recommendation this week is holding the line by Jeffrey Berman. Our horrified attention was spread pretty thin when Trump was first installed into the White House. But you may recall that one of his earlier disturbing acts was the firing of pre barara from his role as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, s d n Y. To refresh your memory of events, attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Trump campaign volunteer and Giuliani law partner Jeffrey Berman, is acting head at S t N Y, assuming it seems that Berman would be a Trump loyalist.


The devastated office feared the worst. But according to Jeffrey Berman's new book, holding the Line, he is a law man of principle, and he set out to perform his job to the best of his ability without fear or favor. This mission statement quickly came to include standing up to Trump and his weaponized main justice department, which was pressuring Berman to prosecute Trump's enemies and ignore the crimes of his friends. For two and a half years, Berman walked the tightrope of doing his job and respectfully refusing orders from team Trump to prosecute Democrats like Greg Craig and John Kerry, who had committed no crimes. Berman was hopeful that an institutionalist like Bill Barr would restore sanity to a justice department that had been rocked by the weakness of Jeff Sessions and the incompetence of Matthew Whitaker Berman was wrong. He openly calls Barr a liar, a bully, and a thug.


After two and a half years of this gauntlet, Berman was fired via press release announcing his resignation. He followed that with a defiant press release stating otherwise. Shortly thereafter, Trump fired Berman and publicly pinned the move on Barr Berman's refusal to stand down, ensured that his next in command would ascend to the role rather than a Trump loyalist. I am forever searching to understand how the powerful lead the fearful into embracing Trump and Maga Trumpism. So I do a lot of research. We are suffering no shortage of books, highlighting Trump's appalling behaviors. And there is certainly an important place for them within our history. But I'm particularly interested in the books which offer insight into the purposeful mindset of those who devote their lives to law enforcement and justice. So I recommend books by Andy McCabe, Jim Clapper, Peter str, et cetera. These are books which bring you into the proud culture of the FBI and the intelligence agencies, which provide us with a measure of safety that we may take for granted.


Folks who work for the government earn far less than they would in the private sector. They do this work because of their interest in serving their country. Historically, a majority of them have held conservative views and been registered Republicans since Trump's rise to power within the party. Federal law enforcement professionals have found themselves within his crosshairs. But Berman held the line focusing on the mission and taking down Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Ray, big pharma execs, Levin Igor, remember that hit act. And, uh, and he also, uh, helped in restoring looted Nazi art to its rightful owners. This is a fluid read with each chapter, telling a new story and reinforcing the importance of protecting the integrity of our law enforcement and judicial systems. It is holding the line by Jeffrey Berman,

Fritz Coleman (00:09:41):

Haven't read it, but he's been a talking head on all the, you know, CNN and msnbc and I'm really enjoying his, took a lot of guts, but people always, the counter-argument to that is, why didn't you come out earlier and tell us this was going on? But at least he came out sometime. I

Louise Palanker (00:09:54):

Think you can say that if you were working, you know, in the West Wing with Trump. But if you're trying to head up, you know, division of our law enforcement system, I think he, he knew that if, and, and I know it sounds like I was just following orders, but he, he wasn't following orders. He would refuse to sign stuff that was just ridiculous. I mean, he really was in New York and they called themselves the Sovereign District of New York because mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they do things their way. And he was just gonna continue to do his job until the wheels fell off. And that's, and that's what he did. Are you ready to meet our guests?

Fritz Coleman (00:10:27):

I'm really looking forward to

Louise Palanker (00:10:28):

It. Bradley Oishi and Daniel Miller, both PhDs helm the fleet of podcast programming emanating from the straight white American Jesus mothership. They were both raised within the Christian faith, which gives them unique insight into the goals and motivations of those forces. Currently piloting Christian nationalism and the Republican Party. Brad Oishi was a professor of religious studies at Skidmore. He's a TEDx speaker, an author, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, HuffPost Religion and Politics, and the LA Review of Books. Brad was a pastor at a California megachurch in your Belinda birthplace of Richard Nixon before attending Oxford University, the Institute Al Depar and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Daniel Miller, PhD is Associate Professor of Religion and Social Thought and chair in the Department of Liberal Studies at Landmark College. His first book, the Myth of Normative Secularism, was a 2016 Indies Award finalist. He is completing his second book, queer Democracy, and has published in constellations, soundings political Theology and Method and Theory in the study of religion. Dan served as a Southern Baptist minister before attending graduate school at Oxford University and Syracuse University. Welcome Brad and Dan. Great

Fritz Coleman (00:11:41):

To be here. Great to meet you. Thank you for having us.

Louise Palanker (00:11:43):

So you two did not attend Oxford together, but you were told of each other since you shared similar backgrounds. So let's begin by asking you each to help us understand how you came to part ways with the teachings of your faith.

Bradley Onishi (00:11:55):

You know, I converted at 14. Uh, I grew up in Southern California watching, uh, Fritz on the, on the, on the tv. Uh, my father, my father's very excited, uh, that, uh, I get to be, uh, here today. So I just, you know, just put that out there. But, um, yeah, you know, converted, uh, at 14 and went kind from kind of a smart mouth punk kid to a super Jesus freak. And, uh, was a minister by the time I was 18, married my high school sweetheart when I was 20. And, um, was off and running. Uh, eventually left southern California for England. And my goal was to be a theologian and be a, a pastor at a, or, uh, excuse me, a professor at a Christian college someday. But, um, you know, I, I don't know about Dan, but I was always told in church, if you read too much, you're gonna lose your faith. Your brain will lead your heart away from the Lord. And turns out they were right. Um, you know, you start reading <laugh>, you start, um, those

Louise Palanker (00:12:48):

Damn books, <laugh>,

Bradley Onishi (00:12:49):

You start, you start thinking kind of hard about history and philosophy and theology and, um, American history and nationalism, and, uh, you kind of come to a different, different place. And that's hard to do when you spent seven years as a minister and you invested your whole life. But, um, I kind of realized pretty quickly after leaving the church, uh, and, and, and going to graduate school, that that's what I needed to do. And, you know, you pay the price, you lose a lot of family and friends who don't understand who are kind of disappointed and, and, and hurt. Uh, but, um, ultimately you gotta, you gotta do what you know is right. And so that's, that's kind of where I landed. Um, and I think Dan has a similar but different story.

Daniel Miller (00:13:30):

Yeah, similar in, in some ways. Um, I, you know, was the quintessential church kid. Uh, I grew up in Colorado and then moved to Arkansas when I was in high school. Went to church, you know, kind of as they say, uh, every time the doors are open. I was coming out of a Southern Baptist background, uh, did my undergraduate work at a Southern Baptist college and got a degree in biblical studies. From there, um, moved up actually to the Pacific Northwest where I was the, uh, what was called the associate pastor, sort of the junior pastor in a two staff, uh, small Southern Baptist church in Seattle, Washington. Um, earned a master divinity at a Southern Baptist seminary. So I had sort of all the credentials that you could, you know, want within, uh, that, that kind of s p c context. Um, I, I pastored for five years, and over the space of that time, uh, really one really seminal event for me was the 2000, uh, election.


Um, because I found myself sort of aligning with, um, the Democrats more than the Republicans, which was, you know, you weren't supposed to do that if you were, uh, a conservative evangelical Christian. Um, really didn't know much about politics, frankly. I just kind of knew that, you know, uh, Democrats were bad and Republicans were good, and that's part of what it meant to be a Christian. Um, but I began exploring that, that sort of opened my eyes to, to issues, I think eventually led me out of evangelicalism a lot of things related to politics, um, what we might call culture war issues now, certainly issues related to lgbtq plus rights and equality, uh, and different things like that. And some, some more sort of in the weeds, doctrinal, you know, things. Um, and, and like Brad, I think I was a, a couple years ahead of him at Oxford, um, went there planning to, I I earned a degree in systematic theology, originally planning, uh, something very similar to what he was suggesting, though I knew when I went there that I was, I was finished with Evangelicalism, uh, that I was not, uh, gonna be a part of that sort of branch of the church anymore.


But from there, I shifted my focus more to sort of philosophical approaches and eventually religious studies, which for the uninitiated is, is really different from like divinity school or something like that. Um, ended up at Syracuse University where I earned my PhD. Um, and in recent years have, uh, think there's been a lot of overlap with us of deploying those things to try to understand contemporary religion, politics, Christian nationalism, all those kinds of things.

Fritz Coleman (00:15:52):

Y you know, what you both did was very brave, because it's not like I'm a lapsed Episcopalian. I still remember major portions of the quasi Latin mass that I spent years being altar boy. And, and what, what we called an acolyte and choir member. But when I sort of fell out of my faith, I just stopped going to church on Sunday. You two guys had to forego your calling. It wasn't just, you know, your, your faith. It, it was what you had focused your life on. And so you had to completely redirect how you matter on the planet, which took a lot of guts, I, I'm guessing. And was w w was it wa was it, was there a lot of confusion in your mind? Was it an automatic change? Was, did you suffer in yourself a while before you made the change? Either can answer.

Bradley Onishi (00:16:48):

Uh, you know, it, it hurt like hell <laugh>, um, for a couple of reasons. One is, uh, I think Dan, I'll let you jump in here, but, uh, you know, I put my whole heart and soul into it. I, I wasn't a Sunday church goer. I was a stand outside the movie theater, try to convert the other teenagers kind of guy. I was the, have a bible study at high school, lunchtime kind of guy. Um, and so when you're that devoted and, and you know, you're that in you, you marry your high school sweetheart at 20 and the whole, you know, when I got married at our, our church, which was a big church, there was a thousand people at the wedding because we were in, we were in ministry, we were, uh, people that took care of all the teenagers at the church. So

Fritz Coleman (00:17:32):

Does the bride's father still have to pay for that when there's a thousand

Bradley Onishi (00:17:36):

<laugh>? No <laugh>? Oh, it was <laugh>, uh, subsidized. But still, you know, um, um, the, I guess the point there for me is you go from somebody whose whole life, you know, every aspect of your life, your social life, your friendships, your family, your, your job, your future, your what you, what you have trained to do as a, you know, somebody in their twenties who said, I'm investing my time into this career, and so my future is, is is here. I'm, I'm gonna forego other kind of pathways that could get me a 401k and a retirement account, or whatever it may be. So when you leave that, it's, it's not just getting a new job, it's, you're starting life over. And, and you also have to figure out how to exist in a world that you've been told your whole life is evil and will destroy you. You know?


So when you go, like the first time I, Dan, uh, and I talked about this a lot. Like the first time I was in Oxford and I went to a pub and I ordered a beer, I was kind of looking over my shoulder cuz I thought somebo, I thought the devil was gonna come tackle me and, you know, drag me into, um, you know, the, the gate through the gates of hell. Uh, so, you know, those kinds of experiences at age 24, it's a lot. It's a big learning curve at that age. And was there, so it's a lot. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:18:47):

Was there something about being overseas that helped you make that leap? Because you weren't gonna be coming home to the people that were going to be looking into your eyes. You were, you were gonna be, you know, that ocean kind of gives you sort of a buffer and then you, you talked about, you and Dan both talked about how the actually the fields that you chose gave you the space to explore why you had come to the, come to the disbelief you had come to.

Daniel Miller (00:19:14):

Yeah. So I, I'll jump in and, and I think, again, Brad and I have talked about these things so much that, uh, we're not gonna answer for each other, but there's a lot of overlap. And I think, you know, Brad jump in if, if I guess from this wrong, but it was a good buffer. I think part of what buffered the whole experience for me is I had this very distinct, I didn't have to leave ministry. I was going to pursue graduate studies. I was gonna have to step down from my church position no matter what. It gave a kind of cover as it were, uh, to be able to do that. And it did. I think a couple things about that context is that number one, religion in the UK looks really different, uh, than it does, uh, in the us. Hmm. And I think that for a lot of folks, and I think it was true of me, I think it was probably true of Brad, I know it's true of the people we talked to through the podcast and other platforms.


Now it, there's a very strong subcultural identity within American evangelicalism such that most American evangelicals don't really have any sense of any other way of doing religion or any other way of being Christian any sense that, that they are a, a kind of Christianity, they are just Christian sort of full stop as they experience it. And so, um, seeing that I think was really, really different. Um, and then I think there was the benefit that, um, I think one of the biggest losses for lots of people coming out of these kinds of contexts is the loss of community, right? It's this like totalizing community. I've, I I think one thing it provides, if you think about this sort of American society, it's one of the only like cross-generational communities that people can really encounter, right? Where you've, you've got everything from newborns to older people, to everybody in between, all sort of in, in one place, and you're not, you know, related by blood or something.

Fritz Coleman (00:20:57):

Well, I'm gonna interrupt you there because I think a comment you made on your podcast is perfect to inject here. And I will let you continue your point, Dan, you said, uh, what explains our current dilemma and the whole sort of context of what you're talking about is we create a sense of belonging by demonizing other people. And that is a, that that's an attraction that draws everybody together. It's, uh, when the loners and the people in the fringes of society attach themselves to qan on or other fringe philosophies because vilifying the other makes them feel part of the tribe, which isn't all of what you're talking about, but it contributes to what you're talking about right now.

Daniel Miller (00:21:37):

Yeah. I think that, that, uh, hu I mean, humans are social creatures, right? We crave community, we crave belonging. Uh, and one thing that I think helped buffer some of this for probably Brad and I, and this gets that issue of having the space to explore this, is that there was a kind of community in academia that that sort of, oh, let, at least for me to, to transition from one community to another, that sort of buffered that. So I, I didn't have the, the kind of abrupt break that some people do. Some people have these sort of profound like thunderbolt moments where they realize that, you know, everything in their life is now different. Mine was, I can see really defining moments along the way, but it, it didn't feel as abrupt on the way. And so it buffered it. And I think that the, both the physical, you know, geographical and ideological distance being in the UK was, was part of that.


Mm-hmm. And the last thing I'll say about this real quick for me is, another part of the context was I went, uh, to the UK in 2003. So it was not long after nine 11. It was not long after the invasion of Iraq. It was, you know, Tony Blair and George W. Bush. And, uh, being in a context where I, I don't know, just the, the political approach to it, the views of all of that was really different. There were just a lot of things that really did buffer that and I think create the space for me to ask questions and explore things in ways that, um, I, I don't know what that would've looked like, uh, in the us uh, for me.

Louise Palanker (00:23:04):

Well, I wanna ask you, uh, for a moment about what I see as a disconnect between like what you guys are bringing to our attention and how the, the parallel storyline is told on Main Street media, even as liberal as msnbc. Um, and the question that I was seeking when I started reading after, after Trump's election was the why behind much of the rights behavior, uh, and the why. And there's a coalition. Some people are racist, some people want their guns. Some people are religious and some people are Russian or what have you. But the why behind much of the rights behavior is religious motives. And the why behind the election lies behind the insurrection behind Ginny Thomas. And the fake slate of electors behind overturning Roe is religious. But we don't hear about this big why on mainstream media. Ginny Thomas and Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr and Mike Pence and Betsy devoss, et cetera, et cetera, are tempting to possibly usher in a kingdom of heaven on Earth, or, or bring, bring about the apocalypse. And their goals within government, within policy are antithetical to those of our national security or our founding principles. So, do I have any of this correct?

Bradley Onishi (00:24:14):

I think so. And I think one of the things that's really hard for even msn b c to do is to get past something in American society That has been true, I think since there's been, uh, an idea of the United States. And that is that Christianity is coded as good in our public square. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's really hard to get past that. Now, we all know, uh, you know, I think everyone knows there's extremists and there are people who are, uh, acting in ways that are deleterious to others and, and to our, uh, to our public life. But there's just this sort of, um, built-in privilege. Uh, there's a, there's a built-in privilege of being a Christian in the sense that you get an automatic benefit of the doubt. Uh, we've had 45 presidents, 45 of them Christian in some way. You can tell me about, you know, certain, uh, presidents piety not being up to snuff, but still identifying as Christians, not as Jews, not as Muslims. We've only had two Catholics and obviously that, you know, big deal. My point here is

Louise Palanker (00:25:14):

A lot of prayer breakfasts,

Bradley Onishi (00:25:16):

Lot of prayer breakfasts, a lot of church meetings, a lot of, uh, you know, one nation under God talk, uh, singing, um, hymns after, uh, tragic events. There's a way that the Christian is coded as Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. Mm. He might be irritating. He might not be the guy you really wanna see when you get home and you're trying to get the kids out of the car and get the groceries inside. Cuz he's, he's annoying <laugh>. He might tell you not to cuss as much at the barbecue or not to drink too much beer, but he's, you know, Flanders in the Simpsons is never the evil one. That's Mr. Burns <laugh>. And I think what we try to do in our show is say <laugh>, there's a lot of Christians in this country that you should think of as Mr. Burns and not Ned Flanders. There's

Louise Palanker (00:25:59):

A Simpson metaphor for everything.

Bradley Onishi (00:26:00):

That's interesting. Yeah. Yeah. So, Dan, what do you think?

Daniel Miller (00:26:03):

Yeah, I think the, the, the flip side of that, I agree with everything that you just said. Um, I think there's another cultural habit we have that is to think of religion and politics as two inherently different things. Um, and so, and, and for most, for most of history in most of the world, they have not been two separate things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and for lots of American history, despite what we might find in the con you know, in the constitution or, or certain strands of, of American thoughts, certainly in the popular mind for lots of people, they haven't been two separate things. So one of the, the pieces about that why question and that was, that was what first brought me into discussions about Christian nationalism. I didn't even have the language of Christian nationalism at the time, but I, I wrote an article trying to understand why so many evangelicals supported Trump because it didn't make sense to me.


Right. These are the so-called values voters of the 2004 election, if people can remember that far back. Yep. And it just didn't make sense. And I think it's, it's having to understand that for millions of Americans, part of what it means to be a good Christian is to be culturally conservative. It is to be politically conservative. It is not about melding, oh, I have my religious identity and I'm gonna try to find a political identity that fits. It's one religious identity that incorporates what we often want to distinguish between religion and politics. I think we, we sort of separate those in a way that they're just not separated in the experience, the lived experience, the faith experience, or the political experience of millions of Americans. And so those of us who aren't part of that, that reality, we don't live in that world. It can seem jarring or strange or incomprehensible, why this is how you would, you would want the world to be.


But if part of your Christian faith is believing that God wants society structured in a certain way, and you're called to do that, then it completely falls to reason, uh, that, that, that that's what you would do. And so I think that's the other piece. And, and you know, you can bring those two things together and go all kinds of really, really, uh, fruitful directions in trying to, as you say, to get at the why question and the, the what in the world is going on question, which is, is really what spurred us to start the podcast originally, once upon in time was, was getting it, you know, trying to explain that and trying to make sense of it, I think, for ourselves initially. Um, but then trying to explain that to others. So I think there are some really deep seated elements within American cultural history that, that are at play in this, in really tangible ways.

Fritz Coleman (00:28:38):

So what's the answer? How did the world's most amoral man, uh, the dark night of politics convince people and get them to, uh, suspend their disbelief long enough to make this guy a sainted person? The answer is in two Corinthians. Is it? Yeah. God bless you, <laugh>.

Bradley Onishi (00:28:58):

You know, I'll, I'll jump in and I'll, I'll just tee up Dan cuz this is really, this is really Dan's, um, subject matter in his book, queer Democracy. Uh, one of the things that Dan has taught me is that we can think of a, of, of a country as a, as a kind of body. And if a country is a kind of body, right, um, it helps us think of as to why certain people think, uh, the country feels wrong or feels like it's out of joint even when they don't really have good reasons for it. So the older I get, the more often I wake up in the morning and my knee hurts, and I'm like, what happened? <laugh>, I didn't even do anything <laugh>. Yeah. I guess I'm ju I guess I'm just in my forties and my knee hurts <laugh>. Um, you know, my back hurts or my shoulder hurts, or whatever it may be.


And I have to kind of figure out post facto what happened to my body to make it hurt or to feel out of whack or my, my neck is out of joint white Christians in this country for a long time, and I'm just, I'm being very general here. But white Christians on the whole, as a group, have envisioned this country as a body that is white and Christian and straight and patriarchal. And as long as the body of the country sort of buzzed along looking that way, it might not have been their, their favorite time, their preference, but it was okay. You know, bill Clinton certainly not, uh, their, their cup of tea, but there was not a sense of civil war during the Clinton era. There was not a sense of, uh, we'll, we're gonna burn it all down because this isn't our country anymore.


But when Barack Obama got into office, a black man, the son of an immigrant, biracial, uh, a black wife, black kids, all of a sudden that body had a black head and a black face. And the country for so many people felt like it was completely off the rails, even though they, they didn't have the good answer. You know, they w they didn't wanna come out. Most 90% of people didn't just say, well, it's cuz he is black. Right? It was cuz he's Muslim, he hates America, he's a communist. But all of these to me, and I'll, I'll, I'll let Dan jump in here in a sec. We're just post facto explanations of you want a, you want a country where white land owning men who profess the Christian faith, who do not speak with an accent are in charge. And you want your children to grow up with an, a society that is ordered in that way.


And when it's not, when Kamala Harris or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or a gay candidate, a bisexual candidate, when a non-Christian person shows up in your culture or your politics, you can't just help but feel like your whole back got thrown out and you don't know what to do. You're in so much pain and everything is so wrong that you, you gotta figure it out right away. And it's a national emergency. So Trump represents none of the values, but he re represents all of the symbolic capital that they want. Wow. A white man with a white family who professes the Christian faith in a very nominal way, but promises something that they wanted, which is to punish their enemies and get everything back in line. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, get everything ordered, how it's supposed to be, not to be nice like Mike Pence, not to be, uh, you know, good rhetorically like Ted Cruz. Not to tell dad jokes like Mike Huckabee, but to punish <laugh> with violence, anyone who got outta line and to get the country back how it should look and how it used to look. And that is why to me, Trump has been their man and he remains their man.

Fritz Coleman (00:32:32):

That was a spectacular description of our problem right there. Well done. And, and I think on your podcast you talk about the early signs of this, it's even pret party, it's pre reaction to Barack Obama. And I think one of you mentioned on your podcast that the seismic chain started to happen around the Goldwater campaign in 1964 when the rights started to go off the rails. But I have another, uh, uh, uh, not a different viewpoint, but an additional point. And that is, in the seventies and eighties, pastors began to tell their congregations how to vote. That used to be verboten and that could cause a church to lose its tax exempt status. But then people like Jerry Falwell, who was the worst and first abuser of that rule started, and then people started to feel guilty if they didn't do what the pastor said. So

Louise Palanker (00:33:25):

Well, was it televangelism that changed those norms?

Fritz Coleman (00:33:27):

I don't know. Let's

Louise Palanker (00:33:28):

Just, that

Fritz Coleman (00:33:29):

Platform of thing, let's, let's get the opinion of our two guests. Uh, I mean, d do do you, do you concur with that? I mean, um, you know, the populism may have started after Goldwater, but wasn't, didn't that have something to do with it where pastors started to deliver a political message?

Daniel Miller (00:33:44):

Yeah, I think it, it definitely did. I, I, the church that I went to when I was in like, you know, grade school, junior high school used to have the, the voter guide, the little thing, the little one page thing that would be in the church bulletin, uh, put out by focus on the family. Right. Wow. Wow. And the way they would, they would sort of skirt, I think the tax exempt status thing is they wouldn't literally tell you how to vote. They would just say something like, here's the candidate positions on these things. But it would be things like, you know, so-and-so wants to kill babies. Right. Like, you know, so it wasn't, it wasn't couched in political terms and Yeah. And you, you would have pastors who would say that, and I think for lots of reasons, the federal government was not eager to run in and tell religious organizations how they had to be religious in terms of politics and things like that.


And it's thorny and, and all kinds of things. But I think what it highlights is that there was a time before there was a religious right. And that's my, my, I was, I was, I was born in the seventies, but my consciousness of, you know, kind of anything going on in the world, right? It's, has always had a religious right. It has always had focus on the family. It has always had, uh, the view that to be a good conservative Christian is to oppose abortion. It is that, that's just always been baked in that that kind of, uh, political awareness as a part of significant elements of the Christian faith.

Fritz Coleman (00:35:05):

And to add to that, there used to be a time when, uh, fundamentalist Christians were more progressive. They believed in labor unions. They believed in helping your fellow man. They believed in peace among neighbors and accepting all races and creeds. Well,

Louise Palanker (00:35:21):

They first do, evangelicals did, they were left wing. Jimmy Carter being an example. That's what saying. Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Daniel Miller (00:35:27):

Yeah. And there, there you get into all kinds of, um, you know, pretty wonky history questions about, you know, what the term evangelical meant say at the turn of the century and the whole fundamentalist controversy in the Scopes Monkey trial and all the stuff in the 1920s mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then this kind of what, what develops into liberal mainline Protestantism versus a kind of fundamentalism that withdraws socially begins to reemerge with a new generation of, of folks, um, under the name of, at the time Neo Evangelicals. And that eventually becomes evangelicals. So yeah. It's, it's, it, it it's, it's a messy history to get at. I think what that, the continuities that run through it for me to, to go to the, the points Brad's raising is I'm, I'm pretty convinced that, um, the way to think about how people respond to politics and culture and religion is a certain way that we, we perceive the social, we talk way too much about belief as if we believe certain things, then we act on the beliefs.


I think we, we fundamentally feel the social to be right or to be wrong. And then we'll invent the reasons later for why we felt what we felt or to legitimize what we did. Yeah. For huge, huge portions of American history, including that more progressive time, it was fine to be progressive as long as the people calling the shots were mostly white people, right. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was, you know, oftentimes, not always, but oftentimes those blue collar unionizing forces were not incredibly tolerant of people of color demanding the same rights. You know, so you, you still had a, a certain kind of social order that could be permissible as long as everybody ha had their proper place within it. And ultimately you had, you know, white, straight, white patriarchal people and the right kinds of Christians at the top of that order. Um, so the, you know, uh, the white savior mentality was fine, right? As

Louise Palanker (00:37:22):

Long as you, so, as long as you were ha you know, handing something down to someone ex

Daniel Miller (00:37:25):

Exactly. As long as, as it was the paternalistic saving of all those other people. Right. It maintained that order. But when, from that perspective, when in the sixties in particular, the wheels really begin to come off and you have, you've had all kinds of, uh, women's rights movements, you start having African American civil rights movements, fast forward a little bit to Stonewall and other kinds of cultural revolution where all of these groups that don't have a place within the kind of American social body as imagined and felt by this, when they begin to really make inroads to that, that not coincidentally, is when you get the backlash to that in the seventies through the eighties, the emergence of the religious right as what I think we can now look back and see, is really a long-term trajectory of trying to reinstate a kind of, of social body that that is from their perspective, properly ordered. Right. And I would

Louise Palanker (00:38:18):

Love for, for, uh, Brad, sorry to interrupt you there, Dan, but I would love for Brad to talk about a point that, that he makes in, in the orange wave. I just, for me, was a takeaway. And that was when you had the neighborhood churches in the Midwest and in the, the South and and every member was responsible for their behavior and, you know, and you needed to be a person in good standing to be a member of this church. You needed the church for your family, for your standing in the community, for your business, you know, connections. And so something was expected of you in return for being a member. But when they moved out to California and the megachurch comes into being, it's almost like church crack where, you know, you could inhale, you know, satisfying gulp of Jesus without really having to be a good person. In fact, they encouraged capitalistic endeavors or, anyway, Brad, you talk about it cuz it's, it's an interesting piece of history that I don't think a lot of people we've sort of watched, uh, the megachurch explode as being the church, but we don't, we really haven't been following the trajectory of, and maybe Televangelism helped kind of launch that, but talk about that for us.

Bradley Onishi (00:39:31):

You know, one thing that people forget, and I think Dan was really just referencing this, is that throughout the 20th century, up until the, the sixties, the dominant kind of paramount form of religion in the country was what we call mainline Christianity. You know, Fritzie talked about being an Episcopalian, the Episcopalians, certain Methodists, um, you know, certain Presbyterians. And the emphasis there was on social justice, it was on collective action. It, it saw sin as a, as a collective de uh, failing that if we don't treat the poor right, in our society, we are sinning as a society. If we don't treat the vulnerable right, then we are all sinning. Well, what happens in the sixties and even before is a couple things. But one of them that it's really important to me as somebody who grew up in Orange County is what's called the Sunbelt migration.


You have 6 million Southerners leave the South. You have millions of people leave the Midwest and they, they go to Southern California, they come to la, they come to Orange County, they come to San Diego. But Orange County is really interesting because Orange County is a kind of un zoned land. It's, it's an open lot per se. And all of the communal ties, all of the main streets, all of the ethnic enclaves you might find in Pittsburgh or in in Milwaukee, um, are gone. And you can really build from scratch your vision of the country. Right. Well, you're also unmoored from the kinds of churches that are gonna hold you accountable as you just talked about, Louise. So instead of, Hey, I better act right, otherwise they won't let me be a member at this church and I'm an insurance salesman and no one's gonna buy, no one in town's gonna buy insurance from me and everyone's gonna think my family's kind of not good, good, good upstanding people.


Robert Schuler opens the Crisco Cathedral in the 1950s and all of a sudden you can drive up to church in a parking lot, listen in your car and then go home. And it's consumer capitalist Christianity. It's individualist Christianity. And it's a Christianity that says, go ahead and be wealthy. Go ahead and be as, as successful and as selfish as you wanna be. Cuz God blesses that. And so you can see there a change, you can see an idea there that says sin is not about collective action or collective failing. Sin is about me losing my temper with my kids, or, you know, saying a cuss word when I was playing basketball with the guys after work. It's no longer, we need to fix the ways that we're failing as a group. Whether that means the poor, the outcast, whether that means the immigrant, whether that means my neighbor who, uh, needs resources, whether that's that neighborhood over there that doesn't have good schools.


All of that goes out the window. And now I can just say, I'm only responsible for me and my family like a good capitalist. And that fundamentally changes American religion. There's a lot more to this story. If there's scholars listening, they're gonna email me and say, you missed this and that. And I, I know that y'all okay. But if we just think in broad terms, this is a fundamental shift in American Christianity. Billy Graham is saying at rallies that God, one of God's priorities is owning private property like that's in the New Testament. Okay. You know, that's, that's a pretty good example of how we got,

Fritz Coleman (00:42:40):

What do they call that? There's a name for that. The, the testimony of personal wealth or something like that. You have Reverend Cash dollar. They, I mean, and they, they're just blatant about it. I have a great story. Let me just tell a great story about the Crystal Cathedral. My, my ex-wife's grandmother, uh, was in her nineties, and she was living on social security in Buffalo, New York. And she would come out here to visit us and every single time she would come out here, we had to make a pilgrimage to the Crystal Cathedral because this woman lived on social security, but every month sent 50% of her social security check to the Crystal Cathedral. And I used to get so mad at Nana, I said, Nana, you can't do that. Your donation won't buy a pane of glass and a giant monolith down there. She just didn't get it. And even when things started to go a little dicey with Schuler in his family and his son and all that stuff, she was not to be convinced she was like a hardcore trumper. The facts never persuaded her to do what was right. And it used to make me so sad. And if you multiply that by all the televangelist that are raising bazillions of dollars every day, I think it's a, it's a, it's a human tragedy.

Louise Palanker (00:43:55):

I mean, and you guys have probably studied the personality types that would, you know, get to the age that you were and stay in. And and I think that, you know, when I'm trying to understand Republicans and conservative thinking, because they may have no interest in understanding me, but I'm keenly interested in understanding that. But I think there's certain personality types that seek absolutes and they, and, and, and gray is scary. And they, not only do they seek an absolute, but they need for everything around them to agree with that. Absolute. So talk talk about that for a moment.

Daniel Miller (00:44:28):

I think that's one of the a a as you say, say, um, one of those, those elements, uh, that, that is really central to this right? Is that that part, part of what a certain kind of religious mindset can give doesn't have to be every, it's not every religion. It's not everybody who's in religion. Right. We know that same, same as Brad. Right. We'll get the emails about all the exceptions to the generalization, but a certain kind of religion is built on providing that kind of assurance. And it's, it's cosmic in scope, right? It's, it's there's this, within this religious framework, it's, there's, there's not only a God who created the universe and orders everything in it, but that God has a plan for me and my life. And that means that if things seem like they're not going well, I can rest assured that there's, that there's part of a big plan here.


It means that if, uh, if I'm not making as much money as somebody else, uh, then it, it's, it means that that's because God's called me to be in this place. It, it provides a kind of assurance and comfort. Brad talks about this all the time on the podcast and has for years about taking really, really complex issues and making it simple. And I think that there is a mindset there that very explicitly in this religious mindset, there is a hidden meaning to reality. Like, like it's just, it's, it's on the surface of the teaching that the world we see with its complexity and it's confusion and the things that cause anxiety is not the real world. There's a spiritual realm behind it. It is ordered. Things may feel chaotic, but there's a purpose and a meaning to it, and it's going to eventually move in a direction that culminates in a certain way.


And I think that that sense of a hidden order is why you have not only people in these religious, uh, realms that, that, that find this certitude, but I think it's where you also get overlap with, you know, conspiracist and things like that, that, that also say there's this this esoteric hidden order that those of us who know the code or who have the eyes to see, or as Jesus himself would've said, have the ears to hear. We can hear the true message. And when you put those two things together, I think you do get a profile of, of a certain kind of person who is drawn to that. And, and if I'm being honest, like why, why wouldn't you be? Let's, it's really, really seductive to believe that things aren't as complicated as they have to be or that things, things before which we feel completely powerless, like global warming or pres Vladimir Putin threatening to use nuclear weapons or whatever.


Right. Things that I know I cannot do anything about. If I can have the assurance that nonetheless there is an answer to that, that I can just trust in that there is a meaning to it, it's, it's incredibly appealing. And I think that that is, is a reason why so many people are, are drawn to that and why it is hard to question that, uh, and can be incredibly sort of de familiarizing to do that. So I think you're right. I think there's definitely a, a certain kind of psychology or mentality that's drawn to that, that assurance and that the sort of hidden knowledge. Well, and I'll just, I'll just say quickly. Go

Bradley Onishi (00:47:28):

Ahead. The cer the certainty comes at a cost. If I'm gonna have the kind of worldview Dan just said mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I've gotta create us in them. Right? Right. We have the right way. We know all the answers, and if you're not with us, you're against us and we'll, we'll take you out if we need to. Right. So like the, the cost of me being certain and the way Dan just talked about means I've gotta look at everyone who's not with me and doesn't see the world in these binary terms as enemies of, of, of, of what I'm doing with my God, with my church, with my community and so on. And so I think that's the underbelly of this, of the certainty. Mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (00:48:04):

<affirmative>. And that's when things get to,

Fritz Coleman (00:48:05):

I just wanted to mention one thing before we wander away from the Orange Wave, which is a fantastic podcast series and I wanna recommend it to anybody that lives in Southern California because I've lived out here for 40 years and I'm familiar with the myth concerning Orange County ever since Ronald Reagan, it was very Republican and you can't tell one neighborhood from the other. It's very Stepford like when you drive the 4 0 5 down to the coast. Uh, but I, I wanted to talk particularly Brad, who lives or was raised in Y Linda, things have really changed. It's not as homogeneous as it used to be. There's a huge, and you, you, somewhere in your podcast you were talking about garden growth, there's a huge Vietnamese population that has, uh, moved into Orange County, few, uh, huge Asian cultures which have moved into Orange County. So there's a, you know, reality is infiltrating Orange County against their will. And maybe that's what's cha changing the voter base there a little bit?

Bradley Onishi (00:49:02):

Well, so I'll, I'll say I think it's good news and bad news in my view. Uh, so Orange County voted, uh, for Hillary Clinton at a rate of about 53%, uh, in 2016. So as was the first time I went, Democrats since the Great Depression, uh, in 2018, there was a blue wave of sorts with congressional seats going Democrat for the first time in a long time. Dan a Roacher kind of lost his way. And, and he's out in Maine now cuz uh, you know, Putin's favorite congressman was, was Jet, was, was jettisoned. Um, but you know, I I will say this though, uh, when I go home now, there are so many things that were not there when I grow up. The bowling alley in near Belinda is now a Japanese market, which for a Japanese boy growing up, that's pretty cool <laugh>. Um, there's a lot more boba, uh, you know, oh yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:49:48):


Bradley Onishi (00:49:49):

And, and tuckerias and places where I can get fu or Ramen. But I will also say that that's not all changed hearts and minds. That, um, there is a, an an incredible migration of Californians and especially Orange countians to Texas and Nashville, but also the Idaho. So like if I did a, a family, uh, reunion from my church, and if I did a high school reunion, I could find a hundred people in Idaho. I'm, I'm not exaggerating,

Louise Palanker (00:50:19):

Right. They're spreading out and they're stretching out to where, you know, they're, they're trying to carve out another Orange County for themselves. Yeah.

Fritz Coleman (00:50:25):

My granddaughter lives there. I call, call it a vast Caucasian wasteland.

Bradley Onishi (00:50:29):

That's, see, and that's my point is, you know, remember, remember when I talked a minute ago, about 6 million Southerners going mm-hmm. <affirmative> from, from, from Louisiana and Georgia to Orange County mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and LA and, and well, where can you go now Idaho, Idaho is 93% white. And unlike if I move to Texas on a state level, I'm always gonna come up against what, Houston, the fourth largest city in the country with tons of black folks, tons of Asian folks, tons of Latino folks. If I go to Idaho on a state level, I run into Boise. It's a lot different mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. And so, you know, for me, orange County, it's good news, bad news. Right, right. There's a lot of white flight from Orange County. Orange County used to be the destination for white flight. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Now it's the place people are leaving because they're feeling like it's too diverse and, and too liberal.

Fritz Coleman (00:51:15):

But it's a great, just to finish my point, we Yeah. It, it it's, it's just a, a wonderful, uh, uh, historical study. Your podcast is about how it became a hotbed of white evangelical Christian worship. And you talked about it earlier, Brad, the migration from Southern and Midwestern cities, their faith and their moral codes came with them, as did their evangelical preachers. So it's, I I, and I've lived out here for 40 years and it was very enlightening to me. So I recommended it to any citizen of this area.

Louise Palanker (00:51:43):

Oh yeah, no, absolutely. So what led me to your work is the journey of a Jewish liberal boomer. When Trump took office, I went in search of answers. I read Hillbilly Al JD Vance's explanation was grievance. How can a black guy be president when I can't keep a factory job? He now appears to be feeding the grievance. Then I dove into the Russian coalition books, house of Putin, house of Trump, house of Putin by Craig Gun, Russian Roulette, David Corn, Michael Isikoff, the Malcolm Nance books, and, okay, Trump and Russia have been colluding since the eighties, but how is the Christian right aligning with oligarchs as more Christ-like than Democrats? And, and it felt like under Soviet rule, they attacked our left flank. Right? They went after folks disillusioned with capitalism. And Putin had the genius to embrace religion and pretend to value share with our Right. And is that how you guys see the evolution?

Daniel Miller (00:52:35):

Yeah, I think, I think that's a, a great shorthand for it. And you know, obviously you fill it out in lots of ways. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but yeah, absolutely. Um, and, and I think we, we've been having some discussions lately on the podcast about, you know, the f word, uh, the fascism word, right? Is it, is it fascist? What is fascism? And, and there are reasons not to overuse that, but that, that element, that religious dimension is, it's another piece that has always been there. A sacralization of the people, right? Um, in this case, the authentic American people, the right, the straight white Christian men, or a male dominated society, and yeah, Putin, Putin taps right into that. And there's a whole bunch of stuff with the, the Russian Orthodox Church. There are, are places in, you know, uh, south America dealing, you know, in, in different ways. So yeah, it is, it is very much a pattern and not unique to us. Really fascinating discussions to have about the directions of influence there, how much started in the US and when other places, how much, you know, those other places influenced us. But I think it's, it's a good read on your part, uh, to pick up on that. And, and Putin, just to use a a pressing example, is very fluent in that. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:53:39):


Fritz Coleman (00:53:39):

Yeah. And, and Putin started the Ukrainian war by blaming the Nazis in Ukraine, and now he's shifted his focus to L G B T Q in the United States, <laugh>. And that's the decline of civilization in general,

Louise Palanker (00:53:51):

Right? Well, they're good at kind of shifting whatever was their motivation for any kind of given behavior. Like it's just, you know, it's just shifting who to blame, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's never taking any accountability, any, any, any responsibility. And, you know, and I think humans are like inherently tribal, and we needed those instincts for survival. You know, certain people on the other side of the hill with, with a larger forehead might come and take our food and our women. And so there's a, you know, there's a certain amount of that that's kind of like baked into us. But I think that our journey on the planet, the a hundred years or so that we spend here, is to push past some of those fears and to try to understand that everyone doesn't feel the way we feel. And, and it, that's okay. That doesn't threaten me being me. So one of the things I wanted to ask you guys, and this is just one of my crazy theories, but do you think that a large portion of the guys who become militant, like the Christian men who become, who take their Christianity and turn it into militancy, the guys that storm the castle, like what percentage of those guys were bullied by their fathers?

Bradley Onishi (00:54:57):

Uh, uh, Dan, I don't know. You want to, you want I have thoughts, but

Daniel Miller (00:55:01):

I don't know. Yeah, I, I have thought. I have, I have. So first of all, let me make very clear, I have no hard data at all, right?

Fritz Coleman (00:55:06):

So purely

Louise Palanker (00:55:06):

Speculative, just a sense.

Daniel Miller (00:55:08):

I, I think it was, it's interesting the language, the, the bullied by the father. I think it's all about the perspective, right? So my, my answer would be a huge number, but that's because I have a certain conception of masculinity. If somebody's vision of masculinity is that it's about authority, it's about obedience, it's about power exercised in those ways. And authority also is tied in with notions of punishment, of retribution, right? Of stern discipline, of whatever the forms that those take. Uh, I, I think that then absolutely that has been a model of, of, you know, of where that goes. And, and can you sort of therapeutic language here. It's, it's a traumatic way to grow up. It's a traumatic way to be shaped as somebody who is defined as masculine, and it's a generational trauma that perpetuates over time. So in that regard, I would say absolutely a high number. But those same men were you to ask them about their upbringing would probably talk about the value of strong fathers Christian men, men who knew how to be men, men who, you know, who, who, who disciplined with a strong, you know, with the iron rod or, you know, whatever those, those other Christian or that

Fritz Coleman (00:56:19):

Was, was missing from their

Daniel Miller (00:56:21):

Families. Yeah. And, and it would be a sense of pride, not a description of having been bullied. And I think that that cultural dynamic of how we answer that question illustrates so much.

Louise Palanker (00:56:31):

That's because they don't wanna see themselves as the victim. They wanna see themselves a participant as this is, was the way to build me as into a strong character. And I'm gonna do the same for my son, uh, Brad, your thoughts?

Bradley Onishi (00:56:43):

Yeah. I think, you know, when you say bullied by their father, the thing that hit me just as a former minister and somebody who thinks about this stuff all day every day, is there's a line in a very popular evangelical book on raising children and on, uh, gender roles that says God is ultimate masculinity.

Louise Palanker (00:57:01):


Bradley Onishi (00:57:02):

And, and so if you think about bully by the Father, as you go to a church that upholds the God, you worship as the divine Father who is ultimate masculinity, right? Not the Jesus who turns the other cheek, but the God who will punish you, will spank you, um, will absolutely yell at his wife in public, okay? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then your religious life, your, your cosmic understanding of the universe is backing up the kind of masculinity that Dan just talked about. Oh,

Louise Palanker (00:57:36):


Bradley Onishi (00:57:36):

And so all of a sudden, not only is it your earthly dad who used to be kind of a disciplinarian and gruff, but it's a whole religious culture that says the creator of the universe is not a benevolent force of mystery or divine cloud of unknowing, but is the father who will take you out and spank you in public if you disobey him in mouth off. And he'll do that to, you know what? He'll, he'll do that to mom too.

Louise Palanker (00:58:04):

So that, so that you're, you're responding to fear, which you experienced in the first 20 years of your life, is the, that being the familiar. So now if, if I displease God, either bad things will happen tomorrow, or I won't have a place at the table in heaven,

Bradley Onishi (00:58:22):

I, I think that's, I think that's part of it. I also think it's a, um, there's this tension, right? When you're, when you're a man in this culture, like Dan just talked about mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you're always trying to prove that your, your manhood. Cuz if God is ultimate masculinity, you're always trying to emanate that God. But you can never do that successfully cuz he's God and you're not. So you're always, you're always trying to do something you'll never be. And in essence, you're always trying to be a real man, but you never will be one. So go ahead, let's put on the military tactical gear. Let's storm the capitol, let's get our ar 15, let's do everything we can to prove to everybody that you are a real man. Cuz you gotta perform at every minute of every day, even though you'll never actually be successful. That's

Fritz Coleman (00:59:06):


Louise Palanker (00:59:06):

Interesting. Oh, I was like Don Quixote. Right?

Fritz Coleman (00:59:08):

That's great. Well, you guys talk at length about Herschel Walker in your podcast, and I just wonder, since it's so current,

Louise Palanker (00:59:15):

How can you not talk about this? I,

Fritz Coleman (00:59:16):

I mean, uh, I mean, you know, it, it's more than just a class, a example of blatant hypocrisy by one guy. It's hypocrisy on a whole political party. You've got Senator C and Senator Scott down there campaigning for this guy, fullthroated endorsements of this guy in Georgia today. What, what are your current feelings about the situation, fellas, especially for somebody who's claimed to have found God, he's born again. He has grace, which makes him not responsible for his sin.

Daniel Miller (00:59:49):

I, I guess what what I would say is, uh, I don't live there, but if I did, I, you know, I certainly wouldn't vote, uh, for Herschel Walker <laugh>. Um, but no, I think what what it does highlight is again, this, this sense that I think politics and social, social, you know, cultural war and all that, it's very visceral and it operates on that level. And the rationale that comes along to justify what people do, that'll come along after the fact. And that's why you get this slippage because the, the, the notions of accountability and forgiveness and grace and condemnation that float in these kinds of Christianity are beautifully or abhorrently, whichever direction you want to go. Malleable in that when it suits your purposes, you can emphasize that God forgives, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if Herschel Walker made mistakes and you know, won't really say what those are, um, he's born again, he's forgiven.


God has forgiven. So how dare you as politicians or voters or whatever, not forgive him if God has. But when it suits our purposes to emphasize that God demands justice, God demands retribution, God demands payment for, you know, for things that have been done, then we can emphasize that too. And it, I think one of the things that drives my research is to say, how is it that people can flip flop like this and it'll strike an outsider like all of us as so blatantly hypocritical. But I think that for many of the people in it, honest to goodness, they do not experience any kind of, of disconnect there. They don't experience any hypocrisy at all. They are not calculating, I'm gonna say this here for this purpose and this here for this purpose. The politicians, yes, the run of the mill voters for whom this resonates, not so much. And I think it's because when we listen to the theological or the Christian or the religious rationales that are given, I think we're really at a, a second order thing. And the deeper issue is back to this, this fundamental sense of what society should be like. And for lots of these people, Herschel Walker embodies what this society should be like, uh, in a way that

Fritz Coleman (01:01:45):

It's a means to an end. Cuz he'll get to Washington and vote for everything everybody wants 'em to vote for. And that will be case closed.

Louise Palanker (01:01:52):

But I don't think that most Christian right. Voters are really even that aware of how the Senate works. I think they're just kind of being told, we sign off on this guy and that's what the team's voting for. How do you feel, Brad?

Bradley Onishi (01:02:06):

You know, I think one of the ex, so if I was in church mm-hmm. <affirmative>, here's what I think I would hear this Sunday. Okay, alright. Herschel Walker made a mistake. People are saying he might have paid for an abortion. Maybe that's true. Maybe it's, it's not. But you know what y'all, let's say it is true. He's forgiven. Jesus has covered him in grace. And so we can sit here and argue about one abortion 15 years ago, or we can talk about the millions of abortions next year. They're gonna kill all those babies. So which one do y'all wanna vote for? And that's how they're gonna sell it. That's so it's a zero sum game. So

Louise Palanker (01:02:38):

Interesting. Yeah. It's like this is our guy. We saw often him also, he kind of like fits that strong man, you know, sort of like archetype that

Fritz Coleman (01:02:44):

They love. Yes. You know, he was the Heisman Trophy winner. People say that they still have pictures of him over their fireplace in Georgia Holmes. He was a major star in that state. Hey,

Louise Palanker (01:02:55):

Herschel Walker is one handsome man, you know, who's even more handsome? Raphael Warnock. <laugh>. Okay. <laugh>. Because he's got that Harry Potter thing going for him. You know, like obviously he's read a book. I find that attractive. That was always my type. Yeah. <laugh>. So, uh, let's talk about your live event, cuz I know you guys are super excited about it and I wanna help people sign up. Yeah.

Bradley Onishi (01:03:15):

We have a live event on November 18 and it's at the University of Denver. Um, and so if you're in Denver or somewhere nearby, come and join us. Uh, we are gonna be talking about the future of Christian nationalism and American democracy, and this will be right after the midterms. So we don't know what's gonna happen, but we know big things will happen. Uh, regardless, we got a great lineup. So Robert Jones, who wrote, uh, white Too Long and is the head of p r i, Catherine Stewart, who wrote the, the Power Worshipers, Phil Gorsky and Sam Perry, who wrote the book to Flag in the cross, uh, KTI Josi, Jacqueline Hidalgo, myself, Dan, um, and, uh, also Sarah Maliner, who's a great scholar. So we have a great lineup, we have great, um, uh, you know, discussion topics and we just get to be together and actually try to figure some of this stuff out. Now, if you're not near us in Denver, join us virtually. Uh, you can ask questions, you can interact, uh, over the virtual live feed and, uh, you can have the recording so it's something you can watch later.

Fritz Coleman (01:04:17):

Uh, I, I think your, what you contribute both in your main podcast and your side ones like the orange wave are a gift. They're just a great beacon of light in a very dark world. But I, as I was listening to both podcasts, both the Orange Wave and Straight White Jesus, uh, I was wondering who your audience is. Yes. Is it conscientious Christians? Is it lapsed Christians? Is it non-Christians? Is it just investigative Christians who are trying to look for a deeper truth or all of those combined?

Daniel Miller (01:04:54):

It is, and I think it has turned out to be all of those. Um, I'm not sure you know, who exactly who we thought was, I don't, we didn't know if anybody would listen to us when we started, but it was really trying to explain it to maybe an interested public, uh, who might or might not be familiar with it. But we hear now a lot from people who are undergoing or experiencing what's now called faith deconstruction. They're leaving these traditions. We hear from journalists and other academics who are just, you know, trying to, they, they, they don't have the expertise and they're looking for people who do we, uh, hear from people who still identify as Christian, but they want to be something different than what they have found in that evangelical, uh, or conservative Catholic context. We Right. I get emails from people who are like, thank you for helping me understand my in-laws. They never made sense to me before. <laugh>, you know, um, lots of stuff from the L G B T Q folks who, you know, felt that they didn't have a place or it really has turned into a context for all of the above, which I, I don't think is something that we had anticipated. Um, the, the breadth of, of the audience that, that now sort of tunes in.

Louise Palanker (01:06:01):

Well, I wanna bring you back for a, a follow up conversation, which is another one of my theories that we can hold this for you next time is, uh, how many closeted homosexuals are on the right. Using it as a way to maneuver through the world within from the communities within which they were born.

Fritz Coleman (01:06:23):

Or it's the thou death protest too much group.

Louise Palanker (01:06:26):

Sure. But I mean, it may have been a survival, it may have just been the go-to way to make your way in the world and have a life. I, you know, but

Fritz Coleman (01:06:34):

I find, and I agree with you, but what I find interesting and the, and the dark side of that argument is, uh, that those are the people that, that stamp their feet, uh, sort of denying their own identity. Oh

Louise Palanker (01:06:47):

Yeah. Like most,

Fritz Coleman (01:06:48):

And like Tom Foley was so anti-gay in all of his legislation, then he is, uh, seducing guys in bathrooms by looking at their feet under the stall. You know, I i I I don't mind anything up to the point where you're making everybody else uncomfortable with their

Louise Palanker (01:07:02):

Sexuality. Right. But, you know, we haven't walked a mile on his feet underneath the stall <laugh>, and we don't know what that's like to grow up a gay kid. Yeah. You know, in South Carolina, like sweet Lindsay, you know, who's once an innocent child. So what, what is that walk like? And I think that's worthy of a, of an, of another conversation.

Fritz Coleman (01:07:21):

This was fascinating. You guys are both brilliant and it was just not long enough. And thank you so much.

Louise Palanker (01:07:27):

So we, you guys have a swag on Patreon, sw straight white American, Jesus on Patreon. Where else should people go to sign up for you and to get more of what you're contributing?

Bradley Onishi (01:07:39):

So we're at, uh, straight White JC on Twitter and on Instagram. And, uh, if people would like to sign up for the the live event, they can go to brad, brad and all the info is there and, uh, can find us, uh, on email at straight white American Jesus dot, uh, And, uh, just gotta say real quick cuz uh, I can hear my editor and my earpiece saying this. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, new book is coming out, preparing for war

Fritz Coleman (01:08:07):

And, uh, oh, nice.

Bradley Onishi (01:08:09):

Uh, the extremist history of white Christian nationalism and what comes next. And so, um, this will be out in January 6th, 2023 and, and you can look for it on Bookshop or Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Fritz Coleman (01:08:19):

There's never been a time in history when this conversation has been more important. You guys are delivering this information at precisely the right moment in history, I

Louise Palanker (01:08:27):

Think. And I'm gonna say just a counter, what you said in the last episode of your podcast. It is important that you buy the book <laugh>. And that's a gift from me to your editor, <laugh>. So here come your closing credits. Fritz and I have created a web hub to help you shop for gifts and save democracy in one fun move. Gift of curates great swaggy merch from candidates and causes committed to protecting and defending our democracy. Fritz and I make no money here. We don't need it. We are not running for office this year. Our site is like a mall directory sign that points you towards the merchandise pages of worthy candidates and causes. It's the donation that counts. Democracy makes a great gift. Thank you so much for joining us. We would love to continue this conversation with you on Instagram and Twitter where we are.


App Media, path Pod, and on Facebook where our show pages Media Path podcast and our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Weezy podcast community. You can find full video podcast episodes loaded with bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. You can write to us at Media Path And if you enjoyed this show, please give us a nice rating in Apple podcasts. Do the same for straight White American Jesus, as long as we're here at the podcast app right. And talk about us all on social media. You can sign up for our Fun and dishy And we wanna thank our wonderful guests, Brad Onishi and Dan Miller from Straight White American, Jesus. Our team includes Dean of Friedman, John Maddox, Sharon Bello, bill Fiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise p Planker here with Fritz Coleman and we will see you along the media path.

Daniel Miller (01:10:07):

Thanks so much for having us. Yeah, no, just,

Bradley Onishi (01:10:09):

It's really flattering to hear that you know that y'all have listened to the shows.

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