(RNS) — A young couple sit in front of a webcam trading commentary. Today’s subject: their feelings on a particular set of conservative Christian influencers. Together, Jennifer Sutphin and James Bryant chronicle their concerns about an internet popular Christian couple, Paul and Morgan Olliges, who could very well be described as Sutphin and Bryant’s inverted mirror.
While both couples foster a devoted online following via longform YouTube content, they represent wildly divergent values and lifestyle. The Olliges, young and preppy, subscribe to a literal interpretation of biblical gender roles. Sutphin (she/they) and Bryant (he/they) maintain fluid ideas of gender identity. The Olliges underscore evangelical tradition, Sutphin and Bryant are asking: What happens outside, and after, a life of religious submission?
The comparisons are stark, and judging from the video’s comment section, well taken. As one commenter puts it, “you and James play off each other so well.” The comment received 2,300 likes.
“We wanted to show a good relationship,” Sutphin and Bryant responded in a follow-up comment, alongside two laughing emojis.
Their channel, Fundie Fridays, is validating to some, bewildering to others, evocative always. Each of the channel’s 90 videos functions as an installment from the reigning rulers of Reddit’s r/fundiesnark’s video counterpart. R/fundiesnark, a subreddit with at least 75,000 users, is a forum for those aggrieved by fundamentalist Christianity. As the name implies, the discussions bend toward humor, albeit with an often caustic tone.
A subculture within that subculture, those who watch Fundie Fridays are the “best of the fundiesnark community,” insists Sutphin.
Friday as a New Holy Day
Fundie Fridays is a YouTube channel in which Sutphin, 28, sometimes with the company of their partner Bryant, 33, publishes weekly video essays — generally compilations of cuts of sermons, TV shows, Instagram Reels and other public content, with Sutphin’s sardonic commentary layered on top. Often, she gets ready in front of a mirror along the way. A trademark line starts most videos: “Here on my channel, I talk about different aspects of Christian fundamentalism, while doing my makeup.”
Since its creation in July 2019, Fundie Fridays has accumulated more than 30 million views and 280,000 subscribers — whom Sutphin affectionately refers to as “Jennonites,” a cheeky nod to Mennonites, an Anabaptist group. The religious allusions don’t stop there. Audience members sometimes call Bryant “King James,” hinting at the Scottish-English king who commissioned a new translation of the Bible in 1611. Sutphin jokes her fan base gives her a “god-complex.”
Today, Sutphin and Bryant are full-time content creators. The two are now engaged and have six pets. With the income they generate from Patreon subscribers and merchandise, they publish videos on famous Christians, ranging from internet sensations like the Olliges to reality TV darlings the Duggars and TV evangelists of old, such as Tammy Faye Baker. The channel also crosses into politics (covering conspiracy theorist and politician Marjorie Taylor Greene) and practitioners of other faiths (including Jewish conservative influencer Abby Shapiro).