On February 12, 2023, Hope*Writers CEO Brian J. Dixon silenced me from engaging on his Instagram posts.
He then proceeded to share another Instagram post (and on Facebook also) about his blocking me and his reasons for it, stating, “I write for Christians who have a message to share and an audience to serve. That’s it. If you’re not a Christian, feel free to read and follow- but you won’t like a lot of what I say.”
My first response to this — and where Dixon is incorrect — is:
1.) I identify as a follower of Christ, therefore I am a Christian and
2.) I disagree with what he has to say because his content spreads disinformation in the name of Christianity, not Jesus.
Here is a social media post example from Brian J. Dixon’s Facebook page:
Dixon’s behavior is problematic, to say the least, and implicates a well-researched phenomenon, white Christian nationalism, that seeks to extinguish two cornerstones of American democracy: religious liberty and freedom of speech.
White Christian nationalism is not Christian at all. It led to the election of President Donald Trump and was responsible for the January 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in the death of seven people. Its toxic ideology fuses Christianity with American exceptionalism and exclusivity and stems from white supremacist beliefs. For a comprehensive history, read my article here.
According to Historian Jemar Tisby, “White Christian Nationalism is the most urgent threat to democracy and the witness of the Church in the United States today…[It’s] an ethnocultural ideology that uses Christian symbolism to create a permission structure for the acquisition of political power and social control.”
What’s more, Brian J. Dixon’s actions suggest the toxicity that is emblematic of spiritual abuse — the kind that ostracizes individuals from Christian communities if they don’t “fit in” or follow a set of cultural beliefs (like being against abortion or gay marriage and only voting for Republican candidates). Even questioning or thinking critically about the Bible and theology leads some Christian communities to shun or rebuke people. This doesn’t come from a place of love but rather “otherness” and “hatred,” which is the antithesis of Jesus’s teachings and work. This behavior should concern us all.
I’m one of those Christians who has never fit in or belonged in those exclusionary circles because my political beliefs oppose theirs as a progressive and feminist. (Though, a growing movement of progressive Christians is challenging the stereotype of Republican first, Christian second. Dixon recently shared his thoughts about those individuals here.)
I’m also a member who pays for access to the Hope*Writers community. In November 2022, I attended the annual Hope*Writers Conference, investing sizable funds to travel in a car across the country to Charlotte, NC.
When I joined Hope*Writers in 2021, I knew I wanted to write a book — potentially about my journey of returning to Jesus’s teachings through activism. Taking inspiration from writers Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, and Nadia Bolz-Weber, I could see there was room for voices like mine who didn’t fit the “Conservative” mold.
I sought to experiment in an inclusive space, as I do not identify as a Republican or Conservative but am Christian, and found the Hope*Writers community aspect appealing. Plus, members from all walks of life were actively publishing books. This compelled me greatly, and I felt a positive shift toward the next step in my publishing journey.
Originally, to apply for a membership to Hope*Writers, you had to wait until space was available. Then someone from its onboarding team took the time to interview you and address any questions you had. I knew I wanted to commit so I purchased an Annual Membership, and the Enrollment Specialist, Mary Kate, even sent me a physical card in the mail to share her gratitude. I felt welcomed and seen; political differences didn’t matter at that time — until Brian J. Dixon announced his new role as CEO at the Hope*Writers Conference in November 2022.
The shift was almost immediate. It was clear to me, and others in attendance at the Hope*Writers Conference, that Dixon wouldn’t tolerate political differences. The expectation surfaced particularly through a series of speakers and thoughts revealed at the conference and in more intimate settings, like its VIP luncheons.
Dixon also made the idea of “cancel culture” a cornerstone of his keynote speeches. He said, “When you talk passionately about your beliefs, you will be canceled. Remember, those aren’t your people.” These remarks sent a chill through my soul.
People don’t “cancel” individuals for being Christian; they cancel them for words and actions that are hateful toward others — that are racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, and xenophobic. The only time “Christianity” comes into the cancel conversation is when individuals misuse the religion and its texts for personal gain and to commit acts of violence and oppression toward others. This domain is where white Christian nationalism thrives.
Pew Research Center finds that “cancel culture” has become a highly contested term within our political discourse. For me, the word, “cancel,” is a dog whistle, touching on the unique verbal warfare that defines Trump’s following.
Trump supporters take pleasure in the fact that Trump says it like it is — even when those words incite violence toward Hispanic and Asian communities, for example — a troll who can confront the “political elite” and make them take a side. Also, many of them are white Christian nationalists.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, more than half of Republicans support white Christian nationalism. White Christian nationalist adherents and sympathizers believe Jesus sanctions such chaos because their Jesus is “Straight White American Super Jesus”; toughness, ruggedness, and individuality are his essential traits, not pacifism, love, acceptance, and forgiveness. To them, Trump embodies their “Straight White American Super Jesus,” who tells it like it is — like John Wayne on the silver screen.
In a piece for Radix, a blog and magazine from white nationalist Richard Spencer, Greg Hood wrote, “[Trump] continues to gain support because, unlike every other politician in the United States, and certainly every other politician on the American Right, Trump never apologizes. He keeps attacking.”
“Imagine that, a white man who doesn’t apologize!” said Jared Taylor about Trump’s flagrant behavior in a video. (Jared Taylor is one of the most prominent white nationalists in America and is responsible for the creation of the racist journal, American Renaissance. The journal featured proponents of eugenics and fervent anti-black racists.)
When “cancel” entered the arena at the Hope*Writers Conference, I knew we weren’t just talking about making a positive difference with our words; Dixon was instructing us to divide and conquer.
Whenever I experience someone fusing Christianity with political ideologies like white Christian nationalism, the feeling of it permeates, like a smell you cannot escape or remove. It’s dank, odorous, and unassumingly heavy. In real-time, the clear ideological tropes may not present themselves, but you can sense them on a deeper level: it’s triggering.
To me, there was a gathering expectation: to be a part of Hope*Writers, you had to identify as both a Christian and a Republican, or you had to be open to the duality because it matters. (Otherwise, it’s not Christian.)
On February 12, 2023, Brian J. Dixon confirmed my suspicions when he blocked me from engaging on his Instagram posts.
The Instagram post in question:
The Instagram post in question featured an illustration of Joe Biden holding a balloon (a reference to the Chinese Spy Balloon crisis that recently sparked outrage among Republicans like Dixon) — all symbolism of a looming fear toward “the other,” China in this case. “The freedoms we have will be short-lived if we don’t protect our nation’s borders,” Dixon wrote. Republicans espoused this fear, based on a conspiracy theory, throughout midterm elections last year.
Along with two other Hope*Writers, we disagreed and offered opposing viewpoints in the comments section.
In his responses, Dixon chided us, saying:
He later deleted all comments and silenced me. As the CEO of Hope*Writers, the “face” of the company, what does this behavior say about its culture and who belongs?
After he blocked me, Dixon then created a false narrative about me on social media, stating I wasn’t a Christian, which is inaccurate.
Regardless of my political affiliation, I look to Jesus’s teachings to make informed, wise decisions of the heart. These decisions often lead me to support progressive policies and candidates because I see them holding vulnerable individuals in a place of dignity, just like Jesus did when he fed, healed, and listened to the societally shunned, like women, Gentiles (non-Jews), sex workers, tax collectors, and people dealing with mental illness.
How does this make me “un-Christian”? Is it because I’m not a Republican? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24, New International Version)
This false narrative also paints an inaccurate portrait of non-identifying Christians and people who may be deconstructing their faith after a traumatic experience with the Church.
This is cruel and unjust and is not the Hope*Writers I joined in 2021.
Just because people don’t embrace the label “Christian” doesn’t mean they can’t act in Christly ways. In this video, fast forward to 53:20 to hear about a fantastic example of an atheist couple who demonstrated Christly love in their actions toward Christian missionary Arthur Blessitt. A Christian Missionary guesthouse previously rejected Blessitt for not being what they considered “a regular missionary,” forcing him to continue walking through a hot desert, though he is an ordained minister and was witnessing to others by carrying a wooden cross around the world. Blessitt remarked that he didn’t understand why he needed a badge or something outward-facing to confirm he was qualified enough for the guesthouse to accept him. I can’t imagine how deeply this objection from the Christian community hurt.
Brian J. Dixon continues to claim his social media accounts are separate from the Hope*Writers brands, meaning his personal content isn’t a reflection of its culture. I don’t see that reality being the case.
Other Hope*Writers are wondering the same thing. A recent comment from a fellow Hope*Writer on one of Dixon’s Instagram posts touched on this:
“You state here that you write for Christians, but historically hope*writers has operated under the messaging that while it’s faith inspired in many ways, it is for everyone.”
For anyone thinking about joining Hope*Writers, consider it with caution.
I do want to note: I am grateful for the support and progress I’ve had so far through Hope*Writers (before co-founders Emily P. Freeman and Gary Morland exited the company in September 2022). I’ve met incredible people through it. I, however, do not feel safe in and among any brands that Brian J. Dixon leads, considering this recent social media interaction.
In the meantime, The Stories Between Us has a free community through Mighty Networks, and I would love to see you there.
I will leave a record of my final comment to Brian J. Dixon here:
“I identify as a Christian, but do not feel persecuted in this country because of my beliefs, but Christian Nationalists do. Instead, because of posts like this, I see Christianity in a state of decay, and it’s even more disappointing because this person, Hope Writers CEO Brian Dixon, is supposed to be an example of love and light for writers who want to make a difference in the world. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I gave him a chance [Brian J. Dixon] as he asked at the Hope Writers conference, but this interaction has given me doubt regarding his leadership. Disappointing because I joined when Hope Writers was more Christ-like in its acceptance of all.
As Christians in the U.S., we are all allowed to openly practice what we believe. But if we start to legislate those beliefs as you are suggesting, you begin to deprive others of their religious liberty and freedom, which does not come from a place of love and ultimate peace. Love is accepting others despite their past, not forcing them into a spiritual practice that they aren’t ready for. This is why God gave us free will. He knows you will love him when you’re ready.
To date, Roe v. Wade has been overturned and no one is forcing children to do anything to their bodies regarding gender expression. This post exists to stir fear and emotional reactivity. Instead, the entire world, not the U.S., is hurting from a worldwide pandemic, earthquakes in the Middle East, and the War in Ukraine. As Christians, I hope we all begin to focus on these bigger things because so many humans — God’s people, image bearers of the creator — are hurting. We have been, after all, commanded to love. I hope we can look to Christ for our direction and hope, not political leaders.”