A couple constants in my life are a love of story and a drive to understand the people around me in all their depth, complexity, and even their contradictions—and especially to understand people who are different from me or whose perspectives challenge mine. So graduate work in literature and cultural studies seemed like a natural way to explore a few aspects of the human experience that have mattered to me all along. I figured that by studying the things we’ve made as humans—our literary works, our cultural products, our social configurations—I might better understand us. At the same time, I hoped that studying the stories we’ve created might help me better understand how we might imagine our world as it might be.
Needless to say, I’ve been painting in pretty broad strokes so far.
I started grad studies at K-State with a more specific goal in mind. I wanted not only to build my skills in research but also to map the cultural landscape of the United States in order to understand how exactly white evangelical Christianity falls into the mix. On one hand, I grew up in an evangelical background. Many of the people I love belong to this Christian tradition, and so I want goodness and flourishing for those who belong to this group of people whom I serve daily through my own ministry work. On the other hand, I’ve been perplexed by (what appears to me as) a contradiction between orthodox Christian ethics and the political behavior of many evangelical people I’ve known and loved through my life—political behavior that I see as potentially damaging to American life insofar as it perpetuates systemic injustice.
This is where my M.A. project comes into play. I’m taking a deep dive into a series of videos produced by The Bible Project, a nonprofit studio whose materials synthesize contemporary scholarly conversation on Christian scriptures and, using short-form animated videos, attempt to explain themes and ideas that are central to the biblical narrative. As one of the founders of The Bible Project observes, the biblical story is a political narrative in that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament make claims about who we (as humans) are and how we ought to conduct ourselves in relationship with each other and the larger world around us. I argue that in their rendition of the biblical story, The Bible Project produces a distinctly Christian political vision that holds some elements in common with the political vision that has captured the imagination of many evangelicals (e.g. the Religious Right). Yet at the same time, the Christian political vision of The Bible Project sharply challenges major trends in white evangelical political engagement. For example, The Bible Project frames actively seeking justice for the marginalized and oppressed as an individual and collective moral imperative for Christians, rather than outsourcing responsibility for social justice to government institutions. So the kind of Christian political vision that The Bible Project envisions functions as an alternative to the Christian political vision offered by the Religious Right and may lead to Christian engagement in American society to help bring about justice in areas such as contemporary race relations in the US.
In short, this project is meant to illuminate the ways in which the political vision of The Bible Project both intersects with and challenges aspects of contemporary white evangelical culture and might offer evangelical Christians fresh ways of imagining political engagement and toward bringing about a more just society in the United States.
— Jefferson Storms (M.A. ’22)