US Christian right group wages culture war with books, cartoon and nature doc

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The son of controversial Christ Church pastor Douglas Wilson in Moscow, Idaho, and a close aide, has made significant inroads into mainstream culture in America with a successful streaming cartoon based on a book published by the church’s own imprint.

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The Granthshala has previously reported how the church, which aims to create a democracy in America, has increased its power and influence in its hometown, as well as campaigning vocally against efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Those developments come amid widespread growth in the right wing across America.

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At the same time Christ Church is seeking to enter American popular culture and use television and book publishing to promote its interests.

Wilson’s son Nathan Wilson and his manager and close collaborator, Aaron Ranch, are simultaneously attempting to crowdfund a creationist nature documentary starring Douglas Wilson’s brother, Gordon, and marketing young adult fiction through a mainstream publisher. has continued to do.

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They have also entered into complex financial arrangements that appear to divert funds to a troubled charity affiliated with Christ Church and have quietly taken control of many Christ Church-affiliated businesses through LLCs that have limited legal access. and financial reporting obligations.

The revelations raise further questions about the way the local empire of the Church and its associated institutions is run, and the extent to which it has been successful in embedding the Church’s radical, religious teachings into the products of major media conglomerates.

The Granthshala investigation has revealed how Christ Church has accumulated power, centered in the hands of the family of Douglas Wilson and a small number of other individuals.

The relationship between Nathan Wilson and Ranch is evident in a vast and lucrative enterprise that includes publishing, media production and real estate.

Wilson, writing as ND Wilson, is the author of several bestselling young adults and children’s books. Some of these are published with the church-aligned publisher, Canon Press.

But most are published with mainstream publishers, including two trilogies and two standalone books with Penguin Random House and a trilogy with Katherine Teigen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Ranch, who is a member of Christ Church with his brother Gabriel, serves as Nathan Wilson’s literary agent through his own Leptide literary group.

Recently, however, the pair has entered media production.

This year saw the fourth season of the animated children’s program, Hello Ninja, streaming on Netflix. The series is based on a picture book written by Wilson, and published by the Christ Church-aligned publisher, Canon Press’s children’s imprint.

The books, and series, depict children who transform into ninjas and enter a magical kingdom.

Ranch and ND Wilson are both listed as executive producers for the program’s first series in 2019. Wilson is credited as an executive producer and is credited as a producer on the show. Netflix is ​​listed as the production company, but the ranch’s production company, Gorilla Poet Productions (GPP), has been identified as a co-producer elsewhere.

Previously, along with other adaptations of the ND Wilson books, the GPP has produced Culture War documentaries centered on Douglas Wilson.

In 2009, GPP and Ranch formed the Collision, which sparked a series of debates between Wilson and the late author and celebrity atheist Christopher Hitchens.

Then, in 2015, another film, The Free Speech Apocalypse, past events In 2012 at Indiana University, students and others protested Wilson’s speech on the grounds that they saw it as homophobia.

Recently, Ranch and Wilson have been seeking crowdfunding for a nature documentary series, The Riot and the Dance, set to feature the creationist ideas of Gordon Wilson – Nathan’s uncle, Douglas’s brother and sister. senior fellow in natural history Christ Church-aligned College in New St Andrews.

Christin Du Maze is Professor of History at Calvin University and the author of Jesus and John Wayne, a critical history of white evangelical Christianity in the United States, including an investigation into Douglas Wilson’s leadership of the Christ Church.

When asked about Wilson’s publishing and media ventures, Du Mays said: “Orthodox evangelicals have a long history of advancing their religious and political values ​​through popular culture.”

He said evangelicals created media for other evangelicals, who were seeking to protect themselves and their families from “corrupt influences” in secular culture. As a result, Du Mays wrote that “it is always good to follow the money”.

“Since there is a captive market that has been said to distrust a ‘secular’ culture, there is a lot of money to be made in the production of religious-themed products, especially those aimed at conservative audiences,” Du Mays concluded.

In an SEC filing that describes the crowdfunding effort, the rationale for the series is set out.

“For a very long time nature documentaries in the entertainment industry, a multi-billion dollar sector, have been completely controlled by groups that do not believe in a divine creator,” the document said.

Documents show that all crowdfunding of production costs will be raised from custodians, who will receive equity and a share of profits in the case of a successful production, with Wilson and Ranch allotted more than 90% of the voting shares in the company. No cash contribution is made.

Nathan Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.

Netflix declined to comment on whether they were still in partnership with Wilson and Ranch, or the nature of any partnership.

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