SEXISODE: Toys & Butt Stuff (or, Everyone Should Masturbate More)

Undoubtedly, sex is one of the most fraught aspects of life for folks coming out of oppressive, conservative, restrictive religion. That's why we're doing Sexisodes: episodes about sex that are here to untangle, unburden, and enlighten us about our bodies, our relationships, and more. In today's (very NSFW) conversation, we welcome fellow heathen Bird Ward who wants everyone to masturbate more.

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Matthew Blake
There Is Love For You

Hi, heathens. It's been a week. We want you to know there is love for you. ♥ If you are well, take care of the family and friends you have. If you are numb or in pain, if you are struggling, if it feels too heavy: know that these podcasting nerds over here at Heathen headquarters love you. If you're able to ask for help—and there is NEVER any shame in asking for help—here are many ways you can do that (click through for links).

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Matthew Blake
There's Already A White Version of 'The Wiz'

Anissa Nishira Cornelius joins co-host Karyn Thurston for a conversation from the She Is Called conference in Denver. Join these theatre geeks on a journey from Anissa's Southern Baptist upbringing in San Diego to her role as a birth worker in Oklahoma. Anissa shares her experience growing up black in predominately white evangelical circles and challenges us to consider: what if people let the 14-year old black girl who heard the voice of God lead?

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Matthew Blake
SEXISODE: Sex In A Car

(This conversation centers on sexual assault.) It's our first literally-on-the-road episode. We drove to Hollywood on a whim to be in the audience for the taping of comic/writer/actor/podcast host extraordinaire Cameron Esposito's new special called "Rape Jokes." It was a provocative, hilarious, beautiful evening that inspired a conversation we recorded in the car driving back to San Diego. Let's talk about the damage we've had to undo in our understanding of sexual assault after growing up in conservative evangelicalism.

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Matthew Blake
If There's No Hell, What's My Faith For?

Wendy Holland is a minister in the Disciples of Christ tradition and came to Heathen to share why she's still ministering after a lifetime of frustration over the direction of the church in America. Her journey has led her to belief in an inclusive gospel, and she's wrestled with—and answered for herself—why faith and Christian spiritual practice still matter if there's not a hell we need saving from. In what is probably the most wide-ranging Heathen conversation yet, Wendy shares her stories of marriage and divorce, adoption, sexual identity, working toward ordination as a woman, and a passion to rebrand the modern evangelical church as a place for everyone.

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Matthew Blake
Slippery Slopes: Alcohol (with Kristen Cairns)

First things first: a trigger warning. We recognize the seriousness of alcohol and its effects in so many of our lives. Today's discussion centers around the cultural stigmas and attitudes towards alcohol in the evangelical systems we were brought up in and includes conversation and stories about our changing behavior and beliefs when it comes to drinking over the years. You may have good reason to skip this episode that focuses primarily on casual drinking, especially if you have struggles with alcoholism or are in recovery. Our hope today is to explore the fears and misgivings about alcohol that were especially reinforced by Christian culture.

Our guest today is Kristen Cairns, a bartender, friend of the podcast, and lovely person with her own story of apostasy after being raised by two pastors. Pour yourself a glass of something that's appropriate for you, and let's slide down another slippery slope: alcohol.

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Matthew Blake
Women Are Dangerous—Eva Cruz Pena

Eva Cruz Pena is exploring the boundaries of irreverence. In Heathen’s first all-woman episode, we’re following the winding path of her journey from Puerto Rico, where she grew up leading worship and being reminded her voice and questions were a bit “too much” for a good Christian girl, to her tenure as the only woman of color in a sea of bearded seminary students in Portland, OR, her time as a military chaplain, and the awakening of her inner goddess that shifted everything about the way she interprets the world. Motherhood, bodies, bras, blood, and un-becoming - today we’re running the gamut of what it means to be a woman awake in the world, with Eva as our wise, passionate guide.

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Matthew Blake
Lean Into Your Own Understanding

Today, we're reading through some stories and feedback sent to us by listeners to Heathen, and damn—y'all are amazing. Thank you for sharing your stories, we love hearing them. We started off defining what we mean by "bad Christianity." It's a phrase we use around here that strikes some as aggressive, and to others might just be shorthand for describing the specific types of toxic religion we've crawled out from under. But folks have asked, and it's fair that we should give an explanation. From there, the listener emails we read are beautiful, insightful, a little heartbreaking, and fiery catalysts for some great conversation about learning to trust ourselves.

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Matthew Blake
Derek Webb—Ditch the Hypothetical, Projected, Advertised Beliefs

Today: a real treat. We're delighted to welcome Derek Webb to Heathen. Derek has been a professional musical artist for nearly 25 years, as a founding member of the folk band Caedmon's Call and then as a solo artist. He's held a unique place in the Christian music world, often speaking to the injustices he saw in the church while also caring deeply for its well-being. The past few years, though, have seen a significant shift—one that we're very familiar with here at Heathen. Listen in as Derek shares about his journey into unbelief and how he came to record an entire album about apostasy—his latest, called Fingers Crossed. He also hosts an excellent podcast about the fallout of spiritual deconstruction called The Airing of Grief. Enjoy this deep dive with Derek Webb.

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Matthew Blake
Slippery Slopes: Tarot

If you're interested in pushing boundaries, exploring formerly taboo topics, and—hopefully—normalizing some stuff that may not be inherently bad, but that you are accustomed to avoiding because God/Pastor/Parent said no, Slippery Slopes is the series for you. We're kicking it off with a Tarot reading by season 1 Heathen guest Micah Turner. Come with us as we learn a little bit about—and then experience—this centuries-old practice of divination. The cards have some fascinating things to share...

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Matthew Blake
Hi, Heathens!

Welcome to Season 2 of Heathen! We're so excited to introduce Heathen's new co-host, Karyn Thurston! Karyn was a guest in season 1—you can listen to her two-part conversation in the episodes titled "This Hurts, And It Feels Like Love" and "God Is A Flash Mob."

To kick things off, we're spending some time reflecting on what Heathen has done for us so far, and where we see it going. We also do some storytelling about our own apostasy and deconstruction journeys. Things get personal... but that's why we're here: to let you know that you're not alone on this path.

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Matthew Blake
How To Preach Unbelief—Kate Christensen-Martin

Kate Christensen-Martin—who has a panic attack at being asked to write a one-line bio about herself—closes out Season 1 of Heathen telling us how she became a Pastor of Unbelief. I love this conversation about our bodies and souls, prayer, the nature of God, and more really light, easy topics. It's a great way to close out a season that has taken us on a real journey.

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Matthew Blake
I Had a Rap-Affirming Church—Haley Hill

Haley Hill—who started her music career rapping for Jesus—brings the beats to today's episode of Heathen. She wasn't raised in a super-conservative evangelical family like so many of my guests have been, but conservative evangelicalism found her anyway. She has a story about finding and then losing a God that ultimately wasn't able to weather the hardest of life's storms. She also happens to be my housemate, bandmate, and one of my best friends, so I'm really happy to introduce you to one of the best people I know.

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Matthew Blake
I Feel More Saved Now—James G. (The Proactive Agnostic)

James G.—who aspires to live a life worthy of retelling through flannelgraph—gives some of the most thoughtful ruminations on apostasy I've heard so far. A Ph.D. student and music professor, James had done a lot of focused, intentional work in his journey away from evangelicalism prior to when I met him, which was half-drunk at a Beer & Hymns Christmas carol sing-along event in December of 2017.

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Matthew Blake
My Spirit Feels Moist—Alana Kalinowski

Alana Kalinowski—who will at least acknowledge when she's staring at you—has a story for you. Did you see the movie Captain Fantastic, with the off-the-grid family growing up in the woods? Cast them as ultra-conservative evangelical rapture preppers and you get just a little bit close to Alana's upbringing. Honestly, it's a trip, and all I can do is let you listen to it. Unedited. All 2+ hours of it. Enjoy this truly astonishing conversation with an amazing person. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Alana.

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Matthew Blake
Vergangenheitsbewältigung—Jeremy Fackenthal

Jeremy Fackenthal—who is a widely self-proclaimed expert adventurer, and an IPA drinker with a theology problem—teaches us some German on today's episode. Vergangenheitsbewältigung is hard to say and also hard to do, as it means "coming to terms with difficult things that happened in the past." Jeremy shares his ideas on theology of remembrance, being an American Baptist, process theology, and why he still finds Jesus compelling.

Before this most excellent conversation begins though, I open up with a story about the time I stumped the best preacher I knew with a question in church youth group.

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Matthew Blake
God Is A Flash Mob—Karyn Thurston, Part 2

Karyn Thurston—who is a contact cryer convinced that hyperbole is her spiritual gift—rounds out a two part conversation that had me feeling things, y'all. Between a tale about an atheist soap opera star and a dynamic discussion of feminism lies a story of breaking down the God she was given and discovering a different sort of deity, one more akin to a dance than a person. There's some talk about that fella Jesus, and we also—to no one's surprise—had a great talk about Amy Grant and other 90s CCM artists (Jennifer Knapp, Nichole Nordeman, Derek Webb) who we get to listen to in a new light today knowing they've been on journeys similar to our own. I love this conversation—enjoy!

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Matthew Blake
This Hurts, And It Feels Like Love—Karyn Thurston, Part 1

Karyn Thurston—who is a contact cryer convinced that hyperbole is her spiritual gift—kicks off a new year of spiritual conversations for the godless. We had so much to talk about that I decided to make this a two-part episode. Today, we get into the process of deconstruction and how lonely and final it can feel to lose a faith that meant everything to you. When you can't tell the difference between love and harm, how do you begin to detach?

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Matthew Blake
Micah Turner—008

Micah Turner—who was raised by a mime and a puppeteer—brings a little Christmas spirit to Heathen in this special holiday episode. We geeked out about being theatre kids, talked about hippie churches, sorted through some of the difficult aftermath of being in missions and evangelizing our peers, and wrap it up with some talk about feminism and tarot cards.

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Matthew Blake
Damian Ludwig—007

Damian Ludwig—who has visited more churches than the Pope and who's smile rivals Joel Osteen's—is here to tell tales about separatist Anabaptist movements, churches that didn't know what to do with him, and being a resource to Christians figuring out their position on queerness.

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Matthew Blake