Episode 2 of my podcast: Booted from my church for being a heretic

Hi, guys. Here’s the second episode of my podcast. It’s about how I suddenly became a Christian, and then how my wife and I, since we wouldn’t sign a surprising anti-gay statement, were kicked out of our first church for being Actual Heretics. It’s so unbelievable. Anyway, this episode is the first of a series I’m doing about my whole relationship with church.

You can subscribe to my podcast here, and find it on iTunes here. Technically I’m not even positive that I’m doing these well or optimally or whatever, so lemme know if this one sounds weird or anything. Thanks for listening.

(In this episode I reference two posts on my blog. The first is the story of my sudden conversion experience; that post is I, a rabid anti-Christian, very suddenly convert. The second is the story of how my (then non-Christian) wife took the news of my conversion; that post is How my wife took the news of my sudden conversion.)

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Mary Anell Daniels via Facebook

    Carried out in the arms of Jesus I would say!

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    One of the benefits of finding oneself unemployed is having a bit of time on one’s hands. I just listened and managed to pay attention (most of the time) to the entire podcast. You do have a great speaking voice. It was personable, and engaging. I can well imagine that face to face discussions would be even more so.

    Your story actually brought back memories of when I was growing up, and witnessed what would happen when people got kicked out of our church. It was of course for different reasons, but your story sounded eerily similar to what I remembered from my childish vantage point. Seeing things from “the in-crowd” perspective still had me thinking there was something inherently wrong with all of it, but it took me much too long to figure out the whole scope of its wrongness.

  • Diana A.

    Great podcast! Definitely please continue! Maybe someday you could have Cat as a guest on the show, if she’s willing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’ve been trying to talk her into joining me on these things. She says she might give it a go with the next one.

      • Diana A.

        Cool!

  • http://www.facebook.com/edward.broker Edward Broker via Facebook

    Have that church sign an anti-remarried divorcee statement! God hates divorce. Jesus calls remarried divorcees adulterers. Adulterers sit next to homosexuals in 1Cor.6:9,10 “Do not be deceived.” Adulterers get the death penalty! Find a church that reads the WHOLE Bible, not just the parts that elevate their petty little injured egos. When Jesus comes back He will turn on the lights and the room will be full of fetid hypocrites!

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      Can we just have them sign an anti-judgemental/condescending attitude statement instead?

      • Diana A.

        I like this. It will never happen, but I like it.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

          But wouldn’t the reaction be quite interesting if that was actually proposed? It would be revolutionary, it would be life and faith changing…

          Of course it would probably start a judgmental/condescending fight, and nothing would get done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    wow… my daughter and husbby also left the presby church bc of the anti-gay statement….

  • Allie

    Hey, I actually got to listen to this one. You have a great speaking voice, your voice surprised me because you sound very similar to a good friend of mine.

    There’s some whistling which seems to be the compression method you’re using. Maybe someone who knows more about the software can weigh in?

    Using the search engine to find specific posts by putting in the title is a little trickier than you may have realized, because it pulls up not just the original post but also every post in which you’ve referenced it. It’s easier to locate specific posts if you also give the date, I think. So you may want to make a note of the date of posts you plan to reference in future podcasts.

    Cat sounds awesome.

  • Aggie

    John,

    Enjoyed the podcast! Hope you keep doing it.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Holy poo, you have a “young” sounding voice! I mean, you sound like people do in their 20s to me for some reason – and casual, like the guys who do the commentary streams I sometimes watch about videogame stuff. “Who would win in an all out brawl, Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros. or Princess Zelda from the Legend of Zelda?” vs. “John Shore talks about his deeply personal conversion experience and weird politics within the church.” Somehow, the amount of casualness in the voices is equal.

    I like how Cat handled the situation. Brain time, go!

    Perhaps a little insight into the “dealbreaker” of Hell there… First of all, don’t underestimate the power of fear and a cultural fear that’s been drilled into people since childhood. Courage is a rare thing, which is why it is revered. Second of all, for a long time, even as I didn’t really *want* to believe in the whole Hell thing, I did, in part, because “nature is brutal, so why not the afterlife?” – what I mean is… look around on the Interent for cynics – and cynics who are cynics just because they think it makes them smart to believe in the glass half-empty and the darker aspects of life. Thirdly, the idea that “all are sinners, all deserve” didn’t make me go WTF like it does to a lot of normal people simply because of my tragically low self-esteem and general emotional problems.

    I just lost a minimum wage job last week and that made me feel like I deserved to die. Really. I made a mistake (I may have not even made the mistake, it may have been circumstantial, actually), that, if I really made it – well, I’ve *covered* for other people who’ve made the same mistake, but a week later I cannot stop beating myself up over it. I feel like a defective human – like human poo floating in the toilet bowl of life. I try to tell myself it’s just my brain chemistry and pull myself out of it, but the feeling of *hurt* remains and, well… even though I’m hoping that there’s not a Hell, at least not a permenant and irrevocable one… I wonder if I’ll send myself there in the end, just because of the way my mind is broken.

    I guess what I’m saying is to be very glad that you and Cat are normal, and smart and that you can see the obvious right away. It’s not an ability all humans have.

    • Melody

      Yes, he does! He’s almost my mom’s age, but he sounds closer to mine! Not that I don’t take him seriously, but he sounds more serious in person than the reading voice in my mind (if that makes sense).

      • David S

        John’s voice is aging gracefully. I wish my voice didn’t have crows feet.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      Shadsie.

      So sorry bout the job loss. Just lost one myself and getting fired is no fun at all. My brain chemistry is having “fun” at my expense as well. Its tough not to see disaster of epic proportions looming sometimes. But we just have to remind our brains that, life is sometimes a suckfest, but it doesn’t have to stay that way, AND that we can, well at least I can, imagine things worse then they really are.

      I am not quite buying the permanent hell thing myself. It never really added up to me. And I believe, Shadsie, with all my heart that wherever you end up, after this life is done. 30-60 years from now, will be restful, peaceful and pleasant

    • Allie

      Funny you should say that about game designers, the friend I mentioned who sounds like John is a game designer for EA.

      Losing a job is a terrible feeling, like someone has passed judgment on your whole life. Even if it’s not your fault – the two jobs I’ve lost in my life, one was because the company went under, and the other was because I was filling in for a much more qualified person who returned to work, and both times I felt wrecked. Think about it, though: humans never evolved to hold “jobs.” We evolved to help with the functions of our families and tribes. We’re made to care about the people we work with, and to depend on their regard for us as essential to survival, and having a business-like attitude is entirely against every instinct we have.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Hey, guys. Thank you for input (and kind words). Does the thing sound all right? Anyone else hear/notice/have a problem with this “whistle” that Allie heard?

    • Drew

      Sounded great. Even enjoyed the squeaky chair. (“Reality” podcast. )

      Looking forward to the next one.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Oh, really? No echoey/whistling thing happening? (Thanks for helping this way.)

      • Drew

        BTW…thanks AGAIN for going to bat for us (GLBT). Every once in awhile it kinda grabs me by the lapels again and I get pretty verklempt, like right now. It’s not taken for granted. God bless you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Thank u so much, Drew.

        • Driftwood2K11

          That’s because John’s got this crazy idea that we should love people regardless of who they love. Next thing you know he’ll be talking about everyone being equal. CRAZY!

          Seriously, though, John’s got a knack for the written (and now spoken!) word. I’m not even a Christian anymore, but I can’t help tuning in to each new update. He’s like crack, but you get to keep your sense of smell.

          • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

            So, wait… no one else is losing their sense of smell?? Uh-oh.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            Mine’s been gone for a good 15 years.

    • DR

      I like it!

    • Allie

      Maybe I’m more sensitive to the compression than other people. If it doesn’t bug most people, don’t worry about it, it certainly doesn’t make a big enough difference to put me off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lonnie.cavenee Lonnie Cavenee via Facebook

    Their loss…

  • Erin D.

    I love your voice too!! Glad that you are doing this. It adds a whole new dimension of humanity to you and your message.

    It’s interesting that you didn’t realize that the gay thing would even be an issue in a church. It’s sad how the beauty and grace people seek when they come to a church gets overshadowed and crapped on by something as bureaucratic and soulless as a FORM.

    I actually had quite the opposite experience: I tried to defect from the Catholic Church a few years ago. I sent our diocese a letter, outlining all of the “heretical” beliefs that I hold, and basically said “I assume I am now ex-communicated. Hasta la vista!” Our archbishop sent a letter in response saying under “semil Catholicus, semper Catholicus” (once Catholic, always Catholic), I could never NOT be a Catholic! Funny how they kick you out when you want in, and keep you in when you want out?!?!?!?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Yeah, it’s almost like funny. But different. (Thanks for kind words, Erin. It’s good to hear from you.)

  • textjunkie

    Is there a transcript somewhere, for those of us who read faster than we hear? :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Not that I’ve … made.

  • Driftwood2K11

    “Those people are BULLSHIT!”.

    Made my day. LOL

  • Caroline Miller

    These podcasts are great – keep ‘em coming! I’ve read your story on this topic, but thanks so much for sharing it again. It leaves me completely horrified on a very personal level because I served as a youth deacon at my Presbyterian church when I was in high school. I can’t recall what I signed in order to become a deacon, but now I’m haunted by the possibility that I might have been complicit in the church’s persecution of gays. I doubt I even paid much attention to what I signed – I never noticed anything like what you described, but that may be because of my indifference on this issue at the time. I don’t even like to think what I would have done if I had found something to which I objected, because I was pretty easy to intimidate. Even now I have a strong aversion to conflict, so it’s very difficult for me to speak out. So props to you for responding the way you did, and I hope I can do likewise.

    • Driftwood2K11

      It’s why I left the church where I was ordained. When new policies came up, a duty to fight against homosexuality was in the list of bylaws, and I couldn’t, in good conscience, agree to that. At the time I was still more conservative than I am now, but it just struck me as odd that homosexuality was specifically listed, which, to me, meant there was going to be some real cracking down in the future, and some good people were going to be made miserable, and I didn’t want to be a part of anything like that.

    • David S

      I was a youth deacon too… And closeted. I KNOW I didnt have to sign anything, just received a blessing from the church – you know, the way it should be. “ah, but that was many years ago…”.

  • Kelven

    I enjoyed hearing your voice as well. I didn’t notice other noises but I also had a lot of ambient noise when I listened. I thought it was interesting how you didn’t notice your churches anti gayness for so long. Perhaps the profoundness of your conversion experience allowed you to only focus on the good of this particular community for six years. You carrying this sort of sweet innocence of your new faith. Even the idea that this particular church seemed to have an unspoken stance publically makes sense – not all churhes are outspoken. Then you sort of rock the boat, and there is a crisis of faith in the community. It is to the worlds benefit that you chose to do what Jesus might have done. I think there are lessons for those communities as well when they lose parishoners of your caliber. Anyhow, great pod cast!

    • KarenAtFOH

      I’ve been looking for a new church position through an online church staffing website, and when I find one looking for an audio person, I go to their website and try to find out as much as I can about their beliefs and church policies. I even read over the list of sermon titles if they have audio or video online. They turn out to be all good-sized churches with larger staffs, and I have yet to come across one that actively invites LGBT people (I’ve seen lots of small church websites that are very welcoming, but they aren’t looking for staff at my level). Some of them will have a statement of some kind that refers to same-gender love as “a lifestyle choice” or “homosexual relations” and they’ll label it as sinful. But most of them are silent on the issue and espouse “love and acceptance for all”. But I’ve learned to dig deeper with the old search engine, and I usually come up with a video, a newspaper article link or book reference where the senior pastor or other staff member has made it clear that they view same-gender love as something God looks down on or hates. So I cross them off and add that church to the list on my desktop of “Homophobic Churches” and wait for the next employment ad to appear. The only exception to this was the Methodist church I interviewed for, and their homophobia didn’t come up until I pressed them about the staff covenant they require everyone to sign. Sigh. John is right, there is no middle ground, and I wish these churches would have the integrity to claim it one way or the other.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        God, this is just so painful, Karen.

      • Driftwood2K11

        They’re cowards, Karen. They want your money and your loyalty, but they want you to give it freely so it doesn’t look like they’re asking. That way they can “serve in humility”. They lack the courage to take an open stance because if they do, they either risk grabbing some cash before said gay person is banned from the church, or they get notoriety that leaves empty spaces in the pews, and they REALLY don’t want that.

        Obviously not every church is like that, but the ones that behave this way usually have less than pure motives behind their shifting sand of a foundation. I hope you find the home you’re looking for.

      • DR

        UGH.

  • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

    This made me both sad and mad. Sad because your former church, and others like it, won’t accept me as a brother on the path solely because of my sexual orientation and mad because the congregation of your former church was unwilling to engage in a dialogue to determine if their beloved pastor’s anti-gay position was justified. It’s always the silence of the lambs that lets the wolf get away with his evil deeds.

    Hats off to you and Cat for having the courage and compassion to break from the herd. That took guts, intelligence, and integrity.

  • Tim

    Subject is too familiar, of course. Is the case for many of us who read this. I like the format–more free flowing. This isn’t some major television podcast version, so perfection would sound weird.

  • http://ingridspeak.com Ingrid Moore

    Wow John! I know this feeling. I understand how Cat felt, and this podcast is the reason why I LOVE you and now I LOVE Cat too. Sometimes God places us somewhere so that we can get to know him, then when its time for us to move into our purpose he takes the blinders off and allows us to really see our world so that we can become agents of change. Had the “paper” never been presented you may never have moved from that church and developed into the true Christian and activist we all appreciate. I understand the anger. And I am glad you allow God to use you (f-bombs and all ;-p ).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Ingrid Moore! Love to you! (And you KNOW I’m supposed to have seen that project by now!)

  • Anna Joy

    Shadsie, the fact that life is so difficult, at least for me, makes it seem like maybe the afterlife is going to be “compensation”…If you can get ahold of Julian of Norwich’s Revekations of Divine Love, she talks about how are sins (and I am also assuming pains) will be blessings to us later, because Jesus will transform them. Also, my brain chemistry is whacked out too. I send you a virtual hug, if you would like. You are definitely not alone.

    And John, I was sad when the half hour was up on the cast. I will definitely be subscribing and will definitely be looking forward to the next one. Everything sounded good from where I am sitting! At least, technically speaking. I cannot get over the whole…gay hate stuff. I’m no longer surprised, but I am always kinda shocked when I hear about experiences like these…

    • Shadsie not on her own computer…

      I’m on a household computer I do not normally use due to the harddrives in both my laptop and my tower unit deciding to fail…hope I don’t mistype.

      I do like to joke with my guy about how neither of us seemed to have had our best years in high school, or now, so… OLD AGE IS GOING TO BE AWESOME! – It has to be, to make up for life so far. Yet, I don’t think that’s the way things work, life and time being pretty indifferent.

      I know I probably talk too much about my gaming hobby but I have something that relaates. I’ve been re-playing a favorite of mine recently, the PS2 title “Shadow of the Colosuss.” It’s a sad, arty game with a lot of ambiguity. In many games, morality is black and white and the challenge/reward system is obvious. Not with SotC… I’ll spoil since I don’t think anyone here is playing it, but unlike in many games you may have grown up on, completing this one has the main character’s reward being… he doesn’t get a reward. And it’s not like 80′s games where you go back to the start screen to play again, I mean, there’s a 20-30 min. theatric explaining everything and resolving the plot and the main character sort of gets cosmically shafted (and not in a comedic way, but in the most depressing way possible). He does actually kinda-sorta get his wish, but he doesn’t get to see it.

      I kind of think life is like that for many of us, you know? And while I hope there’s an afterlife, it’s no gaurantee. (Maybe it’s a reason why some who adrently don’t believe in it feel the need to sneer at people who do – because if they sneer, it sheilds them from weeping for some of us).

  • David S

    Literally L(ed)OL.

    I’m Presbyterian and was raised in a Presbyterian church. When people ask what our congregations are like I sometimes use the “frozen chosen” bit. But I often tell them that we are so WASPy that we serve Wonder Bread for communion and save the wine for the coffee hour after the service.

  • Melody

    I finally took a listen. Wow. I can’t believe how cold and unloving your church “family” was to you. THAT is the height of cowardice. Not being able to stand up for the lies being spread and the injustice of that ridiculous faith statement. Then to not-so-subtly tell you with that sign on the door that you aren’t welcome–AGH!!

    God bless you, John Shore. I’m so glad that event didn’t turn you off to Christianity, but pushed you toward the fight for Christian reform and human equality.

  • charles

    its no wonder Bonhoeffer was more into the Ebenezer Baptist Church than the white churches of his time whilst in the US….

    outstanding piece John, the bigotry we face on a day to day basis is just shameful.

  • Autumn

    John,

    Thank you so much for this podcast, I too came to be a Christian late in life (40), and have encountered the very same things you have, and more (that have nothing to do with LGBT issues, but just as disturbing).

    I went from being totally involved with the church to now going at best once a month. I have been through a lot of things in the last two or three years that have shaken my faith to its foundations, and really the only thing that has gotten me through it is knowing that people do bad things, not God.

    One of the issues that has always bothered me is the outlook of the church toward LGBT people. It seems they are the last acceptable segment of the population that the christian community can discriminate against. Much of what is going on right now (at least in American christianity) reminds me of the civil rights movement of the 1960′s, when “good, God -fearing people” used the bible to justify their poor treatment of minorities.

    The puzzling way my former pastor and many of my church family looks at homosexuality- like it’s unnatural (“you’ll never see homosexual animals” -when that has been proven wrong time and time again, in scientific studies!) and, that it is a choice, when THAT is the furthest thing from the truth (just ask any gay person what they would choose -if they had a choice -all of my gay friends have said “who would choose to be bullied by society and outcast?”

    OR, if they (the church) does agree that it isn’t a choice, says that gays should remain celibate -”they can choose to not engage in homosexual behavior” Ummmm- excuse me, can we choose to be straight? No. Can we choose to be celibate? Yes, but for obvious reasons, this is not practical or desirable to the majority of people. An accepted fact for the straight population, but celibacy is expected of gay christians….

    Then there is this belief: That homosexuality is a spiritual affliction. That it is the spirit of perversion inside the gay person and it can be overcome and cast out. I’d love to hear what you have to say about that!

    My former pastor equates practicing homosexuals with pedophiles, and he’s not alone. This seems to be one of the last remaining blind spots for the church community.

    Just my two cents, I’m looking forward to your next podcast!

    Regards,

    Autumn (not my real name)

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    I’m so glad you’re doing these, John. I just remembered to subscribe, so I’ll be listening back-to-back on my commute tomorrow. But even without listening, I’m grateful because I need to hear someone talking about how they actively chose Christianity, since right now I’m so close to losing my religion it isn’t even funny.

    I know that the rabid right isn’t representative of all or even most Christians in this country, but I see what’s going on in the name of God, of the stands that are being taken, of the hatred that’s being preached, be it covertly or overtly, and I just feel literally sick to my stomach. I haven’t darkened the door of a Christian church in years, and thus far that has served to bolster my belief weirdly enough, but now even that buffer isn’t sufficient.

    I’m so sad… sad for our country, and sad for the beating that my faith is taking. God seems very far away anymore. Life is good, but my view of myself as any sort of deist is fragmenting. And I don’t want it to.

  • http://blakealverson.blogspot.com/ Blake

    Loved the podcast. For a relative newcomer to your blog it’s like a guide for spelunking in your wonderfully cavernous archives. One note: perhaps could you create a SFW version for fools like me with tedious jobs? No biggie though. Don’t want to cramp your style (anymore).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      So it’s safe for you to listen to podcasts at work, but only if there’s no cursing in them? (I’m assuming you’re saying I cursed in this podcast; I don’t remember doing so, but … that sounds about like me.)

      Now I’m curious: where do you work, friend Blake?

      • http://blakealverson.blogspot.com/ Blake

        Ha! Shows what I know. Clearly I have no idea how 99% of offices operate. I guess I’m just being paranoid. I doubt I’d get into too much trouble for listening to dirty words. But my office doesn’t have a door and the south is a weird place.

        I work as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal for a small law firm in downtown Atlanta. I am the L.A. for two attorneys who close government backed loans & therefore spend a lot of my time punching holes in paper. Podcasts give me something to think about so that I don’t go crazy with boredom/distract myself into getting no work done via arguing with bigots on Yahoo who are probably compensated each time I come back to tell them they’re stupid.

        We have a quarter of a floor in a beautiful downtown tower with spectacular views. My office has a large window which looks right at a blank wall but my desk is oriented so that nobody can hear the speakers on my computer (or at least they don’t complain when I ask). So I end up listening to a lot of podcasts when I’m punching holes; bluegrass when I’m working on something interesting; classical music when I’m hung over.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          From now on I’ll keep my podcasts curse-free!

          • Diana A.

            Freaking politically correct work-places!

          • vj

            Maybe it’s just manners? Lots of people prefer not to hear/use offensive language, it’s not necessarily got anything to do with political correctness. If I worked in an open office and was subjected to audible cursing from other people (or their podcasts), I think I would find that a pretty uncomfortable workplace environment (if it was consistent; occasional outbursts are just a fact of life).

          • Diana A.

            I was teasing…mostly. A friend of mine used to complain about politically correct work-places, so I was channeling him.

          • vj

            ;-)

          • vj

            Good idea, John – thanks. There’s something about audible swearing that’s so much more jarring than just seeing it in print – I flinch every time :-(

  • Kerry

    Finally got a chance to listen – I liked it (not what happened with the church of course but liked hearing the back story and more about your history and Catherine’s). I’m a fan of Catherine now too – I love the research mode part. That’s where I am right now. That’s why I love the last chapter of your “Unfair” book and really love that you posted it as a stand alone piece for sharing.

    I have never had an issue with homosexuality. I was raised in the Episcopal church and it never came up or I don’t remember it coming up anyway. I did not realize it was such a big deal to so many people (especially Christians) until this year (where have I been?) I now want to learn all I can so I can defend the “NOT a sin” position. I want to change people’s minds/open their eyes.