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Thursday, December 9, 2021

The ‘Prophetic Imagination Station’ Imagines A World Where We Truly Love Our Neighbors

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D.L. Mayfield and Krispin Mayfield are a Christian married couple that together make the podcast The Prophetic Imagination Station that examines evangelical artifacts or ways of thinking that led us to the often angry white evangelicalism that is the dominant force in American politics today. In six seasons they’ve looked at the problems with long running Focus on the Family children’s radio show Adventures in Odyssey, Frank Peretti, author of the book This Present Darkness Christian pop-singer/evangelist Carman, C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia series, and this season Christian hardcore music.

Krispin is a therapist and D.L. is a writer who published the fantastic book The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Autonomy, Safety and Power that looks at ways that our often white privileged mindsets have separated us from the underprivileged and less fortunate in American society today.

Like a lot of people, they were stunned when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 and when D.L. discovered that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump she realized that they needed to start thinking about the stories that got us there.

They launched the first episode of the Prophetic Imagination Station on inauguration day 2017 and have been digging ever since.

The most recent completed season was called “The Lion the Witch and the Evangelicals” and many of the episodes were interviews with Tolkien scholars and other critical thinkers that had encountered The Chronicles of Narnia series from a different point of view from their white evangelical upbringing. In re-reading the series D.L. realized that her upbringing was shaped by a binary mindset that said that something is either good or bad and discovered that Lewis had complexities in his work that she had to wrestle with and parts of his books were both good and bad because of his Christian faith combined with his colonizer mindset and imperialist attitudes.

C.S. Lewis is absolutely beloved by evangelicals and on the show D.L. kept talking about fans who would write in saying “please don’t ruin my childhood.” But by examining his work with a deeper critical eye she gained a greater appreciation of him. “Its not harm to say he could have done better,” she says, “but in other ways he continues to inspire me. His thoughts on joy are something I want to keep in my life tradition forever.”

Krispin looked at Lewis from a different tact pointing out that he wasn’t an evangelical and that they were shaped as evangelicals by Lewis because of how they read evangelicalism into his works because of the culture they grew up in where his books were considered “safe”.

And as they listened critically to Adventures in Odyssey they realized that a lot of the cultural artifacts they grew up with don’t engage with Jesus at all.

Krispin says that the show and the greater dominant Christian culture in general has created a kind of “civil religion with a god that looks over our community and is in control and has rules we follow, but Jesus is a rule breaker and it just doesn’t work.”

D.L. tells me she is “intensely religious” and “it would be easier if we could walk away” because so often people think you can only either be a Christian or someone who has unpacked their faith and become an ex-Christian. She says there’s a lot of tension in the fact that “the people who taught us to love Jesus and our neighbor as ourselves are now calling us weak naive liberals when we try to put that into action. When we try to love our neighbor as ourselves we’re called socialists and we’re trying to be people who follow the bible.”

“And that,” Krispin says, “is why looking at these artifacts is helpful because it helps us piece together what parts are from the bible and what part is from the Republican party, and if we look back at the way evangelical faith has been shaped it makes us feel less crazy.”

I don’t think there’s anything else like the Prophetic Imagination Station and I’m not the only one. D.L. sees her show as filling a rather large hole in Christian podcasting that was previously either just interviewing famous Christians or sermons.

And by filling that hole they discovered a niche of people who now support them on Patreon which is fortunate for them because the research and interviews they do for the show are very time consuming and they were about to quit rather than do more free work.

Also their show is quite funny and D.L. has the goofiest laugh that I didn’t expect from someone whose frequently found online on Twitter standing up for the oppressed. “We’re not like a real podcast or anything,” she tells me with a laugh. “I can’t believe we found weirdos like us who want to listen to this stuff.”

Those are the people that Krispin says he is hoping to create conversations with, “those who are confused and disillusioned with those who claim to follow Jesus in the US right now.”

By digging deep into their shared Christian cultural heritage and asking the hard questions about the things they previously took for granted The Prophetic Imagination Station are bringing together a small but growing band of evangelical outcasts who feel abandoned by the church they grew up in, but at the same time are growing closer to God and helping to accomplish what Krispin told me was his main goal, “for people to feel less alone.”

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