Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults




Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. My professor had mentioned something about politics and I spoke with him after class. To make a long story short, we got on the subject of thought reform and my understanding of cults. He made note of that. He also made note of my comments during class about quiverfull during the population lecture. He mentioned that his book club had read Kathryn Joyce’s book on the Quiverfull Movement and asked if I’d like to the Free Thinkerss book club he belongs to. He said the group might be interested in hearing about some of my experiences. From that meeting led to the invitation to the Free Thinker’s monthly meeting in our area. I accepted on the spot.

Now fast forward to Sunday. After some user-error technical issues, the presentation began by sharing the first part of this Young Turk’s video. It shows KATU’s original interview with me about my pastor suing me. This was the original news report which went viral.

 

I then shared about my personal background, abusive childhood, religious background, how our family got started at Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Screenshots from the blog were shown. I explained different legalistic teachings from Chuck O’Neal, my suing ex-pastor. The $500,000 defamation lawsuit was discussed and its aftermath. I shared how the lawsuit experience made my blog very public, and realized that many others had been harmed at their churches, too.

I highlighted some of the big names that have been exposed here at SSB, as well as personal stories. I shared about my dream team, Brad, Kathi, and Billie, who contribute publicly and behind the scenes and make it possible for me to keep this blog running while I’m at school full time.

Here are a few slides from the presentation:

Julie Anne Smith, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Chuck O'Neal

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 9.16.28 AM

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 9.14.56 AM

 

All in all, I felt the presentation went well. I think that Christians sometimes view atheists as scary. Of course, they are not. Here are a few thoughts and lessons I jotted down thinking about the experience and meeting the people.

  • I completely lost all sense of time. I am so passionate about this subject, I actually spoke for twice as long as was originally allotted. I definitely need to learn how to keep better track of time. However, people were so gracious and seemed very engaged in the subject.
  • I issued the disclaimer at the beginning that  I was a Christian and was treated very respectfully.
  • I think most of my regular readers would get along with atheists. In my experience, they are disturbed at the same things we are disturbed about in the church. However, they are more willing to discuss it openly than typical Christians. I think Christians could learn something from them.
  • There were great questions at the end, and quite a few people came up to thank me and discuss further comments or questions. Having the opportunity interact with people was my favorite part.
  • 100% of the people whom I asked, had negative church experience before becoming atheist. One was a former pastor. This leads me to question: what are these negative church experiences, and what can we do better as a church body?
  • There were at least two Christians present, one was a guest I invited.
  • An important takeaway: everybody has something important to share and we can learn a lot from atheists. We need not be afraid of people simply because they do. It share our Christian faith.
  • I never felt that I needed to compromise my faith when sharing my experiences.
  • In sharing my personal story, I was able to reminisce about specific areas in which God “met me” right where I was and was my comforter, my protector. He never left me alone in my darkest days. It was good to remember those pivotal moments.

I hope that by writing this post that someone might be challenged to remove a negative stigma that some in Christianity put on atheists. I do not believe that Jesus would have rejected those of different faiths.

If you happened to have attended the meeting and are seeing this post, I’d welcome your feedback, both positive and negative. I greatly appreciated the experience and enjoyed meeting many of you!

There was a brother and sister who attended to meeting. I spoke with the brother afterwards. If you happen to be reading this article, I’m afraid that you may not have gotten my phone number correctly. Please feel free to contact me at spiritualsb@gmail.com. I would really like to connect with you and hear your story.

 

 

 

29 comments on “Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

  1. bless your heart Julie Anne… it seems those in controlling type, spiritually abusive type congregations are the ones that are being deceived still… it is those who have left and those who have been harmed (along with their advocates) that see what is going on…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Julie Anne! Because you went in honest about your Christian faith, maybe your presence could encourage those who had truly given up to crack open the door slightly and revisit faith in God again. For those who just couldn’t walk any further with the corrupt systems that harmed them, you might have given them hope that some of us see, care and even understand. Because you didn’t judge them, they might reconsider that, though they felt abandoned because of the cruelty of others, God himself did not abandon them and is still reaching out. I always say, “Hope is free”, so I will hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think most of my regular readers would get along with atheists.

    …and, at least a few of your regular readers are atheists. 🙂 Though not all of us were harmed by the church (and that includes me); in fact, the “you’re just bitter” charge is often used to quickly dismiss the real reasons why we left the faith.

    I really appreciate the work you do here, Julie Anne, and I stand with you against abuse, no matter where it happens. That’s a value I share with you, even though our beliefs are different.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think a lot of different types of people (religious, atheist, white, black, heterosexual, homosexual, other, etc) are afraid that by talking with those of another group they will somehow be “contaminated” with ideas and that scares them.

    I think that it is those who can freely interact with anyone and everyone are those who are most sound in their faith, culture, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think Christians sometimes have a bad view of atheists because certain prominent atheists voice their opinions forcefully and not graciously. Christopher Hitchens was a brilliant writer and debater, but he was very abrasive and I think he and other militant atheists like Richard Dawkins leave folks with the opinion that atheists are combative and enjoy disdaining Christians, painting us as superstitious rubes who believe in a “sky fairy”.

    However, my personal experience, on a day to day level, has been that many atheists are kind and considerate and extremely thoughtful people. The ones I know tend to be polite, philosophical and analytical. Their views comes from a point of intellect and they do not force their views on anyone. It sort of a point of pride with them, since some think that religious people of all faiths tend to force their views on the public.The ones I know seem to care about a lot of social, environmental and animal rights issues. They are live and let live and are in no way militant in their views.

    Christian Feminist Daddy made some similar points in his most recent short blog post https://christianfeministdaddy.com/2017/04/03/annoying-april-fools-pet-peeve/
    So perhaps we are seeing a theme here. Christians and atheists both wanting to stop spiritual and cleric abuse.

    Good for you for going Julie Anne!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Julie Anne, you are a testament to the truth. I thank you for speaking on behalf of victims of spiritual abuse, of which I am one. As for atheists, I would be glad to unite with them in worthy causes. Fear of the ‘other’ is not based upon reason, or faith for that matter. If our Christian faith is that which strengthens us and gives us confidence, then what is there to fear. Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right ?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. [Julie Anne] Do we engage with each other on Twitter? I’m wondering if you are who I think you are. 🙂

    No, I don’t think we ever have. I’m not much of a social media person. My real first name is “Brent” but I don’t link other personal information to my blog comments etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. [LT] I think Christians sometimes have a bad view of atheists because certain prominent atheists voice their opinions forcefully and not graciously [and] leave folks with the opinion that atheists are combative and enjoy disdaining Christians, painting us as superstitious rubes who believe in a “sky fairy”.

    However, my personal experience, on a day to day level, has been that many atheists are kind and considerate and extremely thoughtful people. The ones I know tend to be polite, philosophical and analytical. Their views comes from a point of intellect and they do not force their views on anyone.

    Yes! You are right that many of the “celebrity” atheists, if you will, can be pretty abrasive/dismissive/combative. While the loud voices often get the most attention, I agree with Dale McGowan, who says in his book “In Faith and In Doubt”: “The nice guys, the coexisters, the average Joes and Josies are the vast majority of the nonreligious.”

    That’s where I’m at; I’m a bridge-builder who is happy to make common cause with others where I can. And I’m not “anti-Christian”—I’m not on some kind of mission to rid the world of religion, and I strongly support both of the first two clauses of the 1st Amendment. I’m just going to use my voice (and my vote) where I see harm and injustice happening… no matter what it’s based in.

    Like

  9. Yes! You are right that many of the “celebrity” atheists, if you will, can be pretty abrasive/dismissive/combative.

    I think this is partly because they are actively selling atheism, via books and speaking tours and such. There is an annoying tendency by some atheists to be terribly condescending, but I think that is just something many humans are prone to.

    Like

  10. Atheists can be nice people, but that doesn’t help us grow closer with other believers– which is what Jesus prayed for.

    Like

  11. Thanks for posting your experience. I wasn’t there but I suspect the reason your talk was successful was that you weren’t there to “sell” Christianity. The most effective christian proponents are not those who treat every non christian as some sort of broken project but those who act as ambassadors – live their faith without forcing it on others.

    Not all atheists have been hurt by the church, my church experience growing up was not abusive just unfulfilling.

    Atheists come in all flavours too. Not just Dawkins/Hitchens et al. I have a spirituality but it’s just not associated with any one faith or religion.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. After going through a badly handled abuse situation in a church, and reading about a lot of people’s experiences (and now watching the responses of many evangelicals to Donald Trump), I’ve come to realize that, generally speaking, people outside the church are the ones who instantly recognize and acknowledge that abuse is evil and are very often the place that offers real help. They don’t try to excuse it or cherry-pick some poor scripture to justify it. Yet, the arrogance of the church is, “We know better than them!” Arrogance and ignorance are a dangerous combination. The church needs to repent for turning its back on so many “little ones”.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. For the most part I have found that most atheists are very open minded and will listen to your position if you don’t hammer them with condemning dogma. Some of the best times I have had in conversation has been with professing atheists. I had one atheist, a nephew of mine, say I was one of the first he had a dialog with that actually had the facts to back up my position. Because pastor said so doesn’t cut it with an atheist. Thank you Julie Anne, for bringing reason to this topic and letting others know that Christians are not all followers that blindly believe. People of all ages should be safe in God’s house.
    Jim

    Like

  14. You’re right, Jack. That would be like being invited to someone’s house for dinner and selling a multi-level marketing program to the hosts. It’s just not appropriate. I was invited to their space as their guest. What an honor. I don’t want to “sell” Jesus like that. Hopefully, my life is a reflection of Christ.

    Like

  15. That would be like being invited to someone’s house for dinner and selling a multi-level marketing program to the hosts.

    I’ve experienced that several times in the last few years, since moving to my current location within Japan. It seems that a certain sect of Buddhism is quite active here, and this is very much their M.O.

    More than once since coming here, complete strangers have walked up to me, friendly as you please, asking about me and wondering if I could join them for lunch sometime. Thinking that I’ve made new friends, I would accept and accompany them. And no sooner do we finish eating, than they whip out their literature, and start telling me how their way is The Only Way and all Christians will perish and if I don’t start praying their SuperSpecialBuddhistPrayer the coming cataclysm will be all my fault, and on and on and on…

    Every time, I’ve wound up feeling used.

    I wonder if I’ve ever treated anyone like that. I can remember being somewhat pushy back in my younger/less wise/more know-it-all days, when I first arrived here. Now that I’ve been on the receiving end of that attitude, I hope I’ll never ever do it again.

    Like

  16. Thanks for writing this, what about atheists who havn’t had much experience of a controlling abusive church, but have experienced an spiritually abusive parent. I have of course heard of a combination of a spiritually abusive church and parent and as sometimes happens a spiritually abusive spouse. If the church is spiritually healthy but a parent or spouse isn’t I’m thinking it can have the same affect.

    Like

  17. Ugh – I know that feeling. It feels cheap, too. It you have to resort to manipulating someone to get an audience, that’s just not cool. It’s kindness that leads to repentance, not a sales marketing scheme.

    Like

  18. Absolutely, Muff Potter. I’m a free thinker. I have independent thought and use critical thinking skills. This was, however, one of the things that I lost when I was in the cult and why I so strongly speak out about church leaders who use their assumed authority to control.

    Like

  19. I’ve been mulling over the past few days why Julie Anne being asked to speak with an atheist group touched me so much. I see myself as a broken believer. I haven’t given up on Jesus, but I may never do church again. There are certain times when that leaves me feeling like a failure. And it’s rather remarkable how many Christians simply don’t care (except the wonderful, supportive people on blogs such as SSB).

    The fact that a group of atheists actually cares is pretty remarkable. No matter what our own spiritual beliefs are, I think we all want to experience love and be able to love others. There is common ground in that.

    Liked by 3 people

Thanks for participating in the SSB community. Please be sure to leave a name/pseudonym (not "Anonymous"). Thx :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s