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Author: DS Leiter

“Don’t Tread on Me!”: A History of Unhealthy Rhetoric

“Don’t Tread on Me!”: A History of Unhealthy Rhetoric

So if you google the history of the “Don’t Tread on Me” symbol and flag (often called the Gadsden flag), as I did last week, you’ll find a wide range of storytelling styles about it—most of which are either right-wing or very right-leaning “moderate” in nature. Today I’m going to unwrap some of these narratives from a rhetorical perspective, take issue with some of these interpretations, and discuss why this flag has been a strongly questionable symbol of militant masculinity…

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Talking Healthy Disagreement with Jared Byas (on his podcast)

Talking Healthy Disagreement with Jared Byas (on his podcast)

Greetings, friends! Instead of one of my usual blog posts today, I’m excited to provide a link to a podcast conversation I had recently with Jared Byas on his new miniseries podcast, How to Disagree, where we talked about working toward creating healthy disagreement. I was deeply honored he invited me to talk about the stress, trauma, and conflict communication aspects of interpersonal situations involving deep disagreement. We got into the extra challenges that can come when some parties have…

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Taking Stock of Our Collective Stress and Moving Toward a Healthier World

Taking Stock of Our Collective Stress and Moving Toward a Healthier World

I was teaching some of my classes about stress and effects this week, as I do every semester in all my classes, and I got around to looking up the American Psychological Association’s latest numbers for stress in the American public. And whew, it really hit me how much our collective stress levels have gone up in the last 20 years since just before 9/11. In this article I plan to unwrap some of the identified reasons our stress has…

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When Entitlement (Program)s Get Confused with “Pride”

When Entitlement (Program)s Get Confused with “Pride”

This week I saw an image from a dating profile whose owner identified as politically conservative as well as Christian. Here’s what it said: “…if you voted for Joe Biden do not hit me up..I don’t date liberals that feel they are entitled..I believe in hard work, self accountability, and God!!!!!” There’s a lot going on here, and there’s no way I will have time to unwrap all of it in this post, but I wanted to discuss how these…

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How Humanism (And Empathy) Became a Conservative Christian Devil Term

How Humanism (And Empathy) Became a Conservative Christian Devil Term

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we got to where conservative Christians are literally demonizing empathy. And this week I had a breakthrough: I think the rhetorical move that most undergirded the acceptance of this came from when conservative and conservative-leaning Christian leaders started casting humanism as a devil term. In this week’s post I plan to unwrap how this worked in my moderate pastor’s kid past, how it’s connected to my previous analysis of pride as a…

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9/11, Conspiracy Rhetoric, WECs, and the “New World Order”: An Analysis

9/11, Conspiracy Rhetoric, WECs, and the “New World Order”: An Analysis

As I write this it’s the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a major trauma to the United States (my country). It’s also an event that’s caused a lot of negative events out of unhealthy trauma responses. As historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez points out in Jesus and John Wayne, this includes a turn in the white Evangelical religio-political community toward increasingly militant masculinity that became increasingly focused on fighting “culture wars” against other citizens of the United States. In today’s article,…

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When K-12 Education Becomes a Battleground: An Analysis and Call to Action

When K-12 Education Becomes a Battleground: An Analysis and Call to Action

As I’ve been thinking about it, it doesn’t surprise me that once again educational settings—and especially K-12 education settings—are the (literally violent) battleground over which right-wing policy is hovering. This time it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, as Republican governors in several states have outright banned mask mandates and are sticking to their guns even as the delta variant threatens to ravage the populations of unvaccinated school age children. But it’s happened before. In this article I plan to unwrap the rhetoric…

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Simone Biles: Speaking Truth to the GOP’s Unhealthy Positive Projections

Simone Biles: Speaking Truth to the GOP’s Unhealthy Positive Projections

This past week Simone Biles withdrew from competition for the all-around gymnastics finals after faltering in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics, citing an enormous amount of pressure on her as the prominent champion. Right-wing pundits, likely looking for a diversion from the unflattering-to-their-“side” January 6 hearings, have been hammering on her this week for her decision to pull back. In this piece, I will be talking about what these moves show us about unhealthy positive projection when it comes…

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Churchy Exceptionalism Part 2: Or, Hearing the Critiques from Spiritual Trauma

Churchy Exceptionalism Part 2: Or, Hearing the Critiques from Spiritual Trauma

So this week I posted a meme on the AS Facebook page, in concert with last week’s article introducing the concept of churchy exceptionalism, stating the ways some people find the term “blessed” distasteful as used in some contexts. In light of last week’s article, I found the virulence of some of the defensive responses extremely ironic and illustrative. Someone even suggested that the the project was “deny[ing] God” by posting the meme. <insert horrified face emoji here> So yeah,…

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Churchy Exceptionalism Part 1; Or, When Church Becomes a God Term

Churchy Exceptionalism Part 1; Or, When Church Becomes a God Term

This blog post extends my previous series on “god terms” (things to be defended at all costs) and “devil terms” (things to be fought at all costs)—a series which started here. In this piece I plan to extend this analysis by directly looking at subtle ways in which church too often becomes a “god term” to be defended at all costs, even by more spiritually healthy Christians, and how that can lead to the problems of what I’m about to…

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The Problem with the GOP’s “Viewpoint Neutrality” Doctrine in K-12

The Problem with the GOP’s “Viewpoint Neutrality” Doctrine in K-12

The GOP’s been pushing “viewpoint neutrality” A LOT lately in education, including both K-12 education and higher ed, if you hadn’t noticed. This is the language that shows up in a lot of the bills that are demonizing the place of “critical race theory” in classrooms, often where it’s not being taught in the first place. These bills often are requiring “equal time” to all viewpoints on history, especially racial history, even if some are false and downright damaging. Not…

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When Pride Becomes a Devil Term: And How We Can Respond

When Pride Becomes a Devil Term: And How We Can Respond

As I’m writing this, it’s the 6th anniversary of marriage equality in the US, and the day of the first Pride Parade in a small city in the Midwest where I’ve resided. Because of these things, I find it fitting to confess that I, like the Supreme Court and that small city, was very late to the party of celebrating Pride Month and Pride Parades. And even, perhaps most sadly, to celebrating my friends’ and LGBTQ+ neighbors rights to celebrate…

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When the GOP Tries to Legislate Racial Cordial Hypocrisy

When the GOP Tries to Legislate Racial Cordial Hypocrisy

As I write this, it’s the first Juneteenth that’s a national holiday. It literally became one two days ago. This declaration has been met with unease by many Black voices I’ve been hearing. In this article I plan to unwrap why this is by bringing my usual communication studies lens to the subject, with a dash of Jesus thrown in. In short, declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday is a good step forward in a lot of ways. But especially the…

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Reaching Toward Post-traumatic Growth in Late-Stage Pandemic

Reaching Toward Post-traumatic Growth in Late-Stage Pandemic

Editor’s Note: This week I’m happy to welcome back a returning guest blogger to this site. Rhonda Miska is a pastoral minister in the Catholic church as well as a spiritual director. Rhonda has written one previous piece at AS, about Christian resistance–you can find it here. Today she writes about how we can reach into the uncertainty of late-stage pandemic in ways that can help us and others move toward healthy post-traumatic growth and thereby create as healthy a…

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When the “Good Guy with a Gun” Myth Becomes a God Term

When the “Good Guy with a Gun” Myth Becomes a God Term

Okay, so this week I had an opportunity to have a variety of—ahem—new visitors to the Assertive Spirituality Facebook page to comment on a particular meme in which a person expressed concerns about a random person open-carrying a gun in a restaurant. What was really striking to me is that almost all of these dissenting visitors to that particular meme on the AS FB page, most of whom seemed to identify with NRA types of rhetoric, seemed so attached to…

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