Standing Firm in an Era of Public Gaslighting

Standing Firm in an Era of Public Gaslighting

The further things move along, the more intense they get out there. The religio-political gaslighting from the right wing is particularly intense right now, so I wanted to offer a quick post talking about what that looks like and offering some techniques for reasonable folks to stand firm in these challenging times. About Me As a reminder, I’m approaching this topic as a communication scholar who teaches interpersonal communication and has emphases in rhetoric and mediated communication. My research focus…

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Strategies for When You Can’t Fix Everything (Especially Now)

Strategies for When You Can’t Fix Everything (Especially Now)

Okay, so the world is scary and overwhelming. The Hopi, as a friend shared with me, have a word for this situation: kayaanisquatsi. It means “Nature that is out of balance or a way of life that is so crazy it cannot continue long term.” (The definition’s from What a Wonderful Word by Kane Miller.) This is certainly the case with our current situation in the world, especially in the US. Between the pandemic and wild fires and the current…

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A Case for Christian Resistance: A Response to Law and Order Theology

A Case for Christian Resistance: A Response to Law and Order Theology

Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago we had a guest post by Rachel Contos unpacking healthy and unhealthy theologies around “God’s will” and mask-wearing from an Orthodox Christian perspective. This week’s blog post continues a similar theme in a different direction when Rhonda Miska, a Catholic lay preacher, unpacks healthy and unhealthy theologies around law and order and resistance. I really enjoyed both of these pieces and hope you do too. Enjoy the read! Cheers, DS Leiter, Founder, Assertive Spirituality…

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An Open Letter Re: White Evangelicals and Moral Disgust of RBG

An Open Letter Re: White Evangelicals and Moral Disgust of RBG

NOTE: I wrote the following to process my own grief about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg while also helping anyone else who might need to understand the dynamics of how right-leaning white Evangelicals feel about RBG from the perspective of a communication scholar who grew up that way. May RBG’s memory be a blessing, and may all of us be part of that blessing to the world. May we all fight for genuine truth and justice and the equitable…

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The “Holy War of Ideas” and the Demonization of Critical Race Theory: An Analysis

The “Holy War of Ideas” and the Demonization of Critical Race Theory: An Analysis

I’ve been seeing and hearing about it a lot lately from those on the right, and reports from those I know who are also being assertive with unhealthy rhetoric from the right. “Beware of critical race theory,” those on the right are saying. “Don’t trust BLM—they’re Marxist.” And when conservative Christians (mostly white Evangelicals) share this stuff and try to say Christianity is deeply opposed to critical race theory as an ideology, it all takes on a “holy war of…

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What’s in a Hashtag? #DefundThePolice and the Politics of Interpretation

What’s in a Hashtag? #DefundThePolice and the Politics of Interpretation

It’s been coming up a lot lately. People will ask me, as someone who specializes in communication studies, what I think about the #DefundthePolice hashtag. The implication is always that if the movement just marketed itself better people would be on board. OR people will show willful misunderstanding of the movement in their response to similar matters, as a troll on the AS FB page did earlier this week. The present article will unwrap the communication dynamics behind these kind…

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QAnon Conspiracy Rhetoric, Hypervigilance, and Questions of Trust

QAnon Conspiracy Rhetoric, Hypervigilance, and Questions of Trust

If you’ve been following along here, you should know that I’ve already been doing a series on the rhetoric of conspiracy for the last few weeks. I previously talked about conspiracy theories here, here and here. This week I’ve seen sex trafficking experts having to work extra hard to refute unhealthy conspiracy rhetoric around that subject (check out, for example, this post I shared recently on the Assertive Spirituality FB page). This piece is a response to that while continuing…

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“Biden Is Against God”? The Patriot Movement as Religio-Political Audience

“Biden Is Against God”? The Patriot Movement as Religio-Political Audience

Two days ago it spread quickly across my timeline, much like an oil spill: the current head of the US administration had made more strange comments about religion. In this article I plan to rhetorically analyze those illuminating comments about Biden being “against God” and “against the Bible,” putting them in context of what I’ve been discussing in this space about god terms, devil terms and conspiracy rhetoric. In the process, I hope you’ll start to understand why the conspiracy…

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Who’s a “Sheeple,” Really? COVID-19, Conspiracy Rhetoric and Fear of Groupthink

Who’s a “Sheeple,” Really? COVID-19, Conspiracy Rhetoric and Fear of Groupthink

Last week a friend said on their FB wall that they were tired of being called a “sheep” for thinking it was important to wear masks. I instantly knew I needed to look into where it came from, especially in its longer form of “sheeple.” Today you get the beginnings of a series on the highlights of my dive down the deep, dark rabbit hole where the word “sheeple” comes from, and especially how it came to be popularized and…

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Creating a Healthier Serenity Prayer for Stressful Times

Creating a Healthier Serenity Prayer for Stressful Times

I’ve long loved the Serenity Prayer in its classic version. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” When this prayer is paired with a rich understanding of the emotions and stress response processing that has to go with it, it’s great. The problem, of course, is that when it is separated from those things and only viewed cognitively, this prayer can…

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Not Wearing a Mask as “Faith”? A Theological Exploration of God’s will and Mask-Wearing

Not Wearing a Mask as “Faith”? A Theological Exploration of God’s will and Mask-Wearing

Guest post by Rachel Contos In the spirit of “Independence” Day in the US (in quotes because we know not everyone was free that day in 1776), I’d like to take some time to examine freedom from a theological perspective and how God’s will and our own free will fit together in order to address questions of unhealthy theology around mask-wearing. As many people finally begin to peek out from their quarantines for the first time and consider whether to…

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Mask-wearing as “Liberal?”: Christian Nice and Partisan Divides over Public Health

Mask-wearing as “Liberal?”: Christian Nice and Partisan Divides over Public Health

I remember those wide-eyed days of Early Pandemic, when people were assuming that the reality of the virus would overcome partisan divides and bring us all together. Even then, while I hoped it would be the case, as a communication and rhetorical scholar focusing on stress, trauma, and conflict communication, my instincts and training both told me it would likely not. I blogged about my concerns about partisanship and anti-expertise rhetoric here, even in the earliest days of COVID-19. In…

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Loving Day, Christian Nice, and Political Disgusts Enabling Racism

Loving Day, Christian Nice, and Political Disgusts Enabling Racism

As I write this, yesterday (June 12) is Loving Day—the anniversary of when interracial marriage became legal in the whole US in 1967. Today I will talk about this anniversary from my standpoint as a (white) communication scholar, discussing what my personal reaction to the recency of anti-interracial marriage sentiment in the US tells us about the continuing problems of racism and white supremacy going forward among right-leaning moderate populations, as well as how we can stand up against them….

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When Christian Nice Gets Mean in Minimizing Racism

When Christian Nice Gets Mean in Minimizing Racism

All week I’ve been mulling over how to approach writing about the important matters of racism that are prevalent matters of discussion in this particular stage of the religio-political apocalypse. And then a friend sent me an unhealthy meme about racial injustice that one of their friends had posted, and I knew it was time to talk about how exactly Christian Nice, toxic positivity, and the enactment and enablement of racism intersect to suppress and admonish those who stand up…

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Church Buildings as “Essential” and COVID-19: A Rhetorical Analysis

Church Buildings as “Essential” and COVID-19: A Rhetorical Analysis

Yesterday the current head of the executive branch of the US government made an announcement advocating for the immediate reopening of churches and other houses of worship as “essential” as quickly as this weekend. That announcement understandably set off a firestorm in the spiritually-focused groups I’m a part of. In this blog post, as a result, I will be looking at the concept of “houses of worship as essential” and the rhetoric around it. In doing so, I will also…

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