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Hey everybody. Welcome back to shout your cause. I'm Sally Hendrick, and I've got Karen with me from somewhere in Tennessee who has a podcast of her own called deconversion therapy podcast. And you can see that deconversiontherapypodcast.com. We met on TikTok, again of all places, which is, seems to be my these days to get people on this podcast. So Karen, welcome. Tell me a little bit more about you.
Thanks so much. Yeah. And I'm so glad that we live close to each other, but we didn't even realize that. Yeah, I think I'm addicted to TikTok now, which I've learned tons on that platform. I did. I was one of the ones who thought it was just about dancing and all that. So I I'm from south Florida originally, I used to be a Christian evangelical missionary and I also ended up getting my master's in creative writing. So I teach creative writing at a university near here, and then also I'm married and I have two grown daughters and two dogs that, you know, they might, they might speak up during this podcast. We'll see. Well, that's
Okay. I've got a puppy sitting behind me and hoping that he's not going to wake up from his nap during this time. He is still in the house training phase. And you know, we just do what we have to do. So I ran across you on TikTok and was really interested in the topic because you talk about deconverting from Christianity altogether. Is that
And I can give you a bit of a rundown if you're interested in what's been happening culturally, but I ended up D converting in the old days. Remember when we didn't really have a lot of internet, we had to look things up in books and we didn't have a, like, there is now, now there is something called deconstruction. A lot of people call it the deconstruction movement that due to politics and due to COVID, a lot of people are moving away out of evangelical churches that, you know, they're starting to see some bigger tree there. They're seeing abuse there. So not everyone who leaves deconverts, but I happen to, because again, back when I did this, it was, there were no resources. There was no like bench seat to sit on to be like here, just stop here. Don't look further, you know, you have a group, you have support. So I just kept walking down the path, looking up everything I could and it was painful, but and it took probably a good 10 years
Feel like when you were a child that you ever questioned it, but just kept your mouth shut? No.
Now I know I have friends and the co-host of the podcast she needed. I did not. I think firstly, you know, my whole family was involved, so that's one thing. I was always at the church. Our day school elementary was connected to the church, but also I was very dedicated. I was what people now call a goodest, you know, as good at being good. And I was good at really putting my heart into something and not doubting. So, no, I didn't doubt until I was probably about 23 and on the mission field.
Okay. Yeah. And I did see something of yours on Tik. Talk about your mission trips. Would you go into some of that with me?
Yeah, sure. So now it's a very big and popular thing to do, but it was pretty rare back then I went to a Baptist college that was again, connected to my church. And one day there were like these Christian magazines. There were probably two, one about music and I don't know what the other one was about, but I had a subscription, got one and there were all these little cards in it. You know, the blow-in cards that fall out and one was about doing a mission trip during the summer and I really wanted to do that. So that was my first foray into things. I did it between my junior and senior year of college with something called youth with a mission, which is a very large mission organization. And I loved it. It didn't hurt that the whole thing started at their base in Hawaii.
Now that was, you know and that took eventually we ended up on a ship that took me to Haiti, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. Then when I graduated, I felt called so to speak, to do it again. And my, excuse me, my girlfriend wanted to do it together. You did like three months of training, then you would go out in the field. So she wanted to head to Australia. So I'm like, let's do it. I planned it. Then she went on to become a famous doctor. Well, I was working at the mall, so I'm like, I'm just going to go. So I did that. So I ended up in Australia, then India, I met my husband who was also a missionary and then later he and I went as long-term missionaries to Thailand for about a year.
Oh wow. So you really were into the life of it, not just going on a trip here and there, like summer camp type thing, but actually going for long periods of time.
Right. I thought that's what I was going to do with the rest of my life. For sure.
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So when it comes to all of this time that you spent in the church, and obviously it was the evangelical side of things, was there a defining moment or a series of events that were, you know, happening to make you go in this direction? Or was there just the straw that broke the camel's back?
You know, I see a lot of people even say to me, I'm sorry that the church hurt you. And I'm happy to say I did not suffer from people or church abuse in any way. I had a blast. Like I, I loved every minute of it, but when I was a missionary in Thailand, first of all, a lot of people don't realize that there can be sort of a relevant morality's. So I was there as a quote English teacher at an English school, but we were really missionaries. So we would, you know, our outreach would be be to get these Thai students, college students to come to our facility. We teach them English about an hour a day. Then we didn't invite them back on the weekend for what we call club time. And that would be music, some food and then a little sermon.
But I think it was me teaching. I got very close to these young women and one day they said, well, you know, aren't all Americans, Christians. And I said, no, you know, definitely not, but believe you only have one life to live. And of course they're Buddhists and they believe in different reincarnation beliefs. They started laughing like genuinely cackling innocently. They thought I'd told a joke. So my goal was, I'm going back to my room, I'm opening my Bible and I'm really just going to get in there so that I can sort of prove them wrong in a way. I know that sounds terrible, but you know, I wanted to really get into it. And all of that began a very tumultuous unlearning, you know, reading things without a pastor who skipped chapters and verses reading. Yeah. Reading it as I thought they would as an outsider. When you read it as an outsider, man there, I just that's when it began.
Are you saying that like your first discovery of pulling away was actually reading the, the actual Bible itself?
Yes. Now I grew up reading the Bible a lot. I'd memorize chapters verses, but I think it was the switch that now I sorta try and live my life by is looking at some thing as a non-believer in whatever that is, capitalism, socialism, feminism, you know, trying to get outside that. So when I was reading it like that and picking it up knew, I was like, okay, I'm on, I'm in the third chapter of mark. And all this sudden it says, here comes a guy named mark. I'm like, wait a minute, who is talking in the first two chapters? This is supposed to be written by the person who just walked in the door, you know, three chapters in. So these small things that I'd never noticed before then grew into huge issues for me.
Well, that makes a lot of sense because I mean, when you think about it I tell you to call it. People love to argue by playing Bible, Bible verse volleyball, and I'm like, you could do that forever support your argument, but all you're doing is, you know, really just reading bits and pieces of these different stories that have so many contradicting moments in them. And that's impossible to actually find real rules for life, if you will. If you say that this is the word, and this is everything, because it's, it contradicts itself again and again and again. And I always wonder, I'm like, well, how is it that people can actually believe that if that's the case, but the issue is, is that the pastors, the Sunday school teachers, you know, the leaders in the church, the ones who are interpreting the word are actually the ones that are picking and choosing the parts that they want. And that's like going and picking whatever news channel you want to watch.
And really just trying to find support for your own existing beliefs and maybe learn a little bit more
Exactly. And, you know, that's it, I felt it was very dangerous. You're not supposed to doubt I would push doubt away all I could. I really went into crisis mode and I've cried a lot that I would after divorce and just prayed, you know, God, can you protect me while I doubt, because I was afraid I was going to die and go to hell. So fear really, you know, holds you in.
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Now, one thing I wanted to bring up, because I've noticed a lot of things that you mentioned about evangelism, et cetera. But I grew up in a Methodist church and I would go and spend time at the Baptist church because a lot of my friends were in the Baptist church and there weren't as many, we just didn't have as large of a youth group or as large of a congregation for that matter in the Methodist church, in my town. And I felt like the way that things were pushed across, you know, into the Sunday school classes, the Wednesday night group meetings, et cetera, it was very, very different from what I had learned at my church. I felt in the Methodist church, we were getting, you know, here's a scenario of something that happened in the Bible and then they would relate it to a situation in today.
You know, today's language, today's world today's situation. But when I went to the Baptist church, I felt like it was okay, let's go to this chapter and look at this first. And this right here tells us XYZ, and this is the word, this is how it needs to be done. And I would always be like, how do you quote these Bible verses? How do you know all this stuff? I didn't study the Bible like that. But over time I learned that really, it was just whatever was being pointed out by the person in the room to create this support. And it was like, they could not actually think of things in more like analogies, you couldn't, you know, you couldn't use metaphors and refer to the Bible that way, which is the way that I was raised. So I do find it very I understand it because I did, you know, I was around people that were like that, but it was just not the way it was in my home. So have you talked with a lot of people who maybe grew up in a different way and they're just like, well, you know, I've always been taught that we're supposed to question it. I mean, I wasn't even in a challenge class where we were supposed to question everything in the Bible every week.
Sally, that's very smart estate observations. And as a former Baptist, I would've thought poor soul. She's not even saved. Right. You're, you're absolutely right. And Baptist, especially Southern Baptist really rely on dogma and theology and it's very in the Bible and the scripture and all that. So, I mean, I ended up being an English major and then in writing and I would say a lot of it had to do with the understanding of how sentences sound and how to research and cross-reference from going to church, you know? But one, it was very much like anyone who doesn't get our kind of church isn't saved. And then of course later well we did end up going to a Methodist church after I started deconverted and we came back to the states and I ended up in a class similar to yours and was introduced to a book by the people in there by Bart Ehrman called misquoting Jesus.
And that was it. It was the historical understanding. The Bible blew my mind. He is a scholar, a biblical texts at duke university. So I sort of understood slowly, but there was more of thematic belief systems going on in other churches. And we were very much straight down the line, but I mean that corresponds with the rules, you know, you must be baptized, you can't drink, you can't dance. So, you know, if people are going to follow the rules, we're putting out, then we need to be very straight up and down and narrow with our teaching, from the Bible. It's, it's just training, you know, the way they formed our minds.
That's really hard for an intellectual person though. It's really hard. So it makes me wonder, you know, how people, I mean, I would feel like I would be fighting myself constantly and being misery, if that's the way that I felt about it,
I think it goes back to indoctrination. And because there is this I'll just say pseudo intellectualism around it. That that is what makes people stay in it, who are maybe intellectual because there's enough meat and debate and all this stuff that you can really get into that makes you feel like you're doing those intellectual practices, but you're not really, you're just spinning in a bubble, you know? Yeah. So it's more, more arguing, you know, did John mean this or did he mean this? It wasn't arguing. Did John really exist? And what was going on at the time? You know, that wasn't part.
I wanna switch gears a little bit and just go back to TikTok, which is where we met. And you know, you've got these, you've done a great job. You've grown your channel to, at this point, over 22,000 followers, you've had 1.6 million likes. So what do you think has been the reason behind your success in the growth that you've had over there? And and then I want to go into maybe another question or two.
Know, I wish I knew because sometimes I try and recapture it and then when I don't and just like, Karen, let it go. You know, it's not that big of a deal, but I think I had one or two that I didn't even think about that I put up that did really well. And then I had others that I'm like, oh, this is going to blow them away. And like, nobody likes it.
Oh, I have the best idea ever, because I'm in marketing. And so it's like, you, you do not know how people are going to react or how the algorithm is going to treat your content until you put it out there. You absolutely do not. And it just blows my mind on that, in that front
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It comes to your videos, do you know, recall any particular one that may be, you got a lot of pushback on, maybe that pushed you over? Like when did you see your account growing the most?
Think the first video that just went crazy was because I used a sound that people were doing. So for people not on TikTok, there are these things called trends. And there was one at one point where I think you were supposed to say something about what you thought of yourself and how reality was different and it, you didn't even talk. So I just stood there and then I had the words over me saying, you know, I thought I would be a Christian missionary. All my life ends up. I was just a white savior. So, you know, I think that one resonated, I got total positive things on it. And I think that really correlated with what we're seeing on TikTok with people being more open to discuss racism and colorism. I also, again, I used a trending sound, which I will do every once in a while or something more popular. Now I know to go on there and scroll over to where it says live and see how many of my followers are on the platform at any given time. And the higher, the number is when I know, okay. Now would be a good time to release a video
To posted and okay. That's a good tip. I didn't know that actually I'll use that.
And then but yeah, I think that was the first one. And then the other ones that seem to be popular are ones that are controversial, which like, I don't mind that's I don't mind doing that. So one was about how Christian mission work. Isn't great. But I did this twist where I pretended that everything I was going to say was actually about Muslims. And I said, oh, I read that wrong. It's about Christians because two to 4 million Christians do short-term missions from America to other countries every year. And if, if Muslims did that and came here, people would blow their minds, but they don't think of, yeah. They don't think of us doing that. So I think that when people, like, when I do the switch or radio
Yeah. What about the one where you talked about Dave Ramsey? I'm looking at that one and it has about 61,000 views. And so I think maybe even talking about a controversial figure, like Dave might bring up a lot of, a lot of discussion as well.
And so we actually did a podcast about them. So that's, you know, I'm trying to figure out I really started it to promote our podcasts, but then I'm like, Hey, I got something on my mind. I'm just going to make one. So it's a little mixed bag, but that one was about the research we'd done for our podcast about Dave Ramsey. And I live right close to my know people who work for him. I know some things that I did not report on because I didn't feel that was fair. But there was, you know, there was a scandal a few recently, but one was like, his second in command guy had to step down for blah-blah-blah. Yes. So I know Chris well, his wife got in touch. His ex-wife got in touch with us and was like, great, great episode. I loved it. So that made me feel good because our, our podcast is us just no, no real good research. Sometimes we're goofing around. We're just having fun with it. We're calling out people who have hurt other people. We don't call out just every day, you know, believers. So I think that one resonated, he was in the spotlight around that time. So again, yeah, pointing to something in the news maybe makes everything tick up in a way.
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Well, I like, I like that. We've gotten to have this conversation and it does make sense that your TikTok would, would help your podcast and help get people over there. So as far as all of it together, you've got this cause going, what is your hope for how this is going to, you know, be to resonate throughout this throughout society? What, what are you trying to do? Are you just trying to create a safe space for people who feel the same way? Or are you trying to, you know, do something different? What's going on there?
Well, we joke about my has denied that we are going to start a cult because we've covered enough of them to be like, why not us? Well, I let, now we know how to do this and stay out of jail. But I think everything is sort of changed. You know, the podcast was my best friend. We've known each other since we were one year old and just grew up in a lot of it. So it was just talking about memories and funny things and odd things about growing up in church. And then TikTok almost has this different feel to it. So I think I'm open to change. But the main thing is just giving people who are leaving are, who have left some finger pointing towards community. Here's one over here. Here's a book over here. You're safe. You're not going to die because people don't realize that a lot of people feel so afraid that they're going to die and that God is going to smite him, that the devil is going to get them.
There's so many triggers that all of us have and just to be there and say, Hey, I'm an, I'm an older pioneer. I've been through this. You're going to make it. Here are some resources. There's even the religious trauma Institute for anyone interested. And they have counselors who understand religious abuse. And there's the clergy project that we get people who are pastors or have been pastors who no longer believe. And they are not trained to do anything else. The clergy project is for that. And they actually have a lot of pastors who are, who are still pastors. And they're trying to help, you know transition.
And there, because they're trapped. It's kind of like the military, like the military comes home, they have their job. Then they come home and then they're like, where do I go next? And then they're, they're lost for awhile, but this is, this is the clergy. Well, thank you very much. Was there anything else you wanted to share with us? Maybe mention the podcast website again and send us over to listen to it.
Oh yeah. I mean, if you want crazy fun, wacky stories, everything is light. Nothing is about trauma. It is deconversion therapy podcast. We also have an Instagram people send us meme and we put it up in there and then TikTok can be serious. Can be funny. It's, it's a mixed bag, but you will always get honesty. And and I'd love to have anyone write to us. We also love every month on the podcast we read. People's funny stories growing up in church and they're hilarious. They're just, I bet, I bet I would love to find one of those episodes. Yep. We call them lettersodes and they're fun. Well, sounds
Good. Well, thank you very much, Karen. I really appreciate it. And we're going to sign off now for shout your cause. Listen, next time. And we will see you soon.
Thank you for listening today. My name is Sally Hendrick. Be sure to visit our website for show notes and more information on how you can inspire others. If you would like to contribute content to our magazine, please apply on our website at shoutyourcause.com.