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Chapel Probation

Chapel Probation

By Scott Okamoto
As a Dauntless Media podcast, this is a companion to Scott's forthcoming book about losing faith while teaching at an evangelical university. This podcast will feature former students and faculty of Azusa Pacific University. They will tell stories of racism, sexism, hatred towards the LGBTQ community, and early alt-right shenanigans. Other guests outside of the APU world will also be invited to share their experiences. Join the growing Chapel Probation community on Instagram, Discord, and Facebook. Support the Chapel Probation mission by joining the Patreon for bonus content. rscottokamoto.com
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"Science" at APU
This was the 5th Episode of Season 1, and one of the more popular ones at that, but out of an abundance of caution, I moved it behind a paywall. But it's back by popular demand!  2 new "ads" featuring the best of "conservative christian" organizations, Plaulty (Psalty's cousin) and a Metal Men's Rights Science group.  Ryan and Anthony talk about being science majors in a place stuck between trying to be a respected academic institution while still upholding the anti-science values of the evangelical world. It's both hilarious and tragic. Both men talk about their deconstruction at APU and how the school's attitude toward science was directly tied to the overall vibe of the school as more simplistic indoctrination machine than higher education institution. If you're wondering how we got to this age of "alternative facts" and disbelief in the science of vaccines and pandemics, Ryan's and Anthony's stories and observations will give insight into the parts of evangelical culture that contributed to all of that. And we'll have some bittersweet laughs along the Ryan and Anthony talk about being science majors in a place stuck between trying to be a respected academic institution while still upholding the anti-science values of the evangelical world. It's both hilarious and tragic. Both men talk about their deconstruction at APU and how the school's attitude toward science was directly tied to the overall vibe of the school as more simplistic indoctrination machine than higher education institution. If you're wondering how we got to this age of "alternative facts" and disbelief in the science of vaccines and pandemics, Ryan's and Anthony's stories and observations will give insight into the parts of evangelical culture that contributed to all of that. And we'll have some bittersweet laughs along the way. For more discussion, join our Facebook group: Chapel Probation with Scott Okamoto and the Instagram page here. Check out the Dauntless Media Podcasts here. Join the Patreon to support the Chapel Probation cause. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, and Scott Okamoto
49:21
May 18, 2022
Episode 13: Amy Scott- The First Wave of LGBTQ Hope at APU
Long before Haven, led by Glenda and her friends, found themselves in a national spotlight, Amy Scott came to APU not yet understanding their identity. Within a year of their time there, they would realize they was not straight, and that this part of their identity was a threat to the fabric of APU's conservative evangelical culture. This also meant, the culture was a very real threat to their fledgling community being formed in the wake of Soul Force's Equality Ride. That event would embolden two students to take a stand against the school's anti-LGBTQ policies, and it would give Amy a sense of purpose for themself. They would go on to be an activist with Soul Force, staging protests against the military's so-called, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule and the barbaric treatment of LGBTQ students at APU.  I distinctly remember watching Amy from afar, deciding just how I wanted to make it known that I was an ally. The posts on the infamous Door of Discussion were getting campus-wide attention thanks to two students who identified as gay, and there was pressure for all faculty to toe the evangelical line. But once the door had been opened, pun intended, the choice was clear to me. I couldn't just hide behind my role as English professor. I had to pick a side, and I knew I had to pick the right side. When students soon after started the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), they asked me to be a part of it, and I jumped in. Abbie and Liz's and Glenda's episodes tell those stories.  But Amy and their friends were all alone, in a much more scary time for them. Whereas Glenda described Haven's influence on the campus which created a kind of "cool" rebellious vibe where straight kids wanted to be involved and often presented themselves as queer, Amy and their friends went to APU at a time where queerness was universally regarded as being an abomination. Students were being expelled, faculty were being fired, and the culture was completely unforgiving to anyone who was queer or queer-affirming. It was extremely rare for me to encounter a student who was not openly hostile to queer people. And yet, Amy and their friends pushed and resisted, sacrificing their sanity and their safety to make change in an impossible setting.  But there were young people watching, and they would continue the fight that continues to this day. You can follow Amy Scott on instagram. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. The wildly popular "Science" episode is now available for Patreon supporters, along with more bonus material.  Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. You can see videos, read Scott's blog, and keep up to date with Scott's book at rscottokamoto.com. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, and Scott Okamoto.
58:41
April 12, 2022
Episode 12: Glenda- The One Who Stepped Up
Glenda McDannel was tapped by Haven's graduating leaders to be a co-leader of the group just as it was emerging from the shadows of APU's underground.  She didn't know it at the time, but she would help lead the group into battle with the homophobic and transphobic culture and administration to make the campus  safer than it was. And during her final years, she would see Haven become a nationally known group.  APU's Queer community became a fascinating cross-section of students who were openly queer, students who were "wrestling" with their queerness, and students who simply wanted to appear to be counter-cultural.  It reminded me of wealthy white students adopting hip hop identities as some kind of cool rebellion in a conservative white space.  Some students even claimed to be some form of queer while also maintaining their fundamentalist, purity culture, evangelical values. If the journey of coming out is complicated in the secular world, it is exponentially more complicated in evangelical spaces.  With all of the spiritual and emotional abuse and resulting baggage, the process is fraught with guilt, anxiety, and fear.   Even so, Glenda and her community fought for their place at APU. Building on the work of the generations before them, they continued the activism, and art nights, and the celebrations of life needed to make the fight worthwhile. But in the end, Glenda would be expelled from APU in the shadiest of manners, leaving us to believe she was booted out for her role in making APU safer for LGBTQ students.  This was confirmed by a well-intentioned administrator keeping in touch with her and reaching out to help her get back in years later and after an official LGBTQ student org was in place.  The fact that he thanked her for all her work to help LGBTQ students only made it worse. The very things she was kicked out for were being lauded but only because the policies had changed.   To her credit, Glenda refused to return and finish the 2 classes needed to graduate. She is living her life with a good job. She is married. And she is still an amazing person I am honored to know. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. You can see videos, read Scott's blog, and keep up to date with Scott's book at rscottokamoto.com. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, and Scott Okamoto.
58:00
April 05, 2022
Episode 11: Dr. Craig Boyd- The Bad Good Administrator
Dr. Craig Boyd came to APU to be the Director of the Institute of Faith Integration. Within the first week, he was confronted with the absurd nature of the rest of the administration comprised of confused men and women trying to serve the two mutually exclusive masters of respectable academia and evangelical culture. At every turn, Dr. Boyd would learn, evangelical culture would win, leaving him struggling to figure out how to navigate the "systems" of a university suffering a crisis of identity.  It is an honor to have Dr. Boyd join us on Chapel Probation to give us insight into what went on behind the closed doors of an administration that loudly claimed to care about things like diversity and academic excellence while seeming to make decisions contrary to those ideals. What we as faculty and students  assumed was some kind of evil intent (and I'm sure that was there), might have simply been incompetence coupled with blind allegiance to the almighty conservative dollar from alumni and far-right donors. Whatever the reasons for all the shit we went through, systemically, culturally, and theologically, there seem to have been confused and inept administrators pulling the strings and pushing the buttons, and Dr. Boyd was there to witness it all. You will be amazed. You will gasp in disbelief. You will laugh out loud. And if you went to APU or any school like it, you will be depressed.  The Chapel Probation Instagram remains mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. As always, you can find out more about Scott, his forthcoming book, and other writing and videos at rscottokamoto.com. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
01:02:59
March 29, 2022
Episode 10: Dr. Daniel White Hodge- The Best of the "Not APU Material" Profs
Dr. Daniel White Hodge survived 8 long years at APU, teaching in Global Studies and Biblical Studies. He refused to play nice with the white supremacist culture of the school, and that, as many of us know very well, makes for a tortuous experience at APU. But like many of us, Dan found and developed his identity as a Black man and as a Christian as he fought for his humanity and his place at the school. After 8 years of teaching and fighting the racist culture of the students, the faculty, and the administration, Dan was done. He has gone on to teach at other schools and his podcast, Profane Faith is in its 6th season. I met Dan through Sammie Howell, whom you've heard in episode 4 of this podcast, and loved seeing him around campus and hanging out once in a while. He was gracious enough to come speak to APASO one night, and he scared the bejesus out of the Asian kids with his account of his experience in the LA Riots.  But Dan is such a great ally of all marginalized peoples, including Asian Americans, and his humor and generous spirit is infectious. Through his teaching and his podcast, he is making the world a better place through dialogue and story. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
55:38
March 22, 2022
Episode 9: Jonathan- The Man at the Table
Jonathan Garcia just gets shit done. He has made a life of putting himself in places of power and influence, at times at great cost to his sanity and humanity. As an undergrad and graduate student at APU, he forged his identity as a co-founder of LASA (Latin American Student Association), as a leader in student government, and as a member of the administration itself. That put him at the table with rich, conservative, bigoted people, but Jonathan worked to form relationships and influenced their views. The significance of the fact that he got the president of the school at the time, Jon Wallace, to change his views on immigration can't be overstated. APU is a place where hispanic students can go with support and financial aid, regardless of citizenship status. Real change as a result of Jonathan and LASA. For people like me, I have only disgust and hurt when I think of APU's administration and board of trustees. I was never given the benefit of the doubt, and I was listed as a "bad" or "dangerous" professor simply because I dared talk about social justice, racism, sexuality, and identity in my classes. But Jonathan reminds me that the people I hate are, in fact, people. He gave them the chance to see him and rethink their views. He's a goddamn hero. Jonathan is currently the Chief of Staff at Portland Public Schools. He has worked in education at several huge school districts, and he was named by Forbes as one of their 30 Under 30 in Education. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
52:14
March 15, 2022
Episode 8: Liam- The Deconstruction Pipeline Expander
Liam Young is a former student who, by all measures, shouldn't have gotten along with me. When we first met, he was ultra-conservative and a newly enlisted Marine. But from the very beginning, he was interested in learning and being challenged. Seeing firsthand how the prosperity gospel is both a horrible misreading of the bible and a weapon used against lower-income people, Liam began deconstructing from evangelicalism early on. From there he saw racism and other forms of bigotry ingrained in evangelical culture, but here's where it gets interesting. Instead of sliding into liberal or progressive views, Liam looked more into older versions of christianity. It's not my thing at all, but it makes a kind of sense when you think about it. Contemporary versions of christianity have added white nationalism, bigotry, and worship of money to their religion, Liam went looking to church traditions that existed around 1500 years before evangelicals were formed. There he and his wife found theological answers to his criticisms of evangelicalism, but there was a catch. They found all this theological wonder in an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox church.  In the end, Liam is a kindred spirit who cares about humanity while holding to his faith. I salute him for that. So many conservative kids came and went through my classroom who refused to engage in discourse about tough topics. Liam was always up for discussion, and he was an eager and active listener. All this made for an amazing story of personal convictions leading to growth and discovery. An inspiring and fascinating story all around. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
56:40
March 08, 2022
Episode 7: Matt and Rod- The LASA Incident
Before LASA (Latin America Student Association), ethnic orgs at APU were places to hide out away from the oppressive white culture that dominated the campus. The Multi-Ethnic Programs office was safe space to find your people and build communities of support. Matthew Gonzalez, Rod Olmeda-Lopez, and Jonathan Garcia created LASA during the beginning of the Obama era. Not content to just offer support and care to the shell-shocked Latino(x) community's daily experiences of racism, they forced APU to confront its racism head on. They changed school policy and fought the school's racism when the school told them they couldn't honor the late Joe Snell, the director of MEP, with a Dia de los Muertos offrenda.  APU only had Town Hall meetings when the shit really hit the fan. Just a year earlier, it held one to address one of the many swastika incidents. LASA would force a second one when it voiced its anger at having their Dia de los Muertos display taken down for no other reason than it was not a white tradition. The admin told them it had pagan roots despite acknowledging that school-sanctioned events around Halloween and Christmas also had pagan roots. The difference? Hmmmm.... But it wasn't just protesting. They worked with administration and the board of trustees to get APU designated as "serving hispanic communities," they made financial aid available to undocumented students, and they got Spanish translations for the live stream of graduation. Just as importantly, LASA pushed the culture to pay attention to all non-white communities, which may sound strange, but believe me...that was something.  These guys are my brothers. I'm so proud of who they have become, and I'm honored to have seen them grow from confused young evangelical men into who they are today. Do I poke fun of them? Of course. But they are two of the strongest and most admirable people I've ever known. Enjoy the episode. The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, and Scott Okamoto.
01:00:16
March 01, 2022
Episode 6: Abbie and Liz- The One-Two Punch
For at least 6 or 7 years, maybe more, an amazing event took place at APU (and then the Citrus College parking lot when they got booted). The LGBTQ club, first called the GSA (gay-straight alliance) and then Haven, put on a showcase of LGBTQ creativity and pride. At first, it was just called "Art Night," and it was held at the 7 Palms, an outdoor amphitheater ringed by palm trees...7 of them, I believe, though I don't think I ever actually counted. The first few years, the group was underground, and we relished the thrill of putting on an event with poetry, music, and visual art celebrating LGBTQ identities in plain sight on APU's campus. It was a brazen thing to do, since technically, we could have all been kicked out for doing it. But we did it.  Abbie and Liz Cirelli both played significant roles in making the GSA/Haven and Art Night happen, and they both organized protests and movements to change the draconian culture and policies of APU. They made things happen by building coalitions and using them to force the administration and the culture to shift its policies and views of LGBTQ people. Badasses, both of them. This is the first of two episodes with Abbie and Liz who will be back to continue the stories about feminism and misogyny inside APU's conservative evangelical culture.  You can find resources for LGBTQ advocacy on christian campuses at The REAP.  The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
01:01:53
February 22, 2022
Episode 5: Ella- The Grit and the Grace
Ella Baker survived APU while presenting as a half Korean and White young man knowing she was something more. Her deconstruction began early on as she realized through the sheer force of her intellect that evangelical culture had lied to her. After a period of atheism and anger, she channeled her energies into spiritual growth and became a strong, zen, christian, trans woman.  While at APU, she was part of a group of students called, the Sisters 9. It was a writing group where they could share their writing and music that didn't fit with the values and ethos of APU's ultra-conservative evangelical culture. This group inspired me with its commitment to developing their craft with all of them developing their own identities in direct opposition to APU's identity. They were, to me, a combination of the Bloomsbury Group in 1920's England and the Beat generation of the 60's. You will hear more from this group in the future. Finally, you will hear an indictment of evangelical higher education. While there are some damn fine professors at places like APU, far too many classes are taught as evangelical indoctrination courses instead of the stated subjects in the course descriptions. Depending on your path through the faculty, you could be well-prepared for graduate school or horribly unprepared. Or something in between. Whatever the academic experience, you will be traumatized if you aren't a conservative cis-het, white person. As with others on this podcast, Ella found a way to survive and learn to convert the trauma into life skills. You will be inspired. You can find Ella at Heyellabird on Instagram.  The Chapel Probation Instagram has been mysteriously shut down, but you can support this podcast on the Chapel Probation Patreon. Join the conversation about everything on the Chapel Probation Facebook group and sign up for behind-the-scenes info about this podcast and Scott's book on his Substack Newsletter. Music in this episode by Shin Kawasaki and Wingo Shackleford, Elephants with Guns, Azeem Kahn, and Scott Okamoto.
51:30
February 15, 2022
Episdode 4: Sammie Howell- The Badass Asian Without the Chopsticks
Sammie Howell was one of the progressive pillars of her class of 2010. She went from "on fire" somewhat conservative evangelical to firebrand progressive warrior in her four years at APU. From the very beginning of her experience, she found herself on the outside of APU's white, wealthy culture. After an early incident where a fellow student asked her if she knew how to use chopsticks (Filipinos don't use chopsticks for their food), she found APASO (Asian Pacific American Student Org) and began her growth into a badass leader in a sort of Multi Ethnic Org renaissance. In addition to her work and advocacy for race issues, she joined the newly formed Gay/Straight alliance, even taking great risk in lending her apartment as the secret meeting space. If we had been found out, we would have faced grave consequences, as we had members of student government, RA's, and...a faculty member at those meetings. There is a surprise at the end of the episode that both gives a glimpse into Sammie's strength, pain, and love, while at the same time making the case that white evangelical spaces are not safe for those on the margins.  Join the fight on the Chapel Probation Patreon where you can hear an introductory interview with Satan and Baby Jesus with more content on the way. And we've started a Chapel Probation Facebook Group where we share our stories from all christian schools. We need more people from other schools! There is also a Chapel Probation Instagram with previews of coming episodes. A fledgling Discord Server that is hanging by a thread, so consider joining to help out. Big thanks to Shin Kawasaki and Wingso Shackleford for the new music this week that takes the episode to new places.  Additional music by Elephants With Guns and Scott Okamoto.
51:50
February 01, 2022
Episode 3: Dacia Taleni- The Scariest Word for EV's is...
Meet Dacia, a Black Samoan woman who could always be found in APU's social justice spaces spitting poems, singing, and clapping back at white supremacy. She looks back and talks about how she was so angry at the white evangelical culture around her while simultaneously playing along and repping the school as a Multi-Ethnic senator. She also shares the struggle students face when they come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than the majority of students at APU.  One of Scott's most memorable moments in his 15 years at APU came courtesy of Dacia. In her last semester, she was forced to take a freshman-level Intro to Literature class in order to graduate, so she took Scott's class. In it, she performed a poem and created a moment that will forever be cemented in Scott's (and the class's) memory. V is for victory and... You can find Dacia's work on Instagram and her podcast about Samoan culture, The Real Tautala.  Music this week by Elephants With Guns, and Azeem Kahn, in addition to Scott's original music. If you think the mission of Chapel Probation is important, consider joining the Patreon. There will be bonus content and behind-the-scenes stuff. 
48:22
January 25, 2022
Episode 2: BJ- The Worst-Case Scenario
If APU knew that it was directly responsible for the deconstruction of conservative, white men, it would lose a lot of sleep. BJ Karlik is a physical therapist in Colorado Springs who now identifies as an atheist. He credits APU's Bible classes for his deconstruction, and his story obliterates the current narrative from famous Evangelical pastors who say the EX-Vangelical movement is based solely on "isolated" bad experiences of bigotry and a desire for hedonism. Bigotry is, indeed, an issue, and hedonism is fun, but those are not the only reasons for deconstruction. In BJ's case, they weren't remotely involved in his deconstruction.  There is a salute to BJ's wife, Carrie, who BJ says "did a little Campus Crusade in college" (sounds like drug experimentation!) who came to understand the urgent need to see the Evangelical world for what it is. It takes courage to ask hard questions and take stands that leave you on the outside of communities created for you, and both BJ and Carrie have shown a great deal of it.  Please consider joining the Chapel Probation Discord server to continue the conversation and get more insights into each episode.  And if you're interested in supporting the Chapel Probation mission, please join the Chapel Probation Patreon and get bonus content. I went down to Hell to get a sound cue for this episode, so I hope everyone appreciates the effort there. Thanks to my son, Ethan and his friends for their screams. 
50:06
January 18, 2022
Episode 1: Dez- The One They Called
Dez Revish revisits his unique time at APU and recounts his deconstruction of faith. After growing up in a Black church, the christianity of the evangelical world felt like a completely different religion with a different god and Jesus. As a leader in the Multi-Ethnic Programs community, Dez became a conduit between administration and the students. This put him in a tough spot, as he learned that the administration had no real interest in changing the racist culture, but rather it wanted to appease the progressive students and stay in the good graces of the Board of Trustees and all conservative funders.  In the end, Dez is happy being far away from evangelical culture and APU. He currently lives in Texas with his girlfriend and two kids.
43:14
January 11, 2022