Holly Laurent: The Rise and Fall of Twin Hills on the Mega Podcast

Artists, Comedy, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, High Demand Religious Group, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace
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This week’s guest is comedian and writer, Holly Laurent. See her full bio and work here

Holly tells a bit of her story, growing up in a fundamentalist evangelical household. From the fear of demons to eternal conscious torment, Holly is still dismantling the indoctrination. In comedy, she’s found a way to express her “voice that always got [her] in trouble” as well as an accepting community, something she struggled to find in the church.

Her podcast Mega has a new five-part mini-series parodying the downfall of an infamous Mars Hill pastor. Episode 1 of “The Rise and Fall of Twin Hills” drops May 21. It’s going to be a crazy ride!


Holly’s site

Mega the Podcast



“Sometimes laughter helps during certain types of hurt, and sometimes it doesn’t.” 

“I speak English and I speak Evangelical…”

“Nobody listens when you’re on a soapbox, but if you can make someone laugh, it can be really disarming…it opens up the possibility that there could be some reciprocity.” 

“I may be in the messy part forever.”

“My healing, my path is not linear. I feel like it’s more shaped like the milky way…”

“I see a lot of similarities between ‘preaching and teaching’ and performing.”

“The word that, I think, really defined the first three decades of my life is…fear.” 

“I think real love is a lot like truth, it liberates, so I’m trying to get better at recognizing cages.”

“If I can make you laugh, you’re in the palm of my hand a l little bit because at the very least, you’re listening…”

“Comics are supposed to be the truth-tellers.” 

“I want comedy to be my higher power.” 

“If having to be more intentional with our language and our content is what’s required at the moment, great! That’s a new challenge.”

“…the cognitive dissonance of trying to maintain and push a narrative of a god that’s both an authoritative, genocidal dictator and also have it be ‘the most loving, the most incredible love that you’ve ever had in your entire life!’”

“Everyone played their part perfectly so that I could play the game. The Church and my parents, everyone…they believed it so deeply that I did…”

“One of my biggest indictments of Middle American Christians is that they are theologically illiterate; they do not know what’s in their book and I do.”

“I think that’s what all these ‘Jesus and John Wayne’ dudes are…big man-children.”

“I don’t need and want love. I am love. I have love. I am this love.”

“What improv and comedy taught me is that deep, active, conscious listening is a posture and willingness to be changed.”

“Love yourself and be love, rather than need love…and we’re going to make things better!”


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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. Thank you to all my Patrons for supporting the podcast. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at patreon.com/graceful atheist. If you're in the middle of doubt, deconstruction, the dark night of the soul, you do not have to do it alone. Join our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous and become a part of the community. You can find us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion

This week's guest is Holly Laurent the mind behind mega the podcast mega is revealing a brand new series that is absolutely out of this world. Mega is an improvised satire in the world of a fictional mega church, and they are releasing a comedy investigative miniseries inside the world of their own show called The Rise and Fall of twin hills. The Rise and Fall of twin Hills is a hilarious riff on the self important truth seeking that happens around church scandals and the twisted psychology of those who are inside them. This mini series is chock full of ridiculous scandal put it this way. If you think that the real megachurch pastor improprieties we've seen over the last few years are bad. Get ready for the outlandish high jinks of Pastor Steve Judson. If you're a fan of parody and satire or a comedic take on what it's like to be in the middle of deconstruction, then go check out mega and their new mini series that comes out May 21. The first episode of the mini series The Rise and Fall of twin Hills is out now go check it out. You can find them on Apple Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show. My guest today is Holly Laurent. She is the comedic mind behind mega the podcast. Mega parodies the experience of the evangelical world with heart compassion, and satire at the same time, Holly's brand of comedy and her words is doing comedy at the height of her intelligence and connecting with the audience on a deep level. Holly is one of those amazing people who can use comedy to communicate to break down barriers to get past people's defenses because she's being honest and raw in that comedy. You're gonna hear that now in this interview, that Holly brings the self honesty to the table. That is what makes her such a great communicator. Here is Holly Laurent telling her story. Holly the rot Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Holly Laurent  3:16  
Very happy to be here. This is my favorite stuff to talk about. And I don't even know what your questions are. Yeah.

David Ames  3:25  
Well, for like the two people listening to my podcast who don't know about mega, can you give them the introduction to your podcast?

Holly Laurent  3:33  
My podcast is a comedy and it's called mega and it is an improvised satire from the staff of a fictional megachurch, where we parody the power powerful systems and structures in place in terms of the what I consider kind of corny and cheesy mega world backdrop. Yeah, and and every single episode, we have a different comic who comes on and plays a different person who exists in that world. And we it's and we just improvise together and find a lot of really fun stuff. We laugh a lot. And one of the most interesting things that has come about from this podcast is it has brought me into a really delicious world of really wonderful people of you know, X van Jellicle 's and people who are deconstructing and like a really lovely supportive community that I was not even aware of before my podcast and which is really really lovely and it's sort of surprising to us at Mega that we have the audience we do because I think half of our audience is is kind of Christians who I don't know are probably like We're the cool Christians we can laugh at ourselves. We I'm not sure I'm not sure what they're thinking. But and and a lot of people who find themselves on the other side, people who have moved to being evidence based people and Have faith based people or however they describe themselves. So, um, I think, yeah, we have, the feedback I hear a lot is that so many people find it to be incredibly therapeutic to be able to laugh about some of this stuff. And you know what, sometimes I hear from people who are like, I go through periods where I can't listen to my gut because I don't find it funny. And if I'm hurting, sometimes it sometimes laughter helps during certain types of hurt, and sometimes it doesn't. And so we actually have our Patreon episode that comes out every week is called a mini. So we have the mega and we have the Mini and in the Mini, we just play ourselves, we are ourselves, we're not playing characters, and we kind of deconstruct all the ideas that our characters are we're wrestling with in terms of content that comes on the weekend episodes of purity culture, or scandal in the church and how people of faith navigate that, but the way we approach it is that we it's very Christopher Guest in its tone, I guess. It's very much like a mighty wind or Bastien show or a show like that. We're, we're playing to the top of our intelligence and sincerely playing characters, who are deep believers, and I believe we're playing them very lovingly, and we're really humanizing them. And we're exploring that point of view that me and my co host Greg grew up with, I really got it hammered. Hammered. It got hammered home, to say the least. And so I use my bilingual. I speak English and I speak evangelical. Yeah, I use my my by link quality. I think I made up a word to, to just create a specific backdrop that is really fun. comedically, you know, a lot of like, more specificity kind of creates, like a universality in terms of comedic language. So yeah, we have, we have a really good time with it. And I've enjoyed playing both sides of being the believer exploring that point of view, in a comedic way that, at the very least, makes people laugh, or hopefully even might help people. And it's really for us, I come from a tradition of improv and comedy where the, the way I believe the best way to make a statement about something or the best way to create a conversation is to be the thing that you have commentary about. And because nobody really listens when you're on a soapbox, but if if you can make someone laugh, a lot of times it can be really disarming. And then you're actually listening or opens up an opportunity for there to be some reciprocity or kind of a, an open, open dialogue. And I really don't have any interest in punching down at believers and taking swipes at individuals. I really, I really am kind of a I agree with. Oh, man, what's his name? I'm having a pothead moment. George Carlin. Yes, I really agree with George Carlin that like I love people, I don't like groups. And so I'm not I'm not punching down at any individuals in any way, shape, or form. I'm really intently, intentionally punching up at the power structures that really do kind of seek to control people and to oppress people. And that I really believe these systems cause deep harm, some harm that is becoming known to some and some harm that is not even detected at this point, which is really insidious. And so that might be placing a lot of responsibility on to a half hour comedy, but yeah, but seriously, that's where I am.

David Ames  8:52  
Yeah, my drop, we're done thanks.

I want to circle back to a lot of things that you just said. But I really do first want to hear just a bit about your personal story. What was like for you, as a believer when you really were a believer and growing up and so and then maybe lead us through? When the doubts came and what that was like for you?

Holly Laurent  9:25  
I really always struggled. It's hard to say because of revisionist history and memory being very, not trustworthy.

David Ames  9:38  
But honest about that fact. Yeah. Yeah.

Holly Laurent  9:41  
But you know, like, every time you revisit a memory, it's like you open up that folder, make some notes, cross out some old stuff, make some changes and put it back on the shelf and that memory keeps evolving through time. And I keep changing I mean, I'm, I'm always changing like if we had this conversation on a different weak, I'm positive, the conversation would be very, very different. Yeah. And I'm really in that messy. And I may be in the messy part forever. I never have felt like, ah, Hive, like, like a long jump you where you land in the sand and you're like, ah, that's where my feet are. Mark those two footprints that is me now it's all over. Yeah, I really, I really feel like my healing. And my path is not linear. I feel like it's more shaped like the shape of the Milky Way galaxy where it's just kind of a swirling thing with like, arms that shoot out, and then it comes back into the center and then shoot out again, and just a swirling kind of mass. That's what I feel like emotionally and intellectually. But the way I can describe to the best of my ability, my memory of having grown up with a very, I was in a high demand, religious environment in terms of sort of a fundamental evangelical culture. Both of my grandfather's were pastors, my so both my parents are preachers, kids, I'm a preacher's kid. My dad is currently the pastor of a mega church, but used to be an itinerant evangelist that was traveling around the country bringing the Good News of the Gospel to high school assemblies and mega churches and county fairs and you name it. And before that my parents had one of the first ever Christian rock bands. And so they in their day were considered very edgy and controversial. And, you know, should you be singing about Jesus? And it sounds like the Grateful Dead? Is that a problem? It was a problem for a lot of Christians. So my parents were kind of considered I think, yeah, some like for runners in the evangelical movement that has brought us well, Trump frankly, that that's all I do blame them emotionally. But yeah, they were kind of at the beginning of that like hold Jesus movement and you know this countercultural Geez long haired Jesus dude who loves you, like you've never been loved before. And a lot of their generation I think, really needed to feel some kind of that love. They came from parents who didn't talk didn't touch didn't affirmed in anything. And man were they just starved for love, at least my dad was. And he that that message really gripped him and transformed his life. And now it really feels almost like a love addiction or something. Really trying to know how to best navigate navigate this relationship now based on where I've come. And until a few years ago, maybe five years ago, I wasn't even like publicly speaking about what I believed because I was so afraid they would hear it.

David Ames  12:57  
Right? Do I have this right that you actually traveled with your dad at one point when he was doing the itinerant preaching?

Holly Laurent  13:03  
Yeah, like, as a kid, I would go on the road with him a lot. Because if I didn't, we would never see each other because he just that was his, like, kind of full time thing. So like, in summertime, like if he was going to be the chaplain at like a youth group, you know, summer camp, he would take me along for the week, and I would be wandering around the, you know, camp, looking at all these like Christian Church kids, you know, go to chapel every night and learning canoeing during the day. And I got a perspective of both sides of the curtain. You know, my father being a human being behind the curtain, and then being this really charismatic, storyteller, counselor, communicator. People really, really responded to him. And so I watched the power of that performance. I think it's probably it sounds crude for me to call it a performance but like, at its deepest essence, I just don't think it's, you know, an accident or it's a coincidence that I also became a performer because I see a lot of similarities in it in terms of preaching and teaching and, and performing.

If I had to really sum up, I am a, an extremely highly sensitive person, just very, very, very sensitive. So a lot of the messaging I was hearing there was all the love of like, it's a love like you've never known. It's a perfect love. It's an unconditional love. All of that I was getting that but it didn't matter as much as all the messaging of simultaneously demons and eternal torment of Hell, and what I grew up believing was reality, which was my entire reality was based on God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, and the stakes were fucking high. Because it is all eternity. I mean, I remember as a kid just wishing, like why couldn't? Why couldn't he just like, annihilate us? Like just pure annihilation would be compassionate, you know? Like, why do I have to be an eternal torment and gnashing my teeth for all in all eternity infinity, a sideways eight, that's forever of gnashing teeth for how will I have teeth left, you know, like a little kid mind was just so terrified. And the word that really defines, I'd say the first three decades of my life was fear, just just so. So afraid. So, so, so, so afraid. And all of that, you know, to this day has been stuck in my gut and my hips. And I'm having to do a lot of work now, like physically and in terms of embodiment, and realizing that I have completely dissociated from my body because it was so sinful, and dangerous and tempting and going to drag me straight to hell. And so I didn't enjoy. I didn't enjoy it. Yeah. Oh, my God. Pleasant. Yeah. No, I because I was so I'm creative, and imaginative and sensitive and emotional. So like, every time I had night of sleep paralysis, which was a lot like I had so many nightmares and stuff, but I would get sleep paralysis, and I really thought they were demonic attacks, right? I could feel like a huge, like, you know, demonic Talon coming out of the sky, the size of my body and putting its point into my mouth, like during a during a sleep paralysis episode, and I watched my dad cast out demons, as a kid with eyes rolled back and foaming at the mouth and guttural noises. And it took me well into my 20s. Before I was like, oh, people have seizures at music shows. And that is the sound of a grand mal seizure, not a demon that is responding to the powerful name of Jesus being spoken in its presence. So there was a lot of there was a lot of there is still a lot of dismantling of a lot of reactivity that I think I have to all of that. It's really hard sometimes to have a compassionate and understanding view of someone who is still in the church and experiencing it as a good thing. Because to me, it feels like, oh, that abusive relationship I used to be in where, you know, they seem to be beating the shit out of me all the time. What like, well, I guess they're being good to their new girlfriend. You know, like, yeah. Yeah, so there's a lot of cognitive dissonance, like all all of us who've kind of been through that stuff.

David Ames  18:01  
You know, several things, you know, pop out of just that discussion. One is that I think, adults Christians, I say that it's not that they take Christianity too seriously, it's that they don't take it seriously enough. And what you're describing is, as a child, you are taking it literally and seriously. And experiencing the trauma from that. And I think adults are able to compartmentalize and, yeah, you know, like, we believe this, but, and a child is not right, the child's getting the main line of that and experiences the full brunt of it. And children suffer from that. And it sounds like, you know, unfortunately, that this was pretty painful for you.

Holly Laurent  18:42  
It was and the hard thing about that, too, is that that's, that's just going to be an individual journey, because there's really no telling them or helping them understand that. I'm just a, I'm just a stark, raving liberal feminist who's pissed right at a, at a really lovely program, you know, in their mind, and that's okay. It's also like, same thing, you can't control the narrative after a breakup. Yeah, their friends are gonna think you're an asshole and your friends are gonna think they're an asset. You know, it's like,

David Ames  19:19  
yeah, that's a good analogy. I like that, actually. Because that's, yeah, that's very close to the reality. Yeah.

Holly Laurent  19:25  
Yeah. So I think yeah, there's so much work to be done and I'm always doing it

I had a friend recently tell me that she was talking about in her relationship, her partner is sort of ruminating and talking about her parents all the time, and the the abuse and the destruction and all of that, and as I was listening to my and describe that I was like, Oh, is that me? And then I, and then I was watching a rerun of succession recently. Do you watch succession?

David Ames  20:10  
You know, I haven't yet yeah, no, I'm familiar with it. But oh, it's so good.

Holly Laurent  20:16  
I really like it. It's but but there was a, it's basically like a parody of the Murdoch family, you know, controlling like conservative news and being like horrible, horrible people. And actually, that is like damaging the earth and like creating real, real problems. It's not just damaging humans is damaging the entire planet. But but there was a scene that stuck out to me when I was watching it recently to where the eldest son of Rupert Murdoch, of the Rupert Murdoch character was in a new relationship with a woman and she said to him, you talk about your data a lot. And I was like, Huh. And I've noticed that because my friend who, who I was discussing this with was like, I think that thing that you're ruminating about all day long, that is sort of like running your thoughts, and running the programming in your mind. That's your higher power. And I'm, like, interesting. Yeah, I really, I'm really working on changing my thoughts now being more intentional, trying to be more mindful, and looking for ways to continue to liberate myself. Because I do think the the message of the Gospel according to most Christians is love. But since I didn't experience that, then I want to do a breakdown of what love is. So what is love? Because if, if, if, if the story they gave me of what love is, really created some harm. Let me return to what love is, then because what is it and it might be a different definition for every single person who describes it. But there are certain things I believe to be true about love. And one is that I think real love is a lot like truth in that it, it liberates it, it liberates. And so I'm just trying to get better at recognizing cages. And, and, as a kid, I remember having real infinite thoughts, at least to me felt like bigger thoughts than the limitations of our own per sections in our in the language that we speak. Like, I remember, as a kid, when I learned the alphabet, I was like, Okay, that's interesting. Now I know, 26 of them, I can't wait to learn the rest, because I figured it went on into infinity, right? Like, like the way they say color does, like, but we, but our ability to see it stops at violet. So we essentially can see three colors and their variations. And we think that's it. But it goes on, and on and on and on and the spectrum. And I remember my brain being like that. I remember, I remember, our neighbors had kittens, and we were playing with the kittens. And they were like, this one's a girl. This one's a boy, this one's a girl. And I remember having the thought, that's weird that they're all only boys and girls. Yeah, because I figured that gender went on forever. Right? Right. And why would there only be two of all the you know, and, and, and then I remember those outside forces of socialization and education, coming in, and immediately limiting my ability to think and speak and everything became about limits. And I think the limiting nature of Bible based teaching. And I mean, if you really start, I think if you really start to break it down, it's it's everywhere, like I at one point, in terms of a high demand religion, discovered that the Cage had never been locked, and that I could push the door open. And I could come out. And I think for a long time, I pushed the door open. And I would come out in short, little stents and little experiments and then go back in Yeah, at least sleep in there at night. Until the day when I realized, like I, I can run, I can just run and be free and never go back to that cage. But I look around and I'm like, oh, man, if you start breaking it down, and this is kind of why I want to go get my PhD in linguistics, because I really think there's that that at its essence that so much of our human angst is because of the limitations of the language we speak and our ability to think and the the ways in which we believe lies and we stay trapped and caged. Because if you look everywhere, the cages are everywhere. It's like oh, late stage capitalism. Cage. Yeah, our education system can cage like, policing that is a cage. Like there's so many of us. I remember having that thought as a kid. I remember thinking about money and being like, I think money is the problem, like money because everything revolves around money, like money is the actual problem. And then I grow up into this day. I'm like, yeah, that is still the absolute problem. That's the problem. Anytime a good movie gets made, it's despite the money people not because of the money people. It's just, I know, I'm like, really? I don't hear a

David Ames  25:35  
couple things. One, like, please go get your PhD in linguistics, I think I think you're on to several things there. You know, there's there are those theories about even just speaking multiple languages, that you have a different perspective on things, I think there's definitely something there about being a human being and being trapped in language.

I do want to hear though, about, you know, in your 20s, you're recognizing that it was about fear, or maybe in your 30s. And you're able to go out out of the cage for a little while, like, what was that experience? Like, you know, what were the things that let you be free that led you escape as it were?

Holly Laurent  26:18  
Honestly, I owe a debt of gratitude to comedy, I would say comedy. Well, I found myself in a little improv theater in Chicago, where I started to feel community connection and acceptance, belonging, you know, I'm just going to every improv class I can take and getting jumping in every show I can. And I remember distinctly, in the beginning of my life in comedy, I remember thinking, I can't really be cast out from this. And that was a big fear that lived inside of me with imposter syndrome and all of this stuff within Christendom. Of, of I always was like, Oh, I'm a pervert. I'm disgusting, because I'm thinking things. I'm not supposed to think I'm longing for things I'm not supposed to long for oh, no, I'm a disgusting, wretched pervert. And, and I'm going to be found out I'm going to be cast out. I mean, think about it, the very first story, I mean, besides Eve, acting on her own will and then not just destroying everything for her but for all humankind forever. Not just that story of a beginning. But even predating that story is Lucifer who reading Paradise Lost recently, I was wondering if Lucifer is actually a sympathetic character, because yeah, to to question absolute authority is a good thing. And, and to demand absolute authority with annihilation as the only other option. Well, again, annihilation would be kind, compassionate. And again, why why a huge question I have is why why not destroy Lucifer, and all of the fallen angels. And what I also discovered for reading Paradise Lost recently is that most of our ideas of Satan and the devil are actually from Milton and not from the Bible, there's actually very little in the Bible. And, and I kind of, I kind of, I'm related to Lucifer in Paradise Lost when better to better to reign in Hell than to be a slave in heaven. Like, that idea is really interesting. And I think there's a cool conversation to have there. And honestly, it's always been my natural bent. I'm very anti authoritarian. People tell me it's because I'm Aquarius. I don't know enough about all that shit to speak to it. But, but I have I've always been very my mid and that's just, I don't know, I don't even know what personality is per se, but it's always been. My natural instinct is to if you're my boss, if you're a cop, if you're in charge, or whatever, my natural instinct was always to be like, fuck you. Yeah. Like, and, and so.

David Ames  29:09  
I have not been terribly good with authority figures either. So yeah, right.

Holly Laurent  29:12  
Yeah. I'm like, and not that I want to be one. I just don't want to live in your fucking cage. So I, yeah,

David Ames  29:24  
couple things. I'm gonna jump in here and just say we recently had a guest, Audrey, I think it was who talked about for her the deconstruction was deconstructing the devil? It reminds me of your story, and not like, you know, demons were very real in our growing up faith tradition. And it wasn't until she said, Oh, the devil is not real, that it wasn't God that wasn't real. But it was the devil being not real that her deconstruction process began and in earnest at that point, and so I think that's interesting that that that parallel with people who grew up in a more charismatic environment that it's just recognizing that oh, wait, this is kind of a story. You know, this isn't actually All and then being able to yeah, go and move forward.

Holly Laurent  30:03  
I relate to that. I think that was a big part that was a big Jenga piece that when removed helped the topple go down quicker. Same for me was Audrey I think it was I remember two things in college when I when I discovered that people in charismatic sects of all world religions speak in tongues. I was like, hold up. Hold the fuck up. Yeah. Wait, what? And even like in satanic, I even learned that in satanic rituals. They speak in tongues, and I was like, Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, like that was a huge moment for me where I was like, Oh, wait, is this from the inside out? And not from the outside in? Because otherwise, the Holy Spirit is working with Satanists? And, and also, yeah, I had a philosophy professor handed me a book called The Myth of Satan and asked me to write a paper on it. And I was like, offended by the very title. Yeah. And but yeah, that was a big one. That was a really, really, really big one.

David Ames  31:00  
Yeah, interesting. Since I'm here thinking about I think it might have been Stacey and not Audrey, but credit to both of them. Interesting idea.

I do want to segue to comedy. And then first just introduce myself to you like I was the kid of my grandparents had HBO when I was way too young watching Richard Pryor and George Carlin you've already mentioned, and we're Robin Williams, and, you know, some of these early guys and you know, comedy was just built into my life all of my best friends from growing up is because we would just cap on each other the you know, like that we like we showed love by tearing each other apart incessantly. And so comedy has always been beloved to me. And I think that satire is such a deep way to communicate the subtleties of being a human being and, and so I find what the work that you're doing both as improv and satire, super fascinating and that you said it already earlier that it is a way to get beyond people's defenses. So I want you to just talk about what was comedy like for you? How did you get introduced to it? And like, when did you start to do improv?

Holly Laurent  32:18  
I was forced into improv in college because of an acting class I was in where the, my, my teacher had just done a Paul Sills workshop over the summer and brought back improv to our college campus and was like, we're gonna be doing improv this semester. And I was like, oh, no, I hate that. And then I was so scared of it just because I had such crushing low self esteem. And everything in improv is you and so I did was so afraid of being judged for anything that came out of my mouth. And so of course, having to face that drag. So I moved to Chicago because I kind of thought of it as the sort of Mecca of improv at that time, definitely, like long form, was really having its kind of punk rock heyday, when I was in Chicago, so I signed up for every class I could and just was like, Okay, let's face this fucking dragon. And then, of course, in so doing, I discovered my little inner weirdo, my little comedic voice, that I had been telling to shut up for a really long time, because I thought it was the unacceptable side of me. It took me about 10 years, I remember, I was working at the second city, I improvised every single day and did every single show and class and tour and everything I could for a decade in Chicago, and finally got to the national touring company of the Second City. And then within three months of that got put on the mainstage cast, and then was able to write and run three different reviews for three years on the main stage where I was doing eight shows a week, six days a week, my absolute dream, like Please Don't pinch me, I never want to wake up. And it was inside of that, where I was improvising every single night and being paid for it and having equity insurance at the time was so and it was somewhere in an in an improv set. Where I was in a an, I was in a scene with one of my best friends in the whole world, Edgar Blackman, and we were improvising. And I felt this thing come from my deepest, deepest waters. And it came it was a sensation that came up inside my body. That happened simultaneously to a big laugh that I had just got from the room. And as I felt that really big laugh. I felt it affirm that deepest voice of like I realized that that laugh had come from me being in flow and unconscious. and allowing my little inner weirdo to speak. And that's when I stopped trying to improvise. And I just started allowing myself to drop into that flow better and not do it like him or her them. But me, and and that voice the voice inside of me that was always going to get me in trouble. And so I had to keep it under such lock and key speaking of cages, when I kind of started to let her out, I think that began the transformation inside of me that I guess I could call healing. I struggled to call it healing, but just changing, transforming, becoming, allowing myself to become the creature that I am. I guess that sounds sort of highfalutin, in a way, that's

David Ames  35:57  
your word progress. Yeah. Why for more

Holly Laurent  36:00  
progress, rather than the thing? I thought I was supposed to be all the shoulds which are should just equals suffering. Yeah. And so and so you know, there's lots of like, with comedy, I think. There's so many interesting things like the live comedy is my favorite, because it's a little bit like being on a surfboard waiting for the sets of waves to come in you. You're improvising, like in stillness, stillness, stillness, but you're watching, like, the waves. The waves that come to a surfer, are very similar, I think, to the waves of laughter that come to comic. And so you start to read those waves and figure out how to manage the plastic water at when do you want like little ripples? And then when do you want the big ones? And do you have the patience and guts to stay flat for a while to get a way bigger, more satisfying wave? Or do you want to? So all that stuff is really fun for me of like, tinkering around with like, what is funny? What is improv funny? What is sketch funny? What is film funny, what is live funny? What is funny, that works the next night. What is funny that only works in that one moment that I think that comedy The way it's interesting because I've I've done a lot of research into why a lot of men think women aren't funny, and so much of it is like a deep unconscious. A lot of people think that laughter is there's a primal thing that happens. When we are laughing together, we're showing each other our teeth, which is a very like primal animal thing, when you show your teeth to each other. And that there might be something that is happening intrinsically in. Because we've all been raised in such a misogynistic and patriarchal society, like there's something where men really don't like that, if I can make you laugh, essentially, in that moment, I have controlled your body in a way you're a little bit out of control that like, like, that was a like surprise and a physical response that was out of your control. So maybe you don't want a woman controlling you in that way. Or maybe you only want a female to be, I don't know, fucking sexy and alluring or whatever. And comedy feels like it's too much of a leadership role in the moment or whatever. But um, but I, I think what's happening is, if I can make you laugh, you, you're in my head in the palm of my hand a little bit, because at the very least, you're listening, which is the main thing that no one is doing now in our like, highly divided times. And I have learned through incredible failure, I have learned that as you're reading those waves of laughter and you're timing those out and figuring like what ones to ride and how to keep moving the room that a conversation starts to take place, this reciprocity of ideas, and it's a time where you can slip in, you know, comics are supposed to be the truth tellers, like just pointing things out shining a light in that dark place, shining a light in that dark place. How do we feel about this? Doesn't this seem kind of bizarre? And I think the the really interesting thing to me, is when the audience gives you the nose, the laughter a lot of times is yes. And the like, ooh, the grunts and groans and the hisses are our nose. And I'm, I've learned to now always look for those nose because I'm like, oh, okay, now we're getting to something like that. Okay, why don't you like that? And what I've learned is once you get those No, no, no, no, not they're not there. No, no, no, you back up, motherfucker. I I've learned I've learned that when they tell me to back off of something, that I've found an important thing. And so I don't often push past that point. But then I start to dance on that line and be like, well, then here's where let's then let's talk about this. What else is here? Yeah. Because yeah, I think the goal is that you leave a comedy show, feeling a little less alone and maybe a little less caged.

David Ames  40:38  
Don't want to get into too deep of water skier, but I am interested in your opinion on you know, I think comics today talk about they kind of complain that they can't make certain jokes. And I think you're right, that there's an element of comedy, that is to say the thing that is uncomfortable for everyone to hear, and a bit of truth telling. And so how do you balance that for yourself? Like, like you say, maybe not crossing the line, but going up to it?

Holly Laurent  41:04  
Yeah, it's a tricky time. It's a really tricky time. Because, you know, in the same way, the stock market has to reset itself. So does comedy, you know, like, and speaking of prior, like, some of that content is so harmful.

David Ames  41:19  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No, yeah, I've served basically everyone I mentioned are super problematic and 2023 eyes. Absolutely.

Holly Laurent  41:26  
Definitely. And I talk about this all the time with a lot of my friends in comedy have like, huh, like, you remember how I used to start this? That one set? Yeah, I wouldn't use that word anymore. You know, like, like, yikes. And I kind of follow Sarah Silverman's ideas in that regard of like, in certain ways, you know, holding someone's jokes from the 90s are, the odds are anytime holding that against them is like trying to show you know, Shaq a picture of him as an eighth grader and be like, You were only 510 You were only 510 You were only 510? Why are you trying to be 510? And he's like, I've grown. Yeah, yes, that was me then. But I've grown and I've, I, I really look for that in the artists that I listened to and promote and, and take in. Because as we know, looking at comedy right now, there's a lot of really, I'm looking at a lot of mostly white guys, but not all, but above a certain age that are there. So I'm so disgruntled. And I'm like, You know what? And I'm like, Come on, man. Grow, grow. Keep growing. And but you see it everywhere. Like it's the same problem with you know, Fox News, parents and liberal kids like what at whatever point you circle the wagons then I guess it's just that's all you're gonna get from them is is where they draw the line. But i really i i really like I just heard a friend of mine Mike yard do a set at the cellar in New York, where he told a joke about like, you know, all the school shootings is a real problem in this country, we have a real problem and it doesn't seem to be going away. And I feel like we need to get creative and look at what might be perpetuating this real problem. And he was like, and I just want everyone to think about I'm butchering this Forgive me, like, look, let's look at the candle industry. Because everyone goes and buys candles for these like vigils afterwards, and the candle companies are making out like crazy. And he and the audience kind of gave him a like, No, we're not allowed to laugh about school shootings. And he stopped in the moment I was watching him do this clip. He was he's talking about me. He's like, No, that's a good joke. Like that joke is okay, the target of that joke. Like, we're not laughing about dead kids. Right? You have to understand target. And I really don't have any good feelings right now about people who target marginalized groups that are suffering. It really hurts me because I guess, you know, I want comedy to be my higher power and um, you know, there's I guess there's cognitive dissonance to like, you know, when you ask a Christian like, how they feel about you know, the mass genocide of like Noah's Ark and like what why the two by two cute animal story and not like all the dead floating bodies of the entire world, even though I'm like I think that was probably a region that got flooded. Yeah, that to the writer was the whole world. But anyway,

David Ames  44:51  
I do think it comes back to you talking about punching down and or, excuse me, punching down and you know, punching up towards power structures as opposed To the marginalized and the disaffected. And that seems like a pretty bright line, that's obvious to anyone who's listening for most of the time. But I agree with you that we are having a bit of a reset right now, particularly in comedy.

Holly Laurent  45:13  
And it probably it needs to, you know, I mean, look at all the comics that we grew up on, using language and saying things and targeting groups that we really do need that reset. So even if that does make everyone in comedy, even the well meaning people, like get in trouble and get canceled and get all that like it, it's worth sticking with the conversation, wrestling and grappling with it, and trying to keep going and elevating comedy to the height of your intelligence with a sensitivity to that, because I mean, I even remember back in my training, like a lot of teachers being like, you know, going blue is, you know, sometimes if you get a dirty joke that hits really hard, it's great. It's worth it. But for the most part, just defaulting into going blue is it's just hack, it's lazy. And so if if having to be more intentional with our language, and our content, is what's required of the moment, like, great, that's a new challenge, give me the sandbox of like, sensitivity and transformation and evolution, over continuing to let something I believe in do harm, like, which is exactly my indictment of the church and people who, you know, remain part and parcel of a murderous, harmful commerce in the name of love, who really, I mean, if you look at all those individuals who are in church every week, and each individual deeply believes like, this is a good thing. Yeah. And, and every comic who is, you know, pushing their, their, their content, they deeply believe that thing, or it's deeply hitting a nerve in them that is, you know, making them obsess about it or whatever. But, like, it's funny, like, you mentioned, Robin Williams, like, when Robin Williams appeared in LA on the scene, like all the standups were like, fuck him that's not stand up. They were like, What is he doing? It's not it's not, you know, he's, he's not. And then he, but he's Robin Williams, you know, like we have to, we have to let each thing like, grow and transform and evolve and stay alive. And I think that's probably a lot of the suffering in and the angst inside Christendom right now is the the cognitive dissonance of trying to maintain trying to continue to push a narrative of a God that is both, like an authoritative, genocidal dictator, essentially, don't hold that. Also hold that and also have it be like the Most Loving, the most incredible love that you've ever had in your entire life. Yeah,

David Ames  47:56  
I love the way you say, to do comedy at the height of your intelligence. That's the kind of comedy that I that I enjoy. And I imagine that improv must be that every second that you are on stage

as a segue here, I want to hear the the formation of mega the podcast. So how did this idea come about? How did you collect the various comedians that have participated and just tell us the story about mega?

Holly Laurent  48:29  
Mega, um, kind of got forced on me? Okay, um, well, not really, I want to do a podcast and I pitched a whole bunch to this network, and they weren't going for anything. And then I had this in my back pocket. And I was like, I was kind of at a point where I was like, I don't want to, I don't want to think or look at or talk about that world anymore. Like, it was such a massive part of most of my life, and I'm really trying to move in a new direction. And but they were like, No, that's the one that's it, make that and so I kind of created a show Bible and like, named the church and the world and the ministries and sort of like, designed the format of it, and I recorded a pilot and and then it just kind of grew into itself on his own. And then during the pandemic, it kind of saved my ass because it allowed me to when the pandemic hit, I was used to performing multiple times a week and that had been for for 20 years, I'd been doing that and so then to not be performing anymore, was a real blow and so mega kind of continued to itch that scratch and then it also kind of introduced me to this new really kick ass community and the way we get guesses we just because of having come up in the improv scene, we just know so many incredibly funny people. And so we just started begging and borrowing from our friends. In the geniuses of their minds and having a guest on every single episode and, and yet it kind of became this thing that I'm glad I'm really glad and grateful to it, because I think it forced me to stay reckoning with that part of my history and continuing to try to have compassion for it and myself. And who knows, you know, sometimes if I get really metaphysical and get in, like, get stoned, I think like, you know what, maybe in the journey of my soul, I don't even know if I believe in any of the Buddha's stuff. But like it, let's say, for the sake of thought argument like that there is a journey of the soul. And let's say that you kind of do pick your thing. And let's, you know, I wish I hadn't picked the United States of America, I wish, I think there would have been cooler eras and places. But but let's say to put some agency in my soul, like, let's say, I picked this. And let's say I picked high demand mind control called to see if I could learn how to think and find and find it on my own No, no, and, and explore the gray and not stay cozy in the black and white. And so I guess, if I, it, let's say that to give myself some agency and not be a victim of it, let's say something like that happened metaphysically, then then then what? What does it mean? Because I guess I did. Do it. At least I got out of this cage. And so what's what does that mean? It doesn't mean keep uncovering cages? Does it mean? I don't know, I don't know. But I did have a high thought recently of like, well, I guess, if in that scenario, there's anything maybe productive from exploring it as a as a thought experiment is, maybe it can give me gratitude for where I came from, rather than angst and resentment. Because everyone played their part perfectly. So that I could play the game. You know, like, the church and my parents and everyone like the fundamentalism and all the like, because, like, they believed it so deeply that that I did, and, and so now, it's really tricky to be in loving relationships with people who fundamentally see reality differently than me. That's really tricky. And it's also a part of why I'm so interested in linguistics. And I should be spending the rest of my life learning as many languages as I can, because our ability to think is based on the language that we speak. So I think somebody who speaks 10 languages can think 10 times more than me. And that's really interesting to me, because a huge part of it is I'm like, is this semantics with me and my dad, I made a, I made a comedy short, I made a film that I wrote, directed, called brought to you by Satan, where I explore the idea of like, is it just semantics? You can can me and my dad look at the exact same thing and what I what he sees, he would describe as a powerful stronghold of Satan. And what I see as I stare at the exact same thing is addiction and abuse. Yeah, and who knows, when you're caught in the talents of addiction and abuse? Maybe it does feel like a powerful stronghold have an invisible monster. I just, I just don't know.

David Ames  53:41  
I really, I really think that, you know, that internet meme a few years ago, the dress, you know, that just shocked people that their their perception was different, that one group of people were seeing a blue and one was seeing gold and just could not believe each other that there's no way you can't possibly be experiencing it that way. One of the things that I talk about a lot is that a deep human need is to be known to be understood. Yeah. So you were talking about love, I think a definition of love is my ability to be authentically me and your ability to be authentically you and to connect somewhere in the middle of that, that's kind of love for me. But it's that feeling of you're both having, like you just said the same experience. But your dad sees it as a powerful, lovely experience of love and then transcendence and connection with other believers and you see it as a trap, and pain and trauma and and nothing good there. And, you know, and it's like, how do you reconcile those two perspectives? And I don't know, I, I guess me waxing philosophically. I think it is more than that semantics. But one of the things that we gain being on this side of the bubble is what by previous guests, Alice Greczyn said it really well, I'm no longer good at fooling myself. I've gotten less good at fooling myself. It's not that I'm impervious to fooling myself, but I'm less good at it now, having been in the bubble, and now out of it, and like, there's something to be said for being aware or self aware enough to recognize I can feel myself I know what that felt like, felt very real for a long period of time. And now I don't want that anymore. And so I'm on the lookout to make sure that I don't do that again.

Holly Laurent  55:33  
Yeah. And I recently heard someone say that attempting to change someone's mind is non consensual. And I was like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And and, and maybe that brings us back to the power of comedy and storytelling, which is that it that is a place where it is a consensual connection. Yeah.

David Ames  56:04  
So back to Vega for a second. You hinted at this, that, you know, first of all, it's spot on, right. Like, I mean, you know, again, I know everybody's listening has heard mega but if just in case you hadn't, right, you guys are playing full tilt. Christianese if evangelical that's at it kind of peak. What is almost difficult to satire, you know, you're doing it at this peak level. But there's a sincerity to it, there's a heart to it, that it doesn't feel cruel. It feels very honest. And more to my questions to you is like, how does this not hurt you? How are you able to do this on a weekly basis and not have that be? Re traumatizing for you yourself? Let alone maybe one or two listeners out there?

Holly Laurent  56:51  
Oh, what a compassionate question. I really appreciate that. And the honest answer is that it does hurt me sometimes I hear things tumble out of the voice of my character that bother me and hurt me physically. And I'm really I'm doing really intentional work right now trying to get into into my body as a human being a lot of embodiment work. I'm in a class right now called embodiment and embodied sexuality. I'm taking a dance class, which is absolutely terrifying for me dances and most the most like never, not in a million years. It's it's I don't even like to go to weddings, because I'm like, Oh, is there going to be dancing? Because I'm so awkward and self conscious. And I don't know what to do. I don't know how to dance. I don't feel like I have rhythm. I'm so insecure, I'm all these things. And so I'm like doing all this work to try to safely come back down into my body. And sometimes when I hear my character, Halle say stuff, I feel pangs in my body. I'm like, Oh, I don't know, I and I've introduced other characters where I play Halley's Sunday, which is an adolescent male version of, it's basically me playing me as a teenage boy. And I really like those episodes. And I'm like, can I just change characters? Because, because his name is de and he comes in as the skeptic and he's really wrestling with it on an emotional level and stuff and Hallie, my main character is, is toxically positive and completely trapped in a cage. And I'm trying to, I have tried to play a really long game with her of like, of her slowly, kind of getting a little bit fucked up by her deep knowledge of the Bible, because one of my biggest indictments of most middle American Christians is that they are theologically illiterate, and that they do not know what is in their book. And I do. And I, you know, took Greek in college and used to be able to translate the New Testament and I have really dedicated myself to grappling with this. And I feel like a lot of believers have not and so so with my character, I'm trying to use her deep dedication to biblical truths as a, as a seed that is starting to grow inside of her, trying to play it as a really long game of slowly breaking her down, because this podcast won't go on forever. And we are going to end it at some point. And I'm like, How do I want to end it? And, and I'm feeling it in my body to comedically of like, oh, I, I used to, I used to chuckle at a lot of things, she said. And now if I'm feeling physical responses to those ideas, even though I'm perpetuating these ideas in a comedic way, again, it's it's that is your higher power, the thing you're focusing on, you know, and so how much do I want to give it and all of that and saying, like, when people tell me like, sometimes they go through periods where it's hard to listen to mega like, that hurts me to even though I completely understand. Yeah, I completely understand. And I'm like, it hurts me to say it sometimes, too. Yeah, so I don't know. I don't know. It's a dance. Real dance. We recorded it but and I'm trying to find new ways of playing that long game with her exploring other characters. And then yeah, we have a mini series that is a spin off that's coming out that we're gonna be able to play other characters too. And that's going to be really fun. It's it's a parody of the story of Mark Driscoll this toxic, authoritarian style white guy who started a church and then spectacularly exploded it with his own toxicity. There was a Christianity Today, podcast that came out last year, I guess it was massive. Yeah. Where they detail the it's called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill about this spectacular explosion of a megachurch. And so we're gonna parody that because we got a so and, and so far, I think it's gonna be four or five episodes in total. And I've been working on editing the first episode, and it's really funny. And man, it is really, I think it's like, because it's a different format, we're able to take like, much stronger swings, and we're, we're being way more risky with it. And that, that excites the hell out of me. And I'm, and I'm really, really, really excited about it. So it's, it's all good, because it's helping me. You know, gestate whatever, whatever thing is next, you know, I feel like what you're doing with this podcast is going to lead you to the next thing you do. Sure. No, yeah. So yeah.

David Ames  1:01:48  
So Holly, this is how dedicated I am. I went and listened to the rise and fall of Mars Hill in preparation for this conversation. Wow, what did you think of everything super painful? Yes,

Holly Laurent  1:02:01  
it's painful, right?

David Ames  1:02:02  
There's just a couple of things I wanted to bounce off of you. So one is to give a little bit of credit, you know, the Christianity today, you know, does try they make the attempt to be self aware and to self criticize their movement. So and that's about as much praise as I'm going to give them because they also show throughout this, including the host, Mike Cosper. I just complete blindness to the larger factors right? It's not just that Mark Driscoll is an asshole it's that the structures are dangerous and and hurting people. And then the other thing that I just found deeply painful was the the advertising in between. So in this podcast that is about criticizing celebrity pastors, it'll this pop on this celebrity pastor podcast come join me doing it. It's just Oh my God, it was painful. It was.

Holly Laurent  1:02:55  
That's bananas.

David Ames  1:02:57  
Yeah, just the whole talk about read the room. Oh, totally. Yeah. So you know fascinating project all the way around and I really look forward to listening to how you guys parody it so

Holly Laurent  1:03:08  
Oh, well, you sweetheart. I mean, I really hope that when our our version The Rise and Fall of twin Hills comes out yeah, that you will I pray that it will graft over it will skin graft over all the burns for the Mars Hill one. I it's it's so interesting. I full disclosure, David, I think I only got through two or three episodes because I can imagine because my brain started leaking out of my ears when I got to hear his voice from the pulpit. I I was so filled with rage again that I was like, this isn't good for my body. I'm getting filled with cortisol.

David Ames  1:03:49  
Yeah. Yeah, I think a few times, you know, I'd be listening to it with earphones. And I, you know, be walking around the house doing chores or something. I'd be like, Oh, come on. Family members would be like, what I'm like nothing. I'm just just listening to a podcast.

Holly Laurent  1:04:06  
I know. So I think you'll really like I don't want to give it away. But it's my favorite thing is that we give in our in our party, we give the Mark Driscoll character who is the lead pastor, the fictional lead pastor of twin hills, our church, Steve Johnson. We we really give him a home man. It's so funny. We come up with a pretty great way to expose to expose him as both an absolute degenerate and also a big fucking baby. Yeah, yeah, I think that's what all of these Jesus and John Wayne dudes are. I think they're big man children and I have over the course of mega I have dedicated myself so deeply to continuing to stay in scholarship like this Listening to Bart Ehrman all the time trying to educate myself about New Testament knowledge, context, understanding of the Scripture understanding like original manuscripts understanding how text has changed understanding, you know, the act, what does it actually say? What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality, about Satan about all these things, like I've dedicated myself so deeply to it. And lately, I've found myself at a point where I'm like, this could change, but I'm like, I don't care anymore. I don't care what's in the Bible. I don't care what it says about homosexuality, I could give a fuck, like, I am looking for love. I'm looking for, again, liberation. And excavating that isn't really doing it for me. And I'm afraid it can keep me kind of angry and in resentment rather than gratitude. And I'm really looking for ways to change my thinking and my higher power or whatever you want to call it. And it's interesting even the word atheist day. God damn it, it's centers Christianity, it still has them centered. It's on our it's on our dollar bills is on in our Constitution. It's in all it's just so centered all the time anyway, that I'm like, how do I move away from that as center and continue to feed myself with things that remind me that that system made me want love, and need love and look for love and feel like I needed it so desperately. And that made me a vibration on this planet of need and scarcity. And that's also what I was experiencing. And outside of it, I'm like, Oh, I don't need and want love. I am love. I have love. I am this love. Like, I have it. Okay, I feel it. I'm trying to send out vibrations of like, there's love here. If someone was flying over and they were wearing like, like, love, like goggles, like green light goggles or whatever, they would see a little beacon like, down where I where my body is right now on this earth. It's like being warm. Like, there's love here like, I'm love. And so what I want to draw is, is I want to draw love to me by being love. Not by being a desperate sad, fearful, angsty, lonely, frightened kid who who is grasping for God, or a community that is promising that if you if you play your cards, right, I want to be like, You know what, fuck these cards. Yeah, I'm not playing this game. I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go play another game. And again, I'm in the messy part of that. I haven't like, I haven't arrived anywhere. And maybe you and I should talk in a year and see if we're both completely different people. Yeah.

Do you have any better words that you use? Like, uh, not better words than atheism? But like, more words?

David Ames  1:08:31  
Yeah, this whole podcast is what I call about secular grace. Right? And then yeah, this is this is the idea that the, you know, the horizontal, I recognize that. What we love about grace, the agave, when the love in the Bible is, is actually people connecting with each other. And when you start to look at even miracle stories, right, even miracle stories, often it's like, oh, well, this first responder showed up out of nowhere and saved me or you know, or this nurse took the time to help me out or this person gave me $10 When I was hungry, there's always another person involved. Right? And it's this is just the recognition that it is human beings being good to one another. That is the is the thing that we crave is the love that we've that we've been trying to describe and, and go after. Yeah, I agree with you. The language is hard. I call myself a humanist, but that can be misconstrued as well. You know it I don't think there are good words for it. So I use a whole bunch and I you know, I say yes, I am an atheist, but that is kind of boring. It's that what I believe in is people right? Like I believe in people and that's the thing that you need to know and so I'm constantly on the lookout for better words as well. So if you find any let me know.

Holly Laurent  1:09:51  
Because we are really limited we're not only limited to like the our perceptions and our senses, like we're, you know, we're living in three dimensions and And we have five senses. So that's all pretty. That's a pretty tight sandbox. Yeah, yeah. So like, there's a, I don't know, there's part of me that's like, there might be something. I don't know. I don't know what the, you know, the Hadron Collider in CERN, you know talks about the God particle. And you know, I wish they wouldn't call it the God particle. But there is something that is binding everything and I agree with you that it's connection. And I think that's actually at the heart of your, the thing you're scratching out with comedy is like, comedy is just connection. It's, it's, it's human connection. Yeah, and, and surprise, it's basically like you're connecting with me for a few moments. And then I'm gonna make you breathe differently by little elements of surprise, as we're connected. And yeah, and I think that's what improv is. And I used to always tell my improv students back when we still had improv theaters and training centers, before the pandemic like that improv is just about connection. It's about you. I tell everyone on my first and the first class all the time, and they never believed me. But I'm like, I'm going to tell you the secret to improv, and you won't believe me. But if you do this every day for 10 years, it something will kick in and you'll be like, oh, yeah, that's that's true, is that the secret of improv is listening. That's it. It's just listening. And people's biggest difficulty is getting over that hurdle. Because your inner monologue is so loud, because you're so self conscious when you're being observed. And when then when you're putting pressure on yourself to be funny, and low, literally on stage. And on stage, which is, you know, obviously, it's the Seinfeld joke of people would rather be in a casket than giving the eulogy. But like, so it's you're overcoming all these like great fears, or you're not overcoming your you're working inside, have great fears, and doing it anyway. And, but it is about listening. It's just about listening, if you just breathe and listen to what your partner's saying and respond to it. And then it just becomes a multi layered, like listening exercise where you start to have to listen to yourself, listen to that inner weirdo. Listen to that, like that, that whatever that little deepest, authentic spark of you is like listening to that, listening to the audience and listening to your scene partner. And if you can combine those levels of active conscious listening, because most of us, I think, we we confuse we think listening is the way we the way we listen is actually waiting, we're waiting for our turn to talk. Yeah. And waiting for your turn to speak is not listening, like deep. What improv and comedy taught me is that like deep active conscious listening is a posture and a willingness to be changed. Interesting, and, and that is listening. And when two people are are doing that, they are connected. And then that connection is the spark that makes magic and makes us laugh.

David Ames  1:12:59  
Well, I think I think we have to wrap there because I think you've just described describing comedy in the same way that I talked about. What we're trying to do here on the podcast is like, you know, in these interviews, as people are telling their story, there are moments that you've talked about the wave, right, I can feel the moment of oh, that was that was good, that's going to connect with the audience. Right? And it's, it's generally about being honest and vulnerable. And, again, authentically yourself. So I'm going to take that from you and, and run with it. So thank you. Thank you for that. We're not certain about the release date for the for the parody. So I will hear from your publicist when that is and we'll publish you know, we'll make that abundantly clear. Intro and outros. But how can people reach you? How can people find mega how can they connect with you?

Holly Laurent  1:13:50  
My website is Holly lauren.com. And same on Instagram, but Mega podcast.com and mega podcast on the socials. And yeah, I have all my I have that brought to you by Satan shortfilm on my website and all that. So yeah, listen, rate and review mega it helps us so much. And move love yourself and start to be love rather than need love, and we're gonna transform this place. We're gonna we're gonna make things better. Yeah, at least we'll have a little bit better of a human experience for we're not exactly sure why we're here. But here we are. And if we can help each other and help ourselves suffer a little less, then I say hell yeah to that and thank you David for such a thoughtful, lovely conversation. I really really dig you and I really have enjoyed this and the pleasure has been mine and anything that you take from this I feel like that's a gift And I'm so happy to give give it to you. So all the best.

David Ames  1:15:04  
That's awesome. And I might take you up on a year from now let's check in with this dude again.

Holly Laurent  1:15:08  
Okay, I would love it. This is my favorite shit to talk about. I can, I could go on and on and on and on and on. And maybe I'll be like starting my, my linguistic program by then yeah, I'll be writing a dissertation on the nature of reality as defined by language.

David Ames  1:15:30  
Final thoughts on the episode. My all time favorite interviews are with comedians. I've had. Karen Alia, from the deconversion therapy podcast. I've had Leon Lord who's a stand up comedian. And now Holly Laurent from Mega the podcast. These are always my favorite interviews because I think comedians have insight into human nature that is at least significantly better than the average pastor. What I think makes Holly in particular very good at satire and comedy, is the honesty that she brings to the table. Her story is gut wrenching, growing up traveling with her dad in evangelical circles, recognizing it as performance. Her seeing herself because she was a woman as threatening and bad. She talked about as a child, demons were real. And the trauma of that is evident, even today, but it's that realness. It's that honesty that makes her improv so powerful and so good. I think that's why mega the podcast is so ultimately successful. Although it's absolutely critique and satire. There's also heart and compassion and recognition in the characters. The first episode of the new mini series, The Rise and Fall of twin Hills has just dropped. I'm going to be checking that out shortly. But the the subject matter, the rise and fall of Mars Hill about Mark Driscoll is very target rich. So I expect that it's going to be absolutely amazing. And you should check it out. I want to thank Holly for being on the podcast for being rigorously self honest, for sharing with us her story and her comedy and her incredible mind. I love the way she said she does comedy at the height of her intelligence. We're going to talk about the human connection part in the secular Grace section of this podcast. But thank you so much, Holly, for being on and sharing your story. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is human connection. How could it not be? As I've said, Now, repeatedly, I'm a huge comedy fan. And it is so powerful to hear Holly talk about comedy and improv in particular is about that connection that improv is about listening, active listening, instead of just waiting for your turn to speak with a in her words, a posture of being willing to change. That's brilliant. Holly said, connection is The Spark. And she talks about anticipating and riding the waves of laughter and being willing to sit in the quiet time before that happens to get the better laugh. I just love everything about that conversation and her perspective there. What this podcast the graceful atheist podcast is about is human connection. So many things that we call spiritual, are just about human connection. When you think back on your church experience, what were the good things? Was it the sermons? Was it going to the building? Or was it the potluck? afterwards? The coffee breaks, going to IHOP with friends? Was it somebody who cared about you when you were sick, and they came to your house and brought you food? The entire point of secular grace of my brand of humanism is that it is human beings being good to one another. That is this spark, that is this thing that we are searching for. It's what we are referring to when we say connection in the transcendent sense. I don't mean to imply that it is mundane. But I do mean to be explicit that it is not transcendent. It is just people. And that's fantastic. You don't have to believe anything. You don't have to force yourself to accept unwarranted truths. You can just love people and be loved by them and experience that sense of transcendence, that sense of spark, and connection. Next week, Arline interviews Shifra that's going to be an amazing conversation. Until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful. 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 atheist@gmail.com. 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

Grace: Hyssop + Laurel

Artists, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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. 




Link Tree


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!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast
Patreon https://www.patreon.com/gracefulatheist
Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist 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 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 atheist@gmail.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

David Hayward: Naked Pastor

Artists, Authors, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Podcast
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is David Hayward, also known as The Naked Pastor. David is “a pastor turned artist painting, drawing, and thinking about what it takes to be free to be you.” 

For over a decade, David has been creating online spaces for anyone “interested in deconstruction, spiritual journeying, freedom of thought, or looking for your authentic self.” His personal story and the wisdom he’s gained over the years continue to speak to those of us who have completely left religion and those who still believe. 

For more information, be sure to check out David’s website and follow him online!




David’s Books



More from David Hayward
More from Esther Perel
More from Gabor Maté
More from Cormac McCarthy
More from Carlo Rovelli


“So one of the big things that we do when we deconstruct if we keep going in the deconstruction or the deconversion direction, is we demystify everything, everything has to be demystified. De-magical-ized I don’t know what the word is. De-supernatural-ize everything.
… So one of the things we do when we deconstruct, is that magical thinking has to go.”

“I wanted to pull back the curtain and let people see what the life of a real pastor is like. I wanted to be totally transparent and honest and vulnerable and open…That’s why I chose ‘Naked Pastor.’”

“I just had a moment where I saw the connectivity and the oneness, the unity of all things. It was a profound instant where I saw the unity of everything…From that moment on, I experienced a profound peace of mind that I’d been seeking for my whole life…”

“…the inner life of a person which includes, mental, emotional, psychological, everything…All that, to me, is ‘spiritual’.”

“For me, my deconstruction started way back in seminary when I started questioning the inspiration of Scripture.”

“[My wife and I] had to come to the realization that it wasn’t compatibility of belief that held us together. That wasn’t the glue…There was love and mutual respect, wonder and appreciation for this person who isn’t exactly like you. That is what made our marriage better.”

“[Marriage is] an agreement for each of us to grow, and to make space for one another and constantly adapt to that growth.” 

“I don’t label myself. The can of food is very comfortable with its contents. It doesn’t need the label…The label is for other people, slapped on, so I can put you in the right place on the right shelf. And we do that with human beings. We put a label on people so we know where to put them.”

“My home is in Christianity, but I have cottages everywhere.”

“I appreciate my roots, but I’m not going to let them limit me.”


X-Shaped Hole In Your Heart

Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast
Patreon https://www.patreon.com/gracefulatheist
Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist 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 am trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my patrons on patreon.com. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast and receive the occasional bonus episode, please become a patron at any level on patreon.com/graceful atheist. Our Facebook group deconversion Anonymous is trying to be a safe place to land for those people who are doubting, questioning, deconstructing, and even D converting. Please join us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, our lien interviews Our guests today, David Hayward, the naked Pastor David deconstructed very early relative to the rest of us, suffered the pain of leaving ministry, and has since become an artist and an author. He is very well known for the cartoons he draws that are biting commentary on the church, as well as freeing and embracing the diversity of humanity. David has written a number of books, including a book for partnerships that have a disparity in faith or lack thereof called till doubt do us part. His most recent book is called flip it like this is a book of cartoons, some of his great work, one of his earlier works, I also really appreciate his called questions are the answer. You can find David at naked pasture.com. There'll be links in the show notes for his website and his books. Here is our Lean interviewing David Hayward.

Arline  2:08  
Hi, David, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

David Hayward  2:12  
Thank you. Thanks for having me on your show. Good to be here. Nice to meet you early.

Arline  2:16  
Nice to meet you. I'm, I'm excited. I followed your work on Instagram over the past couple of years. And it's funny, it's clever. And it is extremely timely, often and I'm always impressed with the work that you do. I've learned a lot also.

David Hayward  2:34  
I appreciate that. Thanks very much. It's good to hear positive things back from people that you know, I'm doing some work that people appreciate. I don't always hear it that way. But I'm really grateful when I do.

Arline  2:48  
Yes, I can imagine the the pushback that you would receive for some of your work. But um, the way we always begin is just tell us about the spiritual environment of your childhood.

David Hayward  3:01  
I grew up in a I would say a Christian home I when I was born, I was baptized Anglican when I was a baby. I'm in Canada. So that would be if you're in the States, I would be Episcopal. And I grew up in a home where my father worked for the Ontario Provincial Police where he was transferred quite a bit every couple of years. So we moved a lot in in Ontario, Canada. And so we never, we never graduate. We never gravitated towards the same church denomination we are whatever was convenient and closest or, you know, most fun or most fruitful, you know. So I grew up in a home that was Christian, but at the same time not devoted to any one denomination. And some people think that's a handicap but for me, I saw it as an advantage where I I didn't feel like I needed to stay in the Anglican Church or wherever I ended up. And I always found myself gravitating towards churches that I felt had the most space for me to grow. And to become my most authentic self and even as a pastor I found myself gravitating towards churches that were were a good environment for me and my family to become our truest self. So, you know, I, I was like I said it was we were Anglican. We went into the United Church. We were in the Catholic Church. We were in the Baptist Church, Pentecostal church. I went to a Pentecostal Bible college. I went to an evangelical seminary, got my master's, I got ordained as a Presbyterian minister, and then I switched to vineyard, which is where I ended my ministry and vineyard for people who don't know it's kind of a it's an evangelical move. then kind of a mixture of Baptists teaching and Pentecostal kind of experience. So that's where I ended up. And I, you know, I met my wife at Bible College. We served in the ministry together for many years, roughly 30 years. And then I left the ministry in 2010. And decided to see if I could make my blog naked pastor, full time gig. And it worked. So that's what I do now.

Arline  5:31  
Wow. Very cool. So was there anything specific that led you out of ministry? Or was it just that seemed to be the next right choice for you?

David Hayward  5:39  
Well, it didn't feel like the right choice. But it was because I no longer felt I had the freedom to grow, were in the direction I wanted to grow. So I was starting to get, you know, phone calls from head office and things, suggesting I toned down my cartoons or my posts, and maybe run things through them first for approval. And that's just not the way I live my life. My most fundamental drive, I think, is personal freedom to be who I am. And, you know, that was a huge infringement on that personal freedom of mine, even as a pastor. So that happened that started happening in around 2009. And then in 2010, was when I finally realized I had to go my own way.

Arline  6:32  
So you were already writing you're already drawing? Were you already like, on Instagram? So I am, as of 2020, was when I was like, I don't think I was 2019. I don't think I believe all this stuff anymore in mind, my husband realized he couldn't believe in 2017. And that sent me on a journey and then 2019 And so that's when I first even got on the internet, want to on the internet, but on social media to be like, am I the only person who's gone through this? So it's only been a few years that I'm familiar with your work, but all the way back to 2010? Or before that you were already online and your church people didn't love your online presence?

David Hayward  7:11  
Well, I I started blogging as as naked. pastor.com. And in 2000, sorry, 2005. I started a blog. Yeah, around 2004 2005. I started blogging as naked pasture. And at that point, I'd already been painting and stuff. But I would post written blog posts and I would share my paintings, landscapes mostly. And I it was in 2006, I think where I had been following a cartoonist online, and I thought it just suddenly dawned on me, hey, why don't I try drawing cartoons and see what happens? And they took off. And so I decided to make cartoons, my primary means of communication. And you know, a lot of fun. I thought it would last maybe a month, because I challenged myself to draw one every day until I ran it. But here I am. Many, many years later, still drawing cartoons. And pissing people off.

Arline  8:16  
I love it. I love it, pissing people off and also making the rest of us go like, that is such a clever way to say that, like, that's exactly what I was thinking. And, and it's so concise. And it's, in my personal opinion, way more interesting than like a tweet, where it's just words, but like, the pictures are fantastic.

Going back, where did make it pasture? Where did where did the moniker come from?

David Hayward  8:47  
I started out as David hayward.ca, which stands for Canada. And then I saw that's kind of boring, and I really wanted.com And so I, I called my blog, Church pundit.com. And after a while, I thought, Gee, that sounds kind of pretentious, and kind of boring. And so I for some reason, I searched for naked pasture.com Because at that time, like the naked chef, oh, geologist, and he could true thought that was kind of cool. And I had inadvertently entered into a auction for the, for the URL astra.com Because some months later, I got an email saying Congratulations, you won the auction and my stomach just dropped because I thought oh, how much you know? Like 70 bucks, like nobody wants it. Right. I got a good pastor.com Because I was a pastor at the time. And blogs are a lot of pastors blogging at the time. And you know, talking about theology and about their church services and their sermons and their premium coffee and doughnuts and Bible studies and home groups and leaders and worship, all that stuff. And I wanted to pull back the curtain and let people see what the life of a real pastor is like. And I wanted to be totally transparent and honest and vulnerable and open. And so that's why I chose naked pastor. It's just me being totally out there, unadorned and raw and real. And, you know, for the first while, I mean, I started in absolute Oblivion, like nobody heard about me or anything, and even my own congregation was like, why would we read your blog when we have to listen to you every week already? So I was under the radar for for many years, but it was when I started drawing the cartoons. And they started to, they started to get noticed. And, you know, I was a little bit you might call progressive in my thinking, and might have been, might have been associated with progressive Christianity at that time. But in 2009, I had a profound sort of epiphany moment where it was very mystical experience, no, no chemicals or mushrooms involved. It was just, I just was had a moment where I saw the connectivity, and the oneness, the unity of all things. It was just a profound instant, where I just saw the unity of everything. And that there's one reality that we all share. But we all have different perspectives and opinions and descriptions of of that one reality. And I just sort of naively started sharing that in my blog. That's when I started getting in trouble because it was being seen, it was being interpreted that I was deviating away from orthodoxy at that point. And, yeah, naturally, and I was a bit naive, because for me, it was a very profound, liberating experience, where from that moment on, I experienced profound peace of mind that I'd been seeking for my whole life, I finally experienced that peace of mind, Theologically speaking, ever everything was at rest. And I was excited to share this experience of peace of mind and freedom. And, but it, it made quite a few people unhappy. And it was in 2009, when I started getting in trouble. And people started concern and, and I knew my time was up. And sure enough, it was a year later when I left.

Arline  13:00  
So what did leaving leaving the ministry look like? Was that like, leaving belief Bible god, like? Because I've heard Derrick Webb has said before, you know, we deconstruct different things, but that, you know, the God of the Bible, or the Bible or church, and there's so many different things, but none of it necessarily leads to any specific place. So I'm curious, like, what did that look like?

David Hayward  13:24  
That's, I really agree with what you just said. deconstruction doesn't necessarily lead you to any certain place. And I emphasize that all the time, because there is quite a few movements out there trying to steer people to certain conclusions. And that, to me, undermines the whole purpose of deconstruction was which is basically questioning your beliefs and, and becoming spiritually independent. So, and by spiritual, I'm not necessarily invoking any divinity or supernatural what I when I, when I say spiritual, I'm talking about the inner life of a person, which includes mental, emotional, psychological, everything, all that combined, to me, is spiritual. It's kind of in the kind of a union kind of a field to it to me. Yeah. So I believe and I've said this for a long time, I think for Christians or believers, there's two different deconstructions one is theological and one is ecclesiological. So there's a theological deconstruction when you question your beliefs and, you know, it's kind of like the blue or the red pill to see how far down the rabbit hole go. And you can keep going. The other one is ecclesiological, where you deconstruct your relationship to the church. And my observations are that people who deconstruct Ecclesia logically don't necessarily deconstruct theologically. So I know a lot of people who left the church who are just as dogmatic and fundamentalist they were in In the church, deconstruct the illogical often their relationship with the church has to change. That makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. It's like any relationship really like your I, I'm assuming you're still married, I'm married when I my mind about very important issues that affects the relationship. So it's the same with people. When they change their minds theologically, it's going to affect the relationship to the church.

So for me, 2009 that moment, profound flash of insight moment for me, was the conclusion or the culmination of decades of theological anguish. It's for me, my deconstruction started way back in seminary when I started questioning the inspiration of Scripture. And it took that long for everything to kind of, it was kind of like the final piece of 1000 piece puzzle just sort of snapped into place, the picture came into view, and it was done. Then I had to leave the ministry, which meant leaving the church for me. And that was a whole other ball of wax that happened pretty quickly. But it took but my theological deconstruction took decades, whereas my ecclesiological deconstruction happened overnight, and, and it took Lisa and I, a couple of years to find your feet again, that was a really rough period of time. To the point now, where we're, we're doing great, we're better than we've ever been, ever. But it took a lot of negotiating to figure out how to navigate those really, really tumultuous times.

Arline  16:51  
Yeah, I can empathize my husband. We met in college ministry like that. So like, we were, we were Calvinists. So it's like John Piper, my Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, this, that's our world for a long time. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Neither of us grew up in the church. So we did, we at least had some sense of self when we became Christian. So we didn't have I've, you know, interviewing people and just getting to know people. The things people have to pull apart from what they were taught when they were little, tiny kids. I mean, it's just this whole other experience. But um, our everything was based off of Jesus and the Church and all that. And then 2017, you know, he would we become parents and just things start changing for him, to where he's like, I don't think I can believe in the God of the Bible anymore. And I'm like, so yeah, that tumultuous time where it's like, the, I was told, marry a godly man, find my bow, as you know, like, and then everything will just go wonderfully. And, and at least, you know, just so many promises that they make you. And they do say, you know, marriage isn't for making you happy. It's for making you holy, and all this stuff. But it was still like, I just had expectations that we were always going to be Christians.

David Hayward  18:07  
And I gotta write that. Cartoon out of that. I'm sorry.

Arline  18:13  
Yes, that some of the little one liners that pastors can come up with. But yeah, so I can empathize with just that time of being married and things are just so vastly different than you ever expected. And it was scary for us. It took it was about two years before I was like, and he never tried to D convert me like it was never, it was never like evangelizing for not believing it was just, I just had to figure out well, especially being Calvinists, he can't lose his salvation. So like what what has happened? So yeah, I can empathize with that experience.

David Hayward  18:49  
No, it was it was such a profound experience for Lisa and I, that I wrote a book about a called till death do us part when changing beliefs change your marriage? Oh, wow. Yeah. Because it's happening a lot. There's not many resources out there for couples. Most books for marriage are you need to be compatible, and you need to believe the same things and hold the same value. Whereas Lisa and I suddenly we're on. We're not on the same page anymore. Are we even in the same chapter? Are we in the book? Are we in the same library? You know, so it was it was really difficult to figure out how to be married again.

Arline  19:31  
Yes, we will make sure all of your resources are in the show notes. We have a Facebook group deconversion anonymous, is the name of it. It's based off the episodes that we do. And there are lots of, you know, for want of a better term term, unequally yoked marriages and we have people who one yet one has D converted, the other hasn't and it's hard for the believing spouse to understand we have a least one person in the group who is still a Christian, but their spouse has D converted. And he was just looking for like somebody else who no longer believes I'm not sure how he found the Facebook group, but who know who no longer believes to help him understand his wife. It's so hard on marriages, it's so hard on both both people. And we only usually have one or the other in the group. But um, yeah, yeah, there aren't a lot of resources. You're exactly right. There aren't.

David Hayward  20:28  
Yeah, but I think it's a great opportunity for us to grow as individuals, when our spouses change on such a dramatic level, like Lisa and I, we've been married now we're going on through 43 years, holy, very nice.

Arline  20:42  

David Hayward  20:45  
we, like I said, are better now than we've ever been. Because, you know, we grew along side by side for so many years. And we were serving in the church together. And it was kind of like our lives were kind of mirroring each other. And then when that happened, though, she decided to go to university, she was 48 years old, she decided to go to university and get a nursing degree. And so she's a nurse. And I decided to, I went and taught at a university for a couple of years. And then it was in 2012, when I thought, I'm going to see if I can make make a pastor go. And it worked. But we, our lives now were so very, very different. And our beliefs were different and everything. So it was tricky. But we come to the realization that it wasn't compatibility, a belief that held us together. That wasn't the glue, we always kind of assumed it was. There was love and mutual respect, and wonder and appreciation for this person who isn't exactly like you. And that, for me is what made our marriage better.

Arline  22:06  
David Ames, the main interviewer, the the actual graceful atheists, that's his, that's his moniker. He he and his wife, she is still a believer. And he has said the same thing. It's like, it's love. It's respect. It's honoring and loving her whole self. And she loving him. Not like because we were told in that well, that my husband and I were told in the church that yes, Jesus and you having the same beliefs, even very particular theological agreement, is what's going to hold you together. And so when you don't have that, you think, oh, no, there isn't anything left. And then you just slowly for me, I just watched Donnie be the same husband be the same person he'd always been. And I was like this, nothing. Our values haven't changed. Nothing has changed. I, I expected things to get crazy. But yeah, you're exactly right. It's respect and love.

David Hayward  23:01  
Yeah, it goes back to that. That vision I had in 2009, or experience where I saw the oneness of all things. That there's one reality but a zillion thoughts. So when Lisa changes her thoughts, she's still Lisa, kind of like the river out front of my house. It's very deep and wide, and not a deep, deep level, it's still the kind of cases River, the surface does all the time. But that doesn't change the fact that it's still the same river. And so, you know, our beliefs are like that. I think they're constantly changing and moving or thoughts are changing and moving. And, but at a deep and fundamental level, I'm still me and Lisa still hurt. I remember the first time I saw the Solon Bible College walk into the cafeteria was like, it wasn't, Oh, my goodness, she believes in the substitutionary atonement. No, I it was totally different than the attraction that happened with theology or belief. That came later, but we got back to that primary wonder for each other. And which comes before belief, you know?

Arline  24:21  
Yes. Because you don't know anything about her when you first meet someone, you know?

David Hayward  24:27  
Yeah, I mean, isn't that marriage though, when when you marry someone, you're you're not saying I'm going to marry you never change. Basically, you're saying never grow up. Never become more self aware. Never peel back the layers of your own onion within to become a deeper person, because I wouldn't be able to handle it. It's the opposite. It's like you, you go deeper into yourself and become more self aware and more of an individual individuated person more Have an authentic individual. And I will love that. I will love you for that. And, and so that to me is what marriage is the agreement for each of us to grow and to make space for one another and constantly adapt to that growth.

Arline  25:18  
Yes, I agree completely. 21 year old Arline should not be in 40 year old Arline's body doing life? Absolutely not I, Oh, heavens, poor little young.

Thinking back to that time, that hard time when y'all were married. And for people who are listening, what are some of the things that you guys found to be most helpful when, when you had different beliefs, differing beliefs?

David Hayward  25:55  
Well, there's the obvious ones, and that is therapy finding a good counselor. Or, for us, also, I believe in the value of a good coach, if you can find one. They're more expensive. Yeah, find one. That's good as well. Hopefully, you've got a few friends around that love you both, and can provide a safe space for you guys. And then there's each other. And this, this is the hard part, this is where you sit down with one another, and you have the hard conversations. And, you know, the very uncomfortable squirming kind of conversations. And so that, to me, is is the most important thing. Like Lisa and I went into this transition, this traumatic transition, kind of with tools in our belt already. We'd already been to marriage retreats, and marriage weekends, and we'd already been for marriage counseling several times. And we've read a lot of books on marriage and relationships and love and had already had our government communication skills down. So that when we went into this situation, we weren't caught off guard completely. And we had tools at our disposal. I remember, a few years ago, this was before COVID, we were in a room with a bunch of couples, and we ended up talking about marriage for some reason, or whatever. And I said, well, has anybody here been to like a marriage weekend? Or a marriage retreat? No. Nobody's been to a marriage. Well, anybody here been for marriage counseling? Nobody? Well, has anybody here read a book on marriage? Nobody. So it when when a crisis comes to, to their relationships are totally unprepared. You you learn the skills of how to be married. Hopefully you you have them those skills before a crisis. It's hard to you know, as they say, drain the swamp when you up to your ass and alligators.

Arline  28:22  
That's very true. So my first thought is the hubby and I had also been to marriage retreats. And we we had read but what I had read the books, he's not a book reader, I'd read the books and then give him that, you know, too long didn't read kind of stuff. But there are some problematic things in Christian marriage books. So are you saying like, just the the basic things that are this is universally probably helpful in interpersonal relationships, communication, listening, all those kinds of things. Like just having those.

David Hayward  28:59  
Yeah, so when people ask now about marriage books, I recommend mine for one part, but then there's people like David snark, who wrote passionate marriage, which is, I think the best book on marriage out there. There's Esther Perel.

Arline  29:17  
Yes, she's fantastic.

David Hayward  29:19  
Yeah, there's Gabor Ma Tei. There's other people writing about relationships out there, who I recommend to people. It's, it's really, really it's just about being interested in human growth, and makeup and psychology and depth. Even reading Carl Jung and dream interpretation and, you know, understanding the Anima and the Animus and, you know, the female aspect for the male and the male aspect for the female and all that all those kinds of things are just little tools that we use to understand ourselves better. The shadow side of ourselves, for example, learning how to integrate that rather than reject that, like Christianity tends to want to do. So yeah, it's, there's there's a lot of books out there. And a lot of information to help people in their marriage, relationships or in other relationships. Yeah. And so like the David snark book, passionate marriage has been around for many years. But it's one that I recommend all the time. And even if you just read that one and study it intently, it's, it's your 90% there, you know, it's just a resource.

Arline  30:52  
And I wasn't expecting to have a whole lot of this discussion. But how about for couples, I've seen different discussion in our Facebook group. One of them is like, Oh, well, you have D converted, or I have, I have d converted, and I don't want to do this anymore. Now whether there's more to it, you know, we don't know that just seems to be something that's been brought up where one spouse is like, this can't work because you're not a Christian, or I'm not a Christian anymore.

David Hayward  31:22  
So one of the big things that we do, when we deconstruct if we keep going in the deconstruction or the deconversion direction, is we demystify everything, everything has to be demystified, the magical lies. I don't know what the word is. The supernatural is everything. You know, for many of us, Christians, we grew up in a Christian culture or became absorbed in a Christian culture that said, marriage is forever. And, and, you know, God's blessing and God and all this stuff. And it was all, you know, very scary, sacred, you couldn't even have sex with somebody, because they would take part of your soul with them. And, you know, save yourself for your spouse, because otherwise you're giving your soul parts of your soul away at all to do all this magical thinking, right? So one of the things we want we deconstructed is that magical thinking has to go. And there's another book too, John did her Joan did her on the Year of Magical Thinking, fantastic, but

Arline  32:33  
it's on my TBR list, actually, oh, it's so good.

David Hayward  32:38  
And where she, she spent a whole year she lost her husband, in a whole year, magical thinking. And that book meant so much to me, because it it described my deconstruction that I was, you know, I, I've never seen a miracle. And I grew up in a Christian culture that believed in miracles. So I could, I've never, nope, sorry, I have never seen a miracle. And, you know, I've seen people say, Oh, my head suddenly feels a little bit better. So suddenly, my right nostril, like, breathe through my right nostril. I see that all the time, or, I've never seen a real miracle. And, and so just that kind of thing. So it's the same with marriage, where I really do believe a lot of couples come to that place where they start deconstructing, or one does and the other doesn't, or whatever, and they're like, I don't want to do this anymore. And when you remove that magic, the sacredness, the holiness, you know, God, divinity, all this kind of scary punishment and eternal torment, when you remove all that, it might make absolute sense at that moment for them to go their separate ways. Some couples got married, because they were prophesied to that they should get married, some couples got married, because that was the only way they could have sex. So he just got married, because, you know, their parents made an agreement, you know, and they get to the point where they're saying, I I'm not invested in this, I don't really love you the way I think I should love you. You know, so some people are married, that shouldn't be and, and there's some people who are married that don't have to be and and then there's some people who are married who go through this struggle, where they want to remain married, but they don't know how I want to help those couples do that. In my book, I do have a few chapters in there about you know, maybe maybe it is time to go your separate ways and that's okay. That's totally okay. And, and, and that's fine. It could be heartbreaking for one or the other. But yeah, that happens a lot.

Arline  34:49  

So If you are pastor turned artist, you're doing your drawings. Time is going by, even after you've left the church, like, are your beliefs still changing? Like, are you what, what? What do you believe? Now I was looking, I was thinking back to all the cartoons I've seen. I was like, I have no idea. I know he's calling out the church and calling in the church, and it's fabulous. I have no idea what this man believes. So it's curious, what, where are you now spiritually? Like, what? So? Or is there a label?

David Hayward  35:32  
No, there's not a label. I don't label myself because Nice. Anna food is very comfortable with its contents. Uh huh. It doesn't need to label it, you know, it could be Irish Stew, let's say. And just totally comfortable with being whatever the label is for other people that they slammed on, they can buy who you are, and put you in the right place on the shelf. And we do that with human beings. We slap a label on people, so we know where to put them how to talk with them. Or not? No, I don't, I don't use a label. I say I My home is in Christianity, but I have cottages everywhere. I also have. Christianity is in my DNA. I mean, I was baptized. When I was a baby in the Anglican Church, I was circumcised by a Jewish rabbi when I was eight days old. You know, I was my parents were very, very religious. And all like I, I grew up in that whole whole culture. But so my, it's in my DNA. I also say I appreciate my roots, but I'm not going to let them limit me. So I I'm at that place. Like I said, when that when that happened to me in 2009, realizing that there is one reality with many experiences interpretation, so to say I'm a Christian is basically to cut myself off from all of those other interpretation, interpretations and expressions and articulations. One reality, I feel I'm more at one with everyone. And, you know, for me, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, atheist. They're all just perspectives on the same reality. And one, some might feel one's more right than the other, but no one has a corner on the truth. No one has the whole pie. They're all different interpretations of this one reality. This one reality is the pie. And we all are somewhere in there, you know. And so when I, when somebody says, Are you a Christian, yes or no, I'm saying, well, let's unpack that. Like, what does that mean? And immediately most people are like, Okay, you're fudging you know, you're getting squirmy, you're like jello, trying to nail jello to the wall? Because most people who are believers need that yes or no? Yes. Whereas most people who aren't they're agnostic, or they're atheist, or, or whatever, they don't need that. Yes or no. As much. Oh, so for me, I'm, I'm also there's another reason to, I want to be very careful. So yeah, on the one hand, I do not have a statement of faith. I, I could not write a theology book. Because it isn't a true the true expression of my myself or what I think best reflects reality. But also, I don't want people to say, I believe what David Hayward believes, if I follow David Hayward, you know, it was a cluster. So I really avoid providing anything that caught could cause somebody to want to do that. So, you know, there's people out there writing, theology or spirituality, and people say, I'm going to follow them. I like the way you know, and for me, because what what is at the core of my I said this earlier, my fundamental drive is my, my, I want to be free to be my authentic self. And so how that interprets in the world is, I want you I want our lien to be have the freedom to be her authentic self. Wherever that ends up. You could end up a Calvinist again or a believer or a non believer or an atheist. I do want care. I honestly don't care. And I honestly don't think it matters. In the great scheme of things. What matters is that you eat that freedom to be who you are freely. That to me is what's the most important thing, work no matter where you end up. And so when I talk about deconstruction, I'm very very careful to a I'm emphasize that this is your journey, you're taking the steering wheel of your own life, and you get to drive wherever you want. That, to me is the most the most important thing. I love that. Yeah, a lot of people find that really encouraging. Or like, I feel I'm free I can, I can decide how to be spiritual or not. But for other people find it very, very frustrating because a lot of people want directions, they want a map with a destination. That to me is, is not life.

Arline  40:36  
No, no, I can agree now used to I, I needed someone to like, lead me and tell me and tell me maybe what to believe maybe that really was part of it. Just what to believe, and give me the Bible study and other things. And, and I've heard this from from other people as well, leaving the church leaving Christianity. It's like, Oh, crap, I have to figure out like, what I believe what are my values? What does like I love the little like, devotional size kind of books. I was like, I didn't know the word day book. I was like, I don't what do I read in the morning? Do I have to read things in me was just so many little things and huge things. How are we going to parent the boys, we have two boys. You just have to you have to figure it out on your own. And it's, it's a lot, it's wonderful. And it's but it can be a lot, I can see people being like, you know what, I'm just gonna go back and be in my little square. And they tell me what to do and what to think, like,

David Hayward  41:36  
happens all the time. It's like when we left home, I remember when I first left home, when I was 18, I went to college. It was it was very exciting. There was a it was a lot of fun, but I had to learn how to you know, pay bills, buy growth, make, you know, make a home, you know, meet women, get married, figure out how to, you know all that stuff and eating and scary. And it's the same spiritually, where we get to the point where we need to be, be able to take care of ourselves and decide that. And this, to me is where the church has really dropped the ball and insists it knows how you should be living. And the church not loves nothing better than to hear you say, I need you to tell me what to believe. And that, to me is the exact opposite of spiritual maturity, where we say I'm going to decide how to be spiritual. Thanks very much. It's like walking into a buffet. You get to decide what to eat, you know, by now what's healthy for you and what's not healthy, but maybe you want a night off you, you want to enjoy some pie and some, you know, barbecue ribs and mashed potatoes with gravy. And you know, you want to enjoy all that stuff sometimes. But you're allowed to, it's the buffet, you're an adult, you get to choose. I mean, when you take your little kids, you give them what you think they need. When they get a little bit older. They said Can I have some red JellO too, and you put a little bit of red yellow on there. But then as they get older, they start choosing what they want. Even sometimes you let them load the plate with junk. And eventually though, when they leave your home, they're on their own, and they're going to want and they have to figure out what's healthy for me and you know, what's not? What do I what do I not want? So I think that's just what it means to become spiritually independent.

Arline  43:53  
I love Yes, the idea of people getting to choose what spirituality or religion or any of that looks for them. A lot of your cartoons are very much like calling out often. It's not explicitly white evangelicalism, but if it's talking about racism, white evangelicalism, homophobia that is pervasive in church world as a whole, but when people's religions and choices are causing harm, like how does what are your thoughts on that?

David Hayward  44:26  
So this is kind of a biblical analogy for using it but it's a good one. My cartoons are kind of like a double edged sword. They, on the one hand, encourage people say people of color, First Nations LGBTQ women, children, heretics, you know all the marginalized people. They're encouraging to them. Uplifting, valid Dating affirming. The other edge of the sword though is where I, I go after any beliefs or system or, or policies or whatever that violate those freedoms that I think those marginalized people shouldn't be enjoying just like us. So that's, that's why my cartoons kind of have this sort of double edged. So some people love my cartoons, and other people hate my cartoons. But one is it's lifting up the those who are marginalized, persecuted. Rejected. And on the other hand, it goes after people and systems and beliefs that do persecute and marginalize and reject,

Arline  45:55  
which, from like thinking back to when I was a Christian, and even now, like just singing about Jesus that was kind of religious people hated him, because he called them out. And everybody else loved him, like, you know, and so you're in good company.

David Hayward  46:12  
Yeah, yeah, they say,

Arline  46:15  
Do you have any current projects you're working on? Or future ideas project? Well,

David Hayward  46:20  
I've got I just came out with this book here. Flip it like this? Oh,

Arline  46:23  
that's right. I have some Yeah, I've seen that.

David Hayward  46:26  
It's my new cartoon book. Believers and atheists alike. No, it's my best stuff cartoons. And I have literally 1000s of cartoons, but there's, it's full of my best stuffs. And there's like 15, never before seen, it just came out. So if you want to pick up, it's wherever books are sold, like Amazon, in the books, there's a noble, etc. You can get it at your local bookstore, but people are having fun, you know, accidentally leaving this in their guest room or mailing it to their ex pastor or, you know, I love it. That's hilarious. Yes. But I'm continuing to do my stuff online. Every day, I'm posting times a day, I have an online community like you do, but mine's called The Last Supper. is for people deconstructing and courses and there's interaction in our Facebook group as well. So yeah, I'm very busy every day doing this stuff. Yeah, that's awesome.

Arline  47:29  
It makes my heart happy. Like we just had before we're recording this we just had, I was a teenage fundamentalist the guys, Brian and Troy from that podcast, and they have a Facebook group that's just like space for people recovering from religion, Rachel Hunt has been on here from the support groups. I mean, there's just so many more spaces online and in real life, for people who just, you know, you leave church or you're just asking questions, and you don't, you don't have anybody, and it can feel so, so isolating and so lonely. And so that's awesome that you guys are doing that. That's,

David Hayward  48:07  
it's weird. I started talking about deconstruction, which is a French Derrida coined the word deconstruction, the philosopher, but I started using it in 2006, in reference to reliefs, I started talking more and more and more about it. And then, in 2012, when I launched the lasting supper, I targeted people who were deconstructing and needed a safe place to do that. And we felt very, very isolated and alone out there in the world. Now, it's everywhere. Like you say, there's tons of Facebook groups and other communities sprouting up all over the place. So it's pretty cool.

Arline  48:55  
Yeah, I had, um, a church friend. And her mom was really bothered by like, knowing the work that I was doing, being part of the graceful atheist. And my friend, I mean, she's still a Christian. She was like, Mom, when people used to leave the church, where did they go? She's like, I don't know. She was like, Yeah, this is just like, creating space for people who before they didn't have anywhere to go, they were alone. And I was like, Yay, thank you for like, you know, speaking truth, but it is like before, people just left and I can't remember it was recently on the podcast. I can't remember who said it. But like, in the past, or like, when you become a Christian or become some spirituality, religion, it's usually done in a group. There's some kind of community become part of a college ministry or youth group or whatever. Not always, but most of the time. But when you start asking questions, often, it's just you, or it may be like you and one other person and so it can feel extremely isolating. So that's awesome. What you guys have been doing this for a long time. That's fabulous. I know a

David Hayward  49:57  
very long time. Yeah, that's still going so great.

Arline  50:08  
I have asked a few other people. Do you think there's hope for like American 21st century white evangelicalism like church myths? Do you think there's hope for it to like change and be redeemed? Or do you think it's like, no, just dismantle it, and we got to start back over? Like, I'm just or or, I mean, those are not the only two options, but what are your

David Hayward  50:28  
thoughts? Well, I think the church is here to stay in some shape or form. The church has a resiliency to it, that survives all kinds of programs and programs and persecutions. And it has a, you know, some people like say, well, it's no better than a cockroach, you know, just keep surviving. It could also be people's, you know, ability resiliency to bounce back or to rebel or to meet if they want, you know, where we've seen in the past where the church has been made illegal, and there's underground movement start and so on. So I think the church is here to stay, whether whether they're good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, or there's people there's going to be some healthy expressions of it. And there will also be unhealthy expressions of it. I think American white, white male American evangelicalism is scary. I'm, I'm, but I'm of the opinion of the opinion that such right wing kind of conservative ism is always a reaction to progress. And so I think as long as we progress, and were open and inclusive and fair, and just will continue seeing the uprise zing of resistance to that. I think progress is like the gas pedal, and conservativism is the brake pedal, and the harder you press the gas, the harder they're going to put on the brakes. And I think that's human nature. I think we're going to continue seeing that, that the more progress we do see, the louder the resistance, and even more violent the resistance might might become, which is scary. So that's what I'm seeing happening. This evangelicalism right now in the West is a reaction to to progress. I

Arline  52:54  
was with family this weekend, and I have a family member. Most of my family is very conservative, southern white people. And they, some of them fit the stereotype not all, but um, one of my family members, he and I were sitting and talking and he's just the kindness and gentlest man. But he's so scared of, you know, he knew the trigger words like woke ism, he's so scared of that He's so scared of immigrants so scared, just fill in the blank and it was like, it was my first time seeing someone who wasn't like angry and mean about it. He was just scared of everything. And it was just like bizarre revelation of like, everything I kind of already knew this but like everything that that I have seen with conservative especially like white males and women like I was in white lady Bible study world so like, women too, but um, it's just afraid of everything afraid of like you said progress anything changing anyone else getting rights that they haven't had, and, and there's such this overlap of church world and conservatism and it's

David Hayward  54:04  
yeah, it's, it's icky. Very icky. Yeah, no, I I have friends or people in my family too, that are super super conservative in Canada. And they're otherwise lovely, lovely people, but they're, they're scared they're they have weird conspiracy theory ideas about what's happening. And but then I do know people who are conservative and hateful like they're just nasty would use violence or bullying to achieve their goals. And but that's that's like a fearful reaction as well.

Arline  54:51  
They go into fight or flight. Yeah, we're seeing that for sure everywhere. Last thing, do you have any any recommendations? podcasts, books, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, anything that you're like,

David Hayward  55:06  
Oh, that's funny. I was telling you earlier. I'm not a podcast listener three times a week for podcasts. But I have this weird thing where I can only do one thing at a time. Yeah, so I'm a painter, for example. So when I'm painting, I can listen to music. But if I listen to a podcast, I'll be painting and all sudden stop, because I have to concentrate on what's being said. So I might as well just sit there and read the book, which of course, you can't do and peanuts. I tried, I tried audible at Christmas time. And I worked really hard to get through one book. But just sitting there, I just have to sit there like a lump on a log just staring into space listening. So it's really weird. Even when I'm running. I run naked, they say, without any gear, you know, just by putting clothes on and shoes. But no, you know, no headphones or music or anything. I just enjoy nature. So but for books, I'm a more of a nonfiction guy. But I do really love Cormac McCarthy. And he just came out with a new book called The passenger. So I'm reading that right now. He's the one who wrote No Country for Old Men and The Road and

Arline  56:30  
road. I've read the road I haven't read it's other stuff. That was

David Hayward  56:33  
horses. Yeah. The road and that changed my life, that book. But I read I read quantum physics. I just finished reading. Isaacson's biography of Einstein. I read Slavoj ejack Living philosopher, right now. I'm reading, you know, some mystical literature, you know, like, like Rumi, or Meister Eckhart or others find that when you're reading quantum physics, you're reading mystic CISM, you're reading philosophy, they all sort of start sounding the same. That's the, that's the, they're, they're sort of, they've sort of caught a glimpse of that one reality and they're, and they're using their language, either mystical, philosophical, or scientific or whatever to to describe this, this one reality so that that's where I'm reading right now.

Arline  57:42  
Whenever I D converted, I did. I was like, what are the things I have not learned? So I was like, I'm gonna learn evolution. I want to learn anthropology, like all these different things that I had just been gently nudged. You probably don't need to take that class or whatever. I wanted to learn these things. And the more I learned about certain scientific things I listened to I like audiobooks, astrophysics for young people in a hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, I couldn't read the grown up one, because it was like way over my head. But I listened to the young people's one. And I was like, this is fascinating. And it was narrated by LeVar Burton. So clearly, it was going to be wonderful. And I learned so much stuff. I was like, there's so much just mind blowing science. I love the mystical, like, I love Rumi and I've read a few other people I can't think off the top of my head, but like I love the feel of all that but and I love how science there's so much all inspiring science that it was like, I don't have to go beyond this anymore. Like there really is so much science that which I don't understand a lot of it. But yeah, it's just there's so much all in wonder in this world. And I love it. I love it so much.

David Hayward  58:58  
One of my favorite books, it's in my top 10 books of all time, is Carlo Rovelli, who's an Italian physicist, seven brief, I've read that. I can read a lovely little book, beautiful, get the heart for that. You'll treasure it your whole life kind of thing. But you reminded me of something. When I left the church, I stopped reading theology. I am zero interest in reading theology. Because I was in the deep end, I read. I read all the theology. So what I discovered is I was so much in my head that I had to figure out how to get into my body. And so I'm really, I become a little bit of a health freak hedonist. What a Christian would call a hedonist because I enjoy pleasure and my body and and working out out and running and breathing exercises and cold plunges and stretching. And you know, like all these things just get out of my head just to get out of my head, because I lived in my head for my whole life and it got me nowhere. So, so I'm just enjoying, like and Lisa and I go for, you know, where we can forest bathing, where you go for long walks in the woods and like, it's just, it's wonderful and it's guilt free, shame free, beer free. It's wonderful. Just just being out of your head and into your body and enjoying life. It's it's great.

Arline  1:00:44  
I love it. I love it so much. Well, thank you again, David, for being on the podcast. This was fantastic. I learned a ton and I really really enjoyed this conversation.

David Hayward  1:00:53  
Thanks, Arline. Me too. I enjoyed it

Arline  1:01:02  
my final thoughts on this episode. So I tried not to fan girl. But I was really excited about this interview because his little drawings and say little drawings that sounds condescending, but like his very cleverly put together concise stick people drawings are so fantastic. I've I mean, they just they call people out for the foolishness that harms people. They're uplifting, they're kind. And again, they're just so clever. And so I really enjoyed this episode. I loved getting to know, David more. I didn't realize how many he's written multiple books. He also does watercolor and his beautiful landscape paintings. And he's just an artist and a mystic at heart. That plus just the wisdom and intellect that he brings. Like, it's impacted so many people, myself included, and I'm thankful for his his presence online, and the work that he has been doing for decades now. I just I love it. It was so good. So much fun. I look forward to just seeing more things the naked pastor will be doing.

David Ames  1:02:23  
The secular Grace Thought of the Week is it is our humanity that connects us. One of our bloggers Jimmy recently wrote a post talking about the X shaped hole in our hearts. I've talked about this a lot that the suppose it God shaped hole in our hearts is really our need for connection with one another. I truly believe that the connection that we seek is relationship is love for one another. And I mean that in the least mystical way possible to take the demystification the deconstruction one step further. I don't think there's anything terribly mysterious about this. I think it just is our need for each other. Our need to be known by one another, our need to be loved by one another. Our humanity is our connection. And I have done the interview with Holly law rock from the mega podcast that is going to be sometime in April or May. Also upcoming in April, I'll be interviewing Darrel Ray of the recovering from Religion Foundation. And we have a number of community members that will be on the show as well. 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 atheist@gmail.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

Anne: Deconversion Anonymous

Adverse Religious Experiences, Artists, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Dones, ExVangelical, Podcast, Religious Abuse, The Bubble
Click to play episode on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

This week’s guest is Anne. Anne grew up in a loving and happy Christian home in a large city where her father pastored a small reformed church.

“We were cloistered as this little wonderful diverse congregation.”

As a teen, her faith was very real to her, and a few years later, she attended a Christian college, but struggled mentally and physically. 

“I was trying to figure out what made me a christian aside from the fact that…I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t blah blah blah.”

Anne left that school and attended a Bible college, but she quickly realized she would be excluded from most ministry opportunities because of her gender.

“I thought, ‘You know? What is out there for me?’”

After a short and sometimes insulting experience in children’s ministry and then a sickness that went on for man years, Anne felt like God had “benched” her, but she continued praying and hoping.

“I was such a magical thinker…”

Over the next many years, Anne’s family met one obstacle after another—toxic or cult-like churches, physical and mental illnesses, Christians backing Trump and even loved ones passing away. Finally, she couldn’t take any more.

“I couldn’t hear from God…I couldn’t worship. I couldn’t hypnotize myself with the piano. I couldn’t do anything…[I was] done.”

Then during the Pandemic, Anne read a single book that made her stop and think for a moment. Then, her questions started coming and couldn’t be stopped. From the outside, it may seem like Anne’s deconversion was quick, but she had given God plenty of time to reveal himself. 


  • The Lasting Supper
  • Deconversion Anonymous
  • Harmonic Atheist
  • MythVision
  • Bart Ehrman
  • Darkmatter2525
  • Holy Koolaid


Jesus & John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez



Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!

Secular Grace



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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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Consider telling a friend about the podcast share an episode that you've been in, or an episode that really touched you and that will grow the podcast. This Tuesday nights, we will have another deconversion anonymous hangout that will discuss the podcast and have this week's guests so please join us the Facebook group deconversion anonymous, join that first and then Tuesday night Come and meet many of the people who are part of the community. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Anne, and has been a part of a number of different faith traditions beginning with Dutch Reformed Calvinists background, she worked with her father in an inner city missions Church in New Jersey, she's been a Baptist, she's been a charismatic in Foursquare and Assemblies of God, and eventually was in an organization called streams. That was very cult like, and the common theme throughout Ann's life is her leadership ability, her desire to do God's will her attempt to live out the Christian ideal, and yet tragedy besets her and she is held back by the role of women and ultimately is a part of a cult where things begin to unravel. And she begins to recognize the flaws in evangelicalism and that it no longer is workable for her. To sum up. Mike T's response to me was when is an going to write a book, it is that kind of story. So without further ado, here is an to tell her story.

And welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Anne  2:13  
Thank you. It's great to be here. David,

David Ames  2:16  
I appreciate you jumping on short notice. You're a part of our community deconversion anonymous, and I put out the call I needed I needed an interview and you are right there. But I am super excited about your story in particular, because I think adult D conversions are much more telling. And just as a quick example, I had a Christian research organization reach out to me and asked me about you know that I have any Gen Z's that I could refer them to which I would have said no anyway, but I pointed out to them that you know, if you're Gen Z, you're supposed to be questioning everything. You should really be looking at adults and why they have changes of heart whether deconstruction or deconversion. So anyway, I don't want to give away thanks. So let's, let's hear your story. And we'll begin with what was your faith tradition? Growing up?

Anne  3:07  
All right. So I am Dutch and I grew up in a Christian Reformed Church. So very Calvinist, yeah, um, I come from my father was a pastor, my grandfather, his dad was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. When we go way back, we even found some Jewish roots that that one of our forefathers was a rabbi. So you know, there's a long line of Bible teachers and scholars in the family. Yeah, I guess. Yeah. So my parents met at Calvin College, and my dad took a took a ministry opportunity in Paterson, New Jersey, which is right outside of New York City called inner city, it was in a mission. And he started a church in this mission. So they were giving out bread and soup to people on the streets. And he came and his job was to make it a church. And he did. And it was a it was a wonderful Inner City Church. It was, it was full of diversity, primarily African American, a little bit of Hispanic, you know, a few people from all over the world. And this was during the 60s. So as a civil rights movement, and all of the, all of the, you know, we shall overcome and all the civil rights movements were going on and we were cloistered as this wonderful, diverse congregation. It was it was fantastic. I mean, my mom and dad were great. My dad was the picture of love and acceptance. No judge mentalism. He helped all who had needs he was he was a fantastic preacher. He was just the real deal and everything. You know, and so it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I felt loved and embraced. And, you know, it was great. It was Yeah, I can't even say it enough. Yeah.

David Ames  4:58  
I think that you know, you You've probably heard me say, but I think it's important to recognize there are so many good things about being a part of a community being, you know, loved by people beyond your parents, you know, all of those things can be quite good. Obviously, we have people in the audience who have had more traumatic experiences when they were young, but it sounds like yours was really positive, got exposed to different cultures as well. And so that sounds really interesting.

Anne  5:25  
Yeah, yeah, we grew up singing all gospel music, black gospel music, you know, um, but at the same time, I went to Christian school, and the Christian School was, again, a bunch of cushy foreign people, all these Dutch immigrant kids who had moved to America, and we're second third generation. And they were more from the suburbs, they were more Republicans, whereas we were Democrats, they were more just, it was just kind of like this culture clash between what I was experiencing at church and what I was experiencing in school. And I had a hard time ever really fitting in anywhere in a way, you know, because the kids in my church, I went to the same schools and the kids in my school, I went to the same churches, and there I was kind of straddling the middle. Right. So I found that kind of hard. In a way, it was a very secular upbringing in the sense that the school didn't act very Christian. You know, we were there were the partiers, and you know, the druggies. And you know, all of that was still going on, you had a few people in there that were the Holy Rollers that I just didn't want to have any part of, because, you know, they were little dresses and carried their Bibles with them and had this weird smile on their face. Like they were in a cult. You know, I'm, I wasn't a partier, but I wasn't a holy roller. I was just kind of one of those middle line, kids, you know, just trying to get through. Yeah. And my family was very, they weren't strict about you know, what we wore, I wear bikinis and two tops, you know, we weren't all caught in the purity culture. This was kind of before that. I didn't have a curfew. You know, my parents didn't care what we watched on TV, I had all the latest records, I listened to meatloaf or everything else, you know, it just it didn't matter. It was all it was all good.

David Ames  7:24  
What time period are you growing up as the 70s or late or

Anne  7:28  
I grew up in? I was born in 61. So this is a 60s and 70s. So you know, I'm a total teenager during the FlowerPower movement and the hippie movement. And you know, like, behind that, and it was a Yeah. It wasn't Yeah. But you know, I, so I wasn't, you know, we had we read the Bible, every meal. We had devotions after every meal. I know, my dad would read the Bible after our dinner. And we don't lay around in the floor and listen to the Bible stories. And you know, talk about I'm going to laugh about things like, maybe God is set aside and Isaiah Isaiah, like, he's on the toilet. And then we thought that was the funniest thing. We want to hear that verse over and over again, crazy things like that. But I do think that the Christian Christianity influenced my growing up in a few ways, because my dad was absent a lot. He had, there were a lot of needs. And he was, you know, one of those pastors that met everybody else's needs and left it to my mom to raise us. And, you know, later on, he had a come to Jesus about that, and, you know, repented, and we had a hug, and you know, but if that was hard, because my dad was kind of more of the, my dad was the My mom was a strict disciplinarian. And my dad was the kind of listener, right, the pastoral care guy. So I was more like my dad. And I was, you know, kind of ADHD a little bit out there. I was emotionally impulsive, and my mom to her to be a Christian, especially a pastor's daughter with strict obedience. And I didn't fit that bill. So I got a lot of, you know, it wasn't easy. Yeah. It wasn't easy on me. And, and, you know, it's not till now that I look back on it, and I go, Oh, ah, you know, but then I just stuck. There was something wrong with me. I wasn't I wasn't good enough. I wasn't perfect enough. I had to be a perfect little Christian, you know. And, wow, I remember this one example. I was five years old. And my little best friend from school came to church with her grandmother, her grandmother was playing the organ. And she was sitting with me in the church pew and they were having communion. And when that communicate by we pretended to take the bread and we pretended to drink the cup, and my mother read me the riot act, she was furious, and I was in such trouble. I was five. Now she looks at it and she says, What was I thinking, you know, but back then it was serious business and I had blasphemed God You know,

David Ames  10:01  
yeah, I think it's so hard because kids take those things so seriously. And, and you know, Christianity in general is saying that, you know, you're a bad person. Like, that is the message and right when a kid starts to internalize that pretty young, that's not very healthy.

Anne  10:17  
Yeah, I didn't, I mean, I did and it wasn't healthy. I did, you know, have my whole Jesus acceptance when I was four, like, everybody else four and five. And, you know, it really came down to my Sunday school teacher who was also my babysitter who was a sweet little old grandma, who just loved Jesus and told us about how much she loved Jesus. And, and she had a little, that little picture of the white, you know, Jesus gave it to me, and I'm like, oh, I want him to come into my heart, you know, and that was it. So, yeah, I had all of that going up. But, but I wasn't, you know, I wasn't, I wasn't a holy roller. You know, I just kind of got by with what I could get by with and did my thing. So that was my growing up years.

David Ames  10:59  
In the Christian school where you mentioned, it was a little more secular. But did you have Bible classes? There was Was there a religious track? But yeah, definitely,

Anne  11:06  
we definitely had Bible classes. We, you know, had chapels. All our songs were Christian songs, you know, it was, you know, it's Christian, but, but it didn't, it didn't feel like beat you over the head Christianity, you know, it's just kind of like Christianity was part of it. And it was more of a, because it was more of a Calvinist kind of thing. It was more world life view. Right. So God was a part of every part of your life, but we didn't have to beat it into everything. You know, like, our history class didn't have to be all about God. And you know, you didn't even talk about God and your history class. So it was it was more of I thought, a balanced kind of environment. Yeah.

David Ames  11:52  
And then, because of five year olds, not really capable of making that kind of decision. When do you identify the time where you you decided for yourself that you wanted to be a Christian?

Anne  12:02  
Um, I think that would probably, well, I did make profession of faith, which was also a CRC thing. You at one point you, you take all your catechism classes and you spit, you know, you spit back all of the doctrine from John Calvin, the Heidelberg Catechism, and then you become a full fledged member. And that's when you can now take communion and not get in trouble for I was about 16 When I did that,

David Ames  12:32  
okay. Okay. And again, I guess what I'm trying to get out is internally, was that real for you? Was that something that was important to you personally? Or were you just kind of following along?

Anne  12:42  
No, it was very real. To me. It was very real to me. Um, I remember crying when my father was asking me questions. And he actually had a picture of me sitting there with all the council members and church people around me. And it was it was very emotional. Yeah. Very real. Yeah. So then I graduated high school, and I wanted to go to decorating school. Because I was an artist, I just really loved decorating. And my mom was like, No, you have to go to Calvin College, because that's where we went. And that's where everybody goes, and that's what's going to be good for you. So I go off to Calvin College, and I wasn't ready. I didn't want to be there. I struggled through college. I was there for two years. And I struggled because I don't know. I mean, there were all kinds of things going through me at that time. But I would go there skinny, I'd meet a lot of guys, you know, that's why I was. And I have all these boyfriends. And then as time went on, I started to gain weight because of the college food. And then my love, life started to shrink. And then I started to get miserable, and I developed an eating disorder. And then I would throw myself under the, you know, the blanket of God. And I would go into the prayer rooms, and I would just pray and pray and pray. God helped me God helped me and they always had two little prayer rooms in the dorm basements, they were all dark, and they put up little Christian posters. And they had like black lights in there. And they had a little bench and most people went in there to make out yeah, not me. I went in there to pray. So half the time I'd be in this little prayer room and then right in the prayer room next door with this thin wall, I'd hear some couple going at it, you know, and I was just praying, oh, God, you know, help me, help me be a better person and blah, blah, blah. So, um, each time like after the first year of college, I went back home, I got into Overeaters Anonymous, I lost all my weight. I went back to college again, all skinny again. All these boyfriends all these friends started to get away. Guy became a compulsive Overeater. Again, I was skipping half my classes that I didn't like, like biology. I was getting A's in my art classes. And I just, you know, I was just unstable. I was just so unstable. But, you know, I'd go out partying on the weekends and then on Wednesday nights out same prayer meeting and I just couldn't get my grounding, you know. Um, so I went back to New Jersey after two years, everyone just wanted me out of college, the professors encouraged. My grandparents, everybody was like, you just go home, you're a mess, you're a hot mess. So, I went home, and started working as a graphic artist got my weight back down, you know, I was now happy because I was back in my church that was loving and wonderful. And but then I realized I didn't have any friends anymore. My age, my friends, were all gone. I needed to meet people. So I ended up in a non denominational church in their young adults group, because that's where you're gonna get to meet people. Right? Right. So that's where I encountered more of the fundamentalist kind of faith. You know, they really drove home having daily devotional time, that was not something we ever really talked about in the CRC. Yeah. I got to see all this wonderful movies like a thief in the night and all those awful things. And I was more fascinated than terrified because we didn't adopt that view. And the CRC were more Amil. So, but at the same time, I thought, What if they're right, and this happens, and it you know, was a little scary. And, um, I was, I was, you know, just kind of getting to know that there were different expressions of faith that were going on.

In the meantime, I met a guy through a friend and he was a non Christian, and I started dating him and I fell in love with him. He was just the nicest guy. He, he was better than any of the Christian boyfriends I had ever had. Yeah, I was much more moral and consider it and wonderful than anybody. Okay. So things were going on. My parents were cool with it. It was all cool. And then one day my grandparents came to visit and this is my dad's parents. My grandpa was a pastor, my grandma was the most influential adult in my life. She loved me and spoiled me and wrote me letters. And, you know, she came and she said, Oh, no, no, no, you can't you can't date a non Christian.

David Ames  17:18  

Anne  17:22  
I was in trouble with grandma. She wrote me a letter, I read it, I, you know, I prayed about it. And that's when I felt God telling me to break up with my boyfriend. And so three days before my 21st birthday, I dumped this poor guy breaking his heart and mind. It was a terrible scene. And all I could say to him was, it's because you're not a Christian, you know, and which, Wow, that really went over big with his mom. And so I started digging deeper into my faith. And I was reading my Bible all the time. I started going through my dad's library and reading like Burke off and all of these bobbing and all of these doctrinal, you know, things, and I was studying doctrine. And I was trying to figure out what made me a Christian, aside from the fact that all I did was, I didn't drink and I didn't smoke, and I didn't wobble, blah, you know, I didn't know section, you know, this kind of thing. So I was trying to figure it all out. And I was really miserable. And my dad said to me, you know, you when I am miserable, I serve, which obviously, he did, because that's all he did. And so he got me involved in the church serving. And so I was running the youth group, and I was always doing the music and all this great stuff in church, but I got more involved. And at that point, the, the youth pastor at that time, and my father and my mother, and one week and all said to me, have you considered going to reformed Bible College? And I was like, ah, that's where all those Holy Rollers. Oh, my God, you know, just the whole thought of it just choked me. Yeah. But three people sent it to me in one weekend, so that must be God, right? I mean, obviously, it's not. So, we happen to be going out to Michigan, for my grandparents wedding anniversary, the same one that made me break up with a non Christian. And RBC was there. So I checked it out. And I sat there the whole time with my arms crossed. And you know, the girl has showed me around was the epitome of a holy roller. And I just, I just was like, God, I can't do this. Yeah. But somewhere during those fundamentalist times in the young adults group, I had decided that God's will and my will were two different things. So God would never want me to do something I wanted to do. So if I didn't want to do it, that must be gods but guess what I went. Here was a choice that I saw I was working as a graphic artist. I could have moved on to New York City and worked at an ad agency and made a lot of money and really been fulfilled. And instead, I went to Bible college, you know, like, get the most worthless degree you can possibly.

David Ames  20:12  
Tell me about it? Yes.

Anne  20:17  
So for three years, it was a four year school, but I could transfer two years from Calvin, I managed to find some of the classes I did fail and transfer them over for credits. And I actually had a really good time in Bible college, I made some really good friends. I excelled in my studies, I had a lot of fun, I loved doctrine and theology, I ate it up it was, it was a really positive experience. And I was really good at what I did. I had three professors pull me aside and talk to me. The first one was my sociology professor who told me I was going to write books, because she loved the way you know, my words were in writing. I was like, wow, cool, you know. And then another professor pulled me aside and said, You're so great at teaching, I'm going to, you're going to be writing curriculum materials. I'm like, well, that's cool. Well, yeah. And then the third woman, she was about ready to retire. She was 65. She was a very, you know, powerful woman. She pulled me aside and she said, I hate to tell you this, but you're a woman. And you're not gonna have any future ministry.

David Ames  21:22  
Wow. spoke the truth out loud there.

Anne  21:29  
She said, It's not right. It's not fair. But you've got nothing. Maybe you should go to Calvin College and get an elementary ed degree, you know, and I was just like, oh, cuz See, my dad always taught that women should be in church office. Yeah, my dad was advocating for that. And so here I am in this environment where there's so many of the guys they're like, No, you're a woman, you should be quiet, you know, and, and they'd be speaking up in class and pontificating. And if a woman talk, they just like not even listen. I mean, they were all so high on their laurels. And I was bound to prove them all wrong, right. But that was kind of a really moment of truth. I thought, you know, what is there out there for me?

David Ames  22:11  
Okay. Wow. Yeah. Yeah, so interesting. I, again, not like I think Bible College was a positive experience for me too. Same thing theology was, I just loved that. And I joke that the professors did too good a job of teaching basically critical thinking, and you know, so it's interesting, but the elements of being a strong leader and a woman that keeps coming up on people that I've been interviewing, and the struggle to know that that's something you're really good at, and that the systemic nature of the culture you're in is not going to allow you to do that. It must be really frustrating.

Anne  22:52  
It was it was frustrating, and I didn't take limitations. Well, you know, I was gonna challenge him every way I could, you know, I still had that youthful zeal. And so, um, yeah.

So after I graduated, I ended up going to Yosemite National Park, as in the Christian ministry, in the national parks movement, and I lead worship in the campgrounds and in the little chapel there for the summer, really fun, you know, met people from all over the world. And at that point, there was a church in Boca Raton, Florida. It was a huge PCA church that contacted me out of the blue, they had seen my picture in the banner, which was the cushy foreign publication. And so I was, you know, in Christian ed, and they said, Would you consider being our director of children's ministries, so I didn't have any job lined up. They flew me out from California to Florida. They they loved on me with the palm trees in the ocean and the pools and the I mean, it was gorgeous. And then the key lime pie and, you know, they just presented their best foot forward to me, this was a huge PCA church that was following Willow creeks model of evangelism. And, you know, we were like really close over there to Coral Ridge, which was, you know, Kennedy's Church and the evangelism movement, and they were all tied in together. And so this was a huge church that had over 1500 people at that time, that was like a mega church, because that was a long time ago, and 500 kids under fifth grade, fifth grade, and under that I would be responsible for all the programs. Wow. And I loved Florida, and they treated me really well. But there was this Clank in my gut that was like, I don't want to do this. So guess what, that must be God's will. Right. Woman and Yeah, they'll let me do children's ministries. So I took the job moved out there. And I was on the pastoral staff, you know, with all the pastors, except that they'd all go out to lunch without me because they were the boys club. And I was just the woman doing the children's ministries. And when I got there, the ministry was it was a hot mess. They had a woman before me was an elementary school teacher, and she didn't know anything about administration and a church kind of setting. So I took all my knowledge from Bible college, and I was good friends with my Christian Ed prof there, and I'd call them all the time and what books do I read. And I went in just revamped that whole program in a couple months, like I had, they couldn't get volunteers. I had 150 volunteers lined up. I had the nurseries running. Well, they were sterilizing all the toys. I had all the children's ministries running like Lego good shit, right? And then I decided, Okay, now that I have this all done, now, I want to really teach these kids to love Jesus, like I learned to love Jesus. So I'm working really hard on that. And I'm, I'm doing I'm using all my creative gifts and getting all this great worship going. And you know, I just thought it was just, I was just getting to get going. And at one point, in one of the pastoral meetings that I was in, I said that to the senior pastor, I said, you know, I really want to see these kids get a little better education. We've been using the same curriculum, long time, I'd like to change that curriculum. I'd like to embellish these programs. And he looked at me and he said, he said, that is not your job. Your job is just to get volunteers. Oh, wow. I was like, whoa, whoa, he goes, I just want you to keep those kids out of the service. That was it. Yeah. And I was, I was just stunned. I mean, my mouth was hanging open. I'm like, I don't get it. I mean, first of all, growing up as a preacher's kid, and my dad the way it was, I could suggest anything. And my dad would say, Hey, that's a great idea. Let's do it. You know, this guy, he just he just just pulled me and one second flat. Well, I was going to on the, I've always been going around denominations, I was going to an Assembly of God church on Wednesday nights for the Wednesday night service. This kickin the Holy Spirit, you know, when I was in college, I should mention this, I was going to a charismatic Christian Reformed Church. So I had gotten, you know, a real full picture of what it was like to, you know, worship and experience the Holy Spirit and pray in tongues, and, you know, all that stuff. So, um, I was going to this Assembly of God church, and this woman was sitting next to me that night, this was just after it happened. And I didn't know I didn't know where I didn't know anyone there. She looks at me. And she says, God tells me that you work with children. And God tells me that the senior pastor just just took the wind out of your sails. And I'm just like, No one knew me there. I was. So I was towns away, you know, and she says this, and I just start crying, you know. And she prays with me, and I thank her. She says, God says, he's on your side. This is you know, and I'm like, okay, you know, good. So I go back feeling a lot better. And the senior pastor calls me in his office, and he says, you know, he says, I've seen you sitting out there with my secretary crying once in a while, I was adjusting to living there and stuff. And it was so different being in this huge white. Oh, like, there was one black woman in there that she was my friend. All like, coming there in this high wealth situation coming from this little inner city place, you know, so, um, he says, I think this isn't the right place for you. Yeah, and I'm looking at him. And he goes, I will. I want you to think about that. And it was time for Christmas vacation. He says, you can stay through June and then we'll find somebody else. We won't mention it to anybody said, Okay. I go home. I'm thinking about and I'm praying about it. I come back after Christmas. And I go into the Sunday school classroom, all these women come up to me, Oh, I hear you're leaving. And I was like, what? First of all, I had the morale so good there that they gave me a money tree for Christmas. They rolled up 20 and $50 bills and put them on this tree for me. They loved me. And they're like, you're you're leaving. And I just I didn't even know what to say. Come to find out the senior pastor had gone to the woman's group of 150 people and announced it.

David Ames  29:35  
Oh, no.

Anne  29:39  
And from that point on, I was lame duck. So from January through June, I was they took away my office. I had an office with all the other pastors with Windows and beauty. They stuck me in the closet behind the sanctuary. Oh Allah. Yeah, yeah, I had I had no voice I had no ability to do anything. The only thing good about being over there was there was a piano. So I just played a piano all day because I had nothing else to do. It was humiliating, and horrible. You know,

David Ames  30:13  
I think what's particularly fascinating about this is that they recruited you. Yes. You know, what were they? I guess they must have thought that they were getting a docile person who would just, you know, do the bare minimum or something. But But clearly, you were ambitious and wanted to make an impact in in the world. And so it seems like, they must have been very threatened once you got on staff, and they saw that you you actually wanted to make real changes and be a leader.

Anne  30:43  
Right? I think so. Yeah. Yeah. But it was, it was really hard on me, because I felt well, God, why did you let this happen? You know, I've done everything to honor you. And how could you let this happen? Yeah, you know, in the meantime, in those last five months, I fell in love with someone who didn't fall in love with me. So I had this hole, and then someone fell in love with me who I didn't fall in love with. I mean, this whole big disaster, right.

So I go home in June with my tail between my legs. I went back to Michigan, actually, I didn't go home to New Jersey and got back with my old roommate and went back into my old charismatic Christian Reformed Church where, you know, I love to them there and just kind of puddled for a while, okay. Then I got a job at RBC, the School of the Holy Rollers where I want to attend, they hired me as admissions coordinator, they made a job for me, they said, Hey, our Director of Admissions needs help. You know, you're here, you're dynamic. I think you could go recruit, you're, you know, you've been to school with all these people, you know, the school. And so I had the dream job. I mean, this was my dream job, I get to fly all over the US and Canada, all on their dime. Stay in these hotels, eat in restaurants. I talked to churches, and pastors and youth groups and schools, Christian schools. I loved it. I loved it. The director of admissions was also working on this whole program called students serving students, which was where you'd get some of the students and you did music and drama and just programs for youth groups, okay. And I was all about that, because I was all into the music and drama and the art and stuff. And so we started leaving a lot of worship in the school, and I was looking for a revival, like I was experiencing at church. And we, we do these great programs out, you know, all over the place. He left after one year, and then I was in charge, but they didn't want to give me the job because I was a woman. Here now I'm acting director of admissions with still the admissions coordinator pay, you know, and, um, but I grew that program, I started I actually made five students serving students programs of five students each, and I sent them out to all kinds of local churches, and then we go on, like trips to Florida for spring break. And you know, it was just, it was so cool. We were in Florida, Colorado, British Columbia, doing these things. And I loved it. I was in my element. I was preaching, you know, in these churches, not their sermon, but I was doing my own style of preaching. And I felt like I was thriving as a woman, and the perfect dream job, you know. So, then, unfortunately, well, at that point, I met the man who was going to become my husband. And he was in seminary because I really thought I had to marry a pastor, you know, because that's what we do. And so he was in seminary, he was working as a youth director at a church. And with my hours during the day and his hours working the evening as a youth director. He wouldn't come over to my house till 11 o'clock at night, half the time, right. But I had to be up at eight o'clock for work the next morning. I burnt the candle at both ends and I got mono, okay. And it never went away. Oh, like it didn't go away. It progressed to a chronic condition. They diagnosed me with chronic epstein barr virus, recurring Epstein Barr Virus. That was right when chronic fatigue syndrome was coming out as the Joby disease. Okay, and I had it, I was sick, I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't do my job. I was just laying there. This was right after we got engaged. And we got married when I was sick, so I just kept hoping I would get better. I'm like my big joke was we spent our whole engagement in bed But it was that way. Yeah. So I had to quit my job. I kept trying to go back to it. And I couldn't do it. I didn't have I didn't have any energy, I used to say was like an 80 year old woman. But now that my mom is in her 80s, I realized I was more like 150 year old under the ground woman, I even push the door open, you know, and we didn't know what was wrong with me. And I was having all these tests. And, you know, we just couldn't get answers. The doctors couldn't do anything. And the meantime, my husband graduated from seminary and became a chaplain, and he was going through CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education program. And he was working in a hospital. So he would go to this hospital all day and be with these sick and dying people. And then he'd come home and look at his wife, who was basically sick and dying. And, you know, we didn't know what to do with me. So that was really stressful. And again, I was like, God, where are you? I was, you know, I was preaching your word. I was out there ministering. I had a great prayer movement going on. I was praying with all kinds of people. I was seeing miracles, I thought, I you know, and and I was just like, why did you bet me? You know, you just benched me. And so I would go up for prayer every week at church where these very astute, amazing prayer warriors would pray over me. I'd go to their prayer thing on Wednesdays and just get prayer and prayer and prayer. And I never get healed. Nothing ever happened. I never felt better. And people started giving me quote words from God, like, the joy of the Lord is your strength. And I was like, I can't even frickin live my flicked my head off the pillow, the joy of the Lord is my strength. But I was like, Okay, I'll try to be more joyful. Maybe that's gonna kill me. And then someone said to me, once you know, your husband, he's behind you, and leadership, because you're so bold and outgoing, and he's quiet. And, you know, I think God is trying to suppress you, so that he can raise your husband up.

David Ames  37:05  
Wow. Wow.

Anne  37:08  
Yeah. And then I'd hear things like, um, God wants you to be a human being not a human doing. You know, you have to learn to just rest in God and not always be doing something. And, you know, that's probably where you're getting your self esteem. And, you know, God doesn't want this. And so people would just throw those things at me. And I took it all. I took it all. Yeah, I go to healing services at different churches, I'd see people supposably get fillings in the shape of a Holy Ghost. And I couldn't get out of bed, you know? And, uh, like, I don't get it. You know, Why, God? Why did you bench me? You know, yeah. We were pretty much starving because my husband and CP wasn't making any money. I was living off my disability. Thank goodness, we had that grant was really cheap back then, in the middle of the inner city of Grand Rapids. But we weren't making ends meet and my husband and I were fighting he was going CP has a way of stirring up everything in your past. So he's got everything stirring up in his past. By the way, he's a preacher's kid, too. And it's all stirred up and everything's just getting out of hand. And we're fighting and I'm sick in bed. And life is just how we can't pay any bills. And he's thinking we can't pay bills, because I'm spending money. And I'm like, Look, we don't have any money coming in. You know, it's bad first year stuff on dope, you know? So he finally decided to take a position in a church as an interim pastor. So there's this church in Michigan, we go over there, he takes it. I don't go to church a whole lot because I was just too sick to go to church. And honestly, I didn't like listening to sermons. I thought they were boring. Boring, but I thought the Holy Ghost will take care of that. You know, as soon as he gets the Holy Ghost, he'll be on fire and I'll be fine. Yeah, I'll just pray it through. This is I was such a magical thinker, David. I mean, when my parents told me Santa Claus didn't exist. I didn't believe them. I used to look for him. I mean, I was that person that knew that God could do anything that I asked, you know, and I was not losing faith in God. Even though I had gone through bad church experiences. I was sick. It was all I could do it you know?

Basically, the upshot of the deal is that were there 14 months they want to call a pastor there, he had he's on what they call a duo, which means that they call him or the other guy and they vote. And there was a family in the church that he had angered because he told the mama in charge to stay out of her kids marriage situation, right. And that whole clan hated him, you know, so they never came to church. urge but they came to church that one Sunday to make sure he didn't get that job voted him right out right at this, but I wasn't that upset because that same Sunday we were going to find out if he also would get a church in Virginia. And they he was on a mono there. So I was like, Well, of course they're gonna call him there's only one person there. Well, by the end of the night, we found out that we were jobless. Homeless had nothing. Here we were. I was sick. We had nothing.

David Ames  40:29  
That's devastating. Yeah, that's amazing.

Anne  40:32  
Yeah, yeah. But I still trusted God. So we had a big white dog packed all our belongings or big white dog into a truck and ended up house sitting in a tiny little house somewhere for some people that were in Florida, put all our stuff in their basement, and lived in that house for a few months, while my husband scrub toilets. For a job, that was what he did. And, um, but still, I you know, knew God was gonna turn around it was gonna be okay. And then it's just that I feel like it's just such a long story. But um, upshot of the deal is he decided to become a prison chaplain. And we were able to get some stability, then get some income. I had two kids, even though I was sick. I had two girls. He went off to be the chaplain, and I was home. And we were just kind of struggling to get through, but we were doing it. You know, it was I bought a house, it was all good. And then he wanted to go back to church. He's like, Oh, I can't get church ministry out of my mind. I want to go back to a church. So he takes this Church in New Jersey. And I was all about it. Because I was like, well, it's in New Jersey, I'll be by all the people I love, this will be cool. And it was a church at war. It was a church that had run out their last seven pastors. It was a church that 150 years ago had caused the first pastor of the church to kill himself because he was treated so poorly. And we walked right into the middle of it. Yeah, it was the worst situation possible. I mean, his preaching got good. But um, it was bad. I right away, took over the worship team, which was the worst idea in the world because worship, of course, was the hot topic. I started a prayer group, we got involved in the river and all the revival movements that were going on, went to Toronto went to light the fire nation, we did everything to bring revival to this church, right. That was the goal. If we bring revival, it's all going to be okay. Yeah. And the main protagonist in that church was out on his yacht all summer. And he came back to find the church of 65 now had grown to 150 people, new young people who were following us and not him. And he blew the church apart. And they started a concerned committee. And they started all these rumors and lies. And I mean, there were things thrown around, like, no amount of prayer is gonna save this church when I get through with it. Or you're gonna be walking over my dead body before I leave this church or I mean, it was not like anything I had ever seen in my whole entire life.

David Ames  43:17  
That's wild. Yeah. That that is not hiding the fact that that's a power trip, you know?

Anne  43:26  
No, there was one experience where one night where my husband was on council, and he called me and he said, Don't let anyone in the door. And I'm like, why? And he goes, we had this big explosion at council meeting, and these people ran out. And, um, he goes, I'm afraid they put a bomb in the car. I mean, that's how bad it was cuz their son lived down the street, and he had bombed the church at one point, and we were like, thinking he was gonna put a bomb in our car. It was bad. It was bad. Yeah, yeah.

During that time, too, I got involved with streams ministries, they were doing courses called hearing God 101. And I was like, we need to go to this because we need to hear God because we're, you know, I mean, I was doing Jericho marches around the church. You know, pastors were dominant blowing their show Fars, every charismatic leader in the community was on board, you know, it was it was crazy. If anyone had, we had gathered the priests and prophets and apostles from the whole area, and they were praying on our behalf, you know, yeah. So, um, yeah, nothing happened. People ran us out. ran us out. My dad, you know, he was so optimistic. We used to call him every day. Guess what happened today? What happened? You know, and he'd be like, what happened today and we tell him to go I can't even I can't even believe it. So, but he always had something positive to pray and then one One Thanksgiving, I was home and he had nothing to say absolutely nothing. And I was like, Whoa,

David Ames  45:07  
bad side.

Anne  45:09  
Bad side, I had this dream that I lost my youngest daughter in the church and I was flying all over looking for. And I went into this bathroom full of kids and this kid snuffed a candle of my nose, you know, burned me, and I heard what I felt like was the audible voice of God say to me, Do not lay your children on the altar for this church. And I was that was it. I was out. Yeah. But I had laid my kids on the altar. I was praying all day and sending them in front of the TV. I was fasting. I was skinny as a rail. I was, you know, like, I was going to save this place in prayer. If it was the last thing I did. Yeah. And at that moment, I just stopped at all I just stopped. My kids became my top priority. Fortunately, they were still very little. And I gathered them and we went to a vineyard church and left my husband at the church to preach and make the money.

David Ames  46:01  

Anne  46:02  
Okay. Okay. And those people were mad. Oh, they were mad that I wasn't there. And what about my tithe? Where was my tithe going? And you know, my husband was like, she doesn't even have any calm. Right? Right. So it was about six months, it took my husband to be able to pull himself away from that. And the meantime, I had gathered a really good group of friends at the vineyard and fit right in, we loved it. Our kids were all friends, we're in this community again. And then Tom just joined me there. And we felt welcome and loved there. And then they asked us to stay and play to church, because we had such a good, you know, community going. And we just said we couldn't we just were tired. We were just beat up, you know, yeah, beat up. I mean, I told you a very abridged version of what happened in that church, but you got to trust me, it was the worst thing ever,

David Ames  46:55  
I believe you.

Anne  46:59  
One guy said to one guy said to my husband, he goes, You know what? They want you on that cross upfront. They're not going to be happy to leave a pound of flesh. Well come to find out years later, the reason they were so persistent on running out all the pastors, and in fact, the pastor after us ended up in the mental institution. And my dad warned him, he said, Don't go to that church, and that guy didn't listen to him. So um, the reason they had done that was because they were sitting on a pot of gold, because it was a church outside New York City on 11 acres of land, right? Yes, what that property was worth. And guess who was gonna get that money? If that church died? They got it. They got millions and millions of dollars. I found this out a few years ago. Yeah, they pocketed all that money. And I was sick. Yeah. I was sick.

David Ames  47:53  
I can imagine.

Anne  47:54  
I mean, I was like, God, you know, what about Ananias and Sapphira? I don't get it. You know, I was waiting for people to drop dead. I was waiting for God to strike people and smite them and you know, make them sick and die. I was waiting for it. I was believing for it. You know, that sounds bad. But you know, it was it was to me, it was all a spiritual warfare. And God had to win, you know? Yeah. But God didn't when we again were unemployed and homeless. Yeah.

So we ended up going to Massachusetts living in a little half a duplex, eating at the food bank had no money freezing eating noodles for every meal. I was homeschooling the kids, they were like three and five at that point. So y'all go. And it was it was kind of horrendous. And then my husband finally got a job and it paid like 18,000 a year and we still didn't have any money. Catholic Charities brought Santa Claus the real Santa Claus this time to our house for Christmas and gave our kids toys and and we got involved in a Foursquare church. So now we're going to Foursquare church.

David Ames  49:14  
Yeah. All the bases here.

Anne  49:17  
I had been to every kind of church right? We've been Baptists for a while everything. So we get to this Foursquare church and the pastor I try out for worship team and the pastor is all about worship, and he doesn't want me in and I'm like, devastated. I'm like, why? And he goes, I don't know. I just didn't feel it was God and I was just like, God now you're not even gonna let me leave worship, you know, or play the keyboard or anything. And and, um, he left to the pastor left a few months later, and they got a new pastor and tryouts were again, and I got on and I was on the great worship team, and we were having so much fun and great community. And that pastor came to visit the church and I was nervous as I'll get out because I'm like, Oh crap, you know, here I just he told me I was no good. And now you know, I'm playing and I was a wreck. Well, apparently I was not the only one on the worship team that felt that way. But that Pastor during worship, kneeled on his face and repented and started crying. And he got up to preach. And he said, there were people I kept from using their gifts. And I was wrong. And that just touched me, you know, that really touched me that he was repented enough and good enough to do that. Right. All right, so long story short, now, I'm going to those streams, ministries, things, you know, they're having now to hearing God to a one, which is understanding dreams and visions, and then another course, and I'm taking these courses, and I always had dreams and visions, and I want to grow in all my charismatic abilities, you know, because I didn't get that in my CRC background. Yeah. And, um, John Paul would pray for us all and give us words and you know, I started having dreams about streams. And lo and behold, someone gave them a mountain in New Hampshire to come to New England, and they were going to form a prayer Mountain, 24 hours of prayer and worship streams is going to come out, John Paul was going to come out and I was like, I got to be a part of the smooth god, I gotta be. And I was having words and dreams. And I started emailing them to the ministry. Pretty soon I was talking to John Paul. Pretty soon he gave me a job. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I got a job. But my husband is like, No, I am not leaving my job for ministry. There is no way we're gonna be homeless unemployed, yet another time, right. And so my husband and I are fighting and I'm like, this is a move of God, I have to be a part of it. I mean, we have to do this. And my husband is like, No, not unless I get a job in New Hampshire with this same company. Well, it took them about eight months, but he got one. And we moved up to New Hampshire, and I was so happy. I was like, Oh, my gosh, we're going to the promised land, and I'm dancing and jumping. And finally, I'm gonna find my spiritual calling. You know, it was really hard for me to be married to a pastor who he didn't have the same leadership abilities as I did. His was his was different. He was more of a team leader. He was he wasn't the dynamic preacher. He was more quiet and subtle. He didn't do things the way I thought they needed to be done. And we clashed over that, because I was frustrated. And he'd be like, You should be the pastor then. And I'd be like, they won't let me I'm a woman. You know, it was hard. He finally gave up his credentials, because our marriage can handle it. You know, it was marriage, her or ministry? Yeah. Wow. So this was my chance he could work and stay at a ministry and I could shine, you know, and I came on that staff and I wanted to be teaching courses. And, you know, and but, you know, I knew that in these charismatic ministries, you have to prove yourself. So the first job they gave me was to work the database in a closet, here I am in a closet again, you know, on these computers, and it was awful. But I just did it with a smile. I was so happy to be there. I was one of the first people up there. And, you know, I was close to John Paul, and everybody that was up there. And you know, and I just felt like a big way. And, um, and one day someone came in that wanted to move there. There were always people that wanted to move there. It was like God was calling everybody in. And these people said, Hey, do you have a realtor? And I said, Oh, yeah, I use this guy, Joe. He was great. And John Paul was in the office, they said, No, everyone in our office uses Vicki. And I thought, well, that's weird. You know, we didn't use Vicki and I said, Oh, but Joe gives really good gifts. And he goes, he gave gifts to and I said, Oh, but But Joe, blah, blah, blah. And he goes, Well, Vicki, blah, blah, blah, blah, and we have this little thing. And I'm just thinking we're just talking right? To that he didn't talk to me for three months, three months, because I challenged his authority. But I didn't know it, because I didn't know the rules. You know, and and I didn't play by those rules. And my dad was certainly not an authoritarian leader. And you know, I was like, I don't get it. So um, it was so weird, because I was trying to figure out what I did to offend him, but I couldn't figure it out. No one ever talked to me about it. And then one day, we were at this fireside chat, he would do these things called fireside chats. We didn't actually have a fireside, but he would sit there in the room with all of us and we would like kind of gather at his feet, so to speak, and listen to his great wisdom from God and all his words from God. And, and, um, he said, You know, God tells me not to speak to people sometimes in order to punish them. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I'm like, I think he's so and about me, hmm. But I still I just didn't get it. Um, and little by little people would come and I train them in their job and I'd worked my way up till now I was running the events not running completely it was on a team of people who ran the events and, and, you know, got the airline tickets and I've started to travel all over again. So here, it's like, I'm getting my old RBC job back. I'm traveling. I'm, you know, speaking in front of people and giving words in front of people. It's just like this really great thing. I feel like Yay, I'm back to the promised land. I am. You know, it's so good. I'm fulfilled again. Now, mind you, I'm still fighting with chronic fatigue at this time, because I was sick. I was sick in bed for the first five years, and then I was sick for another 25. And it's still kind of dogs me, but um, I'm managing and it's all going really well and everything's going great. Okay, so they call David Hayward. Do you know David Hayward?

David Ames  55:58  
Yes. Not personally. But yes.

Anne  56:02  
They call him to be the pastor. And so you know, initially I was leading the worship in the worship services. And then David and I were leading the worship, and then they call Trevor, a worship pastor in. And then I was part of the worship team. And it was just so much fun because it was on the worship team, in the church and in the conferences. So everything's going great. I'm happy as a clam. I love David. You know, he's a good friend of mine, Mitch and Jeanne, you know, or they're, they're good friends. And one day, John Paul calls a meeting for everybody on staff, very important meeting, he sits us all down. And he says, God has revealed to me that the reason I am sick because he was getting a lot of colds. That Let's not mention, he was traveling non stop 24/7, you know, on planes, and you know, never sleeping. God has revealed to me that there's division and conflict in the camp, and that's why he's striking me ill. Oh, yeah. And I was in fairy land. I had no idea the stuff that was going on right now. No idea. And I'm, and I'm just looking at him like, huh, yeah, I know, you're sick as you travel, you know. And all these people start repenting and getting to his feet, and they're piling on his knees, and they're crying at his feet. It's like Mary Magdalene, at the feet of Jesus. And they're just repenting. And oh, we're so sorry. And they're praying for him. And he's just sitting there just taking all this adoration and love. And the next day, David Hayward confronted him and said, that's just not cool. Now, you are setting yourself up as God basically and taking all the adoration and that's that spiritual abuse. You know, he called it well, you can imagine how furious JP was after, you know, see how mad he was at that realtor encounter, right? Yeah, imagine how furious, furious, he was at this. And he he fired. David right on the spot. Mitch, Jeanne were fired. The two other people that worked with me in the in the events thing, Mitch was over the events, they, they quit, they're like, I'm out of here, you know, and then I was like, my world was spinning, what's going on? What's going on? This was going so well, I don't understand it. So come to find out that things were going on, you know, because people were having suggestions. And he felt his authority was challenged, when there was all this stuff going on. But they were keeping me out of it because they knew I needed the job. And you know, they just wanted me to be safe. And, um, but then it all broke out. And I was devastated. Because these were the people I was close to, you know, David was my good friends. And you know, Mitch and Jeanne and them and, and, and I was just like, oh, man, but Mitch said to me, just keep your head down. Don't make any trouble. Just try to get through this and keep your job. But it was really hard because it turned into a place of slander, the talking and the way that they slandered them was just awful, right? And we were basically told to shun them all. Okay, um, but I didn't, I didn't shun them. They were my friends. And when David left, they packed up their car to leave, you know, their truck and everything because they bought a house out there and everything. And we went to help them move. You know, we went there, and Mitch and Jeanne were there but nobody from the church was there. No buddy from the ministry was there. Nobody, and one person drove down the street. And he looked at us and he said, What are you doing here? And we said, we're helping the move, you know, and they were just like, whoa.

So, it wasn't long after that, that John Paul said to me, well, We need a new pastor. Maybe we should look at your husband. In my husband's mind, he's like, there is no way in hell, I'm in the middle of this.

David Ames  1:00:12  
Wise, man wise.

Anne  1:00:15  
No way. But he didn't want to come right now and say that because I was working there and he didn't want to jeopardize my job. So we went out for lunch with all of them. And they kind of got to know Tom and talk to him. And Tom was just not biting. He was biting on nothing. And the two days later, John Paul meets me in the office by the coffee machine, and I'll never forget it. And he said to me, yeah, so that was very interesting going out to lunch with you. He said, Your husband is probably at least one or two years away from being able to be in ministry. God's told me this show, Yes, God has shown me that he, he doesn't know how to lead. He doesn't know how to be a leader. And that's the reason that you're getting fat because I was gaining weight, lifelong struggles. Yeah, this is this is the reason that your husband isn't in ministry. And that your children are damned. Your children are damned.

David Ames  1:01:19  
Yeah. I'm like,

Anne  1:01:20  
hello. You know, I had the best little girls. They were the best little girls in the church, and they were damned about them. Yeah. And I cried, and I said, thank you. And I took it because it must be a word from God, because it's John Paul, you know, I must be God. And I go back and work and I'm crying. And you know, I just can't get myself together. At the end of the day, the President calls me into the office with now the guy who is now my boss, who was the the shipping guy, he made him my boss suddenly, because I couldn't just do it because I was a woman. And they call me in the office. And the President says to me, I understand you got a word from JP today? And I'm like, Yeah, and I start to cry. And then I apologize for crying. I say, I'm sorry. I thought I must be getting my period or something. And he goes, No, it's because it was a true Word of God. He said, we've understood you have a problem with authority. Oh, dear. Ah, and you know what he cited that time, I had the little exchange about the realtor with John Hall in the office at the beginning of time. Yes. And I'm like, there it is.

David Ames  1:02:33  
Super petty, very, very bad.

Anne  1:02:36  
Yes. And then he has some other stupid thing. And then he said to me, so we're gonna let you continue to work the events, but we're gonna not gonna let you go anymore. You're not going to be able to go to the events and I just thought, Oh, the writing's on the wall. You know, because there's, you set up an event and there's always, you know, shooting that you have to do when you get there because something fell through the cracks. They're going to just fire my ass, and that's gonna be the end of it. Yeah. And, and he said, and we want a marriage counselor, you, we went to marriage counseling to teach Tom how to be a leader and how you should be submissive. Wow. Well, now that my whole job is riding on it, all my husband's fault, you know, because he's not a leader, and I'm crying. And, you know, I left there, I went home, I cried the whole way home. And, um, and I said, I'll give you two weeks. I have to think about it. I need to think about it for two weeks. So he said, Okay, so at the end of two weeks, I quit. You know, I was like, I can't do this. But Tom was like, I want to see what happens. I'm curious of what kind of dynamics are gonna happen over there. And so I stayed on the worship team, I stayed doing worship, I stayed being friends with them. And um, this went on for a couple of months, I was miserable. We did a worship seminar at a church. It wasn't a church. It was at one of the conferences, and I was up there leading with other people and worship was a dud, everything was a dud. And I looked at some of the people there and I knew that they were there. Because of me. I knew that they were open to that ministry, because they came there because I was and they knew my background, and they trusted me. And I thought, I can't do this anymore. Yeah, I can't do it. That way. That night, on the way home, we hit a moose. Oh, wow. We hit a moose. It came out of nowhere. It hit the part of the just the actually the mirror the rearview mirror of the car, and and shattered the glass. And so Trevor, the worship leader, and I was sitting here and we were just covered with glass, and he just kept driving. We got back and found out that was just not cool. And the booths hit another car. There was an accident, he might have charges against him. And it was this whole thing that's the bottom line was the next day John Paul went to that conference and said, God came to me in prayer and asked me if I would give up some of my staff to him and let him take them home. But I prayed and said no and and they were saying and they were spared. So now I was alive because he prayed and spirit. Yeah, you know, and I was like, This is bullshit. And I quit. I quit that day. I was like, I don't care what they do. I'm not going back. Okay. And then I was shunned. Yeah, yeah, I was out of there. Nine months is only lasted. I wish it was probably like a cult, you know, I was shunned. And I didn't know why. Nobody was calling me. They even had a concert in our clubhouse where we lived. And I went, because I thought, I'm not going to let anyone keep me out of this concert. And no one would talk to me. They all looked at me with these terrible looks. A year and a half later, a friend of mine from there who had shunned me called me and said they came after her. And she apologized to me. And she said, John Paul had gone to everyone on staff and said things slandered us to death. were horrible. People were sick. We have a bad marriage with Bebo, but he just slandered us and made up all this crap. And everyone believed it. Because I had too much charisma in the office. I had too much control. John Paul said that to me. He said, I see you there's leadership, and you can steer a ship that's sinking. And you know, but you've got to be careful. Well, he had to do damage control. And he came back and just killed me. Yeah. So when I found that out, I wrote him an email. I sent him an email. I said, How dare you and I just never heard from him again. You know, never.

Yeah, so that was the end of that. We ended up moving to North Carolina, my husband started again, in ministry in a church, it was a church plant that had been dying. We just closed down the church, basically, because it wasn't going to work. Then we tried to get involved in other churches, and we were really good friends with the pastor and wife and they got fired from their church, which caused a whole nother thing in us and PTSD from our church experience. And, and, you know, I was like, this is a whole bullshit. So we started we went into another church that was just really big week to slink into the back not know anybody not talk to anyone, I didn't want to know the dynamics in a church because I could see all the crap going on, you know, and, and, you know, the just a biblical sermon, and that's what we did. Ya, um, and that lasted for a little while, and then we went back to New England to be my parents, and I just couldn't go to church anymore. I just stopped. I just, I was like, I can't do it. i There's, I can't do it.

David Ames  1:07:38  
I think that's actually more common than you think that people start to realize that they're having, you know, reaction PTSD, like you mentioned, they're having a reaction and they just can't go in the building anymore. And they don't even know why really, right. But yeah, right.

Anne  1:07:52  
Right. You know, um, yeah, it was just bad. In the meantime, we found out my youngest daughter was autistic. That's why we're having trouble with her. And she was going into depression and maybe bipolar. My husband was falling apart. Our marriage was falling apart. My other daughter went to college. And then my father dropped dead, baby. Oh, no, I'm so sorry. Thank you. He was 77 just dropped in, in a restaurant. Gone. No warning, gone. Man, it rocked my world. I mean, it just killed me. Right, it killed me. And he was the picture of all that was good and true and righteous. And, you know, I still believed in God, I still believed in the goodness of God, I just couldn't go into the church, you know. And then my father was taken away. And then every, I couldn't hear from God anymore. I couldn't worship. I couldn't hypnotize myself with a piano. I couldn't do anything. You know, I just was just, I was just floored. Um, a year after that, I decided to go to art school. And so I was getting my Master's in Fine Arts, and I was learning great critical thinking skills. I mean, if you want great critical thinking skills, you go to art school with a whole bunch of people from different backgrounds and everything. And it was just a fantastic experience. And during that whole thing, I was working on my art, I was working through my dad's grief, you know, grief for my dad, and and all his ministry and all my background and all my church stuff, and I just was working through all that great opportunity to work through it. But a year after my dad died, my aunt, my dad's sister found out she had ovarian cancer. She was like a mom to me. She was the one who took care of me in Michigan, and um, we went through this suffering of watching her just die, so we're still grieving my father. Now we're grieving my aunt. And um, and then my best friend called me and said she had stage four breast cancer. Oh guy, and she was someone that I Got a visit every year in California for three weeks I get out of the winter here. And you know, just I could be myself there and have fun. And so she's dying. And we went through my those two cancers. My aunt died, we later arrest during this time, of course it's 2016. And Trump gets into office and that caused me and a whole lot of like, like, I don't get it. I mean, when he was going for the white evangelical vote, I'm like, they're not going to be fooled. Like God did that just do me and I'm going through all this and I'm just like, spinning and how could this be? And then my sister dropped dead, my little sister 53 dropped dead of a heart attack. And that killed me worse than my father. I mean, plus, my mother was a wreck. She almost died of heartbreak in the first few weeks. And, um, I, I couldn't even buy this time. I'm just spinning. You know, I lost my dad, my aunt, my sister, my friends dying. And I'm just spitting Trump's into office, everything else go ahead basket. I you know, the stupid COVID Comes right? My daughter gets COVID the first week it comes, I'm having headaches, I find out I have high blood pressure, which my right away makes me think I'm gonna die like my sister. I'm in this existential crisis. I can't pray, I can't talk to God, I can't do anything. And then, um, I find out I have a brain tumor. And it's called a pituitary adenoma. And it's a tumor on your pituitary gland. And it's operable, it's usually benign. So they're like, well just watch it. Well, they watched it for six months, just one, one thing, they said it's growing rapidly, you have to have brain surgery. So they go in and give me brain surgery during COVID. Two weeks later, I have a gallbladder attack that puts gall stones in my bile duct. But I don't know it because I don't want to go to the doctor because it's COVID. And I just had brain surgery, crawling around on the floor for four weeks just crying and not eating until my husband says get to that doctor. And I go to the doctor, find out I have to have my gallbladder out. So I've surgery, emergency surgery with that, and then another surgery to remove the gall stones, all of this in seven weeks time. During that time, my best friend died of breast cancer. Oh, man. And I of course couldn't, you know, didn't get to say goodbye really? I sent her flowers. But you know, yeah. And I'm just done, you know, just like done. Can't can't, can't do a thing just done. And I'm not even praying anymore. Because I'm like, What is the use, nothing is happening. I, you know, I don't get it.

So sometime during that time, Christian dummies book, Jesus and John Wayne came out. And my brother had to interview her. And it was just after the book came out, like the first like, it just came out that day. And so I was listening. And it was like, Oh, I like this woman. So my mother bought the book. And we both read the book. And that's when everything started to come into place for me, because I could see almost my whole Evan Jellicle upbringing, right, and all the bookstores and all the conventions and all the stuff and authoritarianism. And all that stuff that was going on was right there on the pages. And I could see how suddenly, all these people from church thought that Trump was their God, you know, and I was like, because I didn't get it. And I saw the whole thing. And I went, Oh, and the light bulb went on. And I started to see that there were so many things built into the system that were destructive and damaging in so many ways, you know, for the, with the racism and everything, you know, down to the very core of everything, the women's issue, everything, misogyny, you know, LGBTQ community, everything. And so I read this book, and the light bulb went on, and that's when I started listening to different podcasts. And

David Ames  1:14:19  
there was your first mistake, that was my mistake, because

Anne  1:14:22  
then I'm like, I started listening to straight white American cheeses. And I was like, Yeah, I'm getting into this, you know, and then somehow I stumbled on board again, again, and they were talking about they were they did one on Noah's Ark. And I'm like, What do you mean Noah's Ark is it was how could that not really, you know, and then they're talking about worship and they're talking about they have no system and I'm like, You're kidding. Because I was addicted to being hypnotized in worship. I was the one on the floors dancing and praising it, you know, and I and honestly, I did it to myself all the time. I just would play the piano and just, I was you err, I was all when and, um, and I was like man, and then someone mentioned Bart ermine. And so I started listening to some of his stuff. And this was what cracked me. It was when he said, The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John weren't actually written by Matthew, Mark Luke. I, I thought that they were, you know, this was I thought this was God's infallible Word in Aaron, and that these were eyewitness accounts, and they weren't. And then what's to say that anything they say is true. And then I just started listening to everything and all the deconstruction stories that I found you and I found other people and I just gobbled it up. You know, after my sister died, I was listening to podcasts, but they were all about near death experiences. I was listening to that stuff and all these New Age podcasts. And as soon as this happened, I flipped, and I started listening to all deconstruction stuff. And you know, um, yeah, that's where I am now.

David Ames  1:16:02  
Okay. Yeah, that's, that is a lot. Again, just I am very sorry for the grief that you've suffered not. I mean, obviously, in the last several years of all the people that you've lost, but grieving the ministry as well, that that you had, clearly the desire to help people and to, you know, build community and help people thrive. And that opportunity just kept being taken away from you. So that is a grief process of that loss as well.

I'm curious, at this point, how are you finding community? I know, I know, you're part of the deconversion anonymous, but like, do you have friends that have gone through some deconstruction as well? And you know, how are you? How are you at this point handling that?

Anne  1:17:01  
I do? It's kind of amazing, because in art school, I developed a really great community, right. And then when we moved, we moved to this old house, this old homestead, and in this community, and it was very embracing town where everybody has these old primitive homes, you know, and they started having parties. And, you know, I was invited to other parties, and we just became friends with everybody. And then in that party scene, we became friends with this group of musicians. And this group of musicians totally took us in when they realized that I was a musician, too. And he only took us in. And there was a couple in there. In fact, the guy is downstairs helping my husband put a water heater on right now, that had also been raised in the Christian faith and been doing worship leading forever. And they both had deconstructed. Okay, and so we were introduced to each other as pastors kids, and we were looked at each other like, Oh, crap. Yeah, like this person, we ventured through, get to know each other and found out we had this similar deconstruction story. So, you know, we get together with him every three weeks, and we just laugh and talk. And you know, and look at all the ridiculous things we once believed, you know, that we don't anymore. So I actually feel very much like I have community.

David Ames  1:18:20  
That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah. And then you've mentioned a handful of podcasts and the book, Jesus and John Wayne, any any others that I'm not talking about this one. Any other podcasts that you'd recommend for someone who find them finds themselves in a similar situation like, like that has helped you?

Anne  1:18:38  
Um, well, first, let me just say that I was in the lasting supper, David Hayward Scroop forever. And I think David Hayward is a wonderful deconstruction, you know, he's just wonderful. And he's great. And he's the real deal. And he's a good friend of mine. And I love him to bits. And so

David Ames  1:18:52  
well, maybe you can introduce me to David and we can get David on the open welcome.

Anne  1:19:00  
Well, I'll talk to him I already texted him this morning. He said, Is it okay, if I say your name and the story? He's like, Sure, go ahead. So um, yeah, David, you know, I would definitely recommend David. I have been listening to I think deconversion Anonymous was another podcast I was listening to. I listened to on YouTube harmonic atheist because I like to listen to their stories. Sometimes I'm listening to what is myth vision, you know, depending on who he has on there that's helpful anything bar ermine. You know, I've listened to a lot of debates, you know, between Christians and bar and you know, those have been kind of interesting. I love on YouTube Dark Matters 20 What is it 25 or whatever, you know, I love that that all the animation you know, holy Kool Aid. Yeah, I mean, I just kind of search around I think there's one now x well x seven jello coals. And I mean, I always have This crazy list going on, cuz I listen to the podcasts when I go to sleep. And then if I miss something I just read, listen, you know, so some of the podcasts, they have to be not too dynamic. Like, I don't think I could listen to myself going to sleep because, you know. But yeah, there's so much out there on YouTube and podcasts.

David Ames  1:20:20  
Well, that's great. And I really appreciate you telling your story. That was, I think what's really important that people hear is how dedicated you were how often you tried even it wasn't like, I think the evangelical response to deconstruction is these weak people, you know that at the slightest, you know, difficulty there out. And it's like, clearly, that was not the case you struggled through through a lifetime of attempting to do ministry with hurdles putting you in your way the entire time. So I thank you for that honesty. Thank you for being on the podcast. Yeah, my pleasure. Thank

Anne  1:20:59  
you for having me.

David Ames  1:21:04  
Final thoughts on the episode. I can't help but hearing and story as tragedy that she wanted so badly to do God's will. And she felt gifted. And she was trained to be a leader. And yet the role of women in the church consistently limited her and ultimately led to shootings and being kicked out of churches and being rejected by the very people who said that they loved her. And then the physical aspects of her life as well, the chronic fatigue, and ultimately at the end, their brain tumor, and a gallstone and just all of the physical ailments that she's had to go through. But this often is the beauty of deconstruction, as she's describing reading Jesus and John Wayne and recognizing herself and the culture that she'd been bounced to for all of her life within evangelicalism and suddenly recognizing the corruptness of that and how she no longer had to be bound by that that freedom is amazing. And it is wonderful to hear in Anne's voice, where she is now. Last week's guests, Ursula and this week's guest and have a lot in common in that they are very big personalities, very strong leaders, and they happen to be women and being forced to enhance case stay in education. And then even when she got the role that was specific to children's education, she was limited in what she could do there, there was just constant limitation. I can't imagine the level of frustration that that must create for a person who is as gifted as both Ursula and an R. It also astonishes me that the church at large evangelicalism specifically is trying to do things with one hand tied behind their back, they're stopping 50% of the population from truly 100% participating. And that just astonishes me from a logistical and tactical point of view. It's it's dumb, on every single level, and it's horrifying and abusive on many other levels, and I am just brokenhearted, to hear how and had to deal with those limitations. In a story of astonishing things, the most astonishing thing for me was her description of the streams ministry and John Paul, and had the off hand comment of it was cult like, I don't think it was called like it was a cult. That is the definition an overbearing leader who demands loyalty and a level of obedience and subservience that has nothing to do with Christianity has nothing to do with leadership. I'm really glad that and got herself out of that scenario, that that sounded really, really bad. So in any scenario in which you find yourself with a leader who is demanding that level of loyalty, it's time to get out. I want to thank and for telling her story. She has quite the story to tell I agree with Mike t, you should write a book and as soon as you write it, I'll buy it. So and we'll promote it here on the podcast. Thank you, Anne, for telling your story with such truthfulness and passion and your big personality comes straight through and thank you for being on the podcast. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is related to but not directly about and in that I mentioned at the beginning of the interview that I had been reached out to you by a Christian media organization that was doing research about Gen Z's and deconstruction. And I've been struck by this really ever since I went through my own decastro And then deconversion, that the focus has always been on the 20 Somethings who are leaving the church. I don't want to be anti scientific here, of course, the statistics are going to be much, much, much larger for people in their 20s. Because, as I said, when you're in your 20s, you're supposed to be questioning everything. When you're a teenager, you're supposed to be questioning everything that is, by definition, what young adulthood is what I think is much more interesting. And what I think the church has ignored to their peril is what are sometimes called the Dunn's adults 40s 50s 60s, even that have lived an entire lifetime within the Christian frame, and who subsequently deconstruct and de convert, that is a much more telling canary in the coal mine, that seems to me is being utterly ignored. If the statistics that I get about the podcast are to be believed, that would suggest that most of you are at least in your 30s. And most of the listeners here are adults. And so it astonishes me how the statisticians and the church itself has ignored this group of people and berated things like the extra angelical movement. This is the second week in a row that I'm giving some atheist advice to pastors. Talk to the adults who are deconstructing the Brealey. Listen to them, ask them why they've had a change of heart, what kinds of things would make a person change their mind after decades of being a Christian? And then really listen to the answer. And if you are that person who has lived an entire lifetime of Christianity, and you're the one questioning and you're the one where it feels like God's not listening, and tragedy is around you in every direction. I need you to know that there are many of us out here, myself and all of my previous guests community on the Facebook group deconversion anonymous, who have gone through this, we've experienced it, we know what it feels like. And you don't have to be alone. And you are not alone. I just wanted to mention, for those of you who are parents, the the mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day. I know that's kind of saccharine sweet. And it's one of the things I used to really dislike about this particular Sunday in church all the time. But I want to acknowledge you, you do amazing things. You are the foundation of society and you're also leaders and teachers and amazing human beings. So thank you, and Happy Mother's Day. Until next time, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application. And you can rate and review it on pod chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on risk of atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email graceful atheist@gmail.com or you can check out the website graceful atheists.com My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Ursula Schneider: Leader, Seeker, Artist, Woman

Artists, Autonomy, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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This week’s guest is artist Ursula Schneider. As a child, neither her charismatic church nor her unstable home were safe for her. There was a lot of mental illness at home and Ursula often felt abandoned by the church. Their family was simply “too much.” 

“I look back and everything is so clear about why it went the way it went, but as a child you don’t understand…”

Ursula grew up, married young and began going to church again. As an adult, she needed something real to her. She saw that something in the women at church, so she dove right in—daily prayer, bible studies, women’s retreats, all of it.

“I guess what I believed was that, if I did enough of the things that I was being told to do, the feeling would follow…”

But Ursula kept bumping up against a certain church doctrine: women cannot teach men. She was a gifted leader and teacher but church after church kept her out of the pulpit.

“That is literally what you get told: ‘You’re listening to the doctrine of demons if you think it’s okay for you as a woman to be able to teach men.’”

At the last church she attended, Ursula faced the greatest challenge yet to her faith. Over the span of a few months, she and her husband went from being well-respected leaders to losing their entire community.  

Ursula went through a depressive state and cried out to God, but no answer came. Over the next few years, Ursula would make beautiful art, write for herself and continue to question her religious beliefs.

“What happens when you start to question some of these closely held doctrines…is that things really do start to unravel.”

Since leaving, Ursula has dabbled in other faiths, wondering if any will fit her. Nothing has yet, but she is learning and growing as a whole person. She no longer has to squash part of herself or silence her own curiosity. 

“…as I go through life, and I try on new ideas, each of them has something to offer me that’s valuable.”

Ursula’s art and writing empower others to exist as their whole selves in the world and to see beauty and inspiration in the world around them. 

Ursula Schneider art exhibition through May 25th 2022, at D&R Art Gallery and Studio in Tucson, AZ.

My story is, I suppose, the story of a sincere seeker who, it turns out, is actually a huge threat to the organization of the church structure. Silly me, I thought the church was the place to be a seeker, but it turns out that they don’t want seekers, they want adherents. I was never a very good adherent in hindsight. But I gave my whole life to the church because I misunderstood that reality and in return, the church did its level best to silence me completely.



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People can also email me at ursulaschneiderart@gmail.com



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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats