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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I would really like to connect with you and hear your story.