Pastor Israel Hogue on His Evolving Faith Journey and Becoming an LGBTQ Ally | Episode 19

Pastor Israel Hogue on His Evolving Faith Journey and Becoming an LGBTQ Ally | Episode 19

Are your views now different to the ones you grew up with? Can there be beauty in losing everything? Do you use your privilege to be an ally for marginalized groups?

In this podcast episode, Billy speaks to Pastor Israel Hogue about his evolving faith journey and becoming an LGBTQ ally.

Meet Pastor Israel Hogue

With over 30yrs experience in ministry, Israel Hogue brings both wisdom and experience to Simplicity.

Israel joined the Simplicity Church community in June of 2018, and he’s been shaking things up ever since.

Through scripture, stories, humor, and emotion, Israel’s sermons are educational, meaningful, and offer practical lessons and teachings for real-life application.

Visit Israel’s website.

Connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Israel’s move to Oklahoma
  • Having a different view
  • Going from Side A to Side B
  • The beauty in losing everything
  • Having the privilege to recover
  • The inspiration to be better and keep on going

Israel’s move to Oklahoma

Sometimes you only learn by doing. You only learn by making the mistakes because you just don’t know where the landmines are until you step on a couple.

In 1992, Israel chose to leave BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) and return to Oklahoma. He knew that he had a call to God, he knew that he wanted to be in ministry, and he didn’t want to wait until the end of school to start doing something. Israel knew that he would be able to get a job at the church that his dad had started, and was very excited about the move. He started out as an associate, helping out the youth pastor at the time. That youth pastor then moved on to another position and Israel took over. He and his family were going to make things right that were wrong in their own lives and in their family. As he looks back on it, Israel realizes how naive he was. He has changed so much since those moments but they were still exciting.

Having a different view

Israel’s sermons talk about social issues, marginalized groups, LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, etc. These aren’t things that were being worked on when he moved to the very conservative Southern Nazarene University. Israel remembers a particular class in Biology Psychology that made him realize that some people are born gay and the whole argument from the religious fundamentalists that you can’t be “born that way” was thrown out for him. This took Israel to a place of “What does that mean?” Israel calls this going from side A to side B (a phrase he learned from other LGBTQ sibling and allies):

  • Side A – The Christian fundamentalist thing that says gay is a sin and an abomination.
  • Side B – Being open and affirming that it is not a sin. God makes you that way and He loves you that way. You can be a full member of the Kingdom of God even in your LGBTQ’ness

Going from Side A to Side B

And what our business is, as God people, Jesus people, is just to love people where they are and let them love God where they are. And we’ll all just go together and make a giant, big, beautiful family.

How Israel changed his way of thinking and moved over to Side B:

First move

Understanding that God makes some people this way but some people who are gay or lesbian are like that because of trauma and they’re just working it out in the wrong way. Once they meet Christ they won’t be gay anymore. Israel is not very proud of this move.

Second move

Everybody in church sins so why do we spend so much time on the gay sin? We let these other sinners into the fundamental circles and don’t say anything about it but the minute someone is even thought to be gay they are out. You can be in the LGBTQ group and be a Christian but it is still a sin.

Third move

It is not a sin. God makes people and they can choose who they want to love, how they want to love and it’s nobody else’s business.

The beauty in losing everything

And I just, at that moment, knew what side of this thing I wanted to be on. And I didn’t want anymore to do anything that made people not feel welcome and loved and accepted 100%

Israel was still very careful in the way he preached as he was scared that it would cost him if he came out aggressively as an ally. He would say things that would hint to how he felt but it wasn’t a full-throated ally-ship. Then, Israel went through his divorce and lost everything. After some healing time, he went back into ministry now realizing that he’s already lost everything so he was just going to say what he thought, there was nothing else to lose.

Having the privilege to recover

I’m going to use the privilege and the voice that I have now to never be afraid to speak out or to speak up for something that Jesus would do.

Israel has recovered and his life is way better than it used to be. He is engaged to an incredible woman, has a great relationship with his kids, and he’s pastoring at a wonderful church that loves and accepts everybody. There are people in this world. marginalized groups, who have to fight for their livelihoods and their lives. They never got to recover because society never let them, because our systems are set to always be abusing, oppressing, and pushing these groups away.

Israel thought how could he be tired of speaking truth when these marginalized groups will do this all their life and die with the fight still going on? He now moves towards those who are marginalized, oppressed, abused, who keep having to fight for their rights and equity because that’s where Jesus is and that’s where he wants to be. Israel is standing up for marginalized people. That might keep their community smaller than it was before but these people have to keep fighting so he wants to fight with them.

The inspiration to be better and keep on going

Israel knows that he’s hurt his kids and the biggest thing that inspires him to continue to get better within himself is that it will lessen the amount of wounding that he does to his kids. The other thing that inspires him is what he is learning about Jesus through his Master’s program at Phillips Seminary. He truly believes that as he fully looks into the face of Jesus, it will help him become more like Jesus who was an unbelievable human being.

Are you ready to find the freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free beta revolution course is for you. Sign up for free.

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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]:
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.

Welcome to the Beta Male Revolution. This is a podcast for beta males, the people who love them, and the alphas that enjoy their company.

Hey, Beta Male Revolution. It’s Billy here, today. Brandy’s out and doing some work in the world. And I thought it would be really cool for me to search back into my past and go find my old youth pastor. I think we told the story in Episode Two about him briefly. So we’ll let him hop on and redeem himself. But, no. I’ve reached out to Israel Hogue, and he was my youth pastor from somewhere around ’91 to maybe ’93. And he’s got 30 years of experience in the ministry, and has a great story from where he came from as a pastor’s child, all the way up to pastoring Simplicity Church in Oklahoma City today. So I want to introduce you guys to him and give him time to tell his story. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I do. I was so glad to reconnect with him, and we’ve gotten to have a couple of conversations. Just can’t wait for this interview today. Beta Male Revolution, it’s Israel Hogue. Hey, Israel.

[ISRAEL]:
Hey, my brother. Thanks for having me.

[BILLY]:
Man, thanks so much. I’m so glad you agreed to do this.

[ISRAEL]:
Absolutely, man. It’s been great to reconnect and have a couple of conversations before this. You remember things that I don’t and I’m sure I remember things you don’t, but that’s what’s fun about it.

[BILLY]:
Here’s what I remember, probably ninth grade for me and this guy comes into town after this church had been started, city church, and there had been buzz around the community of this pastor who had built a church previously and left, and was coming back and there was a lot of excitement in the church circles that I was involved in. So he comes, and part of that church, and the next thing I know his son’s going to show up and he might be our youth pastor. And you come into town in a red Toyota Celica that’s convertible, and you’re from California, and I’m this ninth grade awkward teenager. Yeah, and that’s my story. Youth pastors were my heroes. That’s the kind of guy I was.

[ISRAEL]:
Oh, no.

[BILLY]:
What was your experience with that?

[ISRAEL]:
Well, you make it sound way sexier than it was, man. I mean, there’s just no way I… you know, it’s funny, you’re in a freshman mindset. And yeah, I mean, my dad is fairly well known, especially in Oklahoma. Did a lot of TBN, travelled before that as an evangelist and packed out stadiums, literally. So yeah, my dad had a big name and had big influence, and so yeah, it’s funny to hear someone else talk about us because like I’ve told you before, for me, my life was just normal. I mean, I was just a dude that grew up in a pastor’s family and, you know, normals just normal for whoever, whatever it is, I mean, you don’t know that other people don’t live like that. So it’s funny to hear you in your setting, thinking, oh my God, Richard Hogue’s coming into town and he’s starting a church, I mean, this guy’s on TBN all the time. And then oh, his son’s coming in, and then I show up like some kind of sick Don Johnson with my top down and wavy hair and red… So, I mean, it’s so horrible to even think about it now.

[BILLY]:
Man, it’s such nostalgia for me though. Because when you’re a kid growing up and the only TV shows you get to watch are on TBN – and that’s Trinity Broadcasting Network for those who don’t know, it was a big, big Christian broadcasting network and your dad was involved with that and… have you ever met Paul and Jan Crouch?

[ISRAEL]:
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Kenneth Copeland, yeah. All those guys. Matt and Laurie, who are running it now. Yeah, I grew up… I mean, it’s so funny whenever somebody shares some horrible or crazy video of some guy saying something crazy on TBN, I’ll say, oh, yeah, I know them. I’ve met them. I’ve spent time with them. It’s so weird what my life has encompassed over the years. But that was a very exciting time for me. I want to say you made it sound sexier, more romantic, but for me it was very exciting. I chose… I started college in California in 1990, at BIOLA – Bible Institute of Los Angeles. And so I was at BIOLA in La Mirada, California. And my dad and mom had moved back to Oklahoma City, and they had started City Church and so in late ’91… really, it’s ’92 because I moved back in like the end of December. So ’92 is when I started, when I moved back and so I chose, I chose to leave school. I came back and I transferred some credits over to Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma and then I started working, so it was very exciting for me. I chose to do that because I knew I had a call of God on my life. I knew I wanted to be in ministry, and I was thinking, you know, I don’t want to wait until the end of school to start doing something. My dad had started a church. I know that nepotism is alive and well. And I could probably get a job there at my dad’s church, but honestly, I was like, you know what? I know that I want to do this. So I packed up and I moved back and I said, I want to start. And when I started, actually, there was another youth pastor there – Jeff – and I came in. And he was a great guy and doing a great job, and I was an associate. I was just helping and working, and then Jeff decided to be the singles pastor and they moved me up into youth pastor. So that’s how that all worked.

But yeah, it was exciting. It was a new church. It was in northwest Oklahoma City, and we’re coming back and we’re kind of making right things that were wrong, in our own lives and in our own family. Because my parents left… this is a part of my story, my parents left because they had a lot of marital issues and they went and healed up over six or seven years and then came back, and that was a huge thing. And so I was excited about it. But, man, as I look back on it now I realize how naive, wet behind the ears, whatever else you want to call it, how just so… how much I’ve changed since those moments. But they were still exciting and I think sometimes you only learn by doing, you only learn by making the mistakes, because you just don’t know they’re out… you don’t know where the landmines are until you step on a couple.

[BILLY]:
I remember you getting in trouble briefly after you showed up on the scene because it was maybe the first or second night you came into youth, and you got your flip flops on and your Umbro shorts. And so we went from… the previous youth pastor was Jeff Lyons – he came out of Oral Roberts University, so he was like a suit and tie kind of guy, like, Hugo Boss, Ferragamo shoes, like, the hairdo, very professional. And you come in in, like, Umbro shorts and flip flops, and you tell us we’re going to have the best damn youth group in the whole town. And we were just like, yes, he cusses, he’s an awesome youth pastor. And I think they called you in and told you to tone down your rhetoric a bit. But we thought you were a rock star, man. I’ve got a faceful of acne and I’m scared to death of girls and I’m like, this is my guy. If I could be like him.

[ISRAEL]:
Oh, no.

[BILLY]:
Yeah, so it wasn’t probably too long after that, after being around guys like your dad and then Jeff and then you, man, I wanted that to be my life. I wanted to be a youth pastor. That was the direction, hands down. No questions. That was the life I was gonna live. My mom and… my name is William but I go about Billy and my mom told me my whole life, I named you Billy cuz you’re going to be the next Billy Graham.

[ISRAEL]:
No pressure there.

[BILLY]:
No pressure there. I think maybe that was a blessing. I think all things have a way of working themselves out. I came, like you, from a great family and good faith tradition. And they taught us so many things and I’m so grateful for my mom and dad and the stuff they gave me. But I’ve also had to unpack some of that, and unwind some of that, and find my own way. And we’ve talked a bit about that. So could you kind of share your story around that topic, finding your own way, stepping out of the shadow of the faith tradition you grew up under? What parts stayed, what parts are gone, how are things different now for you? Yeah.

[ISRAEL]:
Yeah. And yeah, that’s… like you said, I want to start with saying that I am grateful and thankful for the foundation that was laid. I grew up going to Sunday school, learning all of the Bible verses, all the Bible stories, doing sword drills, and all that stuff where you call out, you know, Galatians 3:4 and the first one that gets there gets to say, Hallelujah, and then read the Bible verse. So I learned where all the books of the Bible were and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for knowing the stories of… even, albeit very watered down children versions of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, and Noah’s Ark, and all that stuff. I’m still thankful that I do know those, I have a basis to start from.

But then, over my lifetime, and starting early on, I know that I was also… I felt things differently, and looked at things differently than my family, or my immediate kind of context, church context especially. I looked at things differently. And I was always kind of the rebellious one in my family, although I never really did anything, I never drank or did drugs or any of those types of things. Never got anyone pregnant out of wedlock. I mean, it’s like I didn’t… but I was still kind of known as the rebellious one, or the black sheep of the family a little bit, because I just looked at things a little bit differently. I think God just made me that way. But I’m thankful for the foundation I have. And it is still with me in lots of ways, although the way that I do church today, the way that I look at theological constructs today is very different than what I was raised up in, and raised up to be, quite honestly.

You know, Richard Rohr – I’ve heard you talk about Rohr a little bit – Rohr talks about you got to have a container, and then you have that container and then you believe early on, in the first half of life, that everything in that container is perfect and wonderful and the best. And then you start to realize through life experience, and through suffering, and pain, or great love, that that container does not hold in it all of life, and all of universe, and all of experience, and then you start to go, oh, wow, there’s other stuff out here than what I thought. And so my second half of life started kind of in, like, different series of things that happened, but especially through a divorce that I went through about 10 years ago. But my second half of life, I’ve realized that the foundation was there, the container was there. So there was order, but then there was disorder, and now there has to be some reorder. So I’m reordering some of those things in big ways, but they all come from the foundation that I received. And so I can’t hate the foundation I received. Even though I’m very different, and I execute ministry in my own life, in my own actions, from a very different place, they come from that original order, if that makes sense.

[BILLY]:
Yeah. I think a lot of people in the world today can relate to that in the way we’re brought up, and things change, and we begin to… deconstruction as a big word these days, take apart what we were given and learn how to put it back together. Richard Rohr helped me so much on the container thing with my own kids, because we go to a more traditional church and our views have changed a little bit on some of those things, and I was worried about, you know, some of the things they were being taught. I remember one time my daughter came home and told me dinosaurs didn’t exist because they weren’t in the Bible. And I was like, this is just part of the container she’s gonna have to take apart. And then we get to have conversations a little more in depth about that, but we didn’t want them to be excluded from the fun and the joy that we had growing up. And for all of it’s pain and confusion, there were a lot of wonderful, beautiful moments, and like you said, they give you that foundation.

[ISRAEL]:
But then you realize it’s flawed.

[BILLY]:
Yeah, yeah, it’s flawed. And so where I’d like to start and then maybe kind of get into how we handle it with family members who view different than us. I think a lot of people, that’s a big thing, you know, Thanksgiving and Christmas and getting over being angry, and bitter, healing and being okay with you know, you having things this way and me having things this way. So when we get specific about the changes.

[ISRAEL]:
Okay.

[BILLY]:
I look at your church, and I’ve listened to some of your sermons. You guys talk about social issues, and you talk about marginalized people groups. You definitely have a different view than what we grew up with, I believe, on things like LGBTQ issues, Black Lives Matter. Could you go into that a little bit?

[ISRAEL]:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, those Thanksgiving and Christmas moments with family, I always joke with my people and myself that when you get together at Thanksgiving, you realize, oh, this is why I only talk to these people once a year. So yeah, it can be treacherous. But yeah, let me say, I went to… I think I said to you, I moved over from BIOLA to Southern Nazarene University. Well, Nazarene – for those of you in the audience, if you don’t know – Nazarene is a very conservative denomination. And they were not working on becoming anti racist back in the ’90s. They were not working on equal rights for LGBTQ siblings. And so I was a psychology major, and in ’94, or ’95, or ’96, somewhere in there, mid ’90s, I was being taught by my psychology professor, one of them, and we were doing a biological psychology class, in the development of the fetus and all those types of things, and she was talking through all of this stuff and all the different hormone washes that happen to a baby in utero and all of these things. And as she explained some stuff, really just walking through the different facets of what happens, and what could happen if one thing happens or another thing happens, I remember, like… I mean, I can remember like it’s yesterday, man. I was like, I raised my hand, I said, Doctor, what’s her name? I said, Doctor, it sounds like to me that what you’re saying is that someone could be born gay. And probably out of her own understanding of not really, at a Nazarene University, being able to say certain things, she just looked at me and smiled with this little grin that was like, well, maybe you’re headed somewhere there, Israel, and I can’t say anything about that, but hey, sounds like you’re thinking through.

[BILLY]:
And parents are worried about sending their kids to the liberal universities.

[ISRAEL]:
Right, right.

[BILLY]:
You’re at the most conservative university in the world.

[ISRAEL]:
Exactly. And the reason I bring that up is because in the’ 90s, if you remember, if you were in the Christian world, the fight about gay or not gay was that… because if you remember, the LGBTQ crowd at that point was saying, I was born this way. I was born this way. I was born this way. This is not a choice. I was born this way. And all of the Christian rhetoric was, God doesn’t make mistakes. God would never make you that way. God doesn’t let you be born that way. It’s a choice. It’s a choice. It’s a choice. And so as I’m going through actual science of how things happen, and how the brain can function and how genitalia is formed, I realized that you can have a brain chemistry that says, I am a female that is attracted to males, but have the genitalia of a male. So that was just science, bro. That wasn’t an agenda; that’s just literal science, of biology and psychology and chemistry of the human being. And what I realized was that, oh, wait a minute, that means that some people are born gay. So that whole argument from the religious fundamentalists that you can’t be born that way, on that day, was thrown out for me. So that took me to a whole place of like, hmm, well, what does that mean?

[BILLY]:
Yeah, what does that mean? Because I knew you then and we weren’t having these conversations.

[ISRAEL]:
No, no.

[BILLY]:
What was going on in your head?

[ISRAEL]:
So for me, I call it going from side A to side B. I didn’t coin that phrase, that’s a phrase that I’ve learned from other LGBTQ siblings and allies that I’ve had many conversations with. And the side A to side B means that on side A, it would be the Christian fundamentalist thing that says, gay is a sin, it’s an abomination, you’re all going to hell if you have any form of LGBTQ activity in your life. Side B is open and affirming, it’s not a sin. It is God makes you that way, and God loves you that way, and you can be a full member of the Kingdom of God, even in your LGBTQness, right?

[BILLY]:
Sounds like the good news.

[ISRAEL]:
Well, it is. But not for republican, conservative Christians in Oklahoma in ’95, it wasn’t.

[BILLY]:
It’s not good news for them.

[ISRAEL]:
No. So you’re right, I wasn’t having those conversations. I didn’t talk about those things. I didn’t preach those things. Because (A) the context I was in, and also (B) I was not fully over to side B yet. I was still struggling internally with, well, what does this mean? And I remember taking probably about five years of really going through transitions in my own theological understanding, especially when it came to LGBTQ issues. So I went from… my first move was, okay, well, some people are born that way, but not everybody is born that way. Some people are choosing, right? So that was my first move, which is a move. I literally was like, okay, some people are born this way. So, God can make people this way. But God doesn’t make all people this way. Some people who are gay or lesbian, it’s because they had bad parents. It’s because they had a horrible… it’s because they were abused, or troubled, had trauma, and they’re just working it out in wrong ways, but once they meet Christ, they’ll have a really great answer and they won’t be gay anymore. So that was my first move. Not very proud of that move, but that was my first one.

And then the next move was, yeah, it’s a start. It’s one baby step. My next baby step was, hey, everybody in church sins. So why do we spend so much time on the gay sin? Like, why is that the big…? Because there’s people that come to church that are divorced, and there’s a lot of people that believe that divorce is a sin, right? Especially in fundamental circles. So it’s like, well, we let them come and we don’t say anything about it. There are people that cheat on their taxes every year, and we let them come and we don’t say anything about it. There are guys that are cheating on their wives, women that have had affairs, people that abuse their children, people that are watching pornography, and we’re just talking about the staff, you know, we’re not talking about… sorry, I couldn’t resist.

[BILLY]:
That’s the deacons meeting.

[ISRAEL]:
But literally, I mean, I joke but I’m actually… I mean, like, those are people that are literally hired by the church, right? They can be involved in ministry, and they can be deacons and elders, and they can be ushers and greeters, and they can be in the choir, and in the band, and we don’t say anything. But the minute that you might, that we might think that you’re gay, it’s like, nope, you’re out. And so I really struggled with that.

So my next step was, listen, everybody sins; it doesn’t matter. Whether they sin or not, they get to come to church, they can still be Christian, which that’s a big move. Because a lot of people think that, well, if you’re in the LGBTQ group at all, you can’t be a Christian. So I moved to, yes, you can be a Christian. But I still felt like for some people that was a sin. Does that make sense? And so then probably by about ’97, ’98, late ’90s, I had finally, through a lot of reading, through talking to other people, I had arrived at the place of that I do not think it is a sin. I think that God makes people and they can choose – I know that that’s a weird word to say there – but they can choose who they want to love and how they want to love and that’s none of our business. And what our business is as God people, Jesus people, is just to love you where they are and let them love God where they are, and we’ll all just go together and make a giant, big, beautiful family.

And so I still… about that time I started my first church – it’s called the Edge Church – and I still was very careful in the rhetoric that I used or the way I preached. But because I think there was still a part of me that was scared that if I came out really aggressive as an ally… now remember, this is back in 2000, this is 20 years ago, I was still scared that it would cost me, and I didn’t know what kind of cost. And this is a sad part of my own history, that I was too scared to have these conversations in public or to preach them. Now, what I would do is I would make fun of people that thought being gay was a sin. I would make fun of it. I would make these little passing statements at church or in my sermons about how, you know, if you’re a Christian in Oklahoma, you got to be republican, eat Chick-fil-A, and hate gays. So, I would say those things which was a hint to maybe how I felt, but it wasn’t a full throated, like, allyship, of saying, listen, I am for you, we are for you. So we were kind of doing things… you’re welcome here, but we’re just not going to talk about it a lot. And so that was a part of my transition.

And then, after I went through my divorce, and I had lost everything, I kind of got to the point where I was realizing, as I came back into ministry after that healing time, I was realizing, you know what, I’ve already lost everything. There’s nothing else to lose. I’m just gonna say what I think.

[BILLY]:
There’s something beautiful about losing everything, and it giving you the freedom to not give a shit anymore.

[ISRAEL]:
Yes. Yeah, because I…

[BILLY]:
[Unclear] once in my life, after recovery due to alcoholism and drugs and bankruptcy, and I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting and a girl was crying, and she was there with a girlfriend, and she said, I love coming to these meetings, but I wish I could go to the church I grew up in on Sundays, but they tell me I’m an abomination. And my heart at that point was broken, and everything was gone. I didn’t have to care what other people thought anymore and I looked at her and I saw one of God’s kids, nothing more, nothing less. And I just, at that moment, knew what side of this thing I wanted to be on. And I didn’t want anything else anymore to do with anything that made people not feel welcome, and loved, and accepted 100%.

[ISRAEL]:
Yes, yes. And there is, there’s something about losing. I mean, I think for me, it was like, you know what, I’ve lost everything and I lived through it. I didn’t die although there were times I wanted to. I literally lost everything. And I was like, well, so I know what that’s like, I’ve done that, and I survived, and God was there with me through the most unbelievably dark moments of my life. You know, here’s what’s interesting, as I’m thinking about this right now, I’m just thinking that for me, I went through a divorce, I lost a church, there was about 500 people coming every Sunday, three services, really doing some really great stuff, and I lost everything and I came back. And there’s some people that don’t like me because of what I went through, and there’s always people that walk out on you because they think, oh, you’ve made too many mistakes and blah, blah blah, you hurt too many people. Okay, I understand that. I get it, they have a right to their opinion. But I’ve recovered, basically. My life is way better than it used to be. I have an incredible woman that I’m engaged to. She’s walking through her own recovery, is sober now and for many years, and we have an incredible relationship. I got a great relationship with my four kids. I’m pastoring a wonderful church that’s just unbelievably beautiful, and they love and accept everybody, no matter where they are. And I think, you know what, there are people that live in this world and fight for their livelihoods, their lives, and they never get to recover because society never lets them.

So there are marginalized groups, like the LGBTQ, and basically any minority, especially black and brown bodies and Native Americans, that they’ve literally had to fight and it’s like they never get to wake up and go, wow, I lived through that. Right? Like, they never get to have that moment of I’m finally in a better space. It’s like, our country and our empire and our systems are set to always be abusing and oppressing and pushing away these groups. And so I’m thinking, wow, I’m tired? Like, I have all this privilege, and I’m recovered, and people still love me, and they’re not mad at me anymore, and I’m like, how can I be tired of speaking truth when marginalized groups literally will do this all their life and die still with the fight going on? So I’m like, dude, I’m just going to move towards those who are marginalized, who are oppressed, who are abused, who keep having to fight for their rights and for equity, and that’s where Jesus is, and that’s where I want to be. And so I’m going to use the privilege in the voice that I have now to never be afraid to speak out or to speak up for something that Jesus would do. And that’s where I’m going to be. And so I’m not welcome in conservative circles very well, you know, because I’m very pro LGBTQ, I’ve married same sex couples, multiple couples, I’m marching in Black Lives Matter, I Can’t Breathe marches here in Oklahoma City. And so I’m standing up for marginalized people, and that might keep our community smaller than it was before but like I said, I’ve lost everything. Who cares? Like, there’s other people that are going to have to keep fighting and so I just want to fight with them, and for them.

[BILLY]:
Yeah. Well, and we had a conversation on the phone last time we talked, and going back to having the name Billy and Billy Graham was thrown out there and I always thought, in my mind, in my image, I wanted to be a youth pastor. And there was always a large platform in front of me and I thought that was success. And growing up in Oklahoma, around faith movements, and you have Oral Roberts University… I remember you took us up to, I think it was Youth for America or something. There was a camp. And we went there and we were supposed to be doing a prayer time in the big auditorium, and we snuck off to the prayer chapel and we’re going up the elevator, and it opened and you were standing there, and you were hiding from it too. I think you’d run off. And it was like, we thought you had caught us but then we realized we’d caught you, and so none of us could say anything.

But they were these huge leaders with TV stations all over the world, and huge platforms, and my life is I’ve lost everything. [Unclear] back after 90 days of inpatient treatment, and I’m sitting in a 12 step meeting, and this old, grizzly guy – they’re usually the best, that has been around a while – said, son, I bet you thought God had some big plans for you growing up. I said, yes, sir. And he’s like, what if he’s got some small plans? There’s just a few people you need to reach, and I needed that ego work, and I still do today. And I realize we’re two privileged, white guys, middle class, sitting on a podcast, talking about this and being like, I grew up conservative, you know, and now I want to be different. I don’t want to minimize that message. But also, I mean, like you said, I don’t have a lot to complain about. Even though I’ve lost everything, I was given the privilege of being able to bounce back pretty darn quick. Some people never even get the starting chance.

[ISRAEL]:
Right.

[BILLY]:
So if I can do anything for that, and come alongside anything, and be a part of anything, and maybe just be quiet and listen, there’s that too. And I don’t know what I’m doing and I want to remain teachable, and understanding, and that’s when I reached out to you. I had come across some of your sermons and I’d run away for so long and recovery brought me back, but then I heard some of your sermons and it just drew me in even more, and I find myself, I can’t get away from the Jesus story. I can’t get away from this redemptive work. It keeps pulling me back. I mean, what kept you from just walking away from it all and just saying, you know what, I’m just gonna go find an office somewhere, [unclear], and answer phones? I don’t know. Why do you still show up and put on the title of clergy and step in front of people and spread the good news?

[ISRAEL]:
Right. I think that’s a great question. The very short answer to that is that I never once considered not doing this. My deconstruction… In fact, that word, deconstruction, like you used earlier in the conversation, is a big word. And a lot of people are doing that and going through that. I went through deconstruction for many years and I didn’t even know it, because there wasn’t a word for it back then. There wasn’t a word for it in the late ’80s, and ’90s. And now that I look back and I’ve heard that word, I look back and I realize, oh, that’s what was happening to me. I was deconstructing this theological framework that I believe is an Americanized version of the Jesus movement. And I think the Americanized version of Jesus is a very rugged individualist, manifest destiny, do what you heard God tell you to do, don’t care about anybody else, make yours, make it happen, get the big stage, go for it, who cares who you hurt on along the way. It’s very American. I started deconstructing from that, bro. I remember, and I’ll be quite honest, I remember when I was a little boy sitting in my dad’s really big, big, big church.

[BILLY]:
It was one of the biggest in Oklahoma, wasn’t it?

[ISRAEL]:
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. At the time it was. And it was one of the largest churches in America at the time.

[BILLY]:
Yeah. It was huge.

[ISRAEL]:
Yeah. And I remember my dad… and now, listen. I love my dad. I love my dad. I still have great conversation with my dad. We’re very affectionate with one another, still kiss each other on the lips when we see each other. I love my dad. Okay? I really do. But my dad and I are diametrically opposed in so many ways. And we talk about that; we have great, loud conversations about that. But we still love each other. We’d still do anything for each other, and so I’m proud of that. But I remember as a little kid, and I’m talking little, I’m talking 6, 7, 8 years old. And I remember feeling uncomfortable with the way that we talked about our church being better than everybody else’s. Like, I remember… so, there was something in me that was just born to deconstruct. There was just something in me that was born to question. It was very narcissistic, and egotistical, although I didn’t have those words at all to understand. I just knew it made me feel uncomfortable. And I remember thinking how important it is… I remember thinking, even then, like, if I ever did ministry, I would not want to brag about my ministry. I don’t ever want to think that it’s better than anybody else’s. Or if I do, I definitely don’t want to share that publicly. Does that make sense? I want to deal with, why do I think that? Why am I having these egotistical, self righteous, self aggrandizing kind of thoughts? I want to kill that if I can.

[BILLY]:
So the way you told us we were going to have the best damn youth group in the whole, entire town, you don’t say that anymore?

[ISRAEL]:
No, I… and that’s what’s so funny, is (A) I don’t remember saying that, and I absolutely believe 1,000% that I said it. Because throughout my life, even though I questioned things, and even though I was uncomfortable by things that I saw, I still only had that context. So when I became the youth pastor, all I needed to do is to do what I had seen. And the only way that I knew to build a youth group was to act like it was going to be the best damn youth group in the world. So that was my only context. So even though it made me uncomfortable, I was like, well, this is the way that you have to do it to build it. And so I struggled internally with these things, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable by them. So finally, as you go through life, and you just keep on struggling with the things you struggle with, finally, you get to a place where you realize, oh, well, I really can be more authentic. And again, like Rohr says, sadly, that usually only comes after an incredibly great loss and great pain. And that’s what happened with me, like, all these things were in me since I was six or seven, but it took me losing everything to finally just say, you know what? Damn it. Just be yourself. Just be as close to the authentic you as you could possibly be, every day.

[BILLY]:
Oh, I love it, Israel. We’re gonna have to have you back on for more of these talks.

[ISRAEL]:
I would love it.

[BILLY]:
I can’t wait to come to Oklahoma City, and come to your church…

[ISRAEL]:
Please do.

[BILLY]:
And bring my kids, and just be a part of your community for a day. And speaking of loss, on our way out, I’ve got two questions for you. Didn’t give them to you before so sorry for the lack of…

[ISRAEL]:
That’s all right.

[BILLY]:
Just throwing ’em on you, no preparation. What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?

[ISRAEL]:
The hardest lesson… the reason that I went through my divorce is because I never knew what my original trauma was that defined my life. And what I learned out of my divorce, and through reading, and through a ton of therapy, was that adopted children carry an energy of rejection and abandonment, that is a trauma, that because they’re pre verbal, they don’t know how to verbalize that hurt. And so many of us as adoptees, don’t know that we’re carrying around in us trauma. And the hardest thing for me to learn was to realize that I had carried that trauma all my life and it ultimately cost me everything because I never knew it, and because I didn’t know what to do about it. And that was a… that was the dark night of the soul for me, is finally recognizing that what cost me my marriage, and my children, and my ministry, was because I was fully disengaged from my authentic self. I mean, completely. Because I, literally, bro, I was carrying around this unbelievable trauma that I had no words for or understanding for.

[BILLY]:
No. Thank you for being open and sharing that with us. I work with a lot of kids who have been through adoption and, man, you articulated and put things into words that I’ve tried to say, and I know I’ll be going back and listening.

[ISRAEL]:
I’ve got some great books on the subject too, if you ever want those.

[BILLY]:
Absolutely. I’ll take all I can get. And so after all the pain, and all the struggle, and where are you today, final question, what inspires you to be better and to keep on going?

[ISRAEL]:
Well, a lot of things. I mean, obviously my children. I mean, that’s just… I mean, if you’re a parent, which you are, you know that that’s true. I know that I’ve hurt my kids and I know I’ve wounded them. And what inspires me to continue to get better within myself, is that I would lessen the amount of wounding that I do to my kids. That’s a huge one. The other one is, I’m in my master’s program right now, at Phillips Seminary in Tulsa, and I cannot tell you how much, as I’m learning about Jesus, that it is transformative to me who Jesus was and what He did. And I truly believe that as we fully, as I fully look into the face of Jesus, it will help me become more like Jesus. And that sounds like such a Christian answer but I desperately, deeply believe that. Jesus was an unbelievable human being that absolutely went after power, I mean that spoke truth to power, right? That destroyed the imperial powers that be, and was killed for it, and I want to be like Jesus. And so all I know is I have to be fully connected to myself, and to the divine, to even come close to being like Jesus.

[BILLY]:
Thank you so much.

[ISRAEL]:
Thank you.

[BILLY]:
You were someone I admired in my youth. And even though we’ve changed a whole lot, you’re someone that I admire in my adulthood. Thank you for sharing your journey with us today, Israel.

[ISRAEL]:
Thanks for having me.

[BILLY]:
We’ll talk again soon, brother.

[ISRAEL]:
Yes, let’s do it.

[BILLY]:
Alright, love you.

[ISRAEL]:
Love you guys.

[BILLY]:
Are you ready to find freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find your strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your own skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free Beta Male Revolution course is for you. Sign up for free at betamalerevolution.com/course.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guest are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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