Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker

When Your Church and Political Group Turn on You with Nancy French

April 02, 2024 Nancy French Season 7 Episode 13
When Your Church and Political Group Turn on You with Nancy French
Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker
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Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker
When Your Church and Political Group Turn on You with Nancy French
Apr 02, 2024 Season 7 Episode 13
Nancy French

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{Please note that we discuss abuse in this episode.}
How do we love people across our political and social divides? What are the costs and gifts of loving our political neighbor? Nancy French, author of Ghosted: An American Story, talks with Amy Julia Becker about:

  • Her experiences as a ghostwriter for GOP politicians and her decision to leave the industry
  • Polarization within the church and the political landscape
  • Inadequate responses to abuse from both the church and the culture
  • The cost of speaking out
  • Finding hope and connection in surprising ways

New Workshop with Amy Julia: Reimagining Family Life With Disability
Nancy French has collaborated on multiple books for celebrities - five of which made the New York Times best seller list - and written books under her own name.  She has conducted a multi-year journalistic investigation, written commentary, and published for the nation’s most prominent newspapers and magazines. Her memoir, Ghosted, is a story of poverty, success and the rise and fall of political influence. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband – journalist David French – and family.


YouTube Channel: video with closed captions
Let’s Reimagine the Good Life together. Find out more at

Connect with me:

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

{Please note that we discuss abuse in this episode.}
How do we love people across our political and social divides? What are the costs and gifts of loving our political neighbor? Nancy French, author of Ghosted: An American Story, talks with Amy Julia Becker about:

  • Her experiences as a ghostwriter for GOP politicians and her decision to leave the industry
  • Polarization within the church and the political landscape
  • Inadequate responses to abuse from both the church and the culture
  • The cost of speaking out
  • Finding hope and connection in surprising ways

New Workshop with Amy Julia: Reimagining Family Life With Disability
Nancy French has collaborated on multiple books for celebrities - five of which made the New York Times best seller list - and written books under her own name.  She has conducted a multi-year journalistic investigation, written commentary, and published for the nation’s most prominent newspapers and magazines. Her memoir, Ghosted, is a story of poverty, success and the rise and fall of political influence. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband – journalist David French – and family.


YouTube Channel: video with closed captions
Let’s Reimagine the Good Life together. Find out more at

Connect with me:

Thanks for listening!

Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Amy Julia (5s):
Okay, I am going to start this week with an announcement, and then I'm going to tell you all about my conversation with Nancy French. The announcement is to let you know that I am going to be offering my first ever live virtual Workshop for families affected by disability. The idea is that we will walk together towards a good future. We're gonna talk about what that looks like. We're gonna envision it together, and then we're gonna take steps to head in that direction. So this Workshop is called Reimagining Family Life With Disability. Each week you will have live teaching, and that will provide an opportunity to learn, to ask questions, to join with other families who get it, and who are ready to take steps forward.

Amy Julia (50s):
More info is available at Amy Julia Becker dot com slash Workshop. Okay, so announcement over. That's all in the show notes. Now I get to tell you about today's conversation with Nancy French. Nancy has collaborated on multiple books for celebrities. Five of these have made the New York Times bestseller list, but now she has also come out with Her memoir. It's called Ghosted. It is a story of poverty, success, and the rise and fall of political influence. Nancy lives in Franklin Tennessee with her husband, the journalist, David French, and the rest of her family. That's all from her official BIO. but I wanna add that Nancy is just one of the most honest and dynamic people I've ever talked to on this podcast.

Amy Julia (1m 32s):
I really appreciated her take on our political moment and on What. it means even at great cost to yourself, to love people across our political and social divides. And before we go any further, I do need to mention that this episode contains reference to sexual abuse. I'm now at the end of my introduction, and I'm going to give you what I usually start with, which is to tell you that I am Amy Julia Becker. and this is Reimagining, the Good Life A podcast about challenging the assumptions about what makes life good, proclaiming the inherent belovedness of every human being and envisioning a world of belonging. Don't forget to register for the Workshop, and here's my conversation with Nancy French.

Amy Julia (2m 19s):
It is a gift to be sitting here today with Nancy French. So I'll just begin by saying thank you so much for joining me. I'm

Nancy (2m 26s):
So glad to be here. It's so great to see you and talk to you.

Amy Julia (2m 30s):
I know we were reminiscing as we before this started, that we think the last time we talked might have been 10 or more years ago. So I'm glad to talk with you again. And we're here today because you've written a new memoir, and it's called Ghosted An American Story. I thought maybe one way of introducing you and your story to listeners of this podcast. You could start with the title of the book, why Ghosted?

Nancy (2m 57s):
Okay. So some of you may know that celebrity books are not typically written by celebrities. This is mostly true. There is, there are occasionally celebrities who have the ability, time, and bandwidth to create their own books. But most people are hired. They usually hire people like me, unknown, obscure writers across the country to help them Ghosted write their books. So I've been a Ghosted writer for several years, but the title really is a pun on being isolated and rejected by your community. You know, like when you're Ghosted by, by people or boyfriends or, or friends. So it's sort of like a, a, a pun on the fact that I'm a Ghosted writer, and that in the past few years, several groups of people that I thought should have embraced me have rejected me.

Nancy (3m 48s):
So, that sounds fun. Yeah,

Amy Julia (3m 50s):
I'll, I'll kind of follow up on what you said there both to underscore, what's really fascinating about this book is that the fact that you've been a Ghosted writer is really clear in just how readable it is. Like, it's like, it's a very engaging and grossing, like what happens next story of your life. And then also the number of the different facets of exactly what you described in terms of being Ghosted. I'm not sure you ever even used that phrase in the book. It's just this kind of title that hangs over these experiences throughout the book that, yeah, it really does hold both of those things together, for sure.

Amy Julia (4m 32s):
Will you, I guess we're gonna hopefully get into some of those things, but I thought maybe we'd start with the political piece of it. There's, they're all intertwined. There's kind of politics and faith, and then your particular experience as a woman as well. And I'd like to talk about all of those things. but I thought maybe we'd start with politics. There's a quotation about halfway through the book you just wrote. I will, I would not bear false witness against my liberal neighbor. That one decision was the beginning of the end of my political Ghosted writing career. Yeah. I'm sure for listeners, they might need some context. So context for like, what does it mean to bear false witness? Why would you be talking about doing that against a liberal neighbor?

Amy Julia (5m 13s):
But but also like what, why was that the beginning of the end of a Ghosted writing career?

Nancy (5m 18s):
Well, I sort of got into a vein of writing gigs where I was writing for GOP politicians and I worked for, I lived with Sarah Palin in her was House. I've worked with Bristol Palin, I worked with Ben Sas and Mrs. Ann Romney and governor, you know, senators. Like I've worked with a bunch of people. And those people have different needs 'cause they have different brands, they have different vibes. And so, but my spiritual gift that is not listed in one Corinthians is owning the Libs. And so for a long time I specialized in like, you know, making the audience drink liberal tears or whatever.

Nancy (5m 58s):
So like I'd go to Fox News and I'd sit off, off outside the camera and I would feed lines to my clients. and I was just generally acrimonious because that was the gig. Like this was back, you know, several years ago. This was pre-Trump, pre-Trump dominance. Of course, I watched celebrity print, but I thought that political acrimony was just part of it. It was sort of like wink wink, you know? Like I grew up with Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neal sort of going at each other during the day, but being kind to each other in the night. and I thought it was sort of like rhetorical pugilism that was acceptable.

Nancy (6m 38s):
And then I realized that things, people were serious. Like we weren't just kidding. We weren't just making barbs at each other during the day. We actually hated each other. Hmm. and I was part of the problem. And so when I realized that, I was like, oh, I am causing some of this acrimony at least. And So I sort of decided that I wanted to refigure my entire career. One of the things that I decided not to do is to not bear false witness against my neighbor. And that sounds like a pretty easy thing to do, except that there's this whole way of interacting in punditry, which is called nut picking, where you pick the crazy person in Madison, Wisconsin who may have done something crazy.

Nancy (7m 27s):
And then you elevate that into an article and you say, this is how liberals are when it's not true. You know, like you, this happens to Christians all the time and to conservatives all the time where you pick some, you know, strange thing that happened in Kansas and say, conservatives hate this or whatever. Yeah. And so, you know, it's just sort of like, it's the golden rule. But it actually had a profound impact on what I could write, because I just wanted to be fair. I didn't want to score a political point. I wanted to be truthful. And that sort of ruined my occupational options. I was unemployed basically for a long time.

Amy Julia (8m 5s):
Yeah. I mean, which is a sad commentary right. On our political scene. And I'm curious, was that a dawning realization over time? Or was there like a defining moment, like a line in the sand experience? Well,

Nancy (8m 22s):
Yeah, So I had written for GOP politicians forever. and I knew exactly what they wanted me to say because we were aligned. I knew. So they would call me and they'd say, I need an immigration article. I wouldn't say, what do you think about this topic? I would know what they would think. Then when Donald Trump made that comment about John McCain and how he prefers his heroes not to be captured, I was standing at church and I was so shocked Because every client that I've ever had in the history of my life would've said, oh my gosh, we conservative support the military. We're patriotic. We appreciate courage. But then all of my clients, or some of my clients were laughing at that And I was like, wait a minute.

Nancy (9m 4s):
I think we don't mock prisoners of war. I think that's generally, I think that's what our MO is on this. but I was wrong because they wanted to do that. and I was like, okay, this is a, suddenly there's a chasm between me and my clients and I don't know if I can traverse it. but I tried. I tried for a long time. Yeah. And eventually I found myself at a Mago rally writing for a client that was introducing the future president. and I was there and they were like, Hey, come get a picture with Donald Trump and you can show it to your grandchildren later. and I just had that moment of like, panic, because I, I was thinking, what would my grandchildren think about me being here?

Nancy (9m 45s):
I don't wanna immortalize this So I politely refused the photograph and decided to get out of this geographically and occupationally.

Amy Julia (9m 55s):
Yeah. Which, you know, was no low cost for you, as you just mentioned, like, to be like, I'm essentially going to tank my career by not even like standing up for what I believe, but by refusing to stand up for what I don't believe. Like that's, you know. Yeah. and I the, and I, and you've mentioned this already, but this isn't just a story of politics, it's also a story about the church. So those things have been intertwined obviously, for many, many years, not just in recent years and American politics and political and religious life. But I'd love to hear a little bit about that. I thought maybe we could start by just getting a sense of your religious background. So not the current day, but just, you know, what, what 'cause you, it was a little tumultuous from the get go.

Amy Julia (10m 41s):
So I'm curious if you could just tell us about your kind of faith and spiritual background as a child and adolescent.

Nancy (10m 47s):
Yeah. So I grew up in rural, in the rural south, and I attended a denomination called the Church of Christ. And if you're a church of Christ, you're already mad at me 'cause I called it a denominate denomination. The church Christ. Can you explain

Amy Julia (10m 60s):
Why? Like, why would that be maddening?

Nancy (11m 2s):
Yeah. They believe that they're the true tr the true New Testament church. And so everything else is a denomination. It's out of the main, but they're the true New Testament church. But it was, you know, just small town by the lake Church, went four times, three times a week, stayed until the, you know, deacons turned out the lights. Just very sweet fundamentalist, you know, community. And, and I loved it. I loved church so much. My problem came when I was abused by my vacation Bible school teacher, like when I was about 12. And that sort of messed things up, as you might imagine.

Nancy (11m 42s):
And it sort of made me start being confused and having to hide things and be more duplicitous. So it sort of put space between me and the church, me and God in a way that was very difficult to traverse.

Amy Julia (11m 55s):
Yeah. And that abuse went on for years. That was not like an isolated incident. and I don't know if that, you know, there's no gradation of better or worse in terms of that type of experience. But I, it's from reading your book, there was this ongoing sense of confusion of like, what's happening on Sunday morning and what's happening in, you know, with this guy during the week. How do they, what does this mean about who I am? What does this mean about who God is? Like questions that maybe you'd be asking as an adolescent anyway, but I, it seems as though those got even more confused.

Nancy (12m 34s):
Yeah. Even more confused. And unfortunately the church stepped in and answered those questions because they would come in and they would say, well, young ladies, you are responsible for your sexuality. You have to have all these safeguards. You have to be modest. If you, if anyone is showing you undue attention, it's because you wanted it. Once you are damaged by society or men, you're damaged forever. There's no, you know, it's like the opposite of the gospel, which is forgiveness and grace and restoration and all things are made new. But for some reason in this, in my community, it was like the sexual purity once violated was you can't go back.

Nancy (13m 17s):
Hmm. And so once I was ruined at age 12, you can imagine it was a pretty desperate feeling, but over the past few years, you know, of it takes a long time for victims of child sex abuse to sort of process it. So I'm sort of still doing that.

Amy Julia (13m 32s):
Yeah, totally. And I mean And I guess. And that's probably a part of the trauma of it is the silence, right. And the, and the mixed messages, especially when you're that young and being told implicitly, this was your fault.

Nancy (13m 50s):
Yeah. and

Amy Julia (13m 51s):
I guess in reading your book, I did feel like over and over again, not just in that area, although certainly there the church really failed you, and then you watched as an adult, as the church failed, other women like failed to believe other women sometimes by mocking their stories, I'm thinking, yeah. Of some, you gave some examples and other times of just ignoring or, you know, just denying, dismissing. and I'm just curious for you, like how did that silence or dismissal affect your faith? Like how, for you personally, how have you carried on as a Christian?

Nancy (14m 30s):
Well, you know, it's interesting. I've, I've, I'm just sort of becoming alert to all of this. I think I've sort of been in a zombie-like state as it pertains to sexual abuse. I never talked about it. I never dealt with it until 2016 when I wrote an article in the Washington Post talking about this vacation Bible school teacher. And then publishers came to me and asked me to write books. And Amy Julia, you'll appreciate this, you know, how hard it is to get anybody to read anything that you write. and I was sort of unemployed because I had quit my ghostwriting. but I I wasn't able to write about that because I didn't feel like a, an expert. I felt like someone who got it completely wrong.

Nancy (15m 13s):
So I couldn't imagine going into a church and saying, let me, you know, going into a church period to talk about this. So it was very disconcerting. But, but I, So, I feel like I didn't have a moment where I completely rejected Christianity except in college, you know, when I was sort of trying to figure that out. And I just, I've always felt close to God. I always felt like I trusted God in spite of the church sometimes letting me down in such profound ways. And not just women, but boys, you know, like I, I am an investigative journalist lately, and for the past three years I've invested, investigated this camp in Missouri called Kanakuk, and hundreds of boys were abused.

Nancy (16m 3s):
and I thought, after working for three years on this investigation, I would announce it to the church and everyone would be shocked. And it'd be this huge bombshell that this evangelical institution was so corrupt with pedophilia. But it, the church had this collective yawn. So when I wrote in 2016, this Washington Post piece, and people responded sort of negatively because they thought I was using my own sex abuse against Donald Trump and allowing it to sort of pervert my political opinion. Then I did this Canuck investigation and the church was like, oh, so you've established all of these pedophiles are real, but what about Pizzagate?

Nancy (16m 42s):
What about Joe Biden's creepy hugs, you know? and I was just like, okay, y'all are gonna have to gimme some space. Wow. Right, right. This, I can't deal with this So I, I'm sort of clinging, clinging into Christianity with my fingernails, but I'm, I feel like a God. I have a vice grip on God and he has a vice grip on me, but everything else is sort of up in the air. Mm.

Amy Julia (17m 4s):
Which is so tragic and I, I do wonder if you have any thoughts, and you might not yet, because that, I mean, you did pretty much single-handedly expose a tremendous abuse Scandal and coverup by one of these like, preeminent Christian camps. And, and just sta stating that sentence is like shocking in and of itself. A again, especially with your description of a collective yawn that like, and I don't understand why there has not been a collective horror reckoning, you know, et cetera. but I, I guess I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on that.

Amy Julia (17m 45s):
Like what would it take for the church and I know I'm speaking in broad terms, but to when these types of things come up to really admit wrongdoing and really reckon with it.

Nancy (17m 56s):
So when I was investigating Kanakuk in Missouri, I knew I was going into a very red area politically. So I would talk to them in the following ways. I would say, look, I believe that Bill Clinton is a rapist. I also believe that Pete Newman, the counselor at Kcu Camps is a rapist. And that Joe White, the CEO of Kcu camps is allowing, you know, like is not allowing, but is like aware of it and is covering it up and is lying about, you know, so like you can believe two things at the same time, you can believe that Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump have sexual predation issues. Yeah. At the same time, you can also walk and chew gum. It's amazing when you can embrace the power of both.

Nancy (18m 38s):
And, and so what happens is these, I we do it, I do it, I've done it my whole life, probably until recently where you just, you err on the side of protecting your tribe. So in 98, when the Southern Baptist put out their proclamation about the importance of moral character and presidents we know who was president in 98, the Southern Baptist aren't putting out those proclamations now. But you can be morally consistent. And it's pretty easy in the case of rape and pedophiles to draw a line. But people won't, I, I'm so gobsmacked. I'm perplexed. But it has something to do with, yeah. I believe the Catholics have a sex abuse problem, but not canna cut camps.

Nancy (19m 21s):
'cause Joe White is SBC.

Amy Julia (19m 25s):
And I'm curious, backing up a minute, so in 2016 you wrote an article for the Washington Post, and this is before the Kanakuk stuff, but they're somewhat related to each other. And you mentioned it, it's was called What. It's like to experience the 2016 election as both a conservative and a sex abuse survivor. So there you go with your both and Right,

Nancy (19m 47s):

Amy Julia (19m 48s):
Which we know statistically speaking, you are not alone as that both and Right. As both a conservative and a sex abuse survivor, obviously the attention that article garnered even also speaks to the fact that there's some number of people who are like, yes, let's talk about this. And yet there's also some, I guess, repression or just a, like, I don't wanna touch that. and I think, as you said, there's like a tribalism that comes in. But why do we have such a hard time putting those things in a box together?

Nancy (20m 23s):
I have no idea. Okay. I mean, it's just, it's, I think it's so like self, like if you have this box of stuff that's your stuff, and it's a red box or a blue box, depending on your political ideology, you have it. And you want everything in there to be good, because you don't wanna be like team lesser evil. You want your box to have so much goodness in it. And so when someone tries to put something in your box that makes you feel iffy or yucky, you are just like, no, but I don't believe it. You're, you're a part of cancel culture. The number of times that people have said that I am trying to cancel anything, which I've never tried to cancel anything. I'm just literally trying to uncover the truth.

Nancy (21m 3s):
It's just, it's just shocking. Yeah.

Amy Julia (21m 5s):
Yeah. Well, and you've seen that on both sides of the political aisle, right? In terms of add callous attitudes towards women. Yes. And, I feel like it might be worth like sharing a little bit of the Bristol Palin story in the, the midst of that. Because on the one hand, you're being told by all of these conservative Republicans, like there's no, there, there, whether that is your own personal story of sexual abuse or the stories from Kanakuk. But then you're also seeing this happen in a more like, you know, progressive slash liberal space.

Nancy (21m 38s):
Well, right. and I grew up as a rural Tennessee Republican Ted Kennedy, two words. You can't say anything that if you say Ted Kennedy, everything comes to you. If you're Gen X, that this man who's the patriarch of the Democratic Party literally allowed a person to die. I don't think he killed Mary Jo Kanick or, you know, I don't think that it, but it was like weird. And also he was lecherous. Yeah. Bill Clinton has several credible rape allegations against him. And the Democrats were like, Hey, these are our people.

Nancy (22m 18s):
No, bill Clinton is, is also the poter famis of the party now. You know? And it's like, okay guys, can we just relax a second and just actually assess this? But for very many years, no one assessed that. I don't even think it's controversial to say these things now, but in the nineties, man, people would sacrifice you for even having that sort of accusation. So I grew up my whole life believing that liberal men were libertine sexual predators, or at least liberal men were chill with that And I was right. So to see that cultural shift, I'm so shocked. 'cause I thought our party was, I thought my party, which was the GOP at the time, we were the party of Family values.

Nancy (23m 4s):
I don't know if y'all remember Dan Quail and Murphy Brown and all that, but they said those words, And I believed them. but I am. Anyway, it's, it's been very jolting to see that transition. but I went for my first book when I was Ghosted writing the first one that actually was published. and I went to Wasilla and met Bristol Palin. And her story is one that you guys know, or you think you know. Hmm. She, as she was pregnant during the campaign, and it, when Sarah Pan Palin was nominated for the GOP nomination, and it was embarrassing. And she was a, a teenager.

Nancy (23m 45s):
And when I got to Wasilla and I talked to her, her story was less like Devil may care attitude about this situation. It was a little bit, the way she described it seemed more reminiscent of abuse than, and lack of consent and everything that goes along with that. I don't wanna characterize her story for her, but we wrote it in the book. So the very first line of the sentence was, I lied to my mother. And she goes to have like a a, she was said she was going to a friend's house. She went and was hanging out with other people, but the, she said that her, she didn't lose her virginity, but it was stolen.

Nancy (24m 26s):
Yeah. And that's a different thing. And so when I thought when that was published that people would care, especially because Democratic women were starting to speak up and starting to, you know, talk more about abuse. and I thought they would look at Bristol Palin and say, oh my gosh, we got this story wrong. So sorry for all the condemnation and the contempt, which by the way, shouldn't have existed anyway. Right. But anyway, but that's not what happened. People were like, I don't believe Bristol. She's just trying to get attention. She's, you know, it was, it was very demoralizing. but I left Wasilla in that book launch feeling like, okay, Democrats don't actually care about women.

Nancy (25m 7s):
They only care about women who are liberal. And I'm not one of those people, so they don't like me. So it was like, I never quite had a tribe and I still don't.

Amy Julia (25m 17s):
Do you think those experiences have helped you actually to have more of the both and like, to not live in, to break out of some of the boxes that we tend to put people into?

Nancy (25m 28s):
Yeah, maybe I, that's a positive way of putting it. I, I might might have devolved into neither, neither nor or something, but

Amy Julia (25m 37s):
I don't know. Fair enough. Yeah. Well, and I guess I'm wondering, all right, I have a follow up question that I'm now forgetting, Bristol. Oh, I know, I just was gonna, I wanted to ask like what, so how did the Me Too movement affect you? Like, can you just give us your kind of take on that in light of all of these, again, divergent experiences, both politically, church, woman, like Yeah. What do you make of the Me Too movement?

Nancy (26m 7s):
Yeah. Well, I was terrified to see it. I, I felt trepidation and dread and I think it's because I wrote the 2016 Washington Post piece just right before this dawned. and I had gotten obliterated and eviscerated and put on a skillet for that 2016 Washington Post piece. The conservative pundits came out of the woodwork to mock me, even though it was the victim of a pedophile. They said, I seduced my pastor. Oh, the people would put stuff online of me

Amy Julia (26m 40s):
Was, let's just clarify for a moment. You were 12 and he was

Nancy (26m 45s):
22 or 23.

Amy Julia (26m 46s):
Okay. Just wanna like, for the record, since people who haven't read the book wouldn't know that detail.

Nancy (26m 51s):
Right. Yeah. And

Amy Julia (26m 52s):
Somehow you were being called to blame for that. Keep going.

Nancy (26m 57s):
Yeah. It's So I never in a million years thought that if I revealed this secret that I'd kept my whole life, that conservative pundits with editors would write sentences like they did. Yeah. So, yeah. And so for a long time I was sort of ra I mean, still to this day, if I log onto X, formerly Twitter, people will make comments to me. Or they created like fake pornographic videos of me. I just, awful stuff. And then there was also all this racism in there too, you know, it was, so when I saw the Me Too movement, I was like, ladies and gentlemen, y'all need to back up.

Nancy (27m 40s):
This is horrifying. Don't do it. but I was actually very gratified to see that the cultural shift happened. and I do think that the cultural shift has been significant. Like all of the stuff that I was saying about the Democratic men that I, the leaders that I grew up sort of feeling creeped out by, I do feel like this shift has occurred. Not incredibly. I mean, if it had, you know, Hillary Clinton mocking sexual abuse victims like Paula Jones and others like that should, no woman should take that. Right? Yeah. That's why Hillary Clinton was not acceptable to me. Not amongst many other reasons, but neither was Donald Trump. Right.

Nancy (28m 20s):
So I. I'm finding myself in this place where I'm just so politically homeless and isolated and lonely. And, I just feel like a bunch of us feel that way. Yeah. So my book is sort of like extending my hand and saying, Hey guys, let's hang out.

Amy Julia (28m 33s):
Right, right. Well, and let's speak to that for a minute back. You describe an award that your husband, who we haven't mentioned yet. So David French, some people will be familiar with his name also because he is now a regular columnist for the New York Times, but has also been a writer and a political commentator for many, many years. And he, in 2012, I believe, received a really high, like an award by the Republican Party. Can you describe like that experience and then what came on the heels of it for you both?

Nancy (29m 5s):
Yeah. So we, my husband and I at one point were like Republican royalty. So David went to a Christian Christian college, went to Harvard Law School, became a constitutional attorney, joined the Army after nine 11, was deployed, earned a bronze star, has offered pro-life legal counsel for free, represented student groups, Christian student groups for free. I mean, just, he's a freaking beast. He's amazing. So smart. And then I, on the other hand, would write books for celebrity GOP politicians. So on one day in 2012, I was filming a reality TV show with Bristol Palin and David.

Nancy (29m 52s):
And that night David received the CPACs Ronald Reagan award. And so the whole, it was like this big surprise and it was being filmed and, you know, being broadcast on CSPAN for all the 11 watchers out there in America. And, you know, we got a standing ovation and CPAC leader Al Cardenas, who's amazing, was like, this is the man. He represents all the values that we care about. And David talked about taking care of the fatherless and defending the people who are weak and strong military and family, you know, all this stuff. And we got the standing ovation and we waved.

Nancy (30m 33s):
And anyway, that was the last time that we were ever even invited back because that's when the shifts started happening. And now I'm sure, you know, if you go to cpac, they might have like an effigy of David hanging in the corner or something, I'm not sure. But yeah, it was, it was the most, I I I called that the most 24 hour, the most Republican 24 hours of my life. And probably the last.

Amy Julia (30m 58s):
Right, exactly. Well and I guess, I, I think it's worth, you've mentioned some of these things, but I do think it's worth asking, like you both, I mean, would you say, sorry, let me back up after that. Would you say the break with the Republican party had to do with both of you saying, I not only cannot support Donald Trump, but actually would be, you know, actively against his candidacy?

Nancy (31m 22s):
Yeah. I mean, so when I and I keep talking about this McCain thing, but like mocking someone for being a prisoner of war is about the worst thing I've ever heard of my life. My dad joined the Marines when he was 15. David joined the Army after nine 11. My son, my son-in-Law is joining the Marines. My son is thinking about joining the, something I could not in good conscience in my, for the rest of my life, support someone who makes fun of prisoners of war, let alone disabled people, let alone black people. Yeah. Let alone immigrants. Let alone women. I mean, it's like the list is so long you just can't do it.

Nancy (32m 3s):
It's like, I went to that church in by the lake my whole life and every single youth group was, when they pass you the red solo cup, you do not take a drink. And I felt like the culture was passing me this red solo hat make America great again. Hat and I was like, I think this is not what you're supposed to do. I don't think you're supposed to make fun of disabled people. I don't think you're supposed to make fun of immigrants. I don't think you're supposed to rape people casually. I mean, you know, like, I, it's, it's so, it's, it feels so stupid even saying it 'cause it seems so obvious. but I know that there are people who were subscribing to the lesser of two evils.

Nancy (32m 43s):
You know, they, people made different choices and I get it, but I just didn't feel like I could.

Amy Julia (32m 49s):
Yeah. And what did it, what did it cost you? Both, you write about this in the book for sure, but What it, what is, what is the cost been and do you feel as though there's been any gain?

Nancy (33m 1s):
Y Well, the cost was pretty significant because once you speak out against Donald Trump, your persona non grata, you're about as popular as headlights in America right now. Or at least in, in this party. And, and we live in rural Tennessee, so it's not like we're hanging out in New York and going to cocktail parties in DC Beltway. We we're, everybody that we know is conservative. All of my family members, I love everybody down here, but it cost us quite significantly, especially because our, our third child is adopted from Ethiopia. So there was a lot of racism that was sort of unleashed at us because when we spoke out, they said it was, but you know, even, you know, the past week someone said, oh, you need some more retail therapy, go buy another kid.

Nancy (33m 48s):
You know, it was just so awful. And so we were, so the criticisms against us were racialized and, and sexualized. So if I made my political opinion known, they would mock me sexually or put pornographic videos of me out there. And if I said a different political opinion, they would put pictures of my daughter on the internet being like, put in Auschwitz with Donald Trump pulling the gas lever. I mean, like, stuff that you just would not believe it was, it was treacherous and I don't think people could possibly understand it. Just, you know, just being a casual observer of it. But the stuff that we received was, it, it would, it's terrifying.

Amy Julia (34m 27s):
And yeah. So why keep speaking out? I mean, you and David both are like doubling down and I am a regular reader. I've obviously read your book, I read his column regularly. So I'm really grateful as a recipient of your work. But in terms of, yeah, I mean, the cost has been really great.

Nancy (34m 48s):
You know, I'm, I don't know that I'm speaking, I, I'm trying to even decide if I am speaking out anymore. I sort of got sick of everything and sort of retreated and I instead of engaging in politics, I decided to do the Kanakuk investigation, which took me forever. And then I got demoralized, and then I sort of started thinking about becoming a storyteller. So I was able to do some moth appearances, which was so fun and not related to politics at all. So I'm, I Amm. So I'm sort of, I feel like I've taken a step back and, and David has take taken a step forward, obviously as a writer for the New York Times. I mean, I promote all of his stuff and I occasionally get a little snarky on social media. but I just, I don't know, I just feel like this stuff is important.

Nancy (35m 30s):
Like, if, if you cannot speak out against rapist and racist, I mean, I, I just, this Yeah. It's not, it's, it's not marginal. It's not like, oh, he has a different opinion on what the tax rate should be. Right. Which I don't care about. Right. Yeah. But there's such great evil and so it just feels at some point you just have to, anyway, I'm trying to, I'm not actively engaging politically right now. And I've, I've sort of stopped Ghosted writing for obvious reasons. But I, and the obvious reasons are I was unemployable. I don't have a tribe. I don't have a tribe. There's nobody like me that wants me to write for them. 'cause when you hire a Ghosted writer, you don't hire them to write their opinions.

Nancy (36m 12s):
You hire them to write your opinions. Right. And So I. So anyway, so I'm, I'm sort of like, I'm not sure how much speaking out I'm doing. I am speaking out a, a great deal against, you know, sex abuse and stuff like that, which you would think would not code red or blue, but it does. So anytime I speak out against sex abuse, people are like, oh, well, you're just a liberal. And it's like, okay, I can't.

Amy Julia (36m 34s):

Nancy (36m 34s):
I can't even defend this.

Amy Julia (36m 36s):
Right, right. Well, so I'm, I mentioned as we, before we even got on here, that I've just relatively recently renamed this podcast, reimagining the Good Life. And I'm thinking about a lot of the things that you've had to Reimagine or rethink, at least in these past 10 years. And I'm curious like whether that has, there's obviously been just deep sorrow and betrayal in your story. Has there been anything that has actually been hopeful? Or can you imagine, like, has your imagination been shaped in any way that actually brings you hope and like a sense of, of possibility without like kind of toxic positivity?

Amy Julia (37m 19s):
Like, I'm not looking for a happy, cheery answer if there's not one.

Nancy (37m 23s):
Yes. I, when I wrote that 2016 Washington Post piece and everybody lost their collective marbles over it, I just decided to start following anyone who was kind to me on social media, because previously I would follow just people of my tribe. And then I realized I had no tribe. So all these people started offering kind words. And they mostly were Democrats and So I would just like, like, like follow, follow, follow. Yeah. and I followed this one person named Kathy Kattenburg on Twitter. And Kathy, she had, I didn't even know if she was a real person. She had a, I stand with immigrants icon in her thing. And so she was really nice to me.

Nancy (38m 3s):
She said something nice, I followed her. But for the next year, every time I logged on, Kathy Kattenburg was absolutely eviscerating my husband. Oh, she, she hated him because she thought he, she didn't, he didn't understand antisemitism. He's pro-life. She's had four abortions, which she talks about a lot. I mean, racism, she would mock him for celebrating death. I mean, it just weird, like very significantly uncharitable. But she was nice to me. So like, whatever, So I, I was always friends with her. Or I noticed, I just, but I mean, I, I noticed that she criticized him. And then I have this rule, even though I don't feel like my faith is incredibly robust, I made a rule about 10 years ago that if I ever saw anyone who was in need that I would try to help.

Nancy (38m 51s):
Hmm. And one day Kathy Kattenburg tweeted that she was food insecure during Covid. Hmm. And So I reached out to her, and I was like, Kathy, are you food insecure? I saw that you're, you know, that you mentioned something on Twitter. And she was like, yes, I'm gonna call you. So she, So I talked to her on the phone, which is like, for, for me, that's like my Waterloo. I never wanna talk on the phone, but especially talk on the phone with someone who hates us. Right. And So I, but I talked to her and she was like, yes, I, I am disabled. And I can't leave the house. And I've only had pancake mix for two and a half weeks. and I was like, oh my gosh. Okay, we're gonna do this. So like, I called all the synagogues. I called PCA churches 'cause that's what she is, and that's what I am.

Nancy (39m 32s):
And we couldn't find any food. But every day, Kathy Kattenburg and I talked on the phone. And eventually she was like, why are you doing this? I have been so mean to your family. and I was like, I don't know Kathy, Jesus, it's just this thing, whatever. And she was like, well, how are we gonna get the food? So this, by this time it took, it took us like five days. And I was like, I don't know, I think we just need to pray. And she was like, okay, pray. and I was like, I don't pray. I don't know, pray out loud with you on the phone. I don't know how Jews pray. I don't wanna accidentally like offend you. And she was like, just pray. Good heavens. So Kathy Kattenburg, this liberal lady troll on Twitter and I were praying for food deliveries.

Nancy (40m 13s):
And that afternoon, three food deliveries came. So I had ordered like from Amazon and Whole Foods and all these, and she had like 25 bananas and like 10 pounds of meat, you know, just crazy. But Kathy and I love each other so much. We, this is like three years later. She is so smart. She is so wonderful. She's so caring. And when I do And, I even went to New York and did a moth storytelling thing, and I invited her to go. And we had a car get her. And then David, her former frenemy, escorted her from the car into Lincoln Center so she could hear, it was so sweet. And we got to visit with her, but she's So I think that's just so sweet that something like I never in a million years would have reached out to Kathy except that she had reached out to me.

Nancy (40m 59s):
And my whole imagination has been broadened because I just realized that I always in my life was trying to say, okay, here are the Good people and here are the bad people and the Good people look like this. And the bad people look like this. And the Good people vote like this, and the bad people vote like this. And the Good people go to these types of churches. And the bad people, they don't go to church at all. Hmm. And I'm just like completely sorry, I was wrong about so much stuff. and I love, love to have these interesting dialogues with people. And you just meet, you know, one of the things that I've noticed through the Kathy things that, that so many people are acrimonious because they're alone, you know? And so just reaching out to people and having community is like a re love is powerful.

Nancy (41m 44s):
You know, there should be a book about that.

Amy Julia (41m 47s):
And one of the things that I loved about your whole book is your humility. Just that, I mean, as anyone who's listened to this conversation can tell there is like a fierce wit and you're not gonna hold back from speaking the truth. And there's like a huge strength to all of that. And yet that sense of, yeah, I was wrong, I was a part of the problem and I have not like solved it all. But I'm also going to like, and being honest about that in and of itself is such a, I think, I don't know, a step towards healing and towards a reimagined future. You know? And whether that is just for you and Kathy Kattenburg and quite frankly, anyone who just listened to you tell that story has had their imagination shaped in terms of what would, what is, if it is possible for the two of you to become dear friends, not just for her to be nice to you once and then for you to help her with some food, but for you to actually become dear friends.

Amy Julia (42m 48s):
Like that to me, speaks of just so much that is actually possible if we allow ourselves to like encounter each other as humans.

Nancy (42m 58s):
Yes. and I, the, the woman is lovely. Like, she's so delightful. I love her so much. But additionally, you know, like when you expand your imagination and you get to connect with people in these ways, it, it, it change, it makes you less anxious. Hmm. Because you're not looking for safety, you're just looking for connection. And it is just so beautiful. I'm, so, this is what I've done my whole life. I have been, I've looked at people and demanded that churches be theologically orthodox when they're behaviorally heretical. So they might line up like, okay, they believe this about baptism, or they believe this about salvation, but the fruits of the spirit non freaking existent.

Nancy (43m 44s):
Yeah. So I. I just, I just don't, I I don't know anything about Theology. I'm a three time college dropout. I don't know. I don't, I I read the Bible I think four times, almost 50. So that's, that's pretty good. Yeah. I mean basically I'm, I'm just declaring my holiness, but I don't really quite understand Theology. And I'm also so uninterested in it, especially 'cause the people who are always talking about it are so mean. And so I'm just like, okay, give me, the Bible says, you'll know that's a tree by its fruit. Give me some of that fruit. Yeah. And back off, you know, that's how I feel about it.

Amy Julia (44m 20s):
And there is just this, I mean, one of the lines in the book is just about truth being complicated. Like that there was this, you know, long stretch where either you believed or at least wanted to believe that truth was not complicated at all. Right. And, and there is, as you said, like there are some real moral lines in the sand that are not complicated. But then what's complicated is the humans who live that truth, right? Like the, the, that these people who believe different things, or as you said theologically are orthodox, but behaviorally are heretics. And then you have the opposite too, where it's like you are theologically a heretic, but you're living in the way of Jesus.

Amy Julia (44m 60s):
Right. You might not even call on Jesus. And you're living in the way of Jesus. And, and honestly, when I look back to Jesus's own ministry, he seemed to be doing a lot of that complicating work too, in terms of saying like, yeah, you got your Theology all right. And you're living all wrong. And so, right. We at the very least need to ask some questions here, but yeah. Let's, let's imagine a new, a new way of being together. Well, I am really grateful for the work you've done to I think, name some important and hard truths and to have humility while doing that.

Amy Julia (45m 43s):
But also there is, I don't know. For me, this conversation is a hopeful one in terms of both yours and David's, your family's willingness, again, not just to, whether it's write this book or write his column, but also to be like hanging out with Kathy Kattenburg. Right. I mean, that, that all to me is, is an encouraging and hopeful indication that maybe we could Yeah. Be more human together in the future.

Nancy (46m 17s):
Yes. and I think one of the things that I hope people can sort of, sort of situate themselves in right now is that if you feel politically, geographically, or spiritually homeless, it's a good place to be. Hmm. That discomfort is good. Jesus didn't have a place to lay his head. I'm not comparing myself to Jesus at all, but it's, it's not, it's not a completely foreign idea that Christians are in exile in their communities and I think if you can sort of situate yourself into that discomfort, there's real beauty to be observed. Mm.

Amy Julia (46m 53s):
Well, I think we should end on that note, and thank you again just for giving us your time and experience and Wisdom. Yeah. And that good word.

Nancy (47m 5s):
Oh, thank you so much. It's so good to see you. 10 years. We'll meet 10 years from now. Again,

Amy Julia (47m 10s):
We'll try to make it sooner.

Nancy (47m 12s):
Okay. Sounds good.

Amy Julia (47m 17s):
Thanks as always for listening to this episode of Reimagining the Good Life. Please, if you have it, take a second to rate to review, to share this with others. And also, I would love for you to take a minute to learn more details about this Reimagining Family Life With Disability Workshop. I am just gonna repeat the information one more time here. This is my first ever live virtual Workshop for families affected by Disability. I want to offer a way to envision and walk towards a good future. So again, Reimagining Family Life With Disability live teaching each week that will provide an opportunity to learn, to ask questions, to join with other families who get it and who are ready to take steps forward.

Amy Julia (47m 60s):
More info at Amy Julia Becker dot com slash Workshop. I would love to have you join me. I would love for you to share this information with anyone you know who would benefit from this teaching and this community. As we come to an end here, I wanna thank Jake Hanson for editing this podcast. Thank Amber Beery for pulling everything together and Thank you for being here and for listening. I hope that this conversation helps you to challenge assumptions, proclaim the belovedness of every human being, and envision a world of belonging. Let's Reimagine the Good life together.