Apr 8, 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview a couple by the names of Silvia and Ken Hays in California. This is an ex-pastor and his wife being very real and honest about the dysfunction of the Christian patriarchal culture and in their individual upbringings.
Ken is 60 years old and served as a pastor for 25 years after finding Jesus in the military as a 19 years of age. Silvia is 58 and is fresh out of her Shawshank Redemption from Christian patriarchy, out from under the microscope of being a pastor’s wife, and discovering her personal agency for the first time in her life. They met in a cult-like missionary training group, where their courtship was forbidden by the leadership. They snuck away in the night to be together in 1979. They’ve been married 37 years but recently had to redefine their post-Christian partnership and their marriage almost didn’t survive the transition. But today their happily moving through these metamorphic changes, however retarded by Christianity and their damaging childhoods. Like all our guest, they are overcomers, but it’s hard work to get through it, as you’ll hear in this conversation.
We talk a lot about agency on this podcast. An agent is defined as a person or thing that acts or has the power to act. Personal agency refers to one's capability to originate and direct actions for given purposes. It is influenced by how much a person believes in their self, in two ways: 1) their effectiveness in performing specific tasks, which is also known as self-efficacy, and 2) by their actual skills. In other words, can you do it? and when you do it, is it effective? does it produce the desired results?
In the context of this podcast, specifically conversations around the various hardships of leaving one's faith, when we're talking about agency we're talking about undoing the damage caused by religious doctrines that are designed to neutralize the will of it's practitioners. Scriptures like, "you are not your own, you were bought with a price," and Jesus said, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." . In Phillipians 2, Paul admonishes the people to emulate Jesus who "emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave...He humbled himself, by becoming obedient...how obedient?...to the point of death – even death on a cross!" So at what point will you wise up and say no to the bossy people in your life? Til they tell you to die? is that when you say enough's enough? NOPE. You do even that. That's the level or your emptiness, the level of your devotion to what other people want you to do. They want you to die? then you die. This is Paul's advice...and it's regarded as a good thing. A strength. Did you get that? in this world, this subculture, they think this is good, that you're a "STRONG" Christians if you have so little agency that if the person you're dependent on for everything--purpose, direction, ideas, where we're going to dinner tonight? how many times you should give your body sexually to them? the person that basically dictates your life and does ALL your thinking for you. If you're that much of a push-over, spineless, you have no original thoughts, you have no skills that could get you out of bind, you can't solve a riddle, you don't ever know what your next move is, and if they asked you to kill yourself you would do it. THIS. IS. STRENGTH in that world?
This is the breaking of the will. This is castrating the gelding. This is Stockholm syndrome. It doesn't matter whether or not Paul or Jesus intended to create such evil psychological tools to control people, it doesn't matter because many, thousands of people who've come after them have co-opted their words and empowered their words simply by calling them God's words to use them to control people, for over 2,000 years and even as I speak.
The movie, "Birth of a Nation" tells the true story of a literate Christian slave named Nat Turner, who, in 1831, was toted around from plantation to plantation so he could preach Christianity to as many of his fellow slaves as possible because the slave owners had noticed that Christian slaves were the best kind--more submissive, subservient and obedient.
So...some of us who have escaped the bondage of Christianity have found ourselves at a loss when we wake up to a godless world and we have to think for ourselves. We realize there's no god watching over us, protecting us, guiding us, faithfully providing money for us (and he never was), advising us. It's as if the natural agency that is supposed to hit young adults when they move out of their parent's house is hijacked, and suspended, and handed like a baton to God. Maturity, responsibility, independence, freedom are stunted by Christianity (and all authoritarian regimes for that matter). Ex-Christians, especially the more submissive devout types, have to figure who they are, what they like and dislike, learn the ability to take action, to be effective, to influence their own lives, and assume responsibility for their behavior.
These same ex-Christians can also unknowingly try to continue the process of transferring their dependence to an outside source, from their parents, to their God, and what's next after both your parents and god are gone? their lovers. The parents are out of their life, oh there's God, I'll get under his leadership. Ohh, safe and warm. Oh wait, there's no God? Where do I turn for guidance? What do I do? Someone tell me what to do? I must find a help-mate. that's what we call them. Help-mates. But the pitfalls of dependency and co-dendency are coming. It's not fair to put that much pressure and responsibility on another and the chickens are gonna come home to roust, mother fuckers. With a vengeance. These are nice cute fuzzy soft chicks. These are Tasmanian devil chickens. These siber-tooth tiger chickens. And you're gonna wish that you knew how take care of yourself real bad. You're gonna wish that you knew how to reign in your own anxiety and stress and fear. You're gonna wish you knew how to self comfort. But you don't know how, so now at age 30 or 40 or 50 or in the case of our guests today 60, you're gonna have to learn. And it's some serious hard work to teach on old dog these new tricks that you should’ve been learned decades ago before your agency, given to you by evolution, was trained and educated to do it for yourself.
One of our guests today, Ken Hays, wrote this to me in a recent email. "Facing the reality of life, post mythical safety net Jesus, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Telling fear to remain in it's place in the corner of my mind has been a daily exercise that I think I am getting stronger at. I love the freedom of (at least the concept of) agency but it is no easy custom fit garment that slips right on. I have to fight for every piece of the pattern, taking if off and putting it back on a million times a day, or so it seems. Still, regardless of how it all ends up, at least I am choosing to try...to try freedom from fear and victimization."
Ironically, the path to obtaining bravery requires bravery. We make the path by walking it. There is no refuge from the harshness of reality to hide except death. So if you're choosing to stay alive, and you’re choosing not to look outside yourself for strength--to mommy and daddy, or god, or your lover, these are the reactions of no-sayers. you're going to have to learn to be a yes-sayer to what is.
We taped these conversations on March 11th, 2017. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Our show is available on most podcast platforms. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode through Patreon; that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is on this episode was created by the Barry Orchestra found at barryorchestra.bandcamp.com
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.