Welcome to Matter of Faith! I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m Anna Beahm, Reckon’s faith, sex and politics reporter, and this newsletter will address all three heavy topics in the months to come. The controversial trio has dominated headlines and timelines over the last few years and as a subscriber, it seems they’ve probably been on your mind too.
My experiences growing up in southern evangelical churches in the 2000s — which I wrote about here, and then there’s the details of my wedding night here-eek! — led me to this moment and to the penning of this newsletter.
If these topics of conversation feel more polarizing, it’s because they are. More Americans say they are unaffiliated with a specific religion now than ever before —a trend that could make Christianity no longer the majority religion in the country by 2045, according to Pew Research Center.
A Public Religion Research Institute poll released this month found Americans who support Christian Nationalism—the ideology that America should be governed with Christian standards and ideals—are far more likely to attend church and say religion is important to their daily lives.
Adherents to this ideology are also 7x more likely to support political violence (aka the Jan. 6 insurrection) and to have anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, antisemitic and misogynistic views.
This data is revealing for our current times—a time where it’s legal to say a Christian prayer over a loudspeaker at a high school football game but illegal for a Muslim teacher to wear the hijab to work.
Church and politics are tangled in the sheets, and there is a mess to address.
Which is exactly what I’m trying to do here with Matter of Faith: untangle the ways our deepest identities have become intertwined and introduce you to the people doing the work to make sense of these intersections and make ‘em more life-giving and less stigmatizing for us all.
If you have questions you want me to address in the newsletter or ideas you want to share, send me a DM on Instagram or Twitter at @_AnnaBeahm or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now let’s talk the latest in the controversial un-holy trinity of faith, sex and politics in America which comes from my current home state of Tennessee: Hyper-conservative Gov. Bill Lee wants to not only make it basically impossible to get an abortion in the Tri-Star state, he wants to send $100 million to anti-abortion clinics.
Tennessee is planning to spend 500x more money on anti-abortion clinics this year than last year
During last week’s State of the State address, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his plan to send $100 million taxpayer dollars to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).
This funding represents a 500x increase in state funds sent to these “fake clinics,” as pro-abortion advocates call them.
Last year, the state spent $180,000 to buy ultrasound machines for the anti-abortion clinics, which are used for non-diagnostic ultrasounds. Lee even attended a dedication event in Jackson, TN, for one of the machines, which the clinics use to persuade women to keep their pregnancies.
Lee also is on the advisory board of Hope Clinic for Women, an anti-abortion organization based in Nashville. If his $100M grant is approved in the state budget, Tennessee would top the nation’s spending on anti-abortion efforts just under Texas. Since 2010, Texas has sent nearly $205 million to such clinics with $100 million designated in the state’s two-year budget in 2021. Like Texas, Tennessee has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
Tennessee is one of 14 states that send funds to these clinics—a funding trend that’s increased by nearly 5x in the last decade, the Associated Press reported. About $89 million taxpayer dollars were sent to anti-abortion clinics in the 2022 fiscal year, with nearly $500 million flowing to the clinics from state budgets since 2010, per AP.
Grassroots sexual health orgs in the state, like Healthy Free Tennessee, have mocked the proposed funding as “terrible use” of state funds.
Tia Savonne, a member of the Beyond Roe Collective, a Nashville-based LGBTQ+ and BIPOC led organization seeking to improve access to reproductive healthcare, and the mind behind the @slipp3rywhenwet sex education Instagram account, said now is the time to organize and take action.
“Instead of focusing on all of these other staunchly oppressive politicians, we need to really double down on focusing on ourselves,” Savonne said. “Bill Lee wants to give $100 million to crisis pregnancy centers—let’s make that money the biggest example of fraud, waste, and abuse you possibly can, by highlighting that these are fake clinics.”
Read more about Tennessee’s plan to go all-in for anti-abortion clinics and how organizers are pushing back against reproductive healthcare restrictions.
A rant on Sam Smith and Kim Petras and the ‘satanic panic’ at the Grammy’s
There’s so much to say about faith, sex and politics that it’s hard to find the time to write a full story about everything happening [insert SpongeBob rainbow GIF here].
People seem pretty upset about Sam Smith embracing their non-binary identity. The keyboard warriors had a lot to say about their music videos for “Unholy” and “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.”
But folks really had thoughts when Smith wore red high heels and a horned top hat for their performance of “Unholy” at the Grammy’s last week. (Smith and Kim Petras won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo for the song, with Petras making history as the first transgender woman to win the award).
Far-right political pundits and even Elon Musk (can we consider him a pundit now?) commented on the performance, accusing the Grammy’s and the duo of promoting satanism. The Church of Satan commented too, calling the performance “nothing particularly special.”
Eleanor Noyce wrote about the non-scandalous scandal of Smith’s latest music releases in an article for ClashMusic.com:
“Here, Smith has been targeted not only because their video is sex-positive, but because its content comes from an overtly queer, plus-sized person. That vitriol has been made possible because of the homophobic, fatphobic ideas that are still omnipresent in society; whether conscious or unconscious. And something needs to change.”
What do you think about Smith and Petras’ performance? Do you think Smith has experienced pushback because they are a queer plus-sized person embracing sexuality in their music?
I wanna know what the group chat has to say 👀
Here’s what else I’m reading this week
- Democrats pass resolution condemning White Christian Nationalism (Religion News)
- When politics attacks the pulpit (Public Witness)
- Have more sex, please! (New York Times Opinion)
- 15 things Jinger Duggar revealed in her new book about leaving her parent’s religion (CafeMom)
I want to bring your opinions and perspectives into this newsletter, so if you have a point-of-view on a topic I covered or if there’s subject matter you want me to address, send me an email at email@example.com or send me a DM on Instagram or Twitter.
We’re just getting started, so if you liked this newsletter, please forward it to your dad, partner, the group chat—whoever in your life needs to be informed about this tangled, messy ménage à trois that is faith, sex, and politics.
That’s all I got for this week.