A couple times a week in the Pacific Northwest, a Web developer and a used car salesman sit down with drinks and talk about God. These are Christian Kingery and Jason Stellman, best friends of 25 years, hosts of a podcast called Drunk Ex-Pastors.
Their conversations, occurring with that casual rhythm that comes after so many years of easy friendship, are permeated with religious content that serves as a springboard into other topics, from the polarizing and political to the hilariously irreverent. After all, these guys have been friends since high school. For a podcast with the word “pastors” in the title, there are a lot of dick jokes.
Stellman, now a practicing Catholic, and Kingery, now agnostic, come from a religious fellowship called Calvary Chapel, a church born out of the Jesus movement in the 1960s. The church is effectively nondenominational, with over a thousand assemblies around the world. “As far as megachurches go, they’re one of the better ones,” Stellman told the Daily Dot. “They emphasize good things, and it’s not about money and all that. They’re also very insular, closed off, and unaware of the rest of the Christian church around them.”
Kingery and Stellman both spent time in Hungary spreading the Christian message, but in his 14 years since leaving Hungary, Stellman said, he got “grumpy, and really into theological fights, proving people wrong. That’s a very negative expression of Christianity. My beliefs only felt legitimate if there was a mortal enemy crusading against them.”
“Our conversations were so much better back then,” said Kingery.
Stellman’s conversion to Catholicism sent some ripples throughout his religious community. “In the small little world of conservative protestantism, my transition into the Catholic church caused upheaval,” he said. “To this day, two and a half years later, there are websites where they bash me and mock me.” This notoriety almost certainly helped build the initial audience for the pair’s podcast.
Kingery’s arrival at agnosticism was hardly as high-profile. “My environment was very focused on thinking about God all the time, memorizing scripture, it was my whole life up until 2000 or so. In 2000, I was a pastor in Hungary and my life went that way even more so. When I moved back to the States was when I realized life didn’t have to be like that.” Kingery’s loss of faith was “a gradual thing. Now I see Christianity as another religion, maybe one of the better ones, but not necessarily the one.”
This kind of casual and upfront honesty is par for the course when it comes to the friends’ podcast. They create the safest of conversational spaces and use it to dissect all order of topics while a growing audience listens in. A conversation that starts with the asinine death of Eric Garner might end with the Big Bang, but only after taking a trip through transubstantiation, the belief the bread and the wine used in religious communion is in actual reality the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It’s tremendous.
“You know, the more people we have listening, the more people will disagree with us.”
“But we’ll also have more people agreeing with us.”
In their real lives away from the podcast, Kingery is a Web developer at an accounting firm and Stellman is a used car salesman, a job he came to after being let go from a software company. “I realized I needed to find something steady. A good friend of ours had been a salesman, he liked it and made good money, so I picked his brain. Eventually I drove to the dealership and got the job,” he said. “It doesn’t pay the bills at all.”
“But it’s great fodder for the podcast,” said Kingery.
Stellman and Kingery hope to eventually find a way to do the podcast on a full-time basis. While they share the occasional moan and groan about their day jobs, it’s clear that their hearts are truly in creating deep, meaningful content to be shared with others over the Internet. “We both have so many ideas that would require much more time,” Stellman said. “We’re already selling shotglasses. We’d love to do a coffee-table-style book of stupid quotes from us. We’re experimenting with doing two podcasts a week. If we can’t find a way to monetize responsibly, then we suck as marketers.”
Kingery jumped in: “If we can’t do it responsibly, we’ll do it irresponsibly.”
Until such a time as the podcast can earn enough money for the pair to support themselves, they seem perfectly happy to continue surfing an epistemological wave with any and all podcast listeners who want to join in. And that audience is growing, much to the pair’s nervous delight.
“You know, the more people we have listening, the more people will disagree with us,” said Kingery.
“But we’ll also have more people agreeing with us,” said Stellman.
Illustration via Drunk Ex-Pastors