Britney Spears and White Evangelicalism

I recently had the opportunity to explore the white evangelical layers to Britney Spears’s story and her fight against conservatorship abuse. As I researched these issues, I came to believe that #FreeBritney is an #exvangelical cause—a cause that #exvangelical folks should embrace. This is because Spears is in many senses one of us. She is a former evangelical who is fighting against an authoritarian, controlling parent. Spears’s conservatorship represents the culmination of many evangelical beliefs and practices concerning wayward, apostate children.

Furthermore, Spears’s former business manager Lou Taylor—who allegedly sought the conservatorship for Spears—is a powerful evangelical whose husband is Senior Pastor at a Calvary Chapel. Evangelicalism, therefore, is wrapped intimately around Spears’s story, just as other forces—like ableism and sexism—are as well.

I first explored these issues with Dr. Bradley Onishi on the Straight White American Jesus podcast earlier this month on September 6. The episode, aptly entitled “Free Britney (from the Evangelicals)!,” examines the evangelical and ex-evangelical components of Britney’s story—from her childhood in church, to her experiences in purity culture, to the powerful evangelical business manager who convinced her dad to put Britney under conservatorship. We consider how Spears’s story is one of sexualizing young women, toxic sexual standards, overwhelming patriarchy, and a disturbing loophole in our legal system.

You can listen to the podcast here.

I also had the privilege of writing an article for Religion Dispatches about these same issues. In the article, I expand my argument and make further connections between conservatorships, parental rights absolutism in evangelical homeschooling, and the concept of sphere sovereignty for which Abraham Kuyper and R.J. Rushdoony infamously advocated. As I argue in my September 16 piece,

Spears’s story is the perfect example of the absolute power conservatorships grant to conservators entrenching the authoritarian, hierarchical family model often seen within evangelical faith communities. Independently, these systems both grant unchecked power over vulnerable populations, but together they have both legal and social sanction.

You can read the article here.

Published by R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.

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