110: Jesus, Mary and Joe Jonas—Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s Exploration across Religion, LGBTQ Equality and the Entertainment Industry

I love serendipitous podcast guest recruiting. This one starts over coffee with my longtime blog-turned-IRL friend Rachael King, who recently founded a company called PodPeople to connect new shows with creative teams.

When I told her about themes I had been exploring on the Pivot Podcast she said, "You HAVE to talk to Jonathan Parks-Ramage." She had just helped produce a new podcast for Medium where he read his article aloud, Jesus, Mary and Joe Jonas: A Journey Into LA's Hippest Evangelical Church. I was captivated by his story, and by his intention to research and write about topics at the intersection of faith, LGBTQ advocacy and the entertainment industry. A man after my own unique pivot intersection heart! 

I hope you enjoy this week's conversation on what it was like to come out with two parents who are ministers, the colliding life crises that sparked his decision to pivot from Sundance as a television executive to freelance writing, and his unique perspective studying the quirks of the entertainment industry and the religious institutions that crop up around it. 

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/jonathan-pr. Enjoying the show? Make my week by donating just $1 an episode at Patreon.com/pivot.

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More About Jonathan Parks-Ramage

Jonathan Parks-Ramage is a Los Angeles based writer and producer.Jonathan has written reported features, personal essays, and cultural commentary for a number of print and web publications including VICE, W Magazine, OUT Magazine, Atlas Obscura, Broadly, MEL Magazine, Refinery29, and Yahoo. His work has also been featured as a top pick on Digg, on the Medium homepage and in French magazine Ulyces. He has lectured on journalism and creative non-fiction at Fordham University.

Jonathan and his screenwriting partner Marla Mindelle are currently freelance contributors to BILLY ON THE STREET. They are the co-creators of WACKTRESS, a musical comedy series the duo sold to ABC Digital. They were also  selected as fellows in the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab, where they worked under the mentorship of Kiwi Smith (Legally Blonde), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land), and James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour). Their cult-hit webseries The Devil's Bitch, was acquired by Playbill.com and released through the website. It was also selected by OUT Magazine as a "series to watch."   

Topics We Cover

  • Child of two ministers in the United Church of Christ 
  • Find what’s resonating in your soul and express it
  • “Don’t believe one book has all the answers or that I’m a sinner or that I have to stop being gay to achieve enlightenment” 
  • You can be Christian and be gay - what it was like coming out in eighth grade
  • The life crisis that sparked his decision to pivot from Sundance as a television executive to freelancing—a testicular cancer diagnosis and break-up from live-in boyfriend right around the time of turning 30
  • I had already faced the scariest thing: why not go for Plan A?
  • How he discovered Reality Church LA at a Hollywood party at the home of a former childhood star; someone asking her, “Have you prayed about this?"
  • How is this church attracting people in relatively liberal typically “Godless” LA? 
  • Underneath the hip exterior, the Church had very conservative ideas about sexuality, women’s rights, women in leadership 
  • Went in with a "progressive chip on my shoulder" but discovered a much more nuanced picture - there was a lot of beauty in the picture, people who found meaning when all the meaning in their life had collapsed 
  • David Foster Wallace quote: “We all worship something.”
  • When you put all your spiritual/emotional eggs in one particular basket, and that basket is something will eventually fall apart, you run the risk of having a breakdown
  • The advantage of spirituality is that it allows you to search for meaning and create community around something other than the material world 
  • New Abbey piece he’s working on, founded by "disillusioned, ex-evangelicals.” He says it “seems like your traditional "hipster evangelical" church on the surface, but eschews the conservative politics normally associated with evangelism. Instead, New Abbey is extremely progressive, and fights for LGBTQ equality and women's rights”
  • “Day in the life” of a longform investigative piece 
  • Search for meaning beyond your immediate material circumstances; find a way to take a break from the drudge of daily work or romantic life - find a way to center yourself for your own sanity
  • How he finds spirituality and connection outside of any one church or religion

Jesus, Mary and Joe Jonas: Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s Exploration Across Religion, LGBTQ Equality and the Entertainment Industry

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