This week’s guest is author Jo Lloyd Johnson. Jo grew up in a “non-denominational charismatic commune”. She spent her adolescence in various churches, but they weren’t as “Spirit-filled” as she was taught they could be.
She married young and the first years of marriage were difficult–alcohol abuse, church-shopping, and the difficulties that come with having young children.
She and her husband needed the church to be a place of deep and meaningful relationships.
“When we started seeing church as a social club [with no depth], we were like, ‘No. This is not what we thought it was…’”
By 2018, Jo realized the Church was steeped in Patriarchy. She was fine with “a woman’s place” until she wasn’t.
Jo has used writing as a way to process the trauma and emotions she’s experienced and her book, Silenced in Eden, is helping others on their own journeys.
Silenced In Eden
Louder Than Silence
Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
Undertow by Charlene Edge
Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
#Churchtoo by Emily Joy Allison
Sex and God by Darrel Ray
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Dirty Rotten Church Kids podcast
I was a Teenage Fundamentalist podcast
“Those who came before can help those who are in it now.”
“I literally tried to be perfect.”
“We’re either Virgin Mary or a whore. That’s the Bible’s idea of women.”
“I [was] a people pleaser. I [was] a female in a Christian church; that’s what I’m trained to be. From birth.”
“I am not quiet, so that was the problem.”
“I didn’t fit the mold of what the Church told me I was supposed to be.”
“I’m super blessed that when my thread pulled, a different thread for [my husband] pulled.”
“All Churches are people playing happy, people playing [at]…a facade…”
“When we started seeing church as a social club [with no depth], we were like, ‘No. This is not what we thought it was…’”
“I love the idea of ‘Human helping Human.’”
“Writing, for me, is processing my feelings.”
“Memoirs were my lifeline at the beginning of leaving [Christianity].”
“Through trauma and through being female and a child, I wasn’t given a voice…I was silenced.”
Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!
Support the podcast
“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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I are trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my patrons who support the podcast. You too can have an ad free experience of the podcast by becoming a patron at patreon.com/graceful atheist. If you are doubting deconstructing, or de converting, you do not have to do it alone. Our private Facebook group deconversion Anonymous is trying to be a safe place to land. Join us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. onto today's show. My guest today is Joanna Johnson. Joanna has written the book Silenced in Eden. That is a memoir of her experience growing up as a dedicated Christian. experiencing sexual trauma is a young child growing up within a family and extended family of Christians trying to fulfill the expectations of being a Christian trying to go into ministry. The purity culture she experienced the sexism and repression were common throughout her life. Jo is an obvious leader and that showed throughout her Christian journey as she was a leader in various places but always was held back. You can find her book Silenced and Eaden on Amazon. Of course, there'll be links in the show notes. But before we begin, I want to read a statement from Jo Silenced and Eaden is meant to be a voice for all who have been silenced and encourage others to speak their painful truth. Because of this $1 from each book sale will go to the nonprofit Louder Than Silence. Louder Than Silence exists to provide survivors of sexual violence with the community and resources needed to gain hope and healing. They focus on paying for EMDR trauma therapy, hosting workshops and retreats providing self care kits and much more. Their biggest dream is that survivors know that they are not alone and have a foundation of support among other survivors as they navigate their journeys together. If you are a survivor of sexual trauma, I would very highly recommend that you reach out to Louder than Silence. And thank you to Jo for making that a part of her book sales. Here is Joanna Johnson telling her story. Jo Johnson, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Joanna Johnson 2:44 Thank you. Thanks for having me. David Ames 2:46 Jo, you have written a really powerful book called Silenced in Eden, it is a memoir. It's really raw and honest. And we're gonna get to hear a bit of that story as you tell us here today. Thank you for reaching out, first of all for wanting to be on the podcast and I'm excited. You're here. Joanna Johnson 3:04 Thank you. Yeah, I love what you do. I love the the thing I love most about this podcast is it's people who have D converted or deconstructing reaching out and like helping other people who are in it. And like that was the whole motivation of writing for me was this idea that like we those who came before can help those who are in it now. David Ames 3:29 Yes, yeah, exactly. Jo, since your memoir is your story, we're basically going to go over the book in telling your story. But as we always talk about what was your faith tradition, when you were growing up? Joanna Johnson 3:41 Yes. So I did prepare for that one. So I was I am a grand pastor's grandkid. Okay, so my grandpa was a pastor. He started a non denominational charismatic commune. So it was a church but then people also started living together. And just like with both charismatic we had spent praying in tongues, we had my grandma would often see angels worship time would never have like a end to it. It would just go as long as it went. But my grandpa passed away. I was only four. So the church ended when, when his shortly after him. And then we were in the world of Calvary Chapel. And first Baptists and my parents it was kind of like the desert to them, because here they are these very Spirit moving, and then they're in dry. David Ames 4:52 Yeah. That's quite a change. Yeah, yes. Joanna Johnson 4:56 Very, very big change for them. So when I was 16, I actually stumbled on to a nondenominational charismatic church. Okay. And so I, of course, when I went there, I was like, hey, this feels really familiar, right? This seems like what my parents have been telling me, You're just supposed to be like, because you have very little memory before five. So I didn't really know, I just saw their Christianity and then the Christianity that was in front of me, and it didn't, like, line up the same. So I knew that there was a spiritual NISS or a charismatic pneus to their faith, but I didn't see it in in the church practice that I was growing up in. Right. Got it. Okay. Okay. So when I see that at 16, I like, this is what they've been telling me about and call it like, clamored onto it. And that became my entire life. Yeah. So at 16 and, you know, 16 years trying to find yourself, you're in high school. I had my like, six months of rebellion. And then I was like, Okay, I'm going to be perfect. Yeah, I literally tried to be perfect. And so, charismatic church became my life. I actually did two years of an unpaid internship, where I actually paid to go, like to work for them right or free. paying them also. And that was where I met my husband. Okay. Yeah, so, Christian, Christian. Everything was church. We were doing leadership together. He ends up on staff at church. Okay, we're we're courting or dating. Purity culture, right? Well, we're also Hardy kind of human in love for the first time ever. So we fumble the ball, right? We don't make it to the altar before we make it under the sheets, if you want to say David Ames 7:17 yes, yeah. Joanna Johnson 7:27 It's funny now, just the last like two years, somebody told me to read the great sex rescue. I don't know if you've read it. So it's a Christian book about like, from a Christian author, but it's talking about how purity culture, Christian idea of sex actually leads at it statistically showed leads to bad sex. Yeah. And like, I think, especially for women, because we're not allowed to have a sex drive in Christian, whatever. And I do try to talk about that a little bit in the book, like, we're either Virgin Mary or a whore. Like, that's the Bible's idea of women. So, now, so my husband and I, you know, we have sex before marriage. And now looking back, I'm like, I'm really happy we did. Yeah. Yes. Because I am a victim of childhood sexual assault, which disconnects you from your body? Christianity, which tells you your feelings are bad and your you are bad. disconnects you from your body. And so as we as me and my husband, at the time fiance, are trying to ignore our body but not doing it well. Right. Right. I it was the first time in my life, I realized now where I was able to connect with my body. Okay, and I realized, like, if I would have done the Christian way of being perfect, ignoring your body's urges, then you say a little promise. You end up half it like you're supposed to then that night, right? It's like, okay, yeah, on, turn everything on. All of a sudden it goes from zero to 100. And so knowing my own personal like trauma, that probably would have destroyed me, it would have destroyed our marriage. I don't know if if having sex and knowing my bodies, whatever, like I'm not ready yet. I don't know how I would have been able to heal. Like I know that would have been more damaging is what I'm saying. Right, right. So now I can look back at our first time with happiness. But sadly, I didn't have that this realization while we were in it, right? Yeah, yes. So while we're in it, we would have you know, it was pleasurable and then it was shameful. Immediately after, right, right. So, so it was. So Anyways, long story short. He, the church has this pre marriage counseling, counseling. David Ames 10:43 Yeah. Yeah, Joanna Johnson 10:45 exactly. Counseling by people who are not trained to be counselors. Well, the last one is on our last meeting was on our purity. And my husband spills the beans. Right? We are no longer pure. So two weeks before our wedding, he gets fired. Oh, wow. David Ames 11:17 Yeah, you're Yeah, you're so you're already engaged. The church knows that you're getting married? We both are honest. Yeah. And in in marriage counseling, or in premarital counseling, you admit that or your husband admits that you've had sacks? And they fire? Unbelievable? Joanna Johnson 11:33 Yes, absolutely. Which, yeah, again, just like, Let's load the shame on us. And, yeah, so we ended up having to, like, move in with his parents, because that was his income. And so it started out our marriage really rough. And at that time, the pastor meets with us and she's like, okay, you can do X, Y, and Z for nine months. And then we'll talk about coming back on staff. And I'm like, Okay, let's do that. I'm like, Okay, I know how to try to be perfect. I will go back to trying to be perfect. Where, where my husband's like, no, like he's mad. He feels like a failure. Also, they took away like, we were in ministry, we were he was on staff, we already had multiple outreach things going on. And they just dropped all of them or took them away and handed them to someone else. So he's really hurt by that. And does it at the time is just like, forget everything, right? So we're on two very different ends of the like, reactionary spectrum. He starts drinking heavily. And I'm begging him to go to church. Right. That's how we start our marriage. Yeah. I feel like I end up pregnant pretty quickly mothering my daughter, well, my husband's still in this angry but not really dealing with it. That's the problem with alcohol. Right, is that you're not feeling the feelings. You're not. He's not deconstructing, he's not deciding what stays and goes. He's just mad. And numbing the mad, right. Sure. All the pain, the pain under it? Yeah, yes. Right. Because anger, I've learned is a second emotion. Right. So there's the hurt that he's hiding from. Um, so we're in that for a while. We start we actually find a it's funny, we call it the church, the church to point out because it was a church, that was birthed out of leaders that left the first church I found at 16. So in the end, it ends up being the same problems, right. But at the time, it's a lot easier to blame the one pastor, right. And even we hear this a lot with deconstructing and de converting. It's like, Oh, you got hurt by one person. But then you're for those of us who have left like, I guarantee it wasn't one person, right? Yeah, it was. It was multiple people it was you start to realize it's a system that is harmful. So at the time, we didn't know that it was the one pastor. David Ames 14:55 Sure. Yeah. It's easy to identify that way and I think you've expressed it really well. So far, just to say that purity culture, which is a major theme throughout your whole book separates us from our our bodies and our desires in very natural, normal things, and we're suppressing that. And as I've just been coming to learn that many, many people are affected by that. And even what you were describing that having to go from zero to 100, right off on the wedding night, so to speak. It does not work for many people. No, it Joanna Johnson 15:28 doesn't. Yeah, and the heartbreaking is I've heard stories of people who ignore that, like, I've heard both right. I've heard men who are gentle enough to be like, Oh, you're not ready. Okay, well, tonight we won't, and we're going to enjoy whatever level of intimacy we can have. Right. I've also heard the horror stories, where it is traumatizing. And the man is promised I get to have sex on this night. So I will with or without your David Ames 16:03 participation. Yeah. It tends to be better with the participation. Joanna Johnson 16:11 Yeah, on all blends, right. Yeah, for all people involved. And that's where, like, I know, with my background, that that would have destroyed. And it's funny because my husband is the most overly aware of my arousal and feelings. And I would joke with him that he was more connected to me than I was. Speaker 3 16:35 Oh, interesting. Okay, yeah. And not just physically like, Joanna Johnson 16:39 he will tell me when something's about when something emotionally is bothering me. Because I'll start to get I am so disconnected from my feelings that it usually takes a week, something will happen and I'll like ignore it or not realize, like that, that bothered me. But I'll start to get short with people. I'll start to get irritable, I'll start whatever. And he'll be like, Jo, something's something's going on. Take a moment figure out what's under neath here. Something hurt your feelings or something's wrong. But so yeah, I would just joke that he is more connected to my feelings than I am working on that though. Yeah. David Ames 17:24 Day to day by day, okay. Joanna Johnson 17:34 So anyways, we ended up back at a church. And he spent five years stone sober, starts preaching at church, okay. We're at a Calvary Chapel at the time. starts, he'll, he'd preached like, you know, pastor wants a day off or whatever. And then there was a church close by, that had a pastor situation where they needed a pastor. So we go there a couple of times to oh, I'll share this Sunday. Well, they ended up offering him a pastor ship. Okay. As well, yeah, I mean, fairly, it was like, you know, we interviewed for it type of thing. went to dinner with the elders, blah, blah, blah. But it's the Calvary Chapel. And we I grew up nondenominational, right? Where women are, at least pretending to be equals. Right. Okay. Are not head pastors, but they can be pastors, right. They can share at the pulpit, they can help lead a ministry. So like, at 16, I was leading a small group, and I'm trying to think if I ever I mean, I pray on the mic. I don't know if I ever liked it a sermon on the mic. I actually, that's I did I did do a sermon on the mic to a smaller group anyways. David Ames 19:17 But you were you were a leader in the church, though. You were a leader. Joanna Johnson 19:21 And, and a leader in the church and and acknowledged, I guess, yes. And so he's offered this pastor ship at a Calvary Chapel. And I remember this conversation with him. I'm like, Would I be able to like, even share my testimony? Like, from the pulpit? And he's like, I don't, I don't know. Maybe not. And so the book is Silenced and Eaden, right. So the whole theme is that I had a hard time voicing my feelings voicing for myself. So he's literally saying If I take this job, you will have no voice. Right? And he so he says, I don't think so. Can you? Like are you okay with that? And I'm a people pleaser, right? I'm a female in a Christian church. So that's what I trade. David Ames 20:18 Yes. People from Chinese. Yes. Yes. Joanna Johnson 20:21 From birth I come out. Yeah. So I couldn't answer him. Because I knew the answer. I'm supposed to say right. The people pleasing answer of Yes, of course, babe. I'm totally fine with that. But in me, I was like, screaming No, no, I'm not okay with that. No, you can't lead and lead without me. You can't tell me to stay silent. And it, it took me a moment to be like, okay. Okay, what do I say here? And for me, that was the little string that just unraveled everything. Okay. Yeah. That was the moment where I was I No, no, you can't I cannot okay with that. No, I'm not okay, that this is normal in any church. No, I'm not okay, that women are expected to watch the children and help you right sermons because I had written most like, helped him work on most of them. And then, okay, I have no voice like, yeah, I was like, No. And so yeah, it was interesting. It was like, an eye opening of the patriarchy of my whole life. Okay. I had been at until that point, I was fine with a woman's place, right? I was, I mean, for me, I am really nurturing. So the idea of like, oh, you get to be a mom, like, okay, that's fine. I love people. I love taking care of people, I can gladly be a mom. I am not quiet. So that was the problem, right? In the what the church I went to when we were like 16 women were a lot of, I would say they were arm candy. Like they would be able to pray and lead and whatever. But they were was it was Southern California. They were gorgeous. They wore high heels. Then there was me where I was like a punk rocker, I had a studded belt. And I would jump in the I would jump in a mosh pit. Like, I didn't fit the mold of what the church told me I was supposed to be. But I could definitely be a nurturing mom, like, I could do that. And so I do feel like for me, when I got married, it was like this. I got mold. I was like, okay, I can try to fit in this right? I can be a mom, I can be supportive. I can be a people pleaser, like I can fit in this mold. And that was the moment where like, the mold broke. I can't do this anymore. Yeah, we're done. And I'm super blessed that we, when my thread pulled a different thread for him pulled. David Ames 23:28 Oh, okay. I want to pause just for a second, because one of the things I want to mention is how common this message is that strong personality women who have natural born leadership qualities, and they find themselves trapped in you know, you can do church, you can do children's ministry, or you can, you know, do director of education, but you can't preach in front of the congregation. And it amazes me, especially outside of the bubble, right on this side of deconversion that so many denominations are losing half of their talent pool. Right off the bat, like I just think tactically, it's stupid. And then obviously the devastating consequences. If you are in fact a woman and you have these leadership qualities and you feel just completely contained and unable to use those gifts to use the Christianese. Right. It's absurd. It's a complete absurdity. So Joanna Johnson 24:28 it is and it's also crazy, because you said half but statistically, women are there's more women in church than there are men. Right. Good point. Yeah. So it's funny. It's like you have more women, but those are the ones you want to say they have no place so they have no you know, yeah. So that's a funny reality. David Ames 24:58 I digress there so you both are Pulling on different strings, but the sweaters are unraveling. Joanna Johnson 25:04 We're unraveling. So for him, he did a sermon on I'm not sure exactly what it was. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit. I just remember he got really into the word spirit, and, and hell. And he had an I do put this in the book, he had an experience where he goes in, and he was at work. He was doing insurance claims to get to go into someone's house who had a flood. And the person was clearly a drug addict. The house was in decay. Like, there was trash all over the house. It was. And the guy was looked nearly skeletal like he's just wasting away. And my husband was like, This guy is in hell. Yeah, like that. That's hell, I don't know how else to explain it. But that's hell. And so he did a deep dive into the word hell. And literally everything that love wins from Rob Bell, like II without reading the book came to all of the same like, this is how the Bible explains how the hell isn't even really in the Bible. David Ames 26:26 It really isn't a thing. Yeah. Joanna Johnson 26:30 So that was one of the things for him. That was like, Wait a second. And it was funny, because during that, that time, it was like 2018. We would have like, I would share this, you know, this doesn't fit in my Christianity anymore. It'd be like, Well, what about this? This doesn't make sense. And then I'd be like, Wait, well, you can't question Oh. And then I'd be like, Wait, that actually makes sense. And then the Spirit, okay. There's actually no diff difference of the word holy spirit or spirit, our spirit. And so it was just one of those things where it was interesting, he would have one thing that had bothered him, right, that didn't sit in his gut. And it would come up, and then I would be like, Wait, you can't question that. And then I listen. I'm like, Oh, that makes sense, actually. Right. Vice versa. David Ames 27:24 You both were sliding down that slippery slope together. Joanna Johnson 27:27 Well, it was funny, because there was definitely times where I'd be like, I'd grab him and be like, catch up. Now, yeah. But yeah, so clearly, he decided not to become a pastor. And for him, at that time for him, the we were at a church. The pastor who was was there had had some inappropriateness with a younger secretary or something. Okay. Something where the powerplay would be unethical as well than just an affair, right. And I don't think it was an actual affair. But the point was that something was icky. And the pastor left. And the congregation was really sad and lost. And my husband went to the elders is like, you know, I don't see why you guys are still having like a Sunday service. Like, why don't we go back to like a house church, try to build this community back where we heal, whatever hurt has been done. And, and then we'll start church, like, once we feel like, that process is over. And they were all like, no, we want to have our Sunday service. We want to print our pamphlets we want to, and for both me and him were like, This is playing church. Yeah, this is a show. There's no real depth. There's no community here. Is this what church really is? And so it was that realization of like, okay, for them churches, this is a band that shows up, and people fill in a room, sing a song, here's something we like, right? Well, we want a younger pastor, because we want you to bring some life. Okay, we want you know, and it's just this. There was just not the depth anymore. David Ames 29:31 You passed over very quickly that, you know, he didn't become a pastor. But but in the book, I think you really described that both of you are pretty dedicated to ministry, you that's like your vision for your life is ministry. So my question is, when you made that decision, did you think you would have already started deconstruct enough that it wasn't traumatic, or was it or was that a loss of a sense of like your purpose in life at that point? Joanna Johnson 29:58 Yeah. So when we started, do deconstructing it was a? Yeah, I think we had already gotten to the point where this doesn't feel right like this, this, this church is not just that this church is broken, maybe all churches broken. There we go. Okay, got it. So once we had that, yeah, once we had that piece of like, wait, I think that this church is showing us what all churches, all churches are people playing happy people playing a hole. And it's actually maybe it's really just a facade, and there's not the depth that we want it to have. Right? Because yeah, the reality was for us. Church was the deeper, like, we both came to church and like, got dedicated when we were in high school. And it was our whole life. And it was where we had friends, it was where we had these emotional experiences. So it was, for us always was relational. Like, we wanted to do ministry, because I mean, all these young people that we care about are dying and going to hell in our minds. So we need to save them all. And there was I'm not sure if it was on your guys's group deconversion anonymous, it probably was, but there was one about it was the social media post about if people, people really thought if Christians really believed in hell, then they would constantly like it would break their hearts. Yeah, something like that. And I remember being like, that was me. Okay, I was, I was the Christian who literally like I remember, staying certain nights, staying up until two in the morning crying over people that I thought were gonna go to hell. I was the person who was like, I can't let these people I care about or anyone go to hell. Because I hate people in pain. Like, I would rather be the one in pain. Let me have the pain, don't let them have the pain. So I think that for my husband, Josh and I, we, what what we liked about Christianity that we had was the depth, the interconnectedness. So when when church became this plastic shell of a I don't know what you'd call it, like a social club. Right? When we started seeing church as a social club, we're like, No, this isn't what we thought it was. So I don't want to lead something. That's that. Right. Okay. So it was a lot easier to leave the idea of ministry at that point? Oh, yeah, I do think that there's been, for me specifically, that is something that I still feel the loss of. But it's been like, sometimes there's things where you're like, oh, I don't want that. But then you don't realize like, what you're missing now? Sure. I don't know if that makes sense. But it's, I guess I didn't feel the loss while deconstructing, but I feel it now. David Ames 33:34 Yeah. Yeah, we talk a lot about that, you know, there are good aspects of church, right. It's the built in community, you know, people that are there who care about you when you're sick. Hopefully, they come and bring you food and you know, ask about your children and maybe babysit for you. And all those things like having that interconnectedness is really important as a human being. And there are not great solutions for that in the secular world. So like, there's definite aspects of that. And then that does just what you're describing, again, your natural talent as a leader to want to be a part of that to foster more community to bring people together. And maybe not having the venue to do that in a secular world is a loss. And we can we can acknowledge that and recognize that that's, it's, it's sad. Joanna Johnson 34:21 Yeah, looking at. It's interesting once the cards fall, and you look back, and you can find certain points of your life where you're like, oh, that never sat well with me, or that's why I did that. And so now I look back and I'm like, Oh, well, that's why. When my husband and I went to the church, 2.0 they were doing, we started, we were in a small group. And the small group wanted to go over Sunday's notes. So we'd hear a sermon on Sunday. And then we talk about it on Tuesday, whatever. Sure. And I remember going to the, the leader and I was like No. This strong dominant woman was like, No, we shouldn't do that. And I asked him, I was like, why don't we all take turns and share our testimony? Why don't we all take turns and share part of our life and why we're Christians. Because I want that connectedness I want to learn about these people sitting in a room that I'm trying to have, quote, fellowship with, right? I want to get to know them. I don't want to talk about the pastor's five point message, I want to get to know my person next to me. And, and he let me do that or let us do that. And the people who are in that group have said, like, that was the best small group we ever have been a part of. And so it's interesting. Now I'm like, Oh, I wanted that I saw the surface, and knew that there was surface SNESs already and was trying to find depth. So it was like, I already knew that something was off. Right? I already knew that there was something wrong in the church, I was just trying to tweak it to still make it work for me. David Ames 36:09 Right. This also reminds me of what I call church shopping, that you start, there's some nagging thing that's missing, and you start to look around like, Well, maybe it's over here, or this denomination or this tradition. And you're just you're looking to fulfill the thing that, you know, ought to be there but isn't add it that is the beginning of the end, right. It's, it's going to end in tears. Joanna Johnson 36:32 It can be it's interesting when my so you know, I said my grandfather's church ended. I was really young. And then we would we went to Calvary Chapel. We went to first Baptist, like, during that entire time, my dad was desperately church shopping. Okay. Okay. He would like we would have the church would go to and then on a random Sunday, he would just show us up at some other church because he was not happy. And, and I don't know if he's been happy in a church since my grandpa's church. Right. But he's still at church. David Ames 37:10 I understand. Yeah. But I imagine that nagging feeling is still there. It might be if he were aware of that unable to articulate it. Joanna Johnson 37:19 Right. It might be. Yeah, that's an interesting idea. Maybe, maybe you're right. Maybe it's still there. And he's just a little more resilient in his faith than I was some. David Ames 37:32 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Joanna Johnson 37:41 So yeah, we left that behind. And I, it's interesting. I'm trying to think when like, it was really done. Like, deconstruction is such an interesting thing. And it wasn't until really recently that I would even say deconversion. Okay. Yeah. Because yeah, it was. It was. And there's also the level of like, coming out of the closet. Right. It's deconstructing is like, Okay, well, you're just asking questions. You're still a Christian. You're still with us. You're still in our tribe, you're still a part. And hopefully, you'll come back to the truth. Right. deconversion is like I, you're out? David Ames 38:37 Yes. Exactly. Joanna Johnson 38:39 Yeah. Yeah. And I even recently, I had that like, Well, Ted, what are you a person? I'm a first time well said. Yeah. Yeah. So it Yeah. And recently, so there was a time where I was like, Okay, I'm done with the term Christianity. I feel like it's done harm to me. I feel like it's done harm to many cultures. And my husband was kind of like, yeah, I understand that. But wouldn't tell me where he was at. And that was, that was hard. I was like, okay, am I alone in that? Are we are we good? And then, very recently, he was like, yeah, no, I don't think I would call myself a Christian either. And I was like, Oh, cool. Okay, we're on the same page. I thought I had just gone all the way down the hill, and you were still up, right? They're not gonna move. Yeah, so for me, I'm really glad that we rode that ride together. It wasn't super easy. Because there like I said, like there were times where he'd question something and I wouldn't, or he would want to go to church on you know, Easter and Christmas or at one point he was talking about like going once a month just because this is These stories that we grew up with, it's part of our culture, right? It's, my parents are still Christian culture, our culture is Christian, basically. And so he was like, I don't know if I'm okay with like, my kids not knowing Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark and. And I was like, Well, can I tell you why each one of those I don't want my kids to know? I'm okay with my daughter's not hearing that Eve was the reason sin came into the world. Yeah, I'm fine with that one. I'm okay with my kids not hearing that. God flooded the whole earth and only saved this handful of people. Like I'm, I'm actually totally fine. Not having any of that. And, yes, that was a funny time where he was like, and it was, it's so ironic to me to because for those four years of him, self numbing and me, pulling him into church, like I was the one being like, Come on, baby. This is our raft. This is our safety net, like God is everything. And and so it was ironic when the shoe was on the other foot, and he was like, Jo, David Ames 41:24 just once in a while. Right. Joanna Johnson 41:28 But yeah, as of now we're both I guess we'd call I'd call. I think we'd say agnostic. I I do think that the secular humanist is probably more where I would land. I love the idea again, like with this podcast, I love the idea of human helping human. David Ames 41:51 Yes, yeah. Yeah, the labels are not important. Like, you know, it's, it's sometimes helpful as a shorthand to talk to one another, but but really, we're just talking about caring about people. And it really is that simple. And like, we make it too complex. And I think that the side of the podcast that is important is embracing your own humanity. So we've talked about in this conversation, you know, one's own sexuality, your own desires, your connection to your body, all of those things that have been denied you through your life. I think that part's important. And then whatever label you put on, it just isn't so Joanna Johnson 42:28 great. I definitely agree. And it's funny, on this side of deconversion, because, like, in my childhood, upbringing, an atheist was like, Oh, yeah. Like, I remember my dad talking. At one point when I was I think I was in like, fourth, fifth grade, they started doing evolution at school. And, surprisingly, at the time, I was at a public school, my parents had shifted gears a little because at first, we were homeschooled. And so because I was at a public school, and they tried to get me out of this, the science of evolution, they asked the teacher even if I could do something else, right, because evolution is evil. So when the school said No, his work, my dad's work around was putting on young earth movies when I got home. Okay. I would literally go to school, right? And then at home, be given school of just young earth school. And so I think it was in that time when I first heard what an atheist was, of course, it's from a Christian idea of an atheist, where's your, they don't believe in anything? They hate to God. And so it is a funny because now I'm like, like, especially with this podcast, like, like, Well, this looks a whole lot more loving and kind, but this is an atheist. David Ames 44:06 Yeah. That's what we're playing with. I mean, that's why, you know, I've said many times, you know, I could have called this the graceful humanist, you know, like, but it was kind of intentional to say, you know, to break down that stereotype a bit. And, you know, like I I've said to what, I meet somebody, I don't go Hi, I'm an atheist. Joanna Johnson 44:28 Turn around. Yes, it turned around because when you're a Christian, it says, Hi, I'm a Christian. David Ames 44:33 Exactly, exactly. Yeah. If someone does ask I will talk about secular humanism and you know, if we get deep then I'll start talking about secular grace and you know, my conception of that that can Joanna Johnson 44:43 I love it I love that you did choose atheist I because I think there is like, taking what Christianity for for those who are de converting has like tainted and turned it into something evil, right. And being like Hear this is it not? It's not evil. It's not scary. It's not bad just is yes David Ames 45:15 Well, you said very kind things about the podcast what other resources, podcasts or books or people? Have you found really helpful throughout this process? Joanna Johnson 45:24 So when I first started looking into my specific upbringing, I started obsessing about like, books on people leaving and cults more specifically. So I read girl at the edge of the world and sorry, girl at the end of the world under tow, unfollow, so once that come to mind, some some books on people who left, which was why I was like I should I writing for me is processing my feelings I am so I'm so disconnected from my feelings that it's easier to type it or write it and, like see it on paper homos? Because I have a hard time seeing it in myself. But so when I started writing for my own therapy, if you want to call it, I was like, I should put this out because memoirs were what literally, like, were my lifeline at the beginning of leaving. Yeah. So those with some books. And then for podcasts. I'm like, I guess I'm picky. Yeah. I really like dirty rotten church kids. They're like my age group. Sadly, this is their last season, so I'm going to have to find something else. Yeah, this this is a podcast. I do listen to. I'm trying to think of as any other Oh, the fundamental. I grew up of Christian fundamentalists. Yeah, yeah. Oh, sorry. I was a teenage fundamentalist. Yeah, so some, but a lot of times, I'll just do books. Hashtag church to was when I read recently. Yeah, that one was really good. Gets into purity culture gets into how women are treated. And then if for specifically, like my book talks about the sexual abuse side, so Chanel, Miller's No, my name was it is an amazing book that I would strongly recommend for anybody who either wants to understand what sexual trauma does to the brain and a person or who have lived that. That book was amazing. But yeah, a lot of times I'll do books, like Audible books on audible or my like, go to Yeah, and I am on deconversion anonymous. Excellent. Recently, I read God and sex by the same guy who did the god virus. Okay. That book was like, blow my mind. Okay, okay. In the book, I, at the very end, I talked about how like, I felt like I hit a point where I stopped deconstructing everything. Like before, it was like I had a sledge hammer, and I was just pulling down everything, right? And I was like, hmm, maybe I'm at a point where I can like, get a broom. Start cleaning this up. Yeah. Okay. All right. And then and then I read that book, and I was like, okay, maybe I need another sledgehammer. David Ames 49:04 There's a bit more. Joanna Johnson 49:07 A little more cultural, you know, stuff that there's stuff that was like, clearly church, right? And then you can deconstruct that and then it's like, oh, okay, maybe there is some validated this gender stuff or this. Yeah, just the culture. And then I'm like, Oh, maybe I want to maybe I want to pull down some of this stuff, too. Exactly. That's where I'm at. David Ames 49:32 Okay, yeah, yeah, it is definitely a process and it can go on for a while. I definitely want to give you a minute to talk about anything about the book how people will find the book. Let's just Let's just promote it. Joanna Johnson 49:51 Okay. Yeah, so the book is silenced and eaten. The books somebody people have asked me like why silence didn't even know So I was born in a Christian commune where they separate themselves. They tried to build their perfect Eden, perfect idea of God again, right? And through trauma, and through being female and a child, I wasn't given a voice. So as that's why it's silenced in Eden, I was silenced. And they thought it was perfect. They thought it was a garden. I explain Christianity or Christianity as like a perfectly kept garden, where everything has its specific place. And then realizing at one point, like, I'm not a garden, I'm kind of wild. Maybe I'm the forest. David Ames 50:48 I love that analogy. Joanna Johnson 50:52 So yeah, so yeah, the book talks about purity culture, it talks about patriarchy. For me, I spent my first 35 years being told what to do being preached at. So the book is not that, right? I'm not, I'm not saying this is what you should believe I'm saying, This is my, like, what I went through, this is my path of life. These are the things that when I was in Christianity didn't fit didn't seem to work didn't feel right. And then these are the things that I'm starting to be like, hey, this feels better. Hit this sits better. And so I try very much to be like, this is where I'm at. And hopefully, the reader can find things that resonates with them. But I'm not going to tell you what to think I can tell you, if there's a heaven or hell, that's that's you, like that's on you. But I'll tell you my experience with deconstructing hell, right? Yes, the book is on Amazon. So I partnered with louder than silence. Louder Than silence is an organization that fund raises to help women who have been sexually abused, get get EMDR therapy, so they pay for therapy. And they also do workshops. So I'm a I'm a part of one that starts actually just started. And the whole idea of the workshop is for victims to help other victims. So it's all ran by victims. And they have, you know, we talked about feeling your feelings, okay. Today, we're going to work on what emotions are coming up and how you know, so it's all but it's all human helping human? Yes. Yeah. And so for me, like when I that was when I was like, Okay, this is the organization I knew when I put the book out, like, I'm talking about a crazy subject, I want this to help that subject, I want to do something good with my messed up story, right? More than just promote myself or whatever, I want it to do something good. So $1 for every book goes to that organization. If you are a woman out there who has been victimized and you want to heal louder than silence has workshops, we meet for 12 weeks, you will meet other victims completely anonymous. And then they also will help with the cost of EMDR therapy. David Ames 53:47 That's awesome. Jo Johnson, you are the author of silenced in Eden, I can tell the listeners that you know the story is is very raw and, and real. And I appreciate that. I think just like what we're doing here on the podcast telling your story is so powerful people are going to read that and especially those who've been through sexual trauma will recognize themselves and hopefully gain some healing from that. So thank you, Jo, for being on the podcast. Joanna Johnson 54:14 No problem. Thank you so much for having me. David Ames 54:22 Final thoughts on the episode. As you could hear, Jo is an obvious leader and an outspoken voice to help people. I'm always amazed at that women who are held back who have a real sense of ministry in their lives and because of the sexism and patriarchy within the church are limited to the roles that they can take. Even her describing writing her husband's sermons is just amazing to me, and then not being allowed to speak in the pulpit. One of the core values of the pod Cast is rigorous self honesty. And my belief is that when we are deeply honest about ourselves and vulnerable, that that helps others. Jo exemplifies that in telling her story of the sexual trauma she experienced as a child, and the impact that that had throughout her life, as well as the impact of purity culture on her and the people that she has talked to that have been affected by purity culture, as well. I know many of the listeners might be in that category, if not in the sexual trauma category, as well. So I want to thank Jo for being vulnerable and telling her story, I think it's going to help many, many people. Again, I want to point out that Jo says that $1 From every book sale goes to louder than silence that helps survivors of sexual trauma and gives them a community to build from, there will be links in the show notes that you can find that if you yourself, have experienced sexual trauma, please reach out. The book is Silenced and Eaden. It is fantastic. I couldn't put it down. I read a lot of stories. I don't say this about every guests book. This was great. It was compelling. Jo really has a way of letting you feel the experience that she had. I want to thank Jo for being on the podcast and for being so vulnerable and telling her story. Thank you, Jo, so much. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about that rigorous self honesty. If you've ever been in a 12 step program, you're going to recognize that phrasing. This is a core value for me. And I want to differentiate it from the way that truth is often used as a cudgel within Christianity, or even in the atheist community. There's a way of using the truth to beat people over the head as opposed to helping them to thrive. And so juxtapose that with what I'm trying to describe here about a rigorous self honesty, truthfulness with oneself. I often quote Alice Greczyn, who said that she stopped being good at fooling herself. And I love that I want us all to stop being good at fooling ourselves. And it begins with rigorous self honesty. And this applies very deeply for those people who are in the middle of their doubts, the middle of deconstruction, who are counting the cost of what deconversion might cost and terrified. All I can say is that within the sanctity of your own mind, be honest with yourself. The truth, in that sense, will set you free. Next week's guest is Josh, who goes by after God's end on Instagram, or lien interviews, Josh, definitely check that out next week. 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 beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful firstname.lastname@example.org for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful atheists.com. This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network Transcribed by https://otter.ai