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Misdiagnosing the psychology of belief
Photo by Christian Egli / Unsplash

Misdiagnosing the psychology of belief

✝️ Hallucinating a threat · Campus hijinx · Jones to remain · AFP lets Nashville take the wheel · Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

By now, you must have seen footage of pro-Palestine student “encampments” on college campuses across the country. Administrators at these colleges seem genuinely scared of these students and unwilling to punish them.

The same cannot be said of fraternities. The decades-long fight against Greek life on college campuses is summed up well in this short piece in Tablet which exposes the double standard applied to protestors and fraternities. Worth a quick look.


A Review of Dave Verhaagen’s How White Evangelicals Think: The Psychology of White Conservative Christians

A few weeks before Halloween 2022, it looked like the Red Wave was all but a given. The President was wildly unpopular, Ron DeSantis was ascendant, and Kari Lake drew the same sizable crowds Donald Trump did in 2020. Two years into what was supposed to be a return to sanity, even the most unhinged of prophecies about the rise of Dark Brandon were coming true. That’s the best explanation I’ve got for why The Tennessean chose to run a feature interview with Nashville psychologist David Verhaagen entitled, “Q&A: What helps drive Christian nationalism? Collective narcissism, author argues.” 

Verhaagen sat down with the paper’s religion reporter, Liam Adams, to promote his definitive-sounding book How White Evangelicals Think: The  Psychology of White Conservative Christians. This was, as the article insinuates, the first book by a psychologist diagnosing a voting bloc that has spoiled elections since the days of Reagan. But now, an expert had finally come to deliver his diagnosis, revealing that these biblical literalists have the same MMPI results as the rest of America. Verhaagen is an expert with a thriving clinical practice. He can interpret the data. Best of all, he lives right here in Nashville.

Only there are a few holes in this blue dot fairy tale. How White Evangelicals think is not an academic project governed by vigorous methodology. It’s an unwieldy summary of previous research and news articles with vague references to “studies” Verhaagen has done that he never fully explains. Though he does teach a class or two at Vanderbilt every semester, he is not a tenured professor.

Consequently, How White Evangelicals Think has not been through the rigors of peer review, though The Tennessean and the book’s marketing plan that tout Verhaagen’s credentials clearly insinuate that it is authoritative and fully vetted. Its publisher, Cascade Books, is much more famous for pulling its title Bad and Boujee: Toward A Trap Feminist Theology after outcries on social media that a white woman with a PhD in the subject matter was writing about the black experience than its back catalog of books that have irrevocably shaped the disciplines. 

As the Tennessean so succinctly put it, How White Evangelicals Think diagnoses evangelicals with collective narcissism, a condition that, according to Verhaagen, occurs when, “a group believes they are part of an extraordinary group disrespected by those outside the group.” Except that the book doesn’t do that at all. The evangelical church involves so many region-specific and multi-ethnic denominations that proving the validity of such a claim would require an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and anthropologists at universities throughout the world meticulously collecting reams of qualitative and quantitative data.

As a substitute, Verhaggen has relied on his credentials to armchair diagnose a movement to which he has tenuous ties. Throughout the text’s 309 pages, Verhaagen makes no mention of his methodology, results, or any real semblance of original psychological research. Nor does he include an immersive account of his time embedded within an evangelical community. He does, however, furnish a 13-page appendix entitled “Evidence of Structural Racism” that cherry picks a handful of studies and makes a shout out to NPR in its footnotes. It’s only rivaled by the section entitled, “What is QAnon?”


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🗳️ Jones Stays On The Ballot “I come before this commission today to say that this challenge is not only frivolous, but it is part of a pattern of political harassment that is being used in this building right now,” said Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) before the crowd gathered during last night’s Davidson County Election Commission meeting. Jones asked commission chair Jim DeLanis to recuse himself from the proceedings, citing his correspondence with District 52’s Republican challenger, Laura Nelson, who asked DeLanis for “legal” guidance when it came to challenging Jones’ petition signatures.

“One thing that I’ve done in every vote that I’ve taken is avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” Jones said. Quite a statement, considering the freshman representative only collected the minimum 25 signatures required to run for his seat. With no room for error, Jones overcame Nelson’s challenge when the commission voted to dismiss after hearing from both parties last night. MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

✰   ✰   ✰

🚌 AFP Takes Hands Off O’Connell’s Transit Plan “A referendum to raise the sales tax is the only way to let Nashville decide if it's worth it,” State Director for Americans For Prosperity, Tori Venable, posted on X. “Kudos to Mayor [Freddie O’Connell] for taking feedback and learning from the previous plan's downfall.”

Though the libertarian-conservative group pulled out all the stops to defeat Megan Barry’s quixotic 2018 proposal, they told the Banner they’re unlikely to oppose O’Connell’s new plan. The referendum, if placed on November’s ballot with approval from the council, will result in a half-cent sales tax increase to partially sustain the $3.1 billion endeavor. The O’Connell administration has projected that this would cost Davidson County residents about $70 per year and could go into effect as early as February 1, 2025. The increase would be indefinite, as the tax is set to expire “when all outstanding debt has been repaid.” MEGAN PODSIEDLIK


  • 16-Story Hotel Proposed Next To Popular Fitness Center In The Nashville Gulch (Now Next)
  • Miami chef to open American restaurant, supper club in Rutledge Hill (NBJ)
  • AJ Capital plans music venue in Wedgewood-Houston (NBJ)
  • SoBro hotels sell for $530M (Post)
  • Plans updated for building eyed for Rutledge Hill (Post)
  • Germantown site eyed for project sells for $2.3M (Post)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and yearly festival guide.


🎸 Junior Brown @ Station Inn, 8p, $25, Info

🎸 Meatbodies @ The Blue Room, 8p, $19.41, Info

🎸 Portugal. The Man @ Ryman Auditorium, 8p, $35+, Info

🎻 Beethoven's Violin Concerto @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, $29+, Info

🪕 The Cowpokes @ Acme Feed & Seed, 12p, Free, Info

🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info


The latest releases and special screenings hitting Music City this week. For a complete list of upcoming releases, check out our 2024 Film Guide

The Fall Guy Although it’s based on the Lee Majors early '80s TV series, the opening salvo of the summer blockbuster season managed to attract current Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. The pair play an on-again, off-again stuntman and director who get caught up in a criminal plot while working on a high-concept action movie. With John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch at the helm, it has the meta-comic potential of 21 Jump Street written all over it. One of our most anticipated of 2024 Now playing in theaters.

Omen Four characters accused of witchcraft navigate the “African phantasmagoria” in one of the most visually striking and buzziest festival titles in quite some time. Now playing at The Belcourt. 

Jeanne du Barry Johnny Depp makes a half comeback playing a version of Louis XV who falls in love with a social climber not named Amber Heard in this period piece. Now playing in theaters. 

After Hours Martin Scorsese’s criminally underseen comedy classic follows a lonely word processor (Griffin Dunne) on a picaresque journey through Manhattan who just wants to get home to his apartment. See the 4K restoration overseen by Scorsese’s longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Now playing at the Belcourt.