Feb 9, 2018
Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Matt Vollmer, a former Vineyard church worship leader, and a gay man. I've never included a straight guest's sexual orientation during the introduction, but I highlight Matt's because it's a big part of his deconversion story. He didn't allow himself to be himself til he was 44. His departure from faith followed his coming out gay by 6 months. Matt grew up in the church, devoted to his faith and active in music ministry from an early age. But all along, he harbored a devastating secret about his sexual orientation. He did his best live a good, normal Christian life while looking for ways to overcome his constant desire for male intimacy. Finally, after going through two failed marriages and fathering six children, he came to a point of acceptance of this part of himself he could never change, and started dating men. Shortly thereafter, he also walked away from religion entirely, embarking on a grand adventure of life like he never before knew was possible.
About an hour into the interview, our guest today, Matt Vollmer, references episode 177 with Jeff Haley and Dale McGowan as one that helped him take a less hostile position towards religions and those that still adhere to some form. Talking with a friend this week about some friends who have stuck with their faith, surprisingly, and he said, "some people just need it." He even had a friend tell him,"I can't bear the thought of not seeing my grandma again." Implied in that perspective is, "I don't care if it's true or not, I need to believe it's true in order hold myself together. I would collapse if I didn't have that hope. Now, are we to feel sorry for them? Are we to pity them? I say, NO. Of all people, we ex-believers should have compassion on that guy. As post-faith people, we should know the good, the beauty that that faith did for us (until the negative outweighed the positive), and 2) as atheists we should know that this life is hard leave people alone to equip themselves with whatever they need to be happy or even stay sane. We can have compassion because we didn't stick with it for decades because it was fruitless or meaningless. I felt extremely powerful moments in my 20+ years in the faith. Deep feelings, lot of tears, lots of magical moments. AND we know how hard it was to scrape out of our bones with chisels and knives. So we can have com passion. Com is a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” or “in association.” Passion comes from the Latin word passio, meaning suffering. So it means "suffering with." So when you're family member hang on to their faith, we can say--"I get that. I understand the suffering that makes belief in God a salve to the horror of a godless universe. I understand how seeing life through that lens can suspend disbelief and doubt and provide comfort--I used it for a long time before it stopped working for me." Perhaps some of us have even been tempted to go back...only to realize that's not really possible, without an enormous effort keeping certain knowledge chained up in the basement.
I'm reading Robert Bly's book, "Iron John." It speaks to tapping into the wild man or woman within each of us. He's critical of anything that tries to suppress our wildness or tries to tame us, including religion. Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us.” I had a version of this mindset even when I was Christian because I believe it's in my DNA, and thankfully Christianity was unsuccessful at snuffing it out, despite rigorous effort, and that is my wildness. Life is not tame. The universe is not orderly. Fearful people want things to make sense, to be controlled and directed and neatly organized in partitions and walls and boundaries. But nothing about the natural world, including us humans, will ever be successfully caged or controlled or domesticated. And that's not just something I love about life, it's the only way it could ever be. And so the brave must say yes to it. Nassir Ghaemi (Naw-sear Gomy), in his book "A First Rate Madness" argued that the greatest leaders and world changers, including MLK and Ghandi, were a little bit crazy. Normal people don't do amazing things, at least not while they're being normal. By definition, they have to do something abnormal for it to stand out against the vast, boring sea of normalcy. I imagine these people are difficult to be around. Like a tempest is hard to be around. The people around them have to really love them just to endure their shit. But the people that learn to love the wild things have learned the trade-off is they get to live a more vibrant life than they would wer they not around them. It's dangerous. It's unpredictable. It's insane sometimes. It's not for the feint of heart. Have people tried to tame you? Look at the artists that have found their own voice, whether in music or painting or writing. They must be in touch with their inner wildness. Where are the people whose eyes are wide open? They're hiding none of the harshness and ugliness of life from themselves. Where are the people who get angry, get excited, get sad, whose emotions actually flow in sync with what's actually happening. They don't try to do the opposite; like feign happiness when things are sad. This is the work of religions and reality-deniers, whose lives are dominated by their insatiable desires that things be different than what they are. They're the fake it til you make it crowd. But those are aligned with reality and honest with themselves channel those passions into life-giving creativity. Kylie McBeath wrote, "The more we disconnect from our own anger, the more fearful we become." The wild people are not passive, they just fight the right things. No-sayers are working just as hard to fight back reality and yes-sayers are fighting against the temptation to become a no-sayer.
We taped the following conversation on January 28th, 2018.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.
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"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 on this episode was created by Cass Midgley