TW: sexual violence; intimate partner violence; postpartum PTSD
This week’s guest is Grace. Grace was fortunate not to grow up in the church, but when she became a Christian in high school, she—in her own words—“quickly became the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager.”
Grace was a zealous believer for years, and it wasn’t until she had her first child that the questions began coming. At first, she didn’t think she was deconstructing her faith; she saw it as spiritual growth.
But then—as with many other guests—“the Pandemic hit.” While in lockdown, more than theological questions came up for Grace. With her husband’s support, online friends, and medication, Grace managed, but one thing was missing.
What she needed but couldn’t find, she created. hyssopandlaurel.com is a “grassroots arts and literary magazine for religious deconstructionists.” It is a thriving community of creative minds coming together to make art and poetry, sharing their stories because their stories matter.
The Living Room podcast (Jo Luehmann)
The New Evangelicals on Instagram
Till Doubt Do Us Part by David Hayward
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
“I was not indoctrinated by my parents, but I was indoctrinated by the pastoral voices around me.”
“I quickly became the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager.”
“Going to…youth group was the first place I felt a sense of belonging which I think was a big part of what appealed to me about Christianity…”
“I really felt like, not that God had failed me [during childbirth], but that my body had failed me because I really internalized this thought: It was because I idolized childbirth. I wanted it to be about how strong I was, so God’s teaching me that it’s about Him.”
“…there was this very real awareness for me that some cognitive dissonance was happening and I could not face it.”
“I started taking anti-anxiety medication…not only did it help me to stay alive and get well, but becoming well lifted this fog from my brain and all of the cognitive dissonance was like, ‘Whoa, whoa whoa.’”
“My belief in God [had been] my ‘anti-anxiety medication.’ It was keeping me sane. It was keeping me safe.”
“…but if you say to someone, ‘I’m a Christian,’ they don’t hear ‘I’m progressive,’ or ‘I’m affirming.’ They hear, ‘I am aligning myself with a system that is for oppression, for colonization, for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,’…”
“The first thing I thought when I woke up was, God is not real, and that’s okay, and that was it.”
“I feel most proud of myself and most empowered in my work when it is about helping other people see, ‘Your story is worth other people hearing. Your experience is a unique perspective that brings value to the world in a way that nobody else’s can.’”
Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!
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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
David Ames 0:11 This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. If you are in the middle of doubt and deconstruction, you do not need to do this alone. Please join us in the private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion spy Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, our lien interviews our guest today, Grace. Grace is the creative behind hyssop and Laurel which is a grassroots art and literary magazine for religious deconstructionists. Grace went through her deconstruction and was looking for an artistic outlet couldn't find one. And so she decided to create one herself. Here is Arline's interview with Grace Arline 1:31 Hi, Grace, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Grace 1:34 Hi, thanks so much for having me. So Arline 1:37 the sometimes wonderful algorithm of Instagram said, Hey, you might love this page. And so I clicked because I liked the aesthetic. I liked your picture. And then I was just sucked in. And it was like I just hearted thing after thing after thing and started following you and then shared your stuff in the group because I love like just everything you're doing. So I'm so glad that you're here. Grace 2:01 Oh, thank you so much for having me. I'm really glad that you Yeah, that the algorithm brought us together. Sometimes Sometimes it works in your favor. Yeah, I'm excited to be here. Arline 2:12 Yeah. So we usually begin with just tell us about the religious background that you grew up in. Grace 2:19 Yeah, so I technically did not grow up in a religious background. Both my parents actually, well, both my parents grew up in religious households and deconstructed. And then they didn't raise my brother and I, in a religious home or in a Christian home. So I became a Christian when I was a teenager, when I was in high school, I had a lot of friends who went to church, you know, I grew up in the Bible Belt, rural Georgia. And so I started going to youth group. Oh, yeah, I started going to youth group with some friends in high school. And yeah, that's how I that was how I became a Christian. So it was, it's, it was an interesting journey of always, like really wishing that my family was hyper religious, like all my friends, families, and that seems so idealistic to me, then. And then my, I guess, conversion caused quite a lot of familial tension. Because then I was I was not indoctrinated by my parents, but I was indoctrinated by the pastoral figures around me, who were then kind of telling me, you know, you need to proselytize to your parents, and you need to bring them to church, and you need to make sure that they're saying you've done, you know, now you're at odds with them. And the Bible says that, you know, Mother will hate daughter, and so it's okay. Yeah, angry at you. And it's because they're, you know, lost in their sinfulness. And, you know, that was really confusing. I did not have the tools or the, like development to know that that was really awful, that you know, that that shouldn't have been said to me. Yeah, so that was an interesting kind of on ramp into Christianity. And it just kind of it made me take it so seriously. Probably more seriously than a lot of my peers. And I very quickly became like the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager. It was great. I look back on young grace with just, like so much compassion for her and also like, Girl, what are you doing? Yeah, this is not it. Yeah. Arline 4:45 I can empathize. I did not grow up in the church. I did grow up in rural rural. That's a hard word for me rural Georgia, but didn't grow up in the church. Then I became a Christian in college, and became the insufferable Christian college student. You And yes, I need to proselytize to my family and like, Oh, yes, I list that girl. And you do take it seriously. I mean, they give you a lot of fear and anxiety and, and hope kind of. Yeah. So you, yeah, you you, you pour yourself into it because it this is the best thing. And so you, you just had friends who were in youth group as normal like until you just in Georgia, southern Georgia world. And so did you enjoy youth? Like how was youth group? Was that a good experience? I Grace 5:35 loved it. I had had a hard time in middle school, you know, as many young girls do. And so going to this youth group was kind of the first place that I felt a sense of belonging, which I think is a big part of what appealed to me about Christianity was, you know, it was it, it was a place to be given an identity that didn't have to come from me. And I met people who were different from me, but who were willing to be friends with me. And I had, you know, people telling me that God had a plan and a purpose for my life. And, you know, I was so loved and, you know, all the things that they say, to get young people to believe it to be committed to it. Yeah, so at the time, it was a it was a really positive experience. I didn't have any, like, harrowing youth group. Stories. Arline 6:28 Yeah. Yeah. Me to youth group. I didn't care for the adults at the church that my mom took us to, at all. But the friends yeah, we were kind of what's the word, a motley crew, just a bunch of random kids who wouldn't normally have hung out. We were all kind of pushed together. And it worked. Like it was a good experience. So then what happened? What happened next? Grace 6:58 Yeah, so yeah, I was like 1617, and going to church and starting to think about college and what I wanted to study. And it just, it sounds so silly to say now, but I just felt really cold to ministry. I understand. Yeah, I had a meeting with my youth pastor and said, You know, I don't really know practically what this looks like. But you know, I really feel convicted about this. And do you have any insight on what I should do when I'm at college, and he was a student at the college that I ended up going to? And he sent me to talk to his advisor. And so I had a sit down chat with one of the professors in what would later be my cohort. He was a professor of rhetoric at a liberal arts university in Georgia. And he is he's also a minister. So he's a gay minister at the Unitarian Church. Wow. Yeah, yeah. So I had to sit down with him and talked about what sorts of things you can study if you're considering things like seminary or like missionary work, or work in the nonprofit sector. And I was kind of leaning towards the nonprofit sector. Just because I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I didn't have specific career ambitions. But I knew that I wanted to help people. And I knew that I wanted the work to be faith based. And I knew that the nonprofit sector was a place where those things all kind of together. And so I ended up going to this University of Georgia College and State University, and studying rhetoric, which is essentially like a big umbrella for all types of communication studies, including public speaking, rhetorical criticism and rhetorical theory, like the history of persuasion, as an art form, and organizational communications and communication and education. And so I spent my four years of college there when I loved it, and had a great time there. And I was really involved in different student ministries around campus. And was really involved with a local church. And then I graduated, I graduated in 2012. And I was in a really serious relationship with a guy that was not good. And at the time, I remember thinking, I'm, I'm, you know, leading him into all these temptations, and I'm not being goodness, like, oh my gosh, just the, the stuff that everyone feels. It wasn't until years and years later that someone said to me, you know, that was, that was sexual violence. He was abusing it. And I didn't. I just thought that I was leading him into temptation in that It was my fault. But he was sexually abusing me for several months while he was cheating on me. So we were dating, we were dating my senior year of college. And then directly after, and we ended up getting engaged. And it was during our engagement that I found out, he'd been unfaithful. And so I broke off our relationship. And then he started like stalking me. He was sending me really threatening messages. And he was interning at the church that we both went to. So like, nobody knew that this was happening. I had so internalized the idea that this was my fault, that I had not been pure that I had not cared about his heart or his spirit, I not protected his purity. So it wasn't until he was sending me these messages where he was being really verbally abusive towards me. And calling me names, and he would like show up at places where I was, he would show up at my work, he would show up when I was out to dinner with friends, just like in the parking lot by my car. And so I saved a bunch of these messages and showed them to our pastor and said, you know, this is the situation. And then I decided, you know, I just need some space to deal with this. So I brought it to the attention of our pastor at this point. It was like, Yeah, this is not okay, you need to block his phone number, we'll take him off of staff. They addressed it very well. And at that point, I was ready to just sort of step away from everything. Not in terms of faith, but just in terms of life, like what I was doing. I was working at a TJ Maxx. And I had been out of college for like six months to a year. And just felt like, this isn't what God wants me to do. This isn't Arline 12:01 it's amazing, which you and I grew up, you know, South Georgia, whatever that means. That like the same words, the same sentences, the same phrases are used all over the United States for the same kinds of concepts. Yeah, go ahead. So Grace 12:16 I had this horrible situation with my ex, and was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and where I want it to be. And a friend of mine said, you know, there's a college in Australia, it's a Bible college at Hillsong. Oh, no, you could go there. And I was like, I don't think I can afford to do that. But I can get a year working holiday visa, move to Australia and be a nanny and audit classes at the same time. And so that's what I did. Arline 12:49 Wow, that's a huge jump. Grace 12:51 Yeah, I got this 12 month visa that allows us citizens and citizens from several other countries to travel to Australia and work and like you receive health care and benefits. You can work pretty much any job you want, just for and so I got a job as an au pair. And I got an internship with International Justice Mission. Yes, I'm familiar with them. Pretty well known organization that works and all forms of modern slavery and oppression. So I got an internship with them before they actually launched in Australia. So I got to kind of see the behind the scenes work of how a nonprofit launches an office, which was fantastic work experience for me. And I also started going to Hillsong, I did not attend Hillsong college, but I did like go to several classes with friends that I met at church. And while I was there in Australia, I met a guy as you do. And you know, we met at church, so I knew that he was a Christian. And we started talking about if we wanted to date and what it would look like to have an international relationship. And I said, you know, I've had a really bad experience with a partner not being faithful to me, I'm not willing to do long distance. And so we're like going on well, let's just get married. Arline 14:20 Oh, my heavens. Grace 14:23 So we started dating, we dated for eight months. And then my visa was up. And so I came back to the States. He came with me he proposed we were engaged for four months and then we got married and we went back to Australia together. And I I live for in Australia for nine years actually just got back to the States six months ago. Oh wow. Yeah. So we we got very plugged into a local acts 29 church in Sydney, Australia. I got a job working for Bible Society Australia and the Bible Society is an international organization that works to put the Bible in the hands of as many people as possible. I started working in project management. And I got to work on some pretty cool projects. I got to work on a project that translated the Bible into Australian Sign Language. Yeah, I got to work with some chaplains and like hospital chaplaincy, prison chaplaincy? It was you know, it was a really interesting job. I worked there for a couple years, we're going to church just kind of doing the Christian thing. And then we, we had a baby. We had our son, Teddy, who is now five. And that was when the little you know, they say death by 1000 cuts when Teddy was born. That was when the cuts started to come. Yeah, so Teddy's birth was very, very difficult for me. I was in early labor for about 24 hours, and then an active labor for another 16. And of course, you know, I was doing the thing where you have no pain medication, and you do everything all natural. And in the end, I had to have an emergency C section. Me to No way. Like happens to so many women. Arline 16:33 So many women. Yep. 15 hours of active labor, no medication. I wanted to do it natural. I had done all the yoga, all the things. And then they were like he's turned funky inside you. We've got to do a C section. And it was just like, yeah, all the all my hopes and dreams. All the things I tell you're supposed to just came falling down in front of me. Grace 16:54 Yeah, yes, Teddy was so tall. Oh, he did not have space to like lift his head to get it on my birth canal. So even when I was dilated in the face, you know, he was like stuck a little bit back behind. And there was a moment in my labor when they were I was pushing in his head was going into my tailbone. Arline 17:20 I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Grace 17:23 They were trying to move his head, like pull him into the birth canal. And I hadn't had an epidural. I hadn't had anything. And it was a doctor who I didn't know. And, you know, I have sexual trauma that I didn't know about at the time. And you know, and it didn't work, they couldn't get his head. They couldn't do it with a vacuum. But I wound up with mild PTSD after he was born. Attacks and nightmares for months after he was born. And it was one of the first times I really felt like, not that God had failed me. But I felt like my body had failed me. I really internalize this thought of it was because I idolized childbirth, and I wanted it to be about how strong I was. So God's teaching you that it was about him? Arline 18:21 Oh, wow. Yeah, my way of interpreting because, of course, we have to figure out what God is doing in this. We can't just be like, shitty things happen. Absolutely terrible. Yes, this is a hard thing that women have been doing forever. And it's hard, and difficult and painful and and you know, all these things, all these emotions and physical experiences. But mine was yes, I had idols that God had broken down for me. And I couldn't be sad about them, because you can't be sad about losing your idols you have right grateful. And so it breaks my heart for you, but I can very much empathize with that Grace 18:58 experience. Yeah, so then, you know, I was still so firm in my faith and so determined and resolved. You know, it was my whole life. You know, my marriage, how I was how we were parenting. You know, everything my job. But then, when Teddy was maybe three months old, I read an article about how carbon dating shows that there are certain species of sharks that are older than trees. And I said to the girls in my small group, this can't be true, because the Bible says that the trees and the plants of the earth were created before the fish on the water. So either this is not true somehow, or the creation story is mixed up and And I had never really been a Seventh Day creationist, I had always been someone who was kind of like, what the days are like the eras? You know? So I'm more progressive, I guess, poetic take on it. But I remember thinking, even if it's a poem, it doesn't make any sense that it would just be switched like this. It's, it's confusing, and God is not a God of confusion. And why is it like this? And no, and then I couldn't figure out why no one else was like, alarmed by this information. Like nobody else didn't care about it. And I remember thinking, if I can't believe the very first part of the Bible, how can I believe that the rest of it is inerrant and infallible, and said to the girls, my small group, and I said to my husband, you know, I am really curious about this, but I cannot look into it anymore. Because I don't want to deal with the fallout if I find out things that I don't want to. So there was this very real awareness for me that some cognitive dissonance was happening. And I could not face it. And so there were lots of little things like that over the next several years. You know, there I remember really vividly when Teddy was about six months old, I was chatting to another moment church who had a baby a similar age, and she was saying, you know, her husband had said that morning, oh, how perfect their daughter was, and I was like, oh, you know, yeah, they are. And she said, they're not grace. They're already sinners, we have to remember, they're not perfect. And I remember after that, going home, and saying to Steven, and my husband, I don't, I don't think I believe in total depravity. I don't think I've or like I don't think I believe in total depravity, original sin. But don't tell anybody. And so I started kind of deconstructing from my Calvinism, and slowly shift into a more Arminian alignment and my theology. And, yeah, over the next four years, a lot of I guess, three years, three or four years, you know, I, I slowly let go of the doctrine of total depravity, the doctrine of original sin. I became LGBTQ plus affirming. I became pro choice. I let go of the idea of a literal Adam and Eve, I let go of the belief in a literal Moses a literal Exodus, a literal Noah, very slowly, just sort of like, these can be big ideas that God has given us without these myths having to be literal history. And I didn't tell anyone, nobody knew. I was so certain that people would tell me I wasn't a real Christian. And that I was being deceived. Yeah, so just, I just didn't tell anyone I was. And it didn't even really bother me at the time, I was very content, to have my faith, privately be very different from everyone else's. I felt a lot of peace in what I believed. At that time, I considered myself very spiritually healthy. No, I was reading the Bible every day, going to like two different Bible studies. Still working for a faith based nonprofit. So it was just sort of like, oh, I believe different things that my brothers and sisters and I don't want to cause disunity by bringing it up, because I no longer see them as salvation issues. So I'm just gonna quietly believe it to myself and then the pandemic hit. Arline 24:18 There are a lot of stories that go and then 2016 Yeah, and then the pandemic. Yep. Grace 24:25 And I got pregnant right at the beginning of the pandemic. Yeah, I found out I was pregnant March 2020. Oh, yeah. And I was at that time working for a nonprofit in the suicide prevention space, so I was considered an essential worker. So I continue going to work while pregnant, and then slowly transitioned to working more from home. And then I went on my maternity You've in in Australia, where I was working, I was able to take off 12 months of maternity leave, partially paid partially unpaid. But I had a big chunk of time at home with my younger son, and then also with Teddy as well. And at that point, we were experiencing some very strict lockdowns. So churches were mostly just live streamed on YouTube, there were rules about like how many kilometers you could be away from your postcode. How many times a day you could leave your house reasons you could be away from your house, you could only go to the grocery store once a day. So it was very, very strict and very isolating. I was postpartum with my second child. And I didn't really didn't really touch on this. But in between my children being born, I had a hip replacement, because I found out that I had bone cancer. So there was a lot of like, there was a lot of medical trauma for me. And like discovering the level of trauma that I had suffered at the hands of my ex partner, and there was just a lot going on. Yeah, and so then my second child was born via C section again, I wasn't eligible for a VBAC, because I'd had a hip replacement. And basically, during that period of time, I had a nervous breakdown. Which I don't say lightly, not like, you know, the way people say like, oh, I'm feeling a little anxious today. Like, no, this was a very real, very severe nervous breakdown, where I almost made an attempt to take my own life. And I, you know, I worked in suicide prevention. So I was around a lot of that, you know, around a lot of crisis. And I just was not in a good headspace. So I decided not to go back to work. And I started taking anti anxiety medication. And it was, when I went on medication. It was, you know, not only did it, you know, help me to stay alive and get well, but becoming well lifted this fog from my brain. And all of this cognitive dissonance was suddenly like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wow. And I sort of had this moment of like, so much of what I think I believe, I think is actually a trauma response. You know, it was, my belief in God was my anti anxiety medication. It was the thing that was keeping me sane, it was the thing that was keeping me safe. I was living in a body that did not feel safe. And it gave me God to feel safe. And now I feel safe on my own. And I don't know if I believe in this anymore. And simultaneously to this happening, my church did a sermon series on suffering. And so after each live stream, they would do like a live q&a In the comments. And there was Sunday where they were preaching on the passage in First Peter four, where it talks about, you know, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude. And, you know, the chapter finishes by saying, so then those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. And someone asked in the q&a, how do we reconcile that these verses make it sound kind of like God sometimes wants us to suffer? And I was like, is such a good opportunity to talk about the fact that that is not what the passage says. The passage says that God wants you to suffer as Christ suffered. Meaning with humility and compassion and turning the other cheek. And the pastor's wife was doing the answers to the q&a that week. And she said, if you have a right understanding of God as the boss, you will not care when he asks you to suffer. And okay, like, what? I don't think that is true. And I sent an email, I sent an email to the leadership team, and I said, you know, this was said in the q&a, I am really alarmed by this. You know, I'm someone who sits in your church who has survived domestic abuse. I have had cancer. I've had a traumatic birth. If we're in the middle of a global pandemic, and you have just allowed someone to tell your congregation that if they mind suffering, it's because they don't understand the character of God. And I think that this needs to be corrected, because that's not accurate. And they email me back. And they basically said, we agree with you. This shouldn't that was not a, you know, accurate answer to the question. But if you'll notice, we didn't say that in the sermon. And since this is a woman who's not a pastor, we will not correct it. So if you would like to continue discussing it, you can submit a question next week. And I wrote them back. And I said, I need you to know that it is really inappropriate to place the onus on people in your congregation to correct mistakes that you allow to happen from the pulpit, I will not be coming back to church. And we had a conversation with our pastor face to face where he was really, really manipulative, be like insulted or parenting, and said that we didn't care about what we were teaching our kids and ended up crying, and telling him this feels really manipulative. And he said, obviously, you're too emotional to have this conversation. And I was like, I said to my husband, after he left, he did that on purpose, so that when people ask, Why aren't they coming to church, he can say, I tried to talk to them. And Grace was so emotional, I could not have a conversation with her, he was gonna paint me as a crazy woman who was hysterical because she couldn't get what she wanted. That was the tipping point for us of realizing that our attendance at church was in many ways, making us complicit in the ways that the church harms people. And we just weren't comfortable with that anymore. And I know that that's kind of I know that that's not the case for everyone. I know that there are people who feel like, you know, you can go to an affirming church, or you can go to a progressive church. But if you say to someone, I'm a Christian, they don't hear I'm progressive, or I'm feminist, or I'm affirming. They hear I align myself with a system that is for oppression, for colonization, for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, all of these things. I say that to anyone anymore, I won't. And so we stopped going. And slowly over the next couple of weeks, as we were no longer in that environment, my husband and I had luckily at the same time, we're both kind of like, you know, what, I don't believe this anymore. And it was really, really painful. You know, because at the same time, I was going through this huge mental upheaval, and just trying to come up for air and trying to figure out how to exist and be well, and, you know, like, stay alive for my kids. Yeah. And I remember thinking one night kind of coming to this breaking point of, like, what has happened to my wife, you know, like, what am I going to do? If I don't believe in God anymore? What am I going to do for work? And, like, how am I going to make friends and, you know, husband's family gonna think? And then I remember thinking, God, I don't know if you were there or not. But I know that I will be okay either way. And I fell asleep, and I am a notoriously bad sleeper. Like, I've like been in therapy for my insomnia. Almost chronic nightmares. It's very typical for me to wake up like six or seven times a night. And I remember that night, I slept come, like slept like a rock the whole night. I woke up the next morning. And the first thing I thought when I woke up was, God is not real. And that's okay. And that was it. And that was it. Yeah, and then, you know, from there, I started using poetry to process my deconstruction, because I didn't have a lot of people that I felt comfortable discussing it with. You know, I'm very fortunate that my family is not religious, and I could talk to them about it. And I did have a couple of friends who were much more open. But it was largely just an internal private thing. So I was writing a lot of poetry, which I've now actually released as a my first poetry collection is this collection of poems I wrote during this time. Arline 34:49 Wow. Yeah. Grace 34:51 But as I was doing that, I realized that I couldn't be the only creative person processing in this way. And that is what led me to start here. Stop. And Laurel was wanting to create a community where other artists and writers and storytellers had a literary journal specifically to tell the stories of deconstruction and religious trauma. Because it, it is so isolating. But it doesn't have to me like it can be this glorious reclamation of who you are and who you want to be in the communities you want to be in. Yeah, and I just wanted to, I just wanted to add something to the space to make it. I don't know, like less daunting, I guess. Arline 35:38 Yeah. A recent guest on the podcast, talked about how often we become Christians or become religious in community, like we start going to youth group, or we start going to a college ministry, or our family is religious. And so we're brought up in it, but that when we do convert it is often completely by herself. And often as you were saying, internal, you haven't even told anyone else. And it is isolating. And it's scary. And you have to grieve and be afraid you have to have all these, what people call it like negative emotions they are they're just emotions that are neither positive nor negative. But like, you have these hard, difficult emotions, and you're having to do it by yourself. So when, like you said, creative people create spaces like you're doing to like, how did you say it? I knew I wasn't the only person going through this. I had the opposite response. I thought I was the only person going through this because in my real life, there wasn't anyone and I wasn't online. I wasn't on Instagram, or Facebook or any. So tell us more about hyssop. And Laura, I am familiar with it. But like, ya know, our audience more? Grace 36:57 Yeah. So I think part of what was kind of fueling me through my deconstruction was people I was following on Instagram. So I was following. I'm still following the new evangelicals. And who else Joe lumen? Rabbi Michael Harvey. I don't know. Yeah, he's a really wonderful Jewish teacher. And I found I found it really rewarding to just listen to more Jewish voices and hear that perspective on evangelicalism that has opened my eyes to so much stuff that we're missing. But yeah, I had, I had kind of curated this place on my social media where I could read different perspectives about decolonizing Christianity or stepping away from Christianity. But there wasn't anything creative. It was, you know, there was podcasts like this one, or different blogs or like meme pages, which are also wonderful and valuable, obviously, I love them. But I really wanted a place for creative work. No, I like I, I have had my poetry published in various anthologies and journals. And often they will say, you know, please don't send in religious rants, please. No religious work. Wow. So yeah, so which is, you know, fair enough, because it can be really visceral. And it is. It's particularly niche in terms of genre. And so if you're, if you're a journal, trying to reach a broader audience, you don't want to have people feeling like you're on this or that side of the fence, you want to reach, you know, whatever. So it was, I think it was seeing those deconstruction accounts. That sort of I had this realization of there are lots of people deconstructing. There's there doesn't seem to be a place here, specifically for the creativity that can come out of deconstruction. But if I'm not the only person deconstructing, I am certainly not the only writer deconstructing I'm certainly not the only ex worship leader deconstructing. And yeah, so it was kind of that combination of being a writer myself and submitting to different journals and working on getting my stuff out there. And wanting to be able to share more of my deconstruction work. So I created his memorial. So the name comes from two plants that are named in the Bible. You know, I wanted to have it I wanted to give it like a, I don't know, like a satirical name. That is that you can't really tell is satirical. So it just sounds pretty. Yeah. hisab is the point in the Exodus story that's used to paint the blood over the doorframes. And then moral is what? Christ crown of thorns is made of? Oh, I did not know that part. Yeah. So it's sort of this take on. You know, we save ourselves, we find victory for ourselves. You don't have to have a, somebody else's blood over your door. You don't have to push thorns into somebody else's head. You can do it yourself. Wow. Yeah. So that's where the name came from. And then the project itself. It's a quarterly arts and literary magazine. So we're on Instagram at his hip and Laurel and we just had a new website done. hyssop and laurel.com. Yay. So exciting. It is very exciting. Yes. Yeah, has happened. Laurel is an arts and literary magazine specifically for religious deconstructionists. So we'll publish anything from poetry and prose, essays, short fiction, spoken word, music, visual art, including paintings, photography, drawing, collage, art, anything in the sphere of creative work that has come out of religious deconstruction, we want to see and sort of amplify and push that out into the world. Our first issue came out in November, December, I can't even remember now of 2022. And our second issue will be coming out in March 2023. So not long, and we're Yeah, we're working towards quarterly issues. Spring, summer, fall, winter. And then in between, we will be doing a lot of really exciting content on Patreon. So we've just set up and launched our Patreon this week. And that will include things like quarterly playlists to go along with each magazine, early access to the digital magazine and discounts to purchase the full magazine are top to your Patreon Patreon. patrons will the top tier members of our Patreon will get a hard copy of every magazine, which I'm really excited about and tickets. Yes, the exciting. Yeah, so we're sort of just moving into that space to be able to work a little bit more sustainably and hopefully pay our contributors in the future. But yeah, for now, we're predominantly on our website, which is hyssop and laurel.com. You can read selections from issue one of the magazine and learn about submitting to the magazine and the story behind it. And then in our Etsy shop, you can purchase the full magazine, and a couple poetry prints. And we'll be adding to that shop as the year goes on. But yeah, the the feedback that I have gotten from people has been really, really beautiful and encouraging. And yeah, like I was terrified doing this. I thought, you know, no one is going to send me anything. If I can get five people to send something, and then I'll put in five of my own things. And it'll be a tiny little, you know, zine. And I had over 25 contributors for the first magazine. Oh, that's yeah. Yeah, it was incredible. Some really beautiful art, some incredible poems, I got to review a short novel, which was a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. From Eve's perspective. Oh, wow, that's a great, a great little book, I would highly recommend it. It's called Eden, by Kate Lewis. And I got to interview an art therapist who works with people who have come out of high control religious environments. Our next issue I have, I haven't announced it yet, but I have an interview, that I'm really, really excited about that for me. When I got the confirmation that this person was open to it. I was like, I texted my friend, one of my best friends. I was like, I can't believe I get to interview this person. And she was like, Are you serious? Like, yeah, yeah, that's Arline 44:11 super exciting. Yeah. Grace 44:13 And I've gotten so many DMS, from people, you know, people in their 20s and 30s. And people in their 60s and 70s who have deconstructed privately just saying, you know, there's nothing else like this in this space. And that's not to toot my own horn at all, but just knowing that you, you know, I thought there was a space here that was needed. And it you know, it was been it has brought so much value to people and helped people feel so much less alone. And, yeah, I'm really excited to see how it grows over the next year. Then hopefully one day we'll have like a real print magazine and a real team of editors and Arline 44:57 that's exciting. Okay, I will say a Girl to your own horn like today Oh, you want to, like you are, you're putting greatness out into the world and you're creating a space for other people to put greatness out into the world like, Grace 45:09 just to to way, thank you too. Arline 45:12 I think back to earlier in your story, what you wanted to do was help people. And like, we're often told in the church, whether explicitly or implicitly that like, all your good works apart from Jesus, or dirty rags, like it's not good enough, it's not doing anything. It's, it doesn't glorify God, blah, blah, blah, all these things. But like, people's lives are better because of your Instagram and your Etsy shop and your just your clever title and beautiful artwork. And then like, it's not just you putting greatness out there, like you're you've created a space for other people to put all of their wonderful art and creativity out there. And I just love it. Grace 45:56 Thank you so much. Yeah, I was just gonna say what what you said about, you know, it's not just my work going out there. It's other people's that that was really what I wanted, you know, I never wanted it to be just my deconstruction account and my stuff. Even though I am very proud of, you know, my work and my book, and absolutely, but yeah, I did. I sort of, I guess, if I like envision what has happened, Murrell is I see it almost as this community garden. And if I were doing it myself, you know, it would be a fine garden. But I could maybe do one or two or three flowers. But somebody else comes in and brings in you know, vegetables and somebody brings in some fruit and somebody, maybe somebody brings in a little bit of the devil's lettuce. You know, like, the more people we have creating the garden, the better it gets. And I once heard someone say at a graduation ceremony, the keynote speaker said, Success is using your talents to amplify others. And I really believe that and I think that I feel most proud of myself and most, I guess, like empowered in my work, when it is about helping other people see, you know, your story is worth other people hearing your experience is a unique perspective that brings value to the world in a way that nobody else can. Yeah, giving people a space to do that, where it's, it's really safe. is so so important to me. Arline 47:42 I very much agree. And I've been listening to the graceful atheist podcast since 2020. i That was when I officially said out loud that I did not believe anymore. And I think I was looking for atheist. I don't even know if I thought I was an atheist or what I believed yet I just knew I want to listen to something. And I found the graceful atheist podcast, and it has been, it has stayed stable. Because I loved hearing people's stories. And like you said, there, there would be similarities, lots of similarities and stories, but also like just unique perspectives every single time something a little bit different, something a little, like beautiful in each of their own ways. And yes, a very much agree. Grace, is there anything that I have not asked to you that you wanted to talk about while we were together? Grace 48:40 I would love to just do a little plug for my new chat book. That's all right. Oh, go for it. Yeah. So I've just put out my first solo poetry collection. It's just a chat book. So it's pretty short. It's through bottlecap press. And it's called Signs and wonders of poetic journey through religious deconstruction. So it's a yeah, just an easy little collection of like 20 or 25 poems that I wrote while I was deconstructing. And you can find it either through the link tree on his health and laurels, Instagram or through bottlecap presses website. It's $10 for a physical copy or $3 for a digital copy. But yeah, I would love for people to give it a read. And hopefully they'll find something there that resonates with them. Arline 49:29 Yes, that sounds wonderful. It's on my TBR list. I struggle with poetry. So anytime I can find poetry that I poetry for grownups children's poetry, I can understand. But if I can find grownup poetry that I love, or can relate to that I'm like, yes. I'm going to read it. Yeah. How does our audience find you online? Grace 49:52 So I do have a personal Instagram account, which is pretty much non existent, but it's at Grace Delos. I'm mostly over in Sapa moral which is h YSSO. P, and Laurel, l au R E. L. Our website is hyssop immoral.com. And yeah, I'm pretty active on Instagram. I'm checking DMS pretty much every day. And that links through to our website, our Etsy shop, signs and wonders and our Patreon as well. So that is, that is where we are. Arline 50:27 Yeah. Yay. That's fabulous. And we will have all of this in the show notes. As we always ask, Do you have any recommendations, podcasts, books, anything that you consumed during your deconstruction that you're like, here? This was helpful to me? Grace 50:42 Yes, I would highly recommend Joe lumens podcast, the living room. I think it was through her podcasts that I found Rabbi Michael Harvey. Yeah, so that that's a podcast that I would highly recommend. I would also recommend the new evangelicals, particularly for people who are sort of feeling homeless in their faith. I think people are probably very familiar with that. And it doesn't need my recommendation, but I will give it to them. Yes. Arline 51:11 I'm sure Tim Whitaker will take it. He'll totally take us. Grace 51:13 Yeah, he actually I emailed him about his stuff. And Laurel before it was a thing to ask for his advice. And he was really helpful in kind of getting it off the ground. And some people from that community submitted to the first issue and the second issue. So Arline 51:26 that's, that's really great. Grace 51:29 Yeah, so those are, those are two that I would really recommend. I would also recommend for people dealing with deconstruction, where it's potentially causing friction in their marriage. David Hayward, who is the naked pastor on Instagram, he has a book called till death do us part one changing faith changes your marriage. Arline 51:50 I think it's cool. I think that's right. Yes, Grace 51:52 I would recommend that book as well. And then a little book, I've talked a little bit about it on our Instagram. It's not necessarily deconstruction related, but it was really helpful for me in my journey. It's a novel called Ella minnow P. I know like I love it. Yeah. Let me look up the author quickly by Mark Dunn. And it is it's a novel that's written in letters. So it's letters between characters in the book. But the story sets place on a fictitious Island, which is home to never knowledge the suppose it creator of the sentence, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, which has every letter of the alphabet in it. This makes it Yeah, so the island, you know, worships Nevin, and they worship literature. And the sentence is preserved on a statue to its creator on the island, it's taken very seriously by the government. But throughout the book, tiles containing letters fall from the inscription. And as each one falls, the island's government bans the contained letters use from written or spoken communication. And because the novel is written in letters, letters from the alphabet start disappearing from the book as you read. So there's a penalty system enforced for using the forbidden letters, public censure, lashing, or stocks. And then banishment if there's a third infringement. And by the end of the novel, most of the islands inhabitants have either been banished or left of their own a court. So the, you know, becomes more authoritative, authoritarian and totalitarian and just utter nonsense as it goes on. But there are certain passages in the book that when I read them, I remember thinking, like sounds like Christianity. Sounds like the 10 commandments. It's, you know, it sounds like a sermon. And it was, I think, for me, it was a really, as I love the book, it's so well written. It's so easy to read. It's like something between Fahrenheit 451 And like, I don't know, something funny and light hearted. It's like, every, everything that satire should be this book is. And I think it helps readers take a really critical look at what it means to worship and push your belief system on to an entire population without actually telling your readers that that's what they're thinking about. Arline 54:48 Yeah. Oh, that's Grace 54:50 clever. Yeah. So it helped me kind of divorce my thinking from my belief, so that I could see how ridiculous, some tenants of Christianity or when you actually think about what they are. So yeah, I would highly recommend LMNOP by mark that. That's very cool. Arline 55:15 Grace from hyssop. And Laurel, thank you so much. This was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for telling your story. I really enjoyed this. Grace 55:22 Thank you so much for having me. It was great to chat with you. Arline 55:30 My final thoughts on this episode, I really enjoyed talking to grace, I was surprised how many things we had in common things that a lot of moms, especially not only Christian moms, but also Christian moms. Were told motherhood is our greatest calling. And suffering is often idolized in the church, like all these things that you give of yourself, you do it for your family. So we often end up sacrificing ourselves on the altar of having a natural birth, or just having kids at all, because that's what we feel like we should do. We go through postpartum depression alone, we don't even know that we can feel this way and that it's okay and that it's normal. And it breaks my heart when I hear other women's stories. Because I know how lonely that experience can be. And you'd cry out to God hoping that God is going to hear you and help you. And what you need are real humans to come around you and take care of the baby for a little while. So you can sleep, or go for a walk, or go outside. Or binge watch your favorite Netflix show like just anything, you just need help. And you don't know that you can ask for help. And you're calling on an imaginary god to help you. And he didn't do anything. And that's hard. That's a hard place to be. I'm so thankful for her work. For Grace's work on hyssop in Laurel, the magazine, oh, it's just beautiful, like all of the work that they're doing is beautiful. And it's creative. And it's a space a safe space. For those of us who have already deconstructed to finally put out those pieces of artwork that we never let anybody else see while we're deconstructing. Because you often don't have anywhere to put it, you don't have anywhere to give it any anyone to give it to you. And it's good. And it's wonderful. And it's it's beautiful to see how much community and graciousness and kindness and empathy and compassion, we can find. No longer in the church. Like you're told that there's nothing out there without Jesus without God. And it's a lie. It's just a lie. So this was a wonderful episode, I really really enjoyed getting to know Grace even better. David Ames 58:06 The Secular Grace Thought of the Week is the truth will set you free. I know I've probably talked about this a lot recently, but I've done a number of interviews both me being interviewed and interviewing other people in which the subject comes up. Over the last month, I've said the multiple times to various people that the seeds of leaving Christianity are built into Christianity, the focus on truth, the focus on honesty, the focus on integrity, the focus on humility. All of those things were the things that attracted me to Jesus to begin with. And all of those things are the things that led me out of Christianity. Many of you know my personal story that 12 steps was some of the first spirituality that I experienced at all. And in the 12 steps, there's this concept of brutal self honesty. This is not a tool to beat someone else over the head with it is an accurate assessment of yourself, both your shortcomings and your worth. Now, obviously, this can lead to a religious perspective, one of sin, and the image of God. It also can mean that you can embrace your humanity for who you are, warts and all, and have love for yourself. I personally believe that that then enables you to love others. But the main focus of this is there's so much cognitive dissonance within Christianity specifically but traditional religion in general, that is focused on belief. Jennifer Michael has talked about the flip side of the coin of belief is doubt. And as we doubt we either have to live in that cognitive dissonance put things on the metaphorical shelf and ignore them, or we have to face them head on. And that need for self honesty that need for truth is a positive thing. It is a good thing. And even though it leads us through the difficult time of deconstruction, in the end, we can embrace those things that have evidence those things that do not deconstruct. I cannot tell you how much peace of mind that I have no longer believing things that do deconstruct that don't have evidence that require faith that require belief. And therefore, doubt is just on the other side of that. The truth will set you free both from an internal point of view. And from an external point of view. You only need to believe in those things that withstand the scrutiny of truth. We have a number of amazing interviews coming up. I just did an interview with Bart Ehrman about his new book, Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end. That was a really fun conversation for me. I have to spend hours talking to BART, I'm trying to decide when that will come out in the schedule. Also, the long promised interview with Holly Laurent from the mega podcast will be coming up. Lots of community members have been interviewed. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful email@example.com for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful atheists.com This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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how dare you