CNN’s United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell explores affluent megachurches

W. Kamau Bell takes us across America in his bid to find common ground. Pic credit: CNN
W. Kamau Bell takes us across America in his bid to find common ground. Pic credit: CNN

United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell is finally back for season four this Sunday, and this “twemmy” (two-time Emmy winner) has a lot of big ol’ diverse America to tuck into, warts and all.

In his premiere episode, Kamau heads down to the Lone Star state to see what’s up with megachurches — a Texas creation that spawned all sorts of Protestant prosperity preachers and slick live shows selling the Gospel, replete with makeup artists, producers, and camera crews.

He explores the momentum from Evangelical Christians and how they organize to shape the political narrative of this country.

However, the Evangelicals are losing ground according to the Pew Foundation’s 2019 study of the religious makeup of the USA.

“Christians remain by far the largest religious group in the United States, but the Christian share of the population has declined markedly…Overall, the religious “nones” have grown from 16.1% to 22.8% of the population in the past seven years.”

Bell’s natural bonhomie and self-effacing charisma are what makes this docuseries soar, reaching people and touching them in ways that are profound.

Kamau shared this personal message in his Instagram feed:

On United Shades of America, Bell sets off for Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. — covering a lot of ground from cha-ching megachurches to a large population of Hmong-Americans while also meeting up with some black Midwesterners, Seattle-area white activists, and the LGBTQ+ community too.

In the clip below, Kamau sits with two preachers of megachurches and gets their perspective.

He says: “As a comedian, I look at this as part
performance…and you had two shows?”

One preacher replies: “I’m not scared of saying we’re entertaining because if you look at the Gospels, I could argue that Jesus entertained… entertainment — it means to capture and hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time.”

As the conversation went on, Kamau brought up the 800-lb pound gorilla in the pulpit: “Do you feel weird about the money?”

Who is W. Kamau Bell

W. Kamau Bell is someone who should still have his FX series “Totally Biased.”

Okay, we are still a bit bitter about that but at least he is back on CNN.

Back in 2013 Monsters & Critics participated at the summer Television Critics Association panel where Kamau talked about that now wrapped FXX series, and made a remark that is still resonant today.

He was asked since everyone was talking about race — and he felt we needed to have a dialogue on the subject — what he thought was missing from this dialogue.

He replied:

“I have so many ideas in my head. I feel like I feel like what’s missing from the dialogue on race in America is white people doing this (making a face).


I feel like every white person needs to practice that. That’s your listening to racism face (making a face).


Too often, white people go, “Hey, I have a….” You need to listen to the story before you come to the conclusion, and I feel like a lot of times you know, the worst thing a white person can say to a person of color is “I don’t think that’s racist.” (Makes a growling sound.) I don’t know if that’s your area. You know, you can have an opinion, but you can’t have the final word, you know. And I put myself on the line, saying — if I say to a woman, “I don’t think that’s sexist,” watch out. You know, it’s just not that’s not my area, and I’ve learned that from being steeped in the Bay Area culture and being raised by my mom. A black woman raised me, and then two white lesbians in Oakland finished raising me.

So I sort of I think that’s what’s missing from the race discussions, that white people, you’ve got a lot of jobs. You can’t always have the “knowing what’s racism” job. That’s all I’m saying. Knowing what’s imperialism, that’s a good one.”

A Bay-area self-described “blerd,” W. Kamau Bell was raised by a powerful academic mother who helped shape this sociopolitical comedian who now has two Emmys for his CNN Original Series “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.”

Kamau also has a Netflix stand-up comedy special, Private School Negro and a book, The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian.

He’s a dad, son, husband, director, author, comic, actor, and podcaster and also serves on the advisory board of Hollaback! and Donors Choose and is also the ACLU celebrity ambassador for racial justice.

The official logline from CNN:

W. Kamau Bell visits Dallas, TX—the home of the Megachurch, to find out what is creating the new face of Christianity today, in a city where church and state are far from separate.

Tune in as W. Kamau Bell travels to Texas, the birthplace of megachurches, to have a deep dive into the business and marketing of Evangelical Christianity to Americans across the board.

United Shades of America airs Sunday, beginning April 28th at 10 pm ET / 7 pm PT on CNN.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments