This week, Heather sits down with Viral Jesus “honorary co-host” Karen Swallow Prior to discuss the origins of the evangelical movement’s PR troubles. And few thought leaders are better qualified to put the issue into a hopeful perspective than Karen Swallow Prior. Fun Fact: This is Karen’s third appearance on Viral Jesus, and the most of any of our guests so far.

Karen’s latest book, The Evangelical Imagination, is about how art, literature, and popular culture have helped push evangelicals into an existential crisis of sorts. And of course, social media, with its penchant for both joy and destruction, plays a role in this evangelical saga.

In her wide-ranging conversation with Heather, Karen brings sociological context to the recent talk of evangelical deconstruction; she makes the case for a return to virtue; and she offers a postmortem on purity culture, showing how its roots can be spotted in the pages of classic literature. This crackling, high-energy chat will leave you ready to get your copy of Karen’s book posthaste.

In this episode Heather also spends some quality time with her best friend and co-blogger Scarlett Longstreet for this week’s Safe Space segment. Today, Heather asks Scarlett, who is not a Christian, to share what she likes and dislikes about the Christian influencers that she follows.

Guest Bio
Karen Swallow Prior, PhD, is a reader, writer, and professor. She is the author of The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis (Brazos, 2023). She has a monthly column for Religion News Service. Her writing has appeared at Christianity Today, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, First Things, and Vox.

Host Bio
Heather Thompson Day is an associate professor of communication at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. She is the author of eight books, including I’ll See You Tomorrow and It’s Not Your Turn. Reach out to Heather on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @HeatherTDay and on Instagram @heatherthompsonday.

Additional Links
Get Heather’s weekly inspirational email delivered to your inbox every Friday night at 7 PM EDT. Sign up now at:

Viral Jesus is a production of Christianity Today
Host and creator: Heather Thompson Day
Executive Producer: Ed Gilbreath
Producer: Loren Joseph
Mix Engineer: Alex Carter
Director of CT Podcasts: Mike Cosper