The NakedPastor | Episode 48

How does a pastor deconstruct their faith, are you on a path of deconstruction too? If God is what we think He is, is there, maybe, something that is beyond our idea of God? Is the God we believe in perhaps a reflection of who we are more than a separate entity to ourselves?

In this podcast episode, Billy and Brandy Eldridge speak with David Hayward aka NakedPastor.

Meet David Hayward aka the NakedPastor

After 30 years in the church, he left the ministry to pursue his passion for art. NakedPastor uses words and images to challenge the status quo, deconstruct dogma, and offer hope for those who struggle and suffer under it.

David is no stranger to belief systems – he holds a Masters in Theological Studies, as well as Diplomas in Religious Studies and Ministry, and University Teaching. His art expresses the stories and struggles of spiritual refugees and independent thinkers who question, doubt, or oppose the confines of religion. Each piece encourages difficult conversations and acts as a catalyst for critical thinking.

He is an artist and writer who supports LGBTQ+ people and groups, BIPOC and women artists, creatives, journalists, and more, and encourages others to do the same.

Visit his website. Connect on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Why the NakedPastor?
  • Be aware that abuse can happen anywhere, even in church
  • We pick our own Gods

Why the NakedPastor?

For David, the NakedPastor, the title was won in an auction that he was not even aware of being a part of, but it developed into a title that he uses in order to portray real, raw honesty for him behind the role of pastor.

Not only to share the victories and the growth but to also share the struggles, doubts, and conflicts in his blog with his followers, sharing brutal and sincere honesty behind the role of being a pastor while being fully clothed.

Be aware that abuse can happen anywhere, even in church

I say the church is the perfect culture for abuse to occur and you have to work against it, pastors and leaders and churches have to work and they have to be diligent 100% of the time because the gravitational pull towards communities is towards the dehumanization of its members. (David Hayward aka NakedPastor)

With spiritual abuse, there is no evidence of it, because it is all a strange feeling of questioning and doubting yourself, feeling the need to submit and putting your needs aside or it can be an unquestionable adoration of a leader: these are all examples of spiritual abuse in David’s experience.

For Billy, his faith was only based on what he had been taught and told and nothing more. As an adult, the cognitive dissonance began to set in where he saw the inconsistencies but did not feel he had the space to question them, and so began his suffering.

[It was like] if you open your mind up too much your brain might fall out, why did they have to keep us from things? Why did they have to control us? It was more about fear and coercion, it wasn’t about being consecrated into something beautiful and free, we were being shackled. (Billy Eldridge)

We pick our own Gods

We pick and choose to believe in the type of God that we feel worthy of following. Some people who are vengeful, hateful, and deeply dislike themselves may believe that God is punishing them or wants them to punish themselves and that they can only receive absolution in this way.

Other people may feel that God is compassionate, forgiving, and all-knowing and therefore act in that way to those around them. We, in this sense, create our own version of God to follow that works with how we feel about ourselves because how we feel about and treat ourselves is how we react to and treat others.

God, in essence, the version of God that we choose to believe in, is more of a reflection of who we are, what we need, and fear than who that God is.

Books mentioned in this episode

James Breech – The Silence of Jesus
David Hayward – Questions Are the Answer: Naked Pastor and the Search for Understanding
David Hayward – Til Doubt Do Us Part: When Changing Beliefs Change Your Marriage

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Meet Billy Eldridge

billy-eldridge

Meet Billy, the resident beta male. For Billy, this is a place to hang out with other beta males and the people who love them. We’re redefining what beta males look like in the world. I have learned to embrace my best beta self, and I can help you to do the same. As a therapist, I understand the need to belong. You belong here. Join the REVOLUTION.

 

Meet Brandy Eldridge

brandy-eldridge

Hello, Beta friends. I am an alpha personality who is embracing the beta way of life. I feel alive when connected with people, whether that is listening to their stories or learning about their passions. Forget small talk, let’s go deep together. Come to the table and let’s have some life-changing conversations.

 

Thanks for listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[BILLY ELDRIDGE]: Beta Male Revolution is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a family of podcasts seeking to change the world. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Imperfect Thriving or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
At Beta Male Revolution, I’m here today with Brandy and we are super excited about this interview. We have David Hayward, the NakedPastor with us today. David, how are you doing?
[DAVID HAYWARD]: Very well, thank you. Thanks for having me on the show and hello everybody.
[BRANDY ELDRIDGE]: This is our first podcast with video. So if anything goes wrong, I apologize now, but I do have to say that my son asked us, today, he was like, “I heard your interviewing the NakedPastor.”
[BILLY]: He’s eight.
[BRANDY]: He’s nine.
[BILLY]: He’s nine.
[BRANDY]: He’s nine, every time. He’s about to be 10. Anyway, and every time he’s said that, he was like, “I just don’t understand why a pastor would be naked,” and wanting to make sure that we were not on video today.
[DAVID]: Do you want to know where the name came from?
[BRANDY]: Yes, absolutely. Please tell us where the name came from.
[DAVID]: Okay, so, and you can explain this to your son. Back in about 2005, I won the name NakedPastor in an auction. I didn’t even know I’d entered an auction and I got an email, “Congratulations. You won the URL, www.nakedpastor.com.” And I thought, “Oh no, [inaudible 00:01:33]. It was like something like $68 or whatever. And so I took it because at that time there was like the Naked Chef, the Naked Archeologist, the Naked Truth, all these kinds of shows going on. And I thought it would be cool to call myself the NakedPastor. I was at local pastor at the time and I wanted people, my blog was basically me journaling online, just being honest. So I wanted people to see behind the curtain, to see what really goes on in the life of a real pastor in a real church, not all victories and success and money flowing and programs and growth and all that. I wanted them to also to see the struggles, the financial woes the conflict, the doubts, the fears, all that stuff. So that’s why I called myself the NakedPastor. And to this day, like even though I left the ministry in 2010 I kind of do pastoral stuff online. And so I kept the name because I’m just out there, I’m honest and vulnerable and real and raw, all of the things that naked means metaphorically. And as you can see, I’m fully clothed.
[BRANDY]: Thank you for that.
[DAVID]: I may not be in my right mind, but I’m fully clothed. And yes, so that’s basically what naked pastor means. It’s just me just being as honest and brutally raw and real as I can be.
[BILLY]: Well, I can’t wait to get into that honest, raw conversation about your background and how you go, first how did you get into the ministry? You know, what was it like growing up and getting into that pastoral role and then you said in 2010 leaving? So could you take us and our folks listening on that journey?
[BRANDY]: Oh wait, because it wasn’t just, I mean, there’s like Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, I mean, there’s like a —
[BILLY]: Vineyard stuff out there.
[BRANDY]: Yes, we are Vineyarders.
[DAVID]: I do remember John Limber, she went to Metro vineyard in Kansas City. I was going to go to —
[BRANDY]: Did you really?
[DAVID]: Yes.
[BRANDY]: What years were you there?
[DAVID]: We went, Lisa and I went to a couple of passion for Jesus.
[BRANDY]: Yes, for sure.
[BILLY]: Yes.
[BRANDY]: We were probably there.
[BILLY]: I was probably there. Yes, I actually applied and enrolled to their school and never made it there, but it was going to go there. There was, I’m glad I became a therapist. I would, I say pastors did their job. I’d probably wouldn’t have a job, but I’m grateful that I get to listen to people’s pain and not give them advice because usually when they go to the church, all they get is a bunch of advice about what they shouldn’t be doing and they feel shamed. But I remember those days there was a guy named Paul Kane. He was a prophetic voice and he, when I was 20 years old, I wasn’t even at the conference, my parents were. I found the VHS the other day, where he told my parents, “You have a son, his name is Billy. He’s 20 years old and he’s going to be a prophetic voice for our next generation.” So they come home and play this for me and I think I’m like supposed to start telling the future. I don’t know what to do. And I think maybe it just meant I’m supposed to call bullshit on things that don’t make sense.
[DAVID]: I’m telling you, man, that’s, that’s wild. I’ve been pulled back into the past, totally a throwback here, because I pastored at a Vineyard your church here locally. It was probably the biggest vineyard in Canada at that time when I took it over and we did huge conferences. So we had people like Paul Kane come and speak and worship leaders like David Lewis and Jim Gaul and Paul Jackson and all these guys.
[BILLY]: John Deer, I remember him.
[DAVID]: John Deer, yes, we had him. We had him as well. I was in the deep end. I was born and baptized as an Anglican in Canada, which is Episcopal and then we moved around, became Baptist, and then Pentecostal. I’m now at a Pentecostal college. That’s where met Lisa. And then we went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, and then I started searching around. I couldn’t fit into the Pentecostal church anymore. I ended up getting ordained in the Presbyterian church after I went for more studies and stuff like that. And so I called myself my own ecumenical movement because I’ve been all over the place and even independent. I actually planted a church for a ministry in New Hampshire. John Paul Jackson’s Ministry streams international. And you know, so, and then I ended up in the Vineyard church and that’s where I left the ministry in 2010. Then basically I have been doing NakedPastor ever since full-time.
[BRANDY]: Well, you’re quite the Instagram phenomenon, but I do have to show everyone that I am drinking out of one of your mugs.
[DAVID]: Yes, that’s the one with the LGBTQ sheep knitting a sweater out of its own rainbow wool. And then it gives a sweater to Jesus and He’s, so Jesus is wearing the rainbow sweater. I love that one. It’s cute.
[BRANDY]: It’s cute. It’s powerful. You’re like a political satire cartoonist in a way, but you’re doing it, I don’t know.
[DAVID]: For religion.
[BRANDY]: Yes, for religion, but for love. You know, like everything you speak, it doesn’t come to me; is how I view it. It doesn’t come from bitterness. It doesn’t come from a mad point of view of like the abuse that has been out there but it’s coming from this place of man, “Here’s God. Here’s God’s love. Here’s how I view God.” And it’s beautiful. And it packs this punch, we’ve talked about that. It’s just like some of your things have just wrecked us in just one small little, like the flower, I’ve got that one too, this petal in God’s hand.
[DAVID]: Yes, yes, yes.
[BRANDY]: And He says., “Start with love,” pulling the petals off. Like it’s just a message of love.
[DAVID]: Yes. There’s one petal on the base and it says, “Start with He loves me.” And so when you pick the one petal, that’s it, you’re done. And that was one of the first. Yes, you know, thank you. I really appreciate that. It’s really encouraging. But there have been times, like the church has done some very unkind things to me and to my family. I’ve experienced abuse for sure. Yes, spiritual abuse. And there have been times, like I say, NakedPastor, I’m going to be out there, I’m going to be honest, and there have been times I’ve come across as bitter and angry, confused, wanting to throw everything out and wreck everything, tear everything down. There have been those. And so I’ve been real about that, but my goal has always been to be real, but also I do want to be a loving person.
Like I really do that’s. My goal, to be, I want to embody love in this as much as I can. And even when there are many, many people who follow me, like on Instagram and so on, who’ve experienced abuse and so on, I want to somehow support them, validate their voices, validate their anger. Yes, but I will also want to help them learn how to live in love again and overcome and move on and not stay in anger. I totally, I’m not dismissing anger, believe me. I have been angry for a long time in the past and I totally get it. People have been really, really, really, really abused. And there’s a lot of anger justifiably, and I hear it. I’m empathetic. I’ve been there. I understand. When I was fired from an international ministry along with several others, I saw so many marriages blow up and people’s lives absolutely ruined and kids’ lives ruined and my family pushed into bankruptcy and ruin and everything. Like it was a nightmare, so I totally get anger, but I hope my cartoons and my posts do encourage people to feel the love. I don’t know how else to put it.
[BRANDY]: They do.
[BILLY]: Yes, they absolutely do, because I never quite got what they were talking about in those circles we ran in. They talked a lot about prophetic and prophecy and then really never knew what that meant. But when I kind of got out of the standard religious world, looking at art, like yours, looking at other people’s voices who are, that are moving against the status quo to me, that’s very prophetic if I can use that word, just pull one out of the past and use it for today. But, okay, so when I do counseling, when people, a lot of times when people are in abusive relationships, they don’t quite know it. And I would love to hear you speak to abuse because people think, okay, church abuse, how does that go together? I think, and you know, are they beating people up? What are they doing? What do we talk about when we talk about abuse in religious circles and how can you identify it? It may be happening and you don’t even know.
[BRANDY]: It’s a great question.
[DAVID]: Yes. So, I’ve always been taught there’s two kinds of prophecy. There’s the foretelling, which most people think of when they think of prophecy, before telling, you tell the future, you read people’s mail, as they say, you reveal secrets and so on and so forth. But then the other kind is forth telling where you just speak truth to power, you speak truth in a challenging way that exposes hypocrisy or abuse or things like that. So I don’t claim to be a foreteller but I do like to speak the truth as much as I can. I’ve been there. I’ve been in the church, I’ve been on the giving end of abuse because I say the church is the perfect culture for abuse to occur and you have to work against it.
Pastors and leaders in churches have to work. They have to be diligent 100% of the time because the gravitational pull towards communities is towards the dehumanization of its members. It just is. It’s called bureaucracy. It just happens. And so I really think pastors and leaders and so on have to really work 100% of the time, 24/7 to prevent this from happening. And that leads to abuse. And so I’ve been there, I’ve been in the systemic kind of evil that occurs but I’ve also been on the receiving end. So I totally know what it’s like to be spiritually abused and it’s awful. And the weird thing is, and I do a lot of cartoons about this, with spiritual abuse, you can’t see anything, there’s no evidence, usually. There’s no physical bruises or anything like that.
It’s all kind of this weird. I can’t put my finger on it like [inaudible 00:13:31] kind of stuff that goes on where you constantly are feeling yourself, questioning yourself, doubting yourself, constantly needing to submit, constantly needing to put your own needs aside for the needs of others, constantly needing to serve constantly being coerced and manipulated into doing things you don’t really want to do, or that you question, or this constant adoration of a leader and unquestionable adoration and obedience and submission to a leader. All this kind of stuff falls under what I call spiritual abuse. And the church, it’ll call it things like discipline, mentoring [crosstalk], they put these spin words on it to rename it so it doesn’t look as bad. And I know I’ve been there where I’ve submitted myself to a leader and was abused and I didn’t even realize it for a long time until my eyes were opened and saw that I wasn’t living my own life anymore.
So that happens all the time in churches. It’s not rare. It’s prevalent. We’re seeing some things in the news now where there’s like major even criminal kind of sexual harassment and abuse and assault even going on in churches, but it can be way more subtle than that as well and insidious where you lose yourself as a person. And in the, well you’d know this. In the psychological realm, it might be considered emotional abuse or psychological abuse or gaslighting, or things like that, that happen all the time. And so I keep calling that out and hopefully open people’s eyes to it so that people won’t allow themselves to submit to that kind of abuse, but also, so that churches might educate themselves and prevent that kind of thing from happening.
[BRANDY]: How, when you speak about this, how did your view of God, your view of Jesus change through your somewhat deconstruction of religion, possibly of God. So I’d like to just hear your story because you hear the abuse and I know just for us going through it, like our view of God completely changed. And like Billy loves to say, I hear him say this all the time, but the story of Jesus, it seems became a story I loved even more. And so just when everything was taken away, I could see God changed for me. It wasn’t the God of judgment and works. And so I’m curious on how your view has changed and it’s still evolving and still changing.
[DAVID]: Yes. So when I went to Bible college and seminary, like I said, I was a Pentecostal. I had a youth group leader who, he was a married young man, married adult and he took me under his wing and trained me in Bible study basically. And I bought an interlinear Bible and with pencil crayons and we would study together and marking up the Bible. I still have it and I had that from, since when I was a teenager and all colorful lines and notes in the margins, like I was a fanatic about the Bible. I love the Bible and I went to Bible college and then I started taking Greek and Hebrew. And then when I went to seminary, I studied under Dr. Gordon Thiede, who was a famous New Testament scholar. And I had to learn more Greek and more Hebrew and Aramaic, and I was just totally, totally into the Bible.
But right about when I was graduating, I read a book, everybody always asked me, “What was the book?” Because I hardly ever mentioned it. So I’m just going to mention it now so people won’t bother me with emails. The name of the book, but anyway, it’s, really the book isn’t important, but the book itself was by James Breech called The Silence of Jesus. And what he does is, he sort of analyzes what he believes are the seven authentic sayings of Jesus. And that alone is pretty radical for me because I believe in the three I’s; the Bible is fully inspired, fully infallible, fully inerrant and unquestionably totally 100% true. And then I read this book in seminary where he sort of takes this basically like the Jenga block power. He took, the block that was holding it all together for me, it was the inspiration of scripture. And he took that out and the whole, my whole theology that was resting on that started to shake.
And so my deconstruction began at that moment, just before graduation. I remember Lisa grabbing onto my shoulder and saying, “You got to get ready for graduation ceremony. Get it together, man.”
[BRANDY]: And you were having the whole thing going on.
[DAVID]: I was having a meltdown because everything I believed to be true was now questioning, I was questioning. And so then, that was sort of like a, I compare it to a virus that gets into your computer and it took decades to corrupt my code. And it was like a glacial melt, just slowly, because for me, if you question a verse in the Bible as not historical or whatever, then where does it stop? Where does that end? And so through my whole ministry, after this, I got ordained, went into the ministry and I served the church while all at the same time, my code was corrupting and I was just constantly trying to hold it together. And so finally I was dealing with this conflict of what’s true, what of what I’ve been taught is really true. You know, all that I’ve been taught through the pap tests and the Pentecostals, Presbyterian, all that theology and all I believed about the Bible was all that. And then on the other hand, there was what I now felt was true or what my experience taught me was true. I had these two things that were in conflict and warfare the whole time.
And then in 2009, I had this kind of a pithany where I just saw in a moment that we’re all one, we’re all deeply connected. It was a powerful unifying sort of vision I had that we’re all kind of, we’re all United, we’re all deeply fundamentally one. And the only thing that seems to divide us is our different languages, words, and ideas. There’s only one reality, but we all have our own interpretation or an explanation of it. So I immediately felt this peace of mind come and this never left. Like there’s immediate peace of mind that I’d struggled to achieve for so many years, even decades and then all of a sudden it was there and it all made sense. And that peace came. And so yes, radical, radical transformation from all those years of searching and struggling and striving.
[BILLY]: I love that. It’s beautiful. I had one of those moments myself in some 12-step meetings. I became I think I began drinking over my, over the fact of not being able to make sense of growing up in a faith. And there was just such a cognitive dissonance between what I saw and what I heard, and somehow for me at a young age, alcohol numbed me enough to not have to think about that. And then it became a problem. And I’m still in church and I’m still trying to do the deal and keep hidden behavior and it begins to all fall down and ended up in rehab. And I ended up in these 12-step meetings where they say, “It’s just a God of your understanding.” And that freaked me out. I was like, “No, that’s heresy. You can’t do that.”
And they were like, “No, just pick a God you can do business with.” I’m like, “No, no, no, n., You can’t do that.” And they were like, “Man, do you want to get sober? Do you want to die drinking? Whatever, if what you had was working so well, why is your life in shambles?” But they began to give me this freedom and people all over the rooms believe different things, but they had this thing that bound them, this common suffering and this desire to not suffer in that way anymore together has such a beautiful picture for me in growth. And now I’ll just say it’s God, I can’t begin to understand or comprehend, but it was like, if I let my mind open enough, something dangerous was going to creep in and corrupt me. Like you said, it was going to mess up the hard drive and they would tell, “Don’t read these people. Don’t look at these people.” If you open your mind up too much, your brain might fall out. Why was there, why did they have to keep us from things? Why do they have to control us? And it was more about fear and coercion. I wasn’t being consecrated into something beautiful and free. We were being shackled. And I just, when you shared that, just began to just build up.
[BRANDY]: Yes, I love that code. Like that you said it was like a virus got in and it began, your coding began to change and it was corrupting it. I remember that moment for me, it was a virus, but I remember when it started to break, I was friends with some people that were trying to come out to me. And it was when I lived in a bigger city and we had been friends and they were trying to tell me, and they asked me that, “What do you think about it?” And I said, “Well, the Bible says it’s wrong, but I don’t feel like I could say that to you.” And I said that to them, like, “The Bible says, it’s wrong, so I guess it’s wrong, but I really love you. And I think you’re amazing.” And I remember having to go back and call my friend and say years later, “I am so sorry I said that to you. I didn’t, I was just going through this deconstruction. I was just trying to figure things out.” And my view of God was so much bigger than what my view I could have. You know, like my view of God was huge and I felt that he was loving and accepting, but I was told that was wrong. And I just remember struggling with this, like this can’t, this doesn’t make sense in my 22 year old brain that these lovely, wonderful people that I’m friends with, God thinks they’re wrong. And it just all unraveled.
[DAVID]: Yes. Yes. You know, I personally think everybody has the God of their choice. You know, like [inaudible 00:24:56] meaning pick a God that works for you. I mean, everybody does that anyway.
[BRANDY]: That’s good.
[DAVID]: If our God’s an angry, vengeful God, and we’re going to die, it’s because we need a God that does that. We think we are deserving of punishment. We are so filled with self-hatred and anger, and we’re so angry and uncomfortable and insecure around gay people. It only makes sense that God should be too. I mean, that’s why you know God, even in the Bible evolves, in my opinion. You know, if you ever read the book of Judges, people out there in one sitting, it is graphically violent. It is a horrific book to read, but that’s how people were and that’s how their God was. And so I really do believe that God is more of a reflection of who we are rather than, it’s like that saying, God made man in His image and now we’ve made God in ours kind of thing. And I think that there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s like one of my cartoons where this guy’s walking with God, and God’s got a ton of suitcases and backpacks, He’s all downloaded with a whole bunch of baggage. And the guy says, “God, why do you always come with so much baggage?” And God says, “This is your shit, not mine.” And I really think that’s a pretty good indication of how our gods are really a projection of our own needs and fears.
[BILLY]: And they’re real big fears. I mean, when you’re told as a kid, if you get it wrong, you’re in danger of eternal burning, like that’s a scary thing. And then you get a little older and we get on unpacking some of that and asking questions, which is not liked a whole lot. I can’t remember who said it, but of course they want you to get born again and stay very infantile because if you grow up, you might start thinking of yourself, for yourself.
[DAVID]: Right? We recently went to a funeral, I’m in Canada. So we have some regulations where I am. We pretty much have things under control in terms of COVID, and so a funeral can have 50 people, but you have to be all physically spaced and wearing masks and everything, all that to say. It was all legal and above board, but we went to this funeral and it was at a Pentecostal type of church. At first, everything was fine but after a while, it was clearly just really brutal about going to hell, unless you repent. And it was a real fire and brimstone sermon by the end of it. And my kids were there and my little step granddaughter was there and everything. It was a lot of disappointment, a lot of anger, a lot of explaining to do about what was going on, but it’s because the preacher really does believe this. He really does feel he needs to rescue us from flames and death. So, he wasn’t trying to be mean. He was really genuinely trying to save us because that’s his view of God.
[BRANDY]: That’s really powerful. I know we were, we still don’t know how we got Nadia Bolz -Weber on our podcast, we don’t know how she decided to come on our podcast, but she did. And I remember hearing her when she was talking and I remember thinking like, you’re so right, David. We have created God in the image we need Him, or we believe He is. Because if you’ve ever seen what’s the movie Shake and Bake with Will Ferrell, he talks about eight pound Jesus and a tuxedo vest. And I kind of view God in that way; is that my image of God is evolved. The understanding of Jesus himself has evolved for me. And I believe He is for awhile, it was that He was a dad that was watching out and would discipline me accordingly to keep me safe on the path. I was the sheep that if I went off, He would come get me, but put me back on this path and watch out for me and discipline me when necessary. And my job was to be everything sacrificial for Him. And then it evolves and it’s just like, it’s just made so much simpler now is, it’s just simple. It’s easier now.
[DAVID]: Yes. It’s like the greatest theologians and so on. They say things like God awareness comes with self-awareness. Like, they go hand-in-hand. The more self-aware you become, the more you can understand God and so on. But the problem is when you really look at that closely, you have to ask, “Okay, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Well you’re saying that obviously what’s going on here is my God is as big as my understanding can be. And that, that’s a problem. That’s called idolatry, basically.” It’s like Calvin, John Calvin said the mind is an endless factory of idols. And it’s true. It’s because we often equate God with our theology and our thinking, our ideas about God, but like the word is not the thing. The idea is not the thing. What’s beyond, that’s the question I keep trying to push people towards; is what is beyond all these words and all these ideas? What’s beyond that? Is there something beyond that? Some say no, but what is or who is beyond all these words and ideas and so on? That to me is the big burning question for theology today.
[BILLY]: Well, yes, and in a lot of circles and spaces, you’re not given permission or access or the ability to ask those questions and say those things, because that’s thought of as dangerous and that something bad is going to happen. And I think when we go back to abuse, a lot of abuse has happened under the guise of I’m speaking the truth to you in love. That is their truth. And I get, I don’t know if it was a Penn & Teller, the comedy magic duo. I don’t know if one of them, the one that talks, I think it’s Penn, he’s a devout atheist and he said, “I totally get it. I have these people running up to me after my show, after Mac and Vegas saying, you need to get saved and they were like screaming at him.” And he’s like, “I get it. If you really believe I’m going to burn an eternal fiery death and you don’t like try to come rescue me, you’re kind of an asshole.” But it’s kind of like, but that’s not where I am right now. I’m just, God has become love and when that happens, something magical happens. And when I don’t get into this, you’re in you’re out game and who gets to choose and who gets to decide and I’m the bearer of the truth and I have to go give it to everybody else and if I don’t, then I’m in trouble and they’re in trouble. That’s a hard thing to play. That kept me drinking for a long time.
[DAVID]: Yes. That’s why I like to explore these ideas in my cartoons and my posts and so on; is because I like to encourage people to question. In fact, one of my books is called Questions Are The Answer.
[BRANDY]: Oh, I didn’t know you had a book.
[DAVID]: I’ve got nine.
[BRANDY]: Nine? How did we miss that?
[BILLY]: My goodness.
[BRANDY]: David, I’m so sorry. I thought it was just the art.
[DAVID]: I don’t expect anybody to know everything about me.
[BILLY]: We’re ordering the books.
[BRANDY]: We have to get to our person that does the research for us.
[BILLY]: I’m in trouble now David, because the packages have been showing up at my door every day, since we tuned in to you and there’s a new piece of art at my door every day and Brandy brings it in and unrolls it. You know, the PTSD that you speak to, and I see a lot of post-traumatic church syndrome stuff being a counselor. A lot of people come in with this damage that has been done and it is so deep because I believe with religion and faith, it runs down to our identity. And when you pull away from that, you lose your identity, you lose your whole community, you lose your whole circle, but you couldn’t stay alive and stay in it anymore. So it is very traumatic to pull away. So how do you,
[DAVID]: I’m in a healthier place now.
[BILLY]: How do you do, how do you get to a healthy place and pulling away? I mean, you seem to be more grounded today. How did you get to where you are having a healthier outlook?
[DAVID]: Well, it’s been 11 years too, but I’d left the church before a couple of times. I’d been fired before by an international ministry. That’s a whole other story. Other people were fired, too, cleaning house, but yes, when people leave the church, I say there’s two kinds of deconstructions. One is theological where you start questioning your beliefs and so on and your beliefs that you’ve always believed in starting roading and crumbling. So that’s deconstruction, that’s a theological in nature. What usually happens is they end up realizing the church, doesn’t have space for them, with their doubts and questions and intellectual development and progress or whatever. So there’s that kind of deconstruction. The other kind of deconstruction is from church. And often what I see, this is generalization I know that, but it just helps me.
Another kind of deconstruction was people leave the church and they deconstruct from the church. Now they don’t necessarily deconstruct theologically. In fact, a lot of people I know who’ve left the church are just as fundamentalist as they ever were because you know, the church isn’t pure. It’s not like it wasn’t the first century and they want to go back to Jesus and they’re just as fundamentalist as they ever were. So there may not be any theological deconstruction when people deconstruct from the church. But what I see happen, most of all is when people start deconstructing theologically and they leave the church, it’s devastating because it’s like, I compare it to like a brain tumor that has tentacles all throughout your brain. And the surgeon goes in and it goes, “Holy, this is inoperable.” You know, it’s almost like that where it’s not like you stopped believing in Santa one year and the next year you were fine. Just get over it.
You realize there’s no fairies, get over it. You realize there’s a little recurrence, get over it. This is different because our religion, our spirituality and church life and everything just, it’s soaks into every cell in our body so that anything and everything we do is informed by our faith. You know, how we live out our days, what kind of job we can have, what kind of friends we can have, how we can have a romantic relationship, how we have sex, what we do before we eat, what we do after week, what kind of books we read, what kind of shows we watch? What kind of things we do during the evenings? What kinds of things we do on the weekend? Everything is [crosstalk]. It’s like, when you take out that, when you try to remove the religiosity or the religion or church going and all that. It’s like brain surgery and it takes a long time to recover from. I know, like you said, we lose our friends, we lose our, for many of us leaving the ministry, add that to it, you lose your purpose, your sense of destiny, your purpose for life, meaning, friendships, family support, babysitters, auto mechanics, potluck suppers, [inaudible 00:37:33]
[BRANDY]: Yes, and then financial, like that’s your livelihood. What do you do when you’re only qualified to do a small thing of, I mean you become a NakedPastor.
[DAVID]: Yes. Well, I’m going to surprise you. You might not know this, but I also have courses online. And one of them is called How to Leave the Ministry, because I have seen a lot of pastors trying to leave the ministry and my opinion of what I’ve seen in the pastors I’ve worked with, they’re really highly qualified to do a lot of things. They just don’t realize it.
[BRANDY]: Oh, that’s good. That’s encouraging.
[BILLY]: Well, I mean, yes, of course they run large organizations. They’re business-minded people with a lot of talents, but I can’t imagine the fear around it. I mean, we didn’t have a lot attached to it in the sense of, but there is this thing, like having a business, “How’s it going to affect my business if I’m not associated with the large predominant church in town? How is it going affect my kids’ lives?” Man, we have three children and that’s where their play and interaction and a lot of their connection and community came from when we lost —
[BRANDY]: Are we still struggling with it?
[BILLY]: We’re trying to figure it out.
[BRANDY]: We live in the South you know, the Bible belt of the United States. And it’s not only personal, but it is very much regional. And you know, one of the first questions people ask you where we are from is, “Hey, how are you? What church do you go to?” And when you have a child, that’s maybe one of the only one in her class that doesn’t make gay jokes, it’s almost hard to have friends. And so we’re still at that point where we’re figuring it out. And we do see that there are communities coming up though, these communities, and there are several churches I’m really proud of that are allowing these questions to happen and saying, “Here’s a space to do it. And let’s try to be healthier and find a community that works for you.” And so it is I think a revolution coming up and I think social media has a big part of it, podcasts and different people that are saying, “I’ve been through a deconstruction.” Maybe they’ve turned atheist, maybe they haven’t, maybe they’re Presbyterian now and Methodist. I mean, they’re just all coming together and they’re saying, “You’re not alone in this,” where, before we had this platform, you were isolated if you started thinking this way. You couldn’t find a David Hayward that felt the same way.
[DAVID]: I know way back in 2008 or nine, when I started talking about deconstruction, I was one of the only ones. I mean, really, I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. And I started an online community called The Lasting Supper in 2012. It’s going for people who are deconstructing, but now there’s all kinds of groups it seems. A lot of people are talking about deconstruction. It’s a thing now. And one of the things I struggled with way back then was it was like we were refugees, spiritual refugees who’d left the church and had nothing on our backs, no resources, nothing, and we were basically on our own. And we have to find a new home and you know, it was impossible. Where would you go? You know, where do people who are now suspicious of community go to find community or friends? It’s really, really difficult. It’s a real hard struggle. I know that. So people are deconstructing. For your audience, I just want to inform you that this is totally normal, loneliness that you’re feeling, and I could talk for hours about that, and the confusion and everything, just hang in there.
This is good for you, honestly, growth pains. It’s good for you. But if you persist, if you keep on going you will, you’ll make new friends and things will start to make sense, that fear will go away and you will find a peace in your life that you’ve never experienced before. And you’ll feel more independent and autonomous and self determining, which I think is the goal of every adult. So I think that’s a good thing.
[BILLY]: David. I appreciate so much you leaving us with that message of hope because, and moving away and trying to figure things out, a lot of times it can be discouraging. You can find yourself isolated and in despair, and it’s so good to speak with someone like you that’s been there that was deconstructing before deconstructing was cool and then led the way for this path for people, a couple like us living here in Texas, just trying to figure things out, what to do with our kids, the questions we have. I’m so glad you have online courses that help people, nine books that people can read. And we will direct people to your website.
[BRANDY]: Yes. And if they mention Beta Male Revolution, David just told us they get everything free.
[DAVID]: Yes, absolutely.
[BRANDY]: Check, please go to his website, nakedpastor.com, check him out, read his books, which now we’ll be doing.
[BILLY]: Yes.
[DAVID]: My latest one is Til Doubt Do Us Part: When Changing Beliefs Change Your Marriage. That one, I just did because Lisa and I went through a really difficult time after we left the church in our marriage. And I’ve seen it a lot where people start questioning and changing their beliefs or leaving the church and the marriage really goes under a lot of strain, a lot of trauma, a lot of marriages blow up. So I wrote a book called Til Doubt Do Us Part. It’s on Amazon, that’s —
[BRANDY]: Well, maybe, I don’t mean to interrupt but I’m totally going to interrupt you because I wonder, like, would this be a part two that you and Lisa would want to come back and talk about this with us? Because I think that’s a whole other conversation.
[DAVID]: Well, my wife is one of the quietest silent demure. She’s an amazing human being. She’s a hospice nurse. She’s a, [inaudible 00:43:55] and she’s an angel, but she is not an online person.
[BILLY]: Totally understand.
[BRANDY]: Well, we’ll still do part two with you on the book [crosstalk]. You bring her picture and just set a frame right there next to you and we’ll do that.
[BILLY]: Well, and because I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this in the therapy room, on the couch with couples live that in this day and age where everything’s so divisive and so dualistic, and so one or the other, I’ve seen it with politics. I’ve seen it with religion when one spouse goes one way and one goes the other and it begins to fracture the foundation of the relationship. So I’m so glad that there’s stuff out there. We were lucky and that we kind of went through this around the same time as a couple, but you know, what happens when one partner is kind of working on some stuff and it is beginning to rock the foundation of life as you know it? So I’m glad that there’s literature out there people can use.
[DAVID]: Yes. I mean, it took some hard work. Like Lisa and I had to really sit down. There was a couple of years that we weren’t sure where we were even going to make it. You know, we’ve been together now 41 years, married for 41 years.
[BRANDY]: Congratulations. That’s amazing.
[DAVID]: Thank you. And we’re more in love now than ever, but there was that couple of years where we had to figure out what the glue was that held us together. We used to think part of the glue mixture was our common beliefs and working together in the ministry and in the church and all that was our life. And then when all that was removed and, you know, we were questioning our beliefs and everything, we had to figure out what it was that held us together. And we really had to sit down and kind of renegotiate, what was it? And so we had to go back, what was it that attracted me to her? What was it about her? And I’ll have to admit, it wasn’t her belief system. It wasn’t her statement of faith that I was first attracted to [crosstalk] When I was at the Bible college, I did not notice her belief system. And you know, it goes on from there where we reignited, what we really were attracted to in each other. And I say this in my book, I was attracted to the woman who believes not the beliefs. You know what I mean? It was her and the way she thought and the way she believed and the way she was. So anyway, I could talk about this for forever, but you get the idea.
[BRANDY]: Yes, I’m thinking of the question that you want to ask to end on, we usually end on like two questions that are not so serious, but I think today we’re just going to end on one.
[BILLY]: Yes. David, up to this point in your life, what’s the hardest, yet most valuable lesson you’ve had to learn on this journey?
[DAVID]: The hardest lesson, men, it’s a good one. Give me a second.
[BILLY]: It’s all good.
[BRANDY]: While you’re thinking of that one, you had another question you were going to ask.
[DAVID]: Oh, she wants you to ask me a certain question.
[BRANDY]: Yes. [crosstalk].
[BILLY]: Oh. So I was going to say, when the mood’s just right, and it’s one of those evenings where you know there might be some romance in the air, what’s the go-to worships song you turn on? Mine’s Good, Good Father because I have daddy any initiatives.
[BRANDY]: I’m sorry. Bad question. He asked if he could ask it and I went, “You know what, that’s pretty funny.” I think that David’s got the sense of humor that he can handle that question. [crosstalk].
[DAVID]: In my last church, there was a worship leader who, there was one song, I think it was by David Louis where he, the words were Lay Your Head On My Breast and you know, this kind of thing, but the worship leader, every time he couldn’t help it. He would sing “lay your breast upon my head” [crosstalk].
[BILLY]: Some worship songs have these overtones that are very [crosstalk].
[DAVID]: When he couldn’t sing that song anymore, because he could always say lay your breast upon my head and everybody would crack up.
[BILLY]: I love that we’re ending on the irreverent. There’s beauty on all that [crosstalk] Yes, back to the other, the hardest, yet most valuable lesson. I think we get a handful of these, but just one of them, we can leave our audience with.
[DAVID]: The biggest lesson for me was letting go, surrendering, not holding on to things I thought were precious. It’s like, I just saw this the other day. It was really true. You know, a monkey puts his hand in the jar and grabs a big candle and nuts and his hand is so full that he can’t pull his hand out. But that’s how you can trap the monkey because the monkey will not let go of those nuts. And even though, you know, the person’s coming up to capture the monkey and the monkey is freaking out and just about to tear its own arm off, because it won’t let go of what is making his hand into a fist. If he let go of those things, he could pull out his hand and run away. And I feel that was the hardest lesson for me was letting go of some things and to find my freedom. And that’s the hardest thing for me. We’re all like monkeys. We hold onto those things for so long, that really trap us keep us trapped.
[BRANDY]: That’s good.
[BILLY]: Thank you so much, David —
[DAVID]: That’s the most important thing; is the freedom of the human being. And that for me is key.
[BILLY]: That’s what we’re looking for here. Freedom. Thanks for helping set us free a little more today with your story.
[BRANDY]: It’s a truth bomb in there.
[BILLY]: Yes, go to go to nakedpastor.com, that’s correct, right?
[DAVID]: Yes. Yes.
[BILLY]: And check out the words.
[DAVID]: NakedPastor, you use one word, NakedPastor, because if you used two words naked and pastor you’re going to see things you can’t unsee.
[BRANDY]: Figuring out what our nine year old was thinking about.
[BILLY]: Yes, there we go. Thank you so much, David.
[DAVID]: Welcome.
[BILLY]: We look forward to continue the conversation.
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