Sacred Tension: Intersectional Demonology with S. Jonathon O’Donnell

In this episode I speak with religious scholar and intersectional demonologist S. Jonathon O’Donnell. We discuss their new book Passing Orders: Demonology and Sovereignty in American Spiritual Warfare, which is an examination of how American Evangelical beliefs about spiritual warfare intersect with transphobia, racism, and homophobia. Buy the book here.

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In Defense of Reading Controversial Books

I’ve been making noise on social media lately about how I deliberately read problematic books. By problematic, I mean that they are deemed, justly or unjustly, toxic or bad by people I usually agree with. I’ve noticed some palpable discomfort when I bring up the topic, so I thought I would take some time to explore why I think reading problematic literature is helpful. 

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Interior and Exterior Satanism

It was the activism that first drew me to The Satanic Temple in 2017. My boyfriend was sitting on his laptop and suddenly exclaimed, “oh my God, Stephen, you have to see this.” He showed me the BDSM baby protest, in which diaper and baby-mask clad protestors peacefully poured milk over themselves in protest against anti-abortion theocrats.

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Sacred Tension: Depravity, Horror, and Transgressive Media with May of Nyx Fears

In this episode of Sacred Tension, I speak with musician and Youtuber May of Nyx Fears. We discuss transgressive media, horror, fascism, trauma, childhood neglect, LGBT representation in horror, the moral complexity of extreme media, and much more. Watch May’s youtube channel here.

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I’m an Intellectual Groupie and You Probably Are Too

On his podcast Deep Questions, Cal Newport said something that has gotten deep into my brain and utterly complicated my life. I notice, by the way, that the very best things tend not to make my life simpler — they make my life more interesting, complicated, and challenging. This is one of those things:

I think a lot of what we see on social media is basically what I call intellectual groupieism. Like, I don’t want to do the work, someone else tell me the cliffnotes. What are the basic ideas we all agree with, and more importantly, what’s good and what’s bad, and what do I do to make sure I do the good thing and not the bad thing? like great, I’m with it. And now I’m going to, with great fervor, push this philosophy, but there is nothing below it. You haven’t read any of the things, you haven’t done the hard reading, you haven’t confronted the criticism, you haven’t read the alternative and let that collide and then let your roots grow deep. On social media you are often just a groupie for intellectuals, and say, “I just trust you. Just give me the cliffnotes I need, because I just want to go around with your metaphorical jam band and make sure I have bootleg tapes from your concerts…” We don’t do this anymore – we don’t build philosophies from scratch, we don’t go to the sources. Social media says “don’t bother with that. In fact, if you do bother with it, we might yell at you, so just come on, we will just give you the cliff notes.

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Meditation as Uncreation

Growing up in the evangelical world, a central lesson I learned about reality was that there were necessary and normative divisions. These divisions began at the moment of creation itself: God separating light from dark, land from water, sky from earth, and, most relevant to me, woman from man. The first 27 verses of the book of Genesis describe this process of creation by way of division, from an earth “formless and void.”

As a gay child, I was raised to believe that the sin of my homosexuality blurred these foundational distinctions established at the dawn of time. Homosexuality, by its very nature, violated the metaphysics of man and woman. It was therefore understood as an act of Uncreation: a terrifying unraveling of the created order, a returning to an earth formless and void. 

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Mental Health, Public Shaming, and the Trashing of Lindsay Ellis

For the past few days, I’ve watched with fascination the trashing of prominent leftist cultural critic, author, and youtuber Lindsay Ellis. Several weeks ago, she tweeted something about Avatar: The Last Airbender which apparently sparked a controversy. (I’ve never seen any of the pieces of media she was referring to, so I can’t offer comment on them.) The ensuing controversy, trashing, and demonizing led her to delete her twitter account, and I witnessed some anonymous twitter users dancing on her digital grave. The whole episode seemed, in typical twitter fashion, bewilderingly excessive.

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