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
Matt Haeck—006

Matt Haeck—who is equally uncomfortable at church with the family on Christmas and at the bar with the cool kids on Tuesdays—stops by Heathen to sing some songs and talk with me about where we hid our porn growing up, who's really deciding who goes to hell, and how lucky we are to show up in the universe with a set of eyes to take it all in.

Get Matt's music at matthaeck.com.

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Matthew Blake
Jami Bamat—005

Jami Bamat—who remembers dog names before people names, and thinks prairie dogs might be ACTUAL dogs because of how cute they are—gets into some heathen conversation about deciding at age 12 she wouldn't be a Lutheran when she grew up, finding spiritual fulfillment in social work, and how bad sex ed was in Christian schools.

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Matthew Blake
Becky Branch—004

Becky Branch—who loves breakfast burritos but is allergic to eggs—sits down on Heathen to talk about the stories in our bones, putting on personas, and how crazymaking it can be trying to fit in with Christians when you're brand new to the faith.

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Matthew Blake
Joshua Romero—003

Joshua Romero—who smiles every time he sees a grey squirrel (ground squirrels are gross)—visits from Oregon to talk about whether pets go to heaven, getting college credit for holy living, and why it's so hard to believe we are loved.

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Matthew Blake
Jaz Persing—002

Jaz Persing—who is almost positive she was supposed to come of age in the '60s but is making the most of these modern times anyway—sat down to talk about baking black holes, leaving the church you've grown up in, and how she learned to stop being afraid of screwing it up.

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Matthew Blake
LeAnn Wiley Burton—001

PILOT EPISODE. LeAnn Wiley Burton—who wishes pizza made you thin—is the first guest on HEATHEN. We had a great time talking about Fern Gully, Amy Grant-ing, and the difficult journey that brought her to a new understanding of who she believes God to be.

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Matthew Blake