This week’s guest is Deb. Deb “asked Jesus into her heart” at six years old and remained a devoted follower of Jesus for decades. She married her high school sweetheart, started a family and found herself living the missionary life on the continent of Africa.
As the years passed, Deb’s faith was tested—praying and watching children die on two continents, her husband pointlessly fired from their church, meeting different types of Christians and the reading of diverse books. Deb had more and more questions about her lifelong faith.
Today, Deb’s spirituality is one that stays curious and open to new thing, no longer holding tightly to any one creed. Her story is a beautiful one filled with compassion and love and a desire to meet people wherever they are. She is truly living out secular grace.
This week’s guest is Ruby. Ruby is an author, blogger and YouTuber, living her journey out loud for the benefit of her followers. Lutheran to her core, Ruby spent her life committed to the institution of the Church. It took multiple heartbreaks and difficulties in life before she began to wonder, “Is any of this true? Is any of this real?”
She threw out the formal church experience first. Then, through her impressive consumption of non-fiction books, she was able to be rid of the Bible and finally Jesus.
Now, Ruby’s life is all about love and kindness toward her fellow human beings. As far as supernatural beliefs, she looks to “the flow,” of the Universe. She’s able to define god in her own terms and her life—and the lives around her—are better for it.
“Confirmation was a social experiment for me.”
“I found that [enacting my faith] was what this was about…It’s always been about people.”
“The Shack…was pivotal in my journey because all of a sudden, God doesn’t have balls.”
“If [all the Old Testament people] aren’t real, then what happens with Jesus?”
Community manager, Arline, guest hosts. This week’s guests are a couple of fabulous black women who’ve come a long way in their journeys away from white evangelicalism. They’ve known one another for over a decade and their conversation is both information and so much fun.
Marissa grew up in church and loved it as a kid. As a college student, however, she found herself in a ministry that was a little bit “culty.” And then as an adult she watched all the white friends she’d served alongside fall for a new savior, Donald Trump.
Raven grew up in a “culturally Christian” home but dove head-first into campus ministry in college. By 2012, when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, she began to see whiteness, not Jesus, as the true god of people she’d known for years.
Marissa and Raven are currently in different spiritual places but neither can go back to the Christianity they knew as young adults. Their lives are freer and fuller than they’ve ever been before, and they see that it is good.
“Trump was the second Jesus to them.”
“Christians are ‘pro-life,’ and I wasn’t seeing that. I wasn’t seeing the grace and generosity extended to people who looked like me.”
“I feel like I’m on a path to enlightenment…What feels good to the soul? What is good for the soul? What is good for other people?”
This week’s guest is Elizabeth. Elizabeth grew up in what she calls a “Methodist Baptist” church, mostly Methodist but with more conservatism and even some charisma thrown in.
Elizabeth loved church as a kid, but as a teen, things were harder: purity culture demands, a youth pastor leaving abruptly and even a camp with exorcisms. Looking back, Elizabeth sees a theme: The parents did little to help the kids feel and be safe.
After graduation, Elizabeth went to a Baptist college where she met (again!) and married her now-husband. When adversity hit, trying to expand their family, they saw their Christian friends’ true colors.
“People can be really, really cruel when they’re just saying what they’ve been taught. They’re not thinking about the flip side of what they’re saying.”
Throughout a difficult pregnancy, crying out to God, Elizabeth thought, No one is listening and no one is coming to save me. She continued hoping, though, only to be let down again and again. Church people will not support you and no god is coming to save you.
“It feels like I spent my whole life pushing a really heavy dresser down a hallway…and everybody around me is saying, ‘You can do it because your best friend is on the other side holding it…’
Elizabeth sees that it was here. She was the strong and resilient one all along. She bore the load, the emotional, physical and mental weight. No one—neither supernatural or human—showed up to help.
“When there was one set of footprints they were mine.”
Now, on the other side of faith, Elizabeth has her immediate family and a strong community of friends, diverse people walking alongside her. She no longer looks to the sky for help, but knows she has all she needs inside her and right around her.
My analogy is that I’ve been carrying a tall, heavy piece of furniture my whole life, and all that time everyone around me has been telling me that my best friend is on the other end helping me. When I’ve asked to see that friend, they’ve said I just need to trust that he’s there, of course he is, because I wouldn’t be able to carry the load if he wasn’t. When I asked him to talk to me, I didn’t hear anything, but convinced myself that of course he was there. When I finally decided to set down the load and see for myself, I discovered that I’d actually been carrying it on my own the whole time, and that I’ve always been stronger than I gave myself credit for.
This week’s guest is Shannon. Shannon’ story delves into the emotional experience of deconversion. Shannon grew up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church, where the teachings were pernicious.
“It’s like ‘Love Jesus. Love God. And be afraid of demons, ‘cause they’re everywhere and they’re going to get you!’”
As a teen and into adulthood, Shannon knew her own beliefs and convictions did not always align with her church or family. She tried to be who they wanted her to be, but her decisions were never quite enough for them.
“…showed me that no matter what I give, there will always be one step further. It’s just not good enough.”
Over the years, she slowly, like “mental velcro,” ripped out the only beliefs she had known. Where her family couldn’t hold space for her questions, her husband could. It was a hard journey, but she wasn’t on it alone.
“From, mentally saying, ‘This isn’t real. I think I’m done’ to being done? It was torture.”
Today, Shannon misses the certainty she used to have, the path laid out in front of her with easy answers. But she is able to see the world with new eyes—the glory and majesty of nature, the wonders of scientific inquiry. It has changed her for the better, and she isn’t looking back.
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.
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.
This week’s guest is Andrew Pledger. Andrew has spent nearly his entire life in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church—where the KJV rules and women do not.
Andrew was homeschooled K-12 with a mildly white Christian nationalist curriculum, no sex education and no diverse friendships.
“If you’re not subjected to different worldviews and ideas, how can you even think critically about your own?”
For years, Andrew’s mental health suffered, but there were no resources for him. He was told that he wasn’t “reading the Bible enough” and “needed to get closer to God.”
“I was very emotionally dependent on those religious rituals…bible reading, praying, confessing…it has that emotional release because you believe that it’s really doing something.”
In college, Andrew knew he needed professional help but at a fundamentalist Christian college, there was only “biblical counseling”. The first two years were excruciating. Eventually, however, with a little community and a lot of research, Andrew took his mental health into his own hands.
“It was really the first time I started listening to…and trusting myself.”
He started asking difficult questions about the Bible, and it was not long before the foundations began to crumble.
“Is the Bible actually inerrant? Is it perfect? Are the stories original? Is this really inspired by God?”
Since leaving Christianity, Andrew has lived out secular grace. He is spreading awareness about toxic religion and working toward becoming a religious trauma therapist. His personal experience of freedom compels him to help others find the same freedom.
“Trauma is a horrible cycle that needs to be stopped. We really need to do what we can…”
This week’s guest is Luke J. Janssen, M.Sc., Ph.D., M.T.S., Professor Emeritus, Dept. Medicine, McMaster University, and co-host of the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. He is a scientist in medical research. During a faith crisis he began taking courses on theology which turned into an M.T.S degree.
I’ve been face-to-face with faith and science my whole life.
Luke tells his story in four 15 year phases: his early years as a nominal Reformed Christian, his young adulthood as a Pentecostal/Charismatic fundamentalist, a desconstruction phase, and where he is now, with a “small part of him that won’t let go” and a belief in a creative force.
It is just that I couldn’t pretend anymore. I just couldn’t pretend that I was a believer. I just simply didn’t believe.
Luke and his co-host, Boyd Blundell, cover many aspects of desconstruction on the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. They discuss various apologetic and scientific arguments and honestly reveal what they do an do not believe now and why.
Recovering Evangelicals … for those who were once very comfortable in their Christian faith until the 21st century intruded and made it very hard to keep on believing; … for those who are intrigued by science, philosophy, world history, and world religions, and want to rationalize that with their Christian theology; … for those who found that’s just not possible, and yet there’s still a small part of them that won’t let it go.