Episode three of Medium Playback is here. Thank God! Literally — this week, writer Jonathan Parks-Ramage explores faith and transcendence at the city of angels’ preeminent hipster evangelical church, Reality L.A. In his soul-searching piece, “Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas,” Jonathan attends the chic house of worship, which name-drops Rihanna and preaches a conservative Christian gospel that “non-believers are going to hell, abortion is a sin (even in cases of incest and rape), sex is only acceptable after marriage, and homosexuality is forbidden.”
The church has all the trappings of modernism and none of its values, but worshippers seem to find palpable relief from the services. Jonathan — who grew up in the culturally progressive United Church of Christ, with minister parents who reacted affirmingly to his coming out as gay — interviews a gay-celibate congregationalist who claims his libido went from 100% to 10% when he got saved. He also gets to speak with Reality L.A.’s perfectly-chiseled founder, Jeremy Treat, who “presents a ready-made identity, perfect for those who feel lost.”
Listen to Jonathan perform the essay (0:56), along with music and sound design, then sit down with host Kara Brown (48:49) to talk church. The two discuss the moving experience of worship, how Reality L.A. is inseparable from its dogma, the unsustainability of gay repression, and the importance of spiritual people finding a god who loves them for who they are. (View the show credits.)
Press play at the top of this page to listen to the episode — or listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or your podcast app of choice.
Ten Questions with Jonathan
What’s the best long-form writing you’ve read this year?
Exiled: Mike Pence and the Evangelical Fantasy of Persecution, by Meghan O’Gieblyn for Harper’s Magazine
At what time of day do you do your best writing?
First thing in the morning, with massive amounts of coffee
Where do you do your best thinking?
In the back of an Uber. I live in Los Angeles, and I don’t know how to drive, so I spend a lot of time in Ubers
What reality show do you think you’d make the best host of?
RuPaul’s Drag Race. I would never dream of usurping Ru’s throne, but I do have an encyclopedic knowledge of Drag Race herstory
Movie of the year so far?
First Reformed and Sorry to Bother You
What’s the most underused word in the English language?
What’s your favorite word in the English language?
What’s your favorite podcast?
Who is winning 2018?
Twitter account that more people should be following?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — she’s the future of this country and brings some much needed hope to our national dialogue