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“In the Name Above All Names”:
A Girl Boss Builds Her Empire on Sand 7 Samah Choudhury image_header 2022-01-02T17:07:22+00:00 Jenna Ryan smiles wryly into the camera on her phone. “You guys, can you believe this?” she exclaims. “I'm not messing around... when I come to sell your house, this is what I will do. I will fucking sell your house.” Chants of USA! USA! USA! billow throughout the room behind her as she flips the camera from selfie mode to film the scene in front of her. One can make out a hallway thick with bodies in winter coats and hats (and no face masks)
, a mass of people holleringand cheering, marching ahead and shoving past motionless police officers throughthe halls of an edifice built atop indigenous Nacotchtank lands. Ryan’s voice rises above the din once more: “Here we are, in the name of Jesus! In the name above all names, in the name of JESUS!”
This was one of many social media posts from Ryan on the day of January 6, 2021. In a Facebook livestream, she admitted feeling nervous. “I'm kinda freakin' out. Because I’m going to war.” In another video (since deleted), Ryan walked up the building steps and
The invocations of Christ alongside
the advertisement of herprofessional services (Ryan owns and operates a real estate business in Frisco, Texas) as she “answered the call” from Donald Trump to refute the 2020 electoral college results may seem curious, but upon second thought may not be so unexpected. Indeed, Ryan was one of many to speak the name of Jesus into the air of the Capitol building that day. For her, and so many others, the connection between religion, work, and nation is obvious and internally consistent. A decades-long well of corroboration lies beneath such proclamation, in which millions of white American Christians embraced a prosperity gospel which gained further public (and political) legitimacy through the rise of the Religious Right and Moral Majority politicking.
This adoption of what Randall Balmer and Lauren Winner call a “spiritualized Reaganism” oversaw prosperity Protestantism’s return to the public domain through the Republican Party. Reagan’s tax reforms and the early decision to fire thousands of striking air traffic control workers in 1981 were cultural flashpoints for notions of meritocracy and individualism made
Melissa Deckman points out
that the Tea was
These women’s self-reliance and personal responsibility is a source of pride and cause for celebration. It aligns cleanly, in many ways, with the rise of another force of the 2010s: the Girl Boss. Drawn in the mold of women like Sheryl Sandberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Fey, and even (with only a touch of irony) Hillary Clinton, the Girl Boss is ambitious and unabashed in her pursuit of power and the capital that comes with it. “Bitch is the new Black”; the world is hers for the
Definitely not going to jail. Sorry I have blonde hair white skin a great job a great future and I'm not going to jail. Sorry to rain on your hater parade. I did nothing wrong— Jenna Ryan (@dotjenna) March 26, 2021
She was one of the early arrests in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection. Booked on January 15th in Plano, Texas, Ryan pled not guilty to charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building, violent entry, and disorderly/disruptive conduct in a capitol building. On November 4, nearly 10 months later, she wasIt is part of the grim terrain that the Girl Boss must traverse; the challenge that gives the eventual victory its merit. sentenced Victory, after all, is the final node of the prosperity gospel’s theology, something that is inevitable when sought through the power of positive thinking. “The prosperity gospel promised total victory over crushing circumstances,” notes Bowler, “guaranteeing believers the tools to become true conquerors.” @dotjenna
Keep Positive- Prison Fit Check ##jennaryan♬ original sound - Jenna Ryan
Ryan has reverted to her upbeat self in the weeks ahead of her incarceration. In December 2021, she posted a video on TikTok about her hopes for the 60-day stint. “I’m going to be able to work out a lot and do yoga and detox… Everyone is telling me I’m going to lose weight, so hopefully I’m going to get down to my ideal weight… If I can lose 30 pounds? It would be so worth it. So you have to look at the bright side of everything you do. And that’s what I’m trying to do!” The prosperity gospel’s promise of faith, wealth, health, and victory remains alluring, shifting on the day’s uncertain political grounds, but with an ever-present beck and call.
Samah Choudhury is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Ithaca College. Her research surrounds Islam, humor, and the politics of social legibility in the United States. Her current book manuscript looks at how Muslims and Islam are articulated through standup comedy in the midst of transnational practices of race, masculinity, and secularism. She holds a Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill in Religious Studies.