Sep 21, 2021 - Podcasts

A movement away from the evangelical church

About a quarter of Americans describe themselves as evangelical Protestants, according to the Pew Research Center. But lately, a movement of so-called "exvangelicals" is moving away from the evangelical church in the U.S.

  • Plus, new steps to protect U.S. workers from extreme heat.
  • And, some of you share how you’ve managed parenting young kids during the pandemic.

Guests: Axios' Stef Kight and Andrew Freedman; Axios Today listeners.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Tuesday, September 21st. I’m Erica Pandey, filling in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re watching today: new steps to protect U.S. workers from extreme heat. Plus, some of you share how you’ve managed parenting young kids during the pandemic. But first, a movement away from the evangelical church is today’s One Big Thing.

About a quarter of Americans describe themselves as evangelical Protestants, according to the Pew Research Center. But lately a movement of so-called “exvangelicals” is moving away from the evangelical church in the U.S. That's according to Axios’ Stef Kight. She's here with more now. Hey Stef.

STEF KIGHT: Hey Erica.

ERICA: So Stef, how big is this exodus from the evangelical church?

STEF: You know, it's really hard to measure just how many people have been moving away from the evangelical church over the past few years. It's hard-it's a hard thing to get at with polling. Um, what we do know is that there are some social media accounts that have tens of thousands of followers. And these social media accounts are directed at exvangelicals or deconstructed evangelicals.

ERICA: What do you mean by this term “deconstructed”?

STEF: Deconstruction is kind of a buzz word that's been used within these circles, and it-it honestly has a range of meanings. For some people it means that they've just stepped back from a certain kind of Christian church or culture or politics. Um, while for others it means that they've left organized religion altogether.

ERICA: So what is accounting for this rise of exvangelicals?

STEF: There are a couple of different things that's happened over the past few years that have led to people leaving church and also being more outspoken about it. Donald Trump's presidency was one really big issue that a lot of people I spoke to brought up. That because we saw so many white evangelicals attach themselves to Donald Trump, for some people who didn't agree with his policies and didn't agree with his rhetoric, it became a flashpoint and a reason for them to move away and started highlighting issues that maybe they've always had with the church, but seeing people react to his presidency made them step away at the end.

ERICA: And how does social media factor in here?

STEF: You know, people have always left churches in the past. It's not new for people to change what they believe or change what kind of church they want to go to. But what's different this time around is that social media has actually allowed people to form communities, to kind of support each other, even hashtags like “exvangelical” or “deconstruction” or “churchtoo” have allowed people to share their stories and also find other people who had similar reasons for leaving, who had also had stories of abuse within the church or who felt like they didn't belong in the church because of their sexual identity or other issues. So it's created more of a movement where before it might've been just a one-off person leaving and nothing really said about it.

ERICA: So Stef, give me your big takeaway here. Why does this matter?

STEF: It matters because evangelicalism is still very popular in the U.S. And it's also a group that's targeted politically. I think sometimes it's easy to look at evangelicals and only think of the Republican party, but there are nuances and we're starting to see, um, that community start to break apart in different ways. So it'll be interesting to watch moving forward.

ERICA: Stef Kight is a politics reporter for Axios. Thanks Stef.

STEF: Thanks Erica.

ERICA: In 15 seconds, protecting U.S. workers from extreme heat conditions.


ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey filling in for Niala Boodhoo. This past summer was the hottest summer on record in the U.S., putting outdoor workers in danger. And yesterday, the Biden administration announced new steps to protect workers from the extreme heat. Axios’ Andrew Freedman has the story. Hi, Andrew.

ANDREW FREEDMAN: Hey, thanks. Thanks for having me.

ERICA: So steps has the Biden administration said that they're going to take to combat these heat waves we've seen across the country?

ANDREW: They are going to-to take a step that advocates have argued should be taken, for the last several years. Which is to actually make a rule through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, that will define proper protections for workers from extreme heat. So right now, if you are an employer, and you employ a bunch of people in a warehouse, and you don't have sufficient air conditioning and it's, you know, a hundred degrees, and people are having heat-related problems. You don't have a specific law that tells you what you have to give them, in terms of a break, in terms of access to air conditioning, water breaks, that sort of thing. This rule through OSHA would add a new requirement to businesses, and to farms, especially farm workers, and anybody who has to be out in the fields working, is especially affected. Construction is a major sector that essentially is losing work days every year because of climate change. So the thinking goes it would help protect companies from liability, but it would also help protect workers.

ERICA: This goes so far beyond just dealing with some heat at work, you know, on a hot day, this is affecting a lot of different communities. Who is this hurting?

ANDREW: Yeah, so this really has a disproportionate impact, especially within urban areas on communities of color and poorer residents. You know, neighborhoods that historically were discriminated against in real estate policies. Those areas have fewer trees than wealthier neighborhoods. And there can be a 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit difference, in the middle of a heat wave, between the temperature in like the peak of the urban heat island and some of the shadier areas. And it has significant effect on people. You know, you see also, in the wake of storms, when there are major power outages and there's hot weather. We just saw this in New Orleans where, uh, something like 10 or 11 people died after the storm because of heat exposure. These are people who couldn't afford to get out ahead of the storm. Heat is kind of this insidious killer. It's the number one weather-related cause of fatalities in the United States each year on average. So this is really, I think, designed to be an environmental justice matter, not just a pure climate change measure. Think of it more like climate adaptation and environmental justice.

ERICA: Andrew Freedman covers climate and energy for Axios. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

ERICA: For more on how climate change impacts communities of color, you can check out our most recent episode of Hard Truths on race and the environment.

All last week on the show we brought you stories about the impact of COVID on kids. And we asked you to tell us how you’ve been supporting your young children through the pandemic. Here’s some of what you told us.

ZACH: Hi, this is Zach from Pennsylvania. This pandemic certainly pushed our toddler’s classroom into nature and abandoned cultural areas of our local community. We supplemented that by purchasing educational subscription packages. That combined with my wife's experience as a teacher really worked well for us, as she did an amazing job adding structure to everything we were doing.

SARAH: My name is Sarah and I am in Greenville, South Carolina. My husband and I have a five-year-old boy now, but he was not even four when the pandemic first hit. My biggest concern, given his age, is social development. And the best way that we have found to adapt to that over the last 18 months is really practicing it and displaying it in front of him. I've tried to be very expressive with him through my eyes and my facial expressions with a mask on, so that he can mirror me. And what that's done is really allow him, I feel like, to thrive and getting right back into normalcy in school, now that he's able to go into kindergarten this year.

JESSICA: Hello, my name is Jessica. Our son is very active and that was not a good fit in school, um, especially following all the COVID pandemic protocols of keeping distance and wearing masks and sitting still. Unfortunately, in the middle of the pandemic, when there are no vaccines yet available, play therapy was not an option. So my husband and I met with a play therapist weekly via Zoom. We've spent over 100 hours and almost $3,000 to improve our parenting while at the same time trying to manage our full-time jobs. Our son is now in first grade and is having a much better experience, but this is very stressful for him as well as for our whole household.

ERICA: Thank you to listeners Zach, Sarah, and Jessica for sending those in. You can always send your thoughts on the show or any feedback by sending a text or a voice memo to Niala at 202-918-4893.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Erica Pandey - thanks for listening - stay safe and Niala will be back here with you tomorrow morning.

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