On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss the changing racial demographics of American evangelicalism, the decline of running, and digital imperialism.
Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention recently wrote in the New York Times that the white evangelical church of old is no more. Neil noted the significance of Moore’s piece, considering the SBC originated from a split among Baptists over slavery in 1845. Natalia compared white American evangelicals’ increasingly close relationships with conservative Christians in Africa, South America, and Asia to the global network of religious people of color who have united to block sex education that Jonathan Zimmerman writes about in his book, Too Hot to Handle. Neil argued Moore’s comments had to be seen in light of his efforts against Donald Trump, but also betrayed a refusal to acknowledge evangelical support for Trump, such as seen in his recent article for Christianity Today.
The End of Running
Millennials are killing running! Instead of running, Natalia explained, millennials prefer group-based fitness classes with built-in socializing elements. Niki noted that trend served as the antithesis to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone argument about social fragmentation. Although running as an exercise has a short history in the United States, Natalia explained John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Sports Illustrated article, “The Soft American,” that worried about Americans’ poor health and lack of vigor had helped spur the running craze. Many of those runners turned to Bill Bowerman’s 1967 classic, Jogging, the first book about the sport. As Natalia has written for Well + Good, women faced a bumpy road in taking up the sport.
Facebook in India
The Indian government has rejected Facebook’s bid to provide its Free Basics internet program in the country. Neil situated that rejection in a longer history of colonial resistance to imperial rule. Those rulers, Natalia observed, had articulated their imperial project in a language of uplift and civilization, something she saw in the technology entrepreneur Marc Andreessen’s controversial tweets responding to India’s decision.
What’s Making History
- Natalia shared Well + Good’s article about the arrival of the natural makeup store Credo to New York.
- Neil discussed the blog FiveThirtyEight’s finding of New Haven as America’s most “normal” city.
- Niki recalled the story of Ethel Payne, a pioneering African-American woman in the field of journalism, and recommended James McGrath Morris’ new biograph of Payne, Eyes on the Struggle.