Netcast Pastor Matt Chewning released his reality TV show this last month, where he delves into conversations that are considered rare conversations held in evangelical circles. His message through this tv show is to connect with the “greater culture” and inspire his sermons based on the conversations he holds with people in the North Shore of MA area that do not attend his church. The first three episodes of the show revolve around the topic of sex. The release of culturally- centered evangelical messages tucked within an interaction with what seems like the local community, is a powerful and innovative means to reach a growing community of inquisitive and doubtful individuals towards the institution of the evangelical church. Matt Chewning makes a point of communicating that his hope is that the greater church realizes that the church needs to adapt to the fluidity of culture, to understand what the questions of the culture (or whomever this encompasses) are, and deliver the same messages that have predominantly controlled the context by which conservative evangelical speakers at the pulpit have taught since the 90s.
I am very interested in the new tactics for making messages that are very obviously being rejected by what Chewning calls the young twenty-year-olds; the purpose is so these same messages take on a “popular” rhetoric as a means to persuade this age demographic to maintain the roles and practices of how and who to be in order to represent what the institution of the church has deemed as moral. Chewning’s messages embedded in the first three episodes of his TV show promote the maintenance of roles of the binary hierarchy of sexual identity that have been aligned through ancient patriarchal readings of Biblical text, which have also been dangerously intertwined with who a morally correct participant of society is.
The rhetoric of Matt Chewning is misleading. It contains so many contradictions that all point to the clear messages to the larger community. Chewning admits his belief that as a generalized concept, all men are highly sexual and it’s evident that all women are highly sexualized. By placing himself on a walkway at a public park on the North Shore, with a large sign that draws anyone to have a conversation regarding anything under the larger theme of “sex”, he holds interviews with some four or five individuals. Only one of the two women shown are given a pseudo-productive screen time, as compared to the time spent with the men that he hosts at the booth; this young girl obviously represents a sexual orientation that differs from the presumed heterosexual lifestyle that is believed that all should follow, therefore given a focal attention in the show to make a pointed argument against the fluidity of sexuality so forbidden in the church. As a TV show that is broadcasted and promoted as a dialogue and conversation starter for the greater community, the message made through the interview with this young girl negates any openness for learning and conversation that had been previously communicated. Chewning asks the young girl to explain how she arrived to her sexual orientation, and she responded beautifully by describing the need and search for intimacy that we all share, “… everyone craves intimacy and affection… I wanted someone to text me in the morning to ask how I’m doing”. She expounds her orientation by sharing that for her, this can be shared with any gender.
Chewning’s response to her is eerily patriarchal. He persuades the young girl to depart from her sexuality through the promotion and attention to her physical beauty. He tells her, “You’re beautiful… why is [your sexuality] so tied to your identity?”. He demeans the fullness of her identity as being a spiritual, emotional, and sexual, and autonomous being. The rhetorical message is that her sexuality is not a part of her specific identity because it is not aligned with his own viewpoint. Her sexuality cannot be considered a valid feature of her identity. However, every other individual that makes an appearance on the TV show identifies as heterosexual, and there’s a clear mark of celebration of their sexual identities.
In the second episode of the show, Chewning plays match-maker. He promotes the institution of heterosexual marriage by connecting a woman from his congregation with a stranger they encounter on the street, and financing their first date. In this venture to find out what men want out of relationships with men, and what it would take for this woman to “lock down” a man for marriage relies on holding two very dichotomous interviews. Stark comparisons are made between the first man who is interviewed: he represents the non-committal man who just wants to have “fun”, no attention is drawn towards his value of hoping to provide financial stability to the right woman in this future. He is contrasted with the desirable man who wants to “settle down” and “make a family”. The message in this image here is clear: there is only one way to be a morally upright individual. And this is done through the heterosexual and gender-binary relationship.
In the final episode, we are invited to a profound conversation that Chewning and his wife, Beth, share on a walk together. He boasts to the viewer about their intimate relationship and the privileges that they have been blessed with on the North Shore. Beth communicates to him a painful point for her in their relationship. She often feels less included and heard than strangers that Chewning invites into their home. She confesses that she doesn’t believe that this inequality will change between them, but does make him aware of that it is a present reality that she is sensitive and aware of. His response is puzzling because he appeases her by stating that he should really change this relational dynamic because he, “cannot stand when she’s angry” and desires to come home to a happy wife. When Chewning listens to a woman on this TV show, he promotes the availability of women to bend to the voices of men. Furthermore, anything he does to better the relationship that he has with his wife depends on his quality of life. Whether or not his response to his wife was meant as a joke, it negates the whole conversation of sex, because sex begins with honoring ourselves and others.
The conclusion is simple, this TV show is not counter-cultural, and does not engage with any questions of relevance regarding sexuality, human perversion developed through the objectification of the body, emotional abuse, or the concept of honoring one another. Matt Chewning is actually afraid of holding conversations that are difficult to bring up in the church. Any lack of fear is demonstrated through his consistency in maintaining the evangelical race to homogenize the world. These episodes are only promotional messages that have been in our ears since the puritan days, and placed at the forefront of evangelicalism in the 1990s by the purity movement. All messages revolving around the sexual needs and vices of heterosexual men, and including women only as the emotional caretakers and the responsible ones for advancing the traditional nuclear family. The show affirms the objectification of the female as a means for the male’s personal fulfillment of emotional intimacy and “morally-driven” sexual needs. As for women, their sexuality is a response to the presence of man, and her value and sense of being are identified as being the benefactor of emotional intimacy and a bodily contact for the male. Anyone else that falls outside of this binary, controlled, and moralistic approach to relationships is denied a place in the monologue; the rise of any sense of conflict for the heterosexual evangelical male is only welcomed to the point where it can be negated and reformed for the continuation of the hegemonic and heterosexual practice.
All in all- this TV show is scary, and non-progressive. By that I mean, there’s no movement present here– I only see retraction into dark times and rhetorical propaganda of hegemonic control. AKA fear and control: infamously the two historical Achilles’s heels of the church institution — but I didn’t come here to say that quite yet.
To see this show, here’s the link: https://www.google.com/amp/amp.www.complex.com/pop-culture/2017/02/what-happens-when-millenials-stop-going-to-church