• Fact Checking Populism?

    Since the debate, fact checking sites seem to be every other post on my feed. I’m glad they exist, and I’m sure they serve some limited corrective purpose. But if we discovered that lists of knowledge (rather than desire and affect) play a primary role in counteracting patriarchal white nationalism, then my dissertation chapters on populist discourse would have been a tragic waste of time. The type of populism you are seeing right now is an exemplar of neoliberalism’s haphazardly curated consciousness. It’s the result of a whole array of ideological apparatuses built over the decades since the so-called Southern Strategy (largely to justify a series of catastrophic economic decisions). This populism is an outlet for anxiety, rage, aggressiveness, and turmoil, which are very real but generally misdirected against a false cause. You aren’t going to counter it much with facts, because this false consciousness is already doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Any decent teacher or therapist already knows this: mere information transfer has a very limited capacity to change much.

    As Deleuze and Guattari put it in Anti-Oedipus, “The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still…‘Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?’ How can people possibly reach the point of shouting: ‘More taxes! Less bread!’” (or today, “More capital for the ultra-wealthy! Lower wages for the rest of us!”). The answers have to be more about desire than a simple lack of knowledge.

  • It is finished!

    Thanks to everyone who has reached out over the last week. It’s felt completely overwhelming to finally be a PhD, which has been six years in the works, so I’m trying to slow down and give myself space to celebrate a bit. 

    Those six years have included a cross-country move and learning about whole worlds of thought contained in however many hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve been assigned. Like most students of philosophy and religion, I ended up studying fields very different from what I expected. Those six years included an MA Theology, an MA Philosophy, and learning to translate Greek, Hebrew, German, and French. There were the six months I spent studying for qualifying exams, which was the most challenging thing I've ever done. Two chapters in edited volumes and a few articles in journals. Lots of new cities and new countries and the conference presentations we use to justify traveling to new places. I even got to pretend to do archaeology and see Israel, which I’ve wanted to do all my life. I published my first book, and I finished my second (which will go to print in the spring!) while writing a dissertation in a busy four months. I taught my first few courses with undergraduates. Most of the worst and best experiences of my life have fit inside those six years. I’ve met so many fantastic friends and professors, and I even met one really brilliant girl who dealt with the endless stress of academic life and who was with me when I finally heard the words “Congratulations on acquiring the degree of Doctor of Philosophy!” last week. It’s been overwhelming to reach the end of a long goal, but it has been good.

    Oh, and we got a puppy. He's adorable.

  • Online Reading Group

    There’s a online book group reading and discussing God Is Unconscious over the next few weeks. We’ll be doing a Google hangout to interact and engage questions, and looks like that will be on Wednesday evening, Sept. 28th. My favorite part of writing has been meeting so many new people, so I’m looking forward to it. Find info here.

    I’m have remarkably little intuition for spreading my work, but if this goes well, I’ll be looking forward to setting up another group when my next book comes out in the spring!

  • Audio: The Cynic and the Fool

    I’m excited to share this talk I gave a few weeks ago on my upcoming book, The Cynic & the Fool: The Unconscious in Theology & Politics. The book will release in spring 2017, but I’m starting to test this material out in public. This presentation format—not a prepared academic script nor a classroom lecture—still feels brand new to me, but I think it turned out really well.

    Find the podcast on iTunes, or download it here: Tad DeLay, The Cynic & the Fool (with Q_A).mp3

  • The Moral Psychology of Liberals and Conservatives

    A psychologist I’m briefly using in my new book is Jonathan Haidt, who explains the liberal/conservative communication impasse as a different number of moral categories. According to his research, responses seem to fit within six spheres of moral judgements:

    1. Care/Harm: Others should be protected even when they cannot or will not protect themselves.
    2. Fairness/Cheating: Rules should protect everyone equally and discourage unfair advantages. 
    3. Liberty/Oppression: Society should be organized to maximize freedom
    4. In-group Loyalty/Betrayal: Fidelity to the tribe and its traditions should be maintained, even if they err.
    5. Authority/Subversion: Those in power over us are to be respected and obeyed.
    6. Sanctity/Degradation: Certain objects or behaviors should be avoided.

    Liberals (and also the left) tend to only see the first three as distinctly moral issues, and they feel those values intensely. Conservatives tend to place a lower—but equally distributed—emphasis across all six. So a liberal ends up saying “Shouldn’t this policy (related to guns, healthcare, black lives matter, immigration, etc.) be obviously good if it saves lives, encourages equality, or expands liberties?” But to a conservative, it isn’t immediately obvious that harm-avoidance necessarily outweighs infractions against loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Conversely, a conservative argues for loyalty, authority, or sanctity (American or Confederate flags, blue lives matter, bathroom bills or anything related to sexuality) without realizing those three simply aren’t inherently moral issues for progressives. He uses the analogy of taste receptors to suggest liberal candidates have trouble communicating because they’re using three flavors (in an effort to transcend the darker aspects of groupish morality), while the rightwing candidates present a broader palate of six. 

    I’m not trying to equivocate (neither is Haidt) to suggest these are equally justifiable viewpoints, but I’ve found it helpful to understand differences. I grew up extremely far-right, so I feel I already intuitively get the mindset and understand why so many progressive arguments don’t work for the conservative mind, but Haidt’s research has been really refreshing to my understanding of moralities. His book is called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Or you can watch his TED talk.

  • Hypocrisy is an unconscious virtue, not a vice

    Ever since Trump's recent meeting with the soldiers of the Religious Right, followed by Dobson claiming the presumptive nominee became a born again Christian, there’s been a never-ending stream of articles asking how Evangelicals could support such a decidedly anti-values type. These pieces always ring both true and yet somewhat hollow. The excess of “don’t judge, you aren’t perfect either” and “think of the Supreme Court vacancies” rhetoric already acknowledge the contradictions from which constituents must be (only slightly) distracted. Those contradictions have no effect. When he eventually quotes approvingly from that most infamous leader to which he is always compared, it won’t matter either. There is literally nothing he could say or do that would dissuade the loyalties of those who believe themselves in favor of family values and so-called common sense. I’d wager these types of articles always seem powerless as a critique, because they start with the assumption that hypocrisy is something most people desire to avoid. On the contrary, if you accept a working theory that hypocrisy produces significant pleasure and actually is a primary (if unconscious) value within conservative American Evangelicalism, not a side effect, then you get a more straightforward analysis. I wouldn’t at all say the American version of Evangelicalism is unique in valuing hypocrisy (after all, the ego is the source of error in all of us), but a number of doctrinal and, most of all, political requirements for group cohesion make the problem more pronounced.

    So when these articles point out such blatantly obvious hypocrisy in the hopes they will dissuade supporters, what they are actually doing is highlighting the exact qualities that trigger feelings of “Hey, he’s just like me!” Trump is popular among conservative religious leaders for the same reason their pastors are taken seriously even while preaching values totally at odds with the way they lived in the past; as long as one only sins in the past and swears it off in the present and future, this hypocrisy works as a tool for solidarity with co-religionists who get pleasure from feeling the leader is like them. Trump is remarkably effective at triggering several moral solidarity markers simultaneously, and even though he is almost certainly what a psychoanalyst would diagnose as a pervert, he is brilliantly intuitive with the use of phobic, hysterical, and psychotic language patterns to convince the public he is a well-adjusted neurotic just like them. There definitely isn’t anything necessarily bad about being diagnosed perverse, and it's definitely problematic to try psychoanalyzing from a distance, but if I’m right to suggest he's a pervert, his “split-ego” and dependence on disavowal and fantasy might suggest he truly does not experience the same type of cognitive dissonance most of us would feel at such constant contradictions. His personal beliefs aren’t all that important to them so long as his multi-vectored strategy of affect works to trigger a critical mass of moral indicators. I’m thinking here of Jonathan Haidt’s work, where he demonstrates how authority, sanctity, and in-group loyalty are actually considered moral values for conservatives, whereas these three generally aren’t considered a matter of morality for liberals or the left (who usually consider morality to be a matter limited to care/harm, liberty/oppression, and fairness/cheating). A populist doesn’t need to be consistent, wise, or good; he just needs to keep triggering authority, sanctity, and loyalty sentiments.

    I don't think articles pointing out hypocrisy are bad (I certainly enjoy reading them), and there are many other reasons people are supporting him. In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud describes the process of identification as a change from the leader-as-ideal (ideal ego) to the leader-as-superego (ego-ideal). To some extent, all identity works this way—we begin by valorizing a certain idea, command, or value and then it ends up being the voice in the back of our heads judging us and authorizing the worst. The problem is more pronounced for the populist who desires to emulate the most aggressively awful devil in the room. Knowledge has no effective function in a populist's discourse, and rage must find a target. When Lacan met Derrida, he told him “Your problem is that I’ve already said everything you want to say.” That’s how I’m starting to feel about Freud versus every new article on the 2016 election.

    Leftwing populist movements are fairly rare in America, so, according the the theory I’m developing in my dissertation with regard to a Populist’s discourse, all contemporary instances of theocratic and nativist populism in the US (Religious Right, Tea Party, Trump movement) seem to be ultra-rightwing movements aiming to reinforce a false-consciousness that will give up its labor and surplus back to the capitalist. Whatever other reasons for the Trump movement—anti-immigrant sentiments, desire for white supremacy, the failures of neoliberalism for the working class—they are all points of excess which, as a whole, serve to create a good laborer.

    I wrote this in God Is Unconscious about highly-controlling religion, but it could just as easily be about nativist populism.

    "I claim that we see this general pattern in religious communities: perversion pressures neurosis to reorient as obsessionalism via hysterical and/or psychotic language. The choice of hysterical or psychotic language is arbitrary and depends on the inclinations of the group, but the generally neurotic community tends to reward leaders or ideologies of knaves. The cynical leader able to co-opt the submissive tendencies of the neurotic public will experience remarkable success in building the collective, but the collective will begin to manifest problems based in inter-psychopathological difference that it will continuously mislabel as merely differences of opinion."

  • New Interview on The Deconstructionists

    I really enjoyed talking with The Deconstructionists, and I think this might be my most personal and accessible interview yet. Never has anyone managed to make me sound so mysterious! I hope you enjoy listening to Fetish, Faith, and Unconscious Gods.

  • (AUDIO) The Populist Fantasy: Social Media and the Fifth Discourse

    I've updated this post with the audio of my LACK presentation. Download here: The Populist's Fantasy: Social Media and the Fifth Discourse

    This is the script for a talk I'll deliver this weekend in Colorado Springs.  For the first time, I'll be introducing the algorithm on which I base my dissertation.  You will have to forgive the writing style—it's tailored to my speaking style, not my writing style.  And there’s a lot of jokes hidden throughout that won’t make any sense if you aren’t immersed in the psychoanalytic literature, but that’s probably the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever typed!

    The Populist’s Fantasy: Social Media and the Fifth Discourse


    In his 1972 Milan lecture where he described a fifth discourse—not University, nor Master, nor Hysteric, nor Analyst, but instead a uniquely Capitalist discourse—Lacan’s humor shined through in one of his eminently quotable quips that makes me wish the advent of Twitter had come a bit sooner.  The question posed to him was about political revolution—there’s finally a question of political revolution among the youth today, yes? Well when Lacan was asked about the possibility of mobilizing the drive, he had this to say about the political sphere (I quote): “You would like for it to go differently. Obviously it could go better. What would be needed, would be for the master’s discourse to be…not so fucking stupid.”

    What is needed is to be not so fucking stupid? Well it might’ve helped if we knew a bit more about that Capitalist discourse.  You Lacan scholars already know that while he gave a whole year’s seminar to the four discourses, he devoted only a single paragraph exploring the fifth.  I’m writing my dissertation on these discourses, but I’m also a part of that generation they call the Millennials; I spend hours each day within the “hive mind” of social media.  We think in groups—my colleagues from all over the world bounce questions off each other, we criticize, we build our research in collaboration, but then we also say things that are stupid, inane, worthless.  And that’s just in our academic world, up in the University discourse.  Most of social media—so far as I can see—is nothing but populist narcissism. A most effective political tweeter—a notable semi-fascist and overtly white supremacist candidate that shall not be named—gives us a perfect picture of what it means to be, as Lacan put it, “so fucking stupid.”  And just as Freud told us that “where id was, ego will be,” so the impulses, misinformation, and rage tweeted out 140 characters at a time will soon become, overnight, a part of a national conversation.  So I thought I might make a presentation of it.  I call this “The Populist’s Fantasy: Social Media and the Fifth Discourse,” but if I weren’t concerned with the CV line, I might have called it, “Stupidity has to be nourished”—we’ll come back to that. I’m arguing that as social media continues its affective drift, we might be served best by analysis of objet a in the social media age of narcissism, specifically with a configuration of a Populist discourse. Social media is language and speech, but it works regardless of whether that speech has any knowledge caught up in it.

    The Capitalist Discourse

    Well I won’t rehash the four names of Seminar XVII—you already know them—but how can we frame a Capitalist discourse, the one that breaks with the clockwise logic of the other four? Just to refresh, the four positions of each discourse are 1) Subject, 2) the Other, who does the work, 3) the Product of that work, and 4) the Truth, the remainder, which has little direct relation to the product but which sustains the Subject.  In the Master’s discourse, the Subject position is S1, the Master Signifier, which speaks to the Other, who puts S2 (or knowledge) to work and yields the Product of objet a, which Lacan calls surplus jouissance and Marx calls surplus value. A Lacan quote: “Freud doesn’t bullshit... What is characteristic of the two of them, Freud and Marx, is that they don’t bullshit.”  The barred-subject ($) exists in the position of Truth below the line of identification, below the Master Signifier. In short, when the Master Signifier of the employer says “Jump!”, the Other (the workers) jump and produce the Product.  What is left over as the Truth of this relationship is that the Master is really nothing more than than a barred-subject.  The factory only works so long as we all agree to never recognize the humanity of the employer and employee alike.  Of course, as Lacan observed (I quote), “Does [the master] have the desire to know? A real master…doesn’t desire to know anything at all—he desires that things work. And why would he want to know?” 

    Well that’s the clockwise turn of the Master, so what’s different in Capitalism? Well, if you don’t know the algorithm, Lacan took the Master’s discourse and simply inverted the left-hand positions so that the barred-subject is now the Agent and the Master Signifier is the Truth.  But Capitalism also breaks the clockwise turn: the subject no longer speaks to the Other as a person but instead relates to the Other only indirectly, via Master signifier.  In other words, Capitalism means that there is no intersubjective relation—not even transference?—that is without the mediation of the Master Signifier.  If this is confusing, you know you are on the right track; again, whereas Lacan spent a whole year on the four discourses, he spent barely a paragraph explaining the fifth.

    Populist Discourse

    So what’s the relation between Capitalism and populism, especially when populist speech is transmitted through the vehicle of social media? As much as Lacan wished to see his orthodoxy transmitted intact, he also had this to say about orthodoxies of all kinds (I quote): “One remains true to propriety because one has nothing to say about the doctrine itself.”  And he actually did free students to rearrange the algorithms—while holding that we won’t be able to make them work any other waybut then in the Milan talk he does indeed postulate a new mode precisely by breaking his clockwise logic. Instead of the Agent proceeding left-to-right, the Agent instead proceeds down. So my dissertation’s question has been how to frame populism within a Capitalist algorithm.  My starting assumption is that we cannot allow knowledge (S2) any place in within a Populist discourse, because populism—particularly the rightwing variety—is the domain where knowledge is proscribed and speech is “fucking stupid.”  So I resolved to come up with my own algorithm—on which I would welcome your critiques—where we frame populism as a self-contained discourse within the Capitalist Production.  My Populist sub-algorithm also intentionally proscribes the S2 (knowledge), and it flows via the same directional vectors guiding Capitalism.  Perhaps it makes sense if you’re fluent in Lacanese, but just as Lacan spent too little time on the capitalism, I won’t spend any more time on my algorithm.  

    I’ll simply say that the Populist cannot relate to the Other except through the big Other, which is assumed whole and never barred, and that relationship produces the barred-subject that in turn re-generates the lost objet a; it should not be lost on you that I place objet a in the same position we find it in the Analyst’s discourse. In other words, the Populist wants liberation from the status quo; she simply doesn’t yet know how to articulate her desire. What happens when human begins desire, but don’t know how to articulate their desire? Well one solution is to let our epistemically-closed social networks mediate our knowledge—even if that knowledge might be counterfactual, paranoid, and narcissistic, as it often is for the rightwing social media landscape.

    Now, in Enjoying What We Don’t Have, Todd McGowan makes a very important theme out of the observation that we are not Subjects who desire to know. It would be far more accurate to truncate that sentence.  We are not Subjects who desire to know but instead Subjects who desire.  We don’t know what to desire, or who to trust, and we definitely don’t understand the desires of other subjects with other big Others.  That’s a lot of “others,” so perhaps an example helps.  I hope I don’t butcher his argument, but McGowan takes on our hysterical scattershot of explanation emerging after 9/11.  For those who know about Anna O.’s “Chimney-sweeping treatment,” we might say the West’s reactions to 9/11 were sweeping out that chimney in the most hysterical way possible.  We imagined the Islamist martyr must be hoping for 72 virgins, or we might say—without any hint of irony—that the terrorist “hates freedom.”  What couldn’t be acknowledged, says McGowan, is that the extremist might genuinely enjoy their faith.  That couldn’t be acknowledged, because no such commitment is found in American Evangelicalism, wherein, at an unconscious level, hypocrisy actually is a primary value. 

    This works perfectly for the Era of Narcissism. The type of person who believes in “common sense” and fears the “indoctrination of the university” might turn to whatever source purports to be “fair and balanced” to be reassured daily not only that they are right but that everyone with whom they disagree is a treasonous saboteur.  The narcissist enjoys what she doesn’t have, feels nostalgic for imaginary pasts, and feels paranoid of enemies that don’t exist (which is seen every few months with these anti-sharia ordinances or anti-trans bathroom laws). Again, knowledge is not part of the conversation, and every attempt to combat populism with a counteractive “gotcha!” list of facts will merely strengthen the Populist’s Truth, which is the big Other you have betrayed with your treasonous facts. 

    The popular satire site The Onion delivers a stream of perfect examples for how this works. For politics, The Onion essentially takes whatever Fox News is propagating and cranks it up just the slightest notch.  Outrage recently erupted when they debuted an article called “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” wherein Planned Parenthood’s new slogan “No Life Is Sacred” naturally lead them to build a facility with 2,000 abortion-dedicated surgical rooms. A secondary website called “Literally Unbelievable” sprung up to document those poor, outraged, pro-life souls who posted the story to social media without recognizing it as satire. Counted among the fooled victims was a Louisiana family-values congressman, who posted the story to his Facebook page with a lament of our culture’s “abortion by the wholesale.” I’ve seen a few outraged Facebook friends post these Onion articles, but when informed it’s only satire, the most common retort is not a retraction but instead, “Well alright, but my point still stands: this is exactly the kind of thing we’d expect in Obama’s America!”  And that’s no joke, for what we see when knowledge has no algorithmic function is a sphere where belief itself is taken as circular evidence. Can knowledge counter a discourse with no place for knowledge? Well as the Analyst’s discourse suggests: a direct test of strength will not overcome a defense—indeed, a direct test of strength will only result in further repression.  We never wake up until we are ready to awake.

    Social Media, Stupidity Incarnate

    Well as Deleuze and Guattari wrote—I don’t know if we like them or hate them here—but they wrote of encoding. (Perhaps its no coincidence they were writing Anti-Oedipus at the same time Lacan was developing a similar critique in Seminar XVII). But the point is that we are always in the process of encoding our identities, constructing them from the milieu of available materials (which is unfortunate when the available materials are half-formed thoughts in 140 characters). Again, it is entirely disjointed from Freud’s “Where id was, ego will be” or the critical observation of the fort-da game played by his grandson: we are our repression, our symptoms and synthome we had best enjoy.  Likewise, social media is an omnipresent demand that we display a filtered symptom.  I say filtered because when I post an image to Instagram, I have the option of adding color filter pre-programed into the app that make my image more pleasing. Of course, nobody gives a shit about my filters; I merely want to look more interesting for people who won’t notice, which means the filter was really just for me. As the master said, the letter always reaches its destination. And though we are narcissists, God was, of course, the first narcissist. As Lacan put it (I quote), “It is when the Word is incarnated that things really start going badly.  Man is no longer at all happy, he no longer resembles at all a little dog who wags his tail or a nice monkey who masturbates.  He no longer resembles anything.  He is ravaged by the Word.”

    I like that phrase, “ravaged by the Word,” because social media is where a letter reaches its destination. Perhaps most importantly, it collapses the distance between the unknown user and the public celebrity, who’s no longer a purely imaginary figure existing far off. If I tag a name, there’s s a chance the owner might take notice. The political candidate who shall not be named gives us the perfect example, because the majority of his tweets are actually retweets of his followers.  This gives him the aura of a constant stream of popularity, but it also gives his followers a sense he’s reading and genuinely cares about their every tweet.  In this moment, social media has changed conversation from two egos to a conversation between the id and superego; the crowd’s rage-filled id is now directly organized and promoted by the superego evidenced by the public figure engaging them.  It is not so different from how the religious person imagines she prays to a God (a conversation between two egos) when she is really seeking her superego’s authorization of her id.


    There isn’t much of a Master anymore, except for a faceless machine demanding we yield our surplus value.  And it’s in this perverse “transference” of surplus (from Product to Agent) that we are configured as uniquely capitalist subjects.  Lacan is clear that the University discourse will not be sufficient to counteract the machine.  The only avenues for liberation are (perhaps) the Analyst’s knowledge and (definitely) the Hysteric’s/Masses’ demand.  What I’m arguing in my dissertation is that we, here in a 21st century American context—and perhaps it works elsewhere—need to understand that fields such as religion or social media exist without concern for authorization by knowledge; knowledge is entirely outside this field that I am calling the Populist’s discourse.  Therefore if psychoanalysis wants to avoid becoming what Lacan called a PEST—“truly pestilent, wholly devoted, finally, to the service of capitalist discourse”—it’s going to have to think through algorithms wherein an Analyst’s discourse does utilize desire but doesn’t utilize knowledge, which is impotent. How else will the subject realize the big Other does not exist?

    To conclude, what might Lacan say of all this? Well in Seminar XX, he did tell us something about stupidity. Populism looks an awful lot like paranoia (Yes?), but it isn’t really paranoia.  Or at least the individuals involved are not themselves psychotic.  They are instead a normally-adjusted, broadly neurotic cohort that must be employed for the Capitalist machine, which means they must to serve as the objet a.  It simply turns out that social media provides a constant stream of self-reinforced identity-construction, which seems to work by using the ego’s narcissistic cathexis against itself.  Online, we are not barred-subjects but instead we are whatever preferred ideation we so desire.  The Populist is not the Agent but merely the Product of Capitalist discourse.  Once more, the Master does not care how things work but only that they do work—it’s up to us to select our repression, fixation, paranoia, denial, or whatever else—the Master doesn’t much care. We are truly encouraged to choose whatever serves our narcissism best today.  I mentioned that Lacan says something to this effect in Seminar XX, and I’ll close with the brief quote: “Stupidity nevertheless has to be nourished. Is everything we nourish thereby stupid? No. But it has been demonstrated that to nourish oneself is part and parcel of stupidity.”

  • Still Not Dead

    “The Christian resolution to see the world as ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.” - Neitzsche, who God rightly killed with syphilis

    I wasn’t disappointed. When the latest installment of the God’s Not Dead franchise debuted on April 1st, no day for fools, I knew it was time once again to make a pilgrimage into the populist imagination. Whereas the first film was about Freshman Josh defending God’s existence against Prof. Raddison (who God kills off, just like Nietzsche), this film is about a trial. When the first film rudely exposed itself to the world, my review saw only two ways to read these films: either as absolutely brilliant satire of Christian Culture or the most xenophobic, anti-intellectual pandering smut imaginable. Let’s keep running with satire!

     In an early seen depicted above, to which I shall return when I spoil the ending below, a group of concerned brothers in Christ fear the end of their freedom to flaunt IRS regulations. It happened in Houston, he says. It could happen here, he says. We are at war! Liberals (who have all the rifles) will soon be persecuting Christians at gunpoint. Our fearless Rev. Dave will refuse to submit his sermons to what seems to be an American Censorship of Anti-Gay Sermons Committee.  These are dark times for White Religion.

    Thankfully, all the hot characters from the first installment of this sadomasochistic fantasy are back! With the exception of a few on-location Arkansan extras (which a native southerner like me can spot with peculiar ease), the Christians are looking phenomenal.  Rev. Dave is back! I’m happy to report everything about his immaculate existence and sublimated internal contradictions still screams secret life. He looks to have bulked up a bit, which is hopefully helping his Grindr prospects. Classmate Token Asian has seriously stepped up his attire, and oh my God, the defense lawyer (hereafter referred to as LILF) is suave as hell. Victim Teacher (played by Clarissa Explains It All/Sabrina the Teenage Witch) is keeping it classy and chaste, and the director is careful not to introduce any tension between her and LILF, obviously because teachers are sexless, friendless creatures who only exist to serve your children. The hottest scene was when Rev. Dave goes before the American Censorship of Anti-Gay Sermons Committee and refuses to hand over his bigotry-with-a-smile sermons: the clerk and Rev. Dave lock eyes for long moment until the clerk just blurts out that he wants to hammer him.

    Reporter from Lamestream Media is back too, and that’s a clever twist that will blow the audiences’ mind. She should have died after blaspheming the Holy Spirit by asking a Duck Dynasty guy how gay=sin when they regularly trick ducks into landing in a pond to mate with them.  God then smites her with cancer, but God Is Good, All the Time™, and He is a jealous and fickle God who gives and takes away cancer like He forgot why He did it in the first place! With her spiritual codependence now at a cosmic high, she leaves her Lamestream Media job and embarks into uncharted territory: a Christian writing a blog about faith.

    Obviously to placate PC culture, this film steps up its black-person-per-film rate from two to four.  Returning are Michael My-God’s-Not-Dead-He's-Surely-Alive Tait and Happy African Guy (who the director knows Evangelicals will love, because AFRICA!), but we also meet Concerned Principle (a woman, no less) and Reasonable Judge.  Now for context, GND2 comes packaged with a preview of Dinesh D’Souza’s new film, which is all about how Democrats have tricked black people into being mindless drones.  Concerned Principle is the perfect embodiment of this stereotype of a subservient African American tricked into serving at the behest of liberalism.  So to be clear, we get Christian Culture’s three main stereotypes of blackness: the good one in Africa, the other good one participating in White Religion World, and the leftovers that probably vote Democrat.  Bases covered!

    The hotness rule for Christians is sadly broken when Mike Huckabee wiggles onto the screen and asks some fair and balance questions filled with common sense. But let’s get into the mind-bending plot!

    In Christian Culture, teachers unions are vicious, self-absorbed enemies of our precious children. Teachers want fair pay, evolution, and, above all else, Common Core math. After the opening panoramic shots of my hometown’s wanting skyline, we pan to a teachers’ lounge where angry Democrats confess their hatred of children and eagerness to retire. Only one teacher actually likes kids, but I won’t spoil it for you. Unchurched Teenager, the daughter of Freethinker Parents, has grown up in Arkansas without ever hearing about Christianity.  She asks Victim Teacher if Jesus is kindof-sortof saying the same thing as MLK and Gandhi, and so it begins…

    This is the first moment of the film’s true brilliance.  Victim Teacher explains that Jesus, MLK, and Gandhi all had in common an unflinching commitment to nonviolence.  The director chose the one similarity that Christian Culture ABSOLUTELY NEVER GIVES A DAMN ABOUT.  But since hypocrisy actually is a primary value in Christian Culture, the director knows he can slide that in like a family-values congressman slides into a bathroom tryst.

    The ACLU has been waiting for a case like this for years, we are told—a direct contradiction of the scores of cases listed in the credits as being the basis for this story, but of course our daring director knows it won’t matter. During jury selection, the idiot ACLU lawyer accidentally blows his last juror strike on a Marine (soldiers being the paragon of loving, non-violent discipleship of the One True God) and is unable to knock Rev. Dave from the jury pool.  “Many are called, but few are chosen” Rev. Dave had said of jury service, but wrong! You get to sit in on this debacle!

    Opening Arguments: Did you know that “separation of church and state” isn’t in the Constitution?  Zing! Checkmate, Atheists! I just about dropped my second beer, but I won’t lie to you; It wasn’t looking good for Victim Teacher until a precise PLOT TWIST. Instead of arguing for the right to proselytize to school students, they decide instead to argue EXACTLY WHAT ANY ADULT WOULD ARGUE, which is why this story would never happen in the first place: Jesus was a historical guy.

    They bring in apologist-in-chief Lee Strobel, who delivers this delicious food for thought: the very fact that the court uses an A.D. dating system already shows how Jesus was important! Checkmate again, Atheists. They bring in the author Cold Case Christianity, a true-to-life real adult who claims he was never a Christian until he applied his detective skills to the Gospels and realized what every true cop already knows: Jesus was real!

    Another clever PLOT TWIST erupts when God predestines Rev. Dave’s appendix to explode, requiring Edgy Millennial Girl to fill the jury vacancy.  Though she has all the markings of a hedonist with her colored hair and tattoos, it turns out we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, guys, because one of those tattoos was a cross all along.  Didn’t see that coming, did you?

    There are only two ways this could end: either A) Victim Teacher can be vindicated, proving God’s Not Dead, or B) she can be convicted, vindicating the Evangelical Persecution Complex. The right path isn't immediately clear, so let’s weigh the pros and cons.  

    The downside of going with God’s Not Dead vindication of Victim Teacher is that it also means liberal, democratically-established jurisprudence wins in the end such that the film would clearly and irrefutably demonstrate that no actual persecution was at stake and the entire movie was a completely unnecessary fabrication playing off the baseless, aforementioned Evangelical Persecution Complex, which means the director would end the movie with a clear, abrasive insult to Evangelical Culture’s intellectual acumen which may or may not notice it has been taken advantage of for years and years by charlatans and psychotic paranoia stoked by 24/7 propaganda and the Christian Industrial Complex evidenced foremost by the God’s Not Dead franchise that fights imaginary enemies with no basis in reality and instead accomplishes nothing more than a means for taking advantage of people so that they will ceaseless fight for their own mental enslavement, do irreparable damage to their children, and ultimately ensure the eventual end of Christianity in America.  What to do?

    Well why not have your cake and eat it too?  (SPOILER ALERT)  In the end, Victim Teacher is vindicated, but (post-credits PLOT TWIST!) Rev. Dave is handcuffed and put into a police squad car to be carted off before the American Censorship of Anti-Gay Sermons Committee. Will he turn into a gay in prison? Will he sign a lucrative book deal about his experience? Will Huckabee stage a protest? Only GND3 (and hopefully 4, 5, 6…) can tell us how the story ends.