In this episode:
This week’s episode forces us to take a look at our Christian organizations and our beliefs. When Amy Fritz's husband’s job at a well-known organization ended because he refused to be silent about what was going on in the organization, it shook their world. They had to learn to differentiate between Christ and Christian culture. It tested their integrity when they had to choose between money and following God with consistency and honor. Now, Amy is helping others by telling her story and pointing them to resources that can help them through spiritual abuse and more.
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About Amy Fritz:
Amy is the host of the Untangled Faith podcast where she hopes to help encourage people who have been hurt in their faith communities. She’s a Minnesota native who relocated to Nashville for her husband's dream job that ended up breaking their hearts and teaching them a lot of the problems behind the curtain in some Christian organizations. Amy has three teenagers and two dogs.
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Quotes to Remember from Amy Fritz
- When you see something that doesn't fit with what you thought to be true, you have to figure out a way to reckon with that.
- You have to make a difference in your mind between what is Christ and what is a culture.
- Some of our systems are unhealthy that we've set up, and I'm really interested to see what our churches what a Christian organizations are going to look like. Even in the next decade, I feel like there's a reckoning that's happening is it's painful, but I feel like it's going to lead to something good people want something real people want things that are meaningful.
- I'm seeing some people leave the church, but I'm also seeing other people say, “I think I want to worship God, maybe in a different denomination than the one that felt so unhealthy or a different way.”
- You can love Jesus and unsubscribe from the things that aren't him.
- We absolutely need community. So I'm not saying detached from everybody. But there are lots of ways to find community.
- The way that our modern, especially American evangelical, church systems are set up aren't necessarily reflective of what we see in the New Testament. Some of it's very American culture based.
- The more that somebody has allowed me space to grieve, the easier it's been to heal and not to throw it all out.
- As I have grown in my faith,…I am more comfortable with the questions. And I feel less anxious when someone else has them.
- It's not up to me to know all the answers. And it never really was. If I if I don't get it right, I don't fail the test. If I don't understand God perfectly…there are things we don't know, there's things he hasn't revealed to us. And that has helped my faith.
- I wanted to be about something that I was for more than about creating something that I was against.
- One of the best gifts you can do to create healthy, safe environments is not to wait until someone comes to you and says, "I'm in an abusive marriage," or "I think something's wrong." A better thing would be to be proactive and learning what that looks like.
- If you are feeling discouraged, it doesn't mean that Christianity isn't the real deal. It doesn't mean Jesus isn't the real deal.
- There's just a lot of things to be discouraged about. But there are there are pockets of goodness.
Resources from Amy
- Christian Podcasters Association
- Dr. Diane Langberg book Redeeming Power: Understanding Abuse and Power in the Church
- Leslie Vernick book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and many other resources
- Rachel Denhollander
- Something's Not Right: Decoding the Hidden Tactics of Abuse by Wade Mullen,
- A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing by Scot McKnight and his daughter Laura Behringer
- Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson.
- Kyle J. Howard
This episode is brought to you by the book and Bible study called The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure. Are there experiences you'd rather toss in the dumpster? Discover the repurposed and upcycled life. This Christian living and humor book and accompanying Bible study will help you see how some of your greatest disappointments, mistakes, and hurts can be beautiful treasures from God. This simple format is welcome for busy women who are looking for deeper relationships with one another without the burden of extra homework. More about the best-selling book and study: The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure
Michelle Rayburn 00:01
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a situation where doing the right thing would cost you EVERYTHING? Today's podcast guest is my podcasting friend, Amy Fritz, and she talks about how her husband's job ended when he did the right thing, when he was kind of a whistleblower in an organization that is well known for teaching Christian principles. So she talks about her journey now on her own podcast, and she interviews other people who have been through spiritual abuse. And today we're gonna talk about her story. Maybe you'll resonate with something in her story, or maybe you'll pick up tools that you will use in how you relate to someone else. Amy has repurposed her own hardship into something that will help others heal and find a new path to peace. This is about learning how to untangle our faith from all that is not good at all that is not true, and finding what's real.
Michelle Rayburn 01:07
You're listening to Life Repurposed, where you'll find practical biblical wisdom for everyday living, creative inspiration, and helpful resources. Grow your faith, improve your relationships, discover your purpose, and reach your goals with topics to encourage you to find hope amid the trashy stuff of life. Thanks for joining me today. I'm your host, Michelle Rayburn.
Michelle Rayburn 01:32
I'd like to introduce you to Amy Fritz. She's the host of the Untangled Faith podcast, where she hopes to help encourage people who have been hurt in their faith communities. She's a Minnesota native who relocated to Nashville for her husband's dream job that ended up breaking their hearts and teaching them a lot of the problems behind the curtain in some Christian organizations. Amy and I start off by chatting a little bit about what we would do in the day off, and then we get into the real heart of the conversation. So let's jump right in. Amy, thank you for joining me today.
Amy Fritz 02:06
It's so good to be here. I'm excited to chat with you, Michelle.
Michelle Rayburn 02:09
Today we're going to be talking quite a bit about your podcast as we go. Just because I've listened to episodes and I love the topic. But I also really want to talk about your story. Before we get into that, I want you to imagine you have an unexpected free day on your calendar, which probably doesn't happen very often. What do you do for fun?
Amy Fritz 02:28
I am not exciting. I love to read. I like I read too much nonfiction. What I really need is to lose myself in fiction. And I do have a book waiting for me at the library. That is a good summer fiction read. And because I am an introvert, I love to just get in the car and leave. Like just drive somewhere and listen to a podcast. It's my little sensory deprivation car chamber like away from my kids listening to things or needing things. My kids are all teenagers. But still I just love to leave the house.
Michelle Rayburn 03:08
Yes, we could, if we weren't both introverts, we could spend a day together. But I g uess I love to do that. I will get a coffee somewhere. Go stop at a garden center and wander around then drive somewhere. I love that. Or now that I'm an empty nester, it's the hammock with a book.
Oh, that sounds lovely. I would love that. I would love to set up one next to you. And we could read side by side.
Michelle Rayburn 03:33
Yep. Yeah, just have our coffee. And yeah, I'd love it.
Amy Fritz 03:36
And talk when we think when we feel like it.
Michelle Rayburn 03:39
I'll have to fly to Nashville and make that happen.
Amy Fritz 03:41
But not when it's like blazing hot out.
Michelle Rayburn 03:43
I'd love to know a little bit about your faith story, because we know each other to the Christian podcasters Association. And for people listening, I will link to that in the show notes because we'd both love to have you join us we too.
Amy Fritz 03:54
Yeah, it's such a great community.
Michelle Rayburn 03:56
We don't really get deep into our own stories in there. So I'd love to know a little bit about your faith story.
Amy Fritz 04:03
You know, there's always a long version and the short version. But I would say, you know, I have one of those really lovely stereotypical Christian homes I grew up in, where my parents were happily married to each other. Two kids, a boy and a girl. Two years apart. My brother's two years older than me. They became believers shortly before I was born. And so I had the benefit of joining a family that was new to faith and really hungry to learn about the Lord. And so it was very natural part of my growing up to get to hear about Jesus and to be introduced to him and say, "Hey, I want that." It was probably, a—I'm pretty sure it was—"Why can't I have communion? How come everybody else is having communion?" And having that conversation. Being like, "Well, I think I'm ready. I think I'm ready," and I was relatively young. Growing up, we had a Christian school at our church that was sort of connected with it that we attended, that I attended. And then I went to Bible college. So I had a lot of like, Christian Bible learning as I was growing up, and some really wonderful things. Also, a bit of legalism, a bit of extra things that I have had to be like, "Okay, no, that really isn't in the Bible," like these certain rules and like dress code issues, and just the way that it's really hard to make rules about someone's heart, right? It's just people do the best that they can do with what they have. But, you know, a person's heart isn't something that you can, like, make a rule about at a Christian school, only, a rule about something that's outward. And so I would say my young adult years was sort of sorting through okay, what's real, what's necessary, what's actually a part of the Christian faith and what isn't. And I'd say one of the most pivotal things that happened was—we had two of our kids were, you know, born, our youngest was about a year old, which meant that our oldest was like two and a half. So they're, 16 months apart, and the youngest was about a year old. And my mom passed away, really, suddenly. She had... there was no warning except for a headache. And while we were waiting for her MRI results, she had a massive bleeding in her brain and passed away. We were sitting, getting the results from her doctor in the waiting area at the hospital, we heard a code call, and we didn't know who it was. So when we were done hearing from the doctor, that they're like, "Oh, we're gonna move her to ICU. We feel like there's some bleeding happening. And keep an eye on her." We stopped talking. My dad says we should pray for that person that's in trouble. And so we prayed, and then we decided to go check on them. And we walked down the hall, turn the corner, everybody that we had just seen run down the hall was standing outside of her room. And, you know, I stood next to my dad and watched listened to him pray begging God for a miracle. You know, we all did. And God did not choose to do a miracle that we wanted, you know. She was 58. I was 31. And I was not ready to lose my mom. And that sort of thing rocks your world. Like I was like, "Okay, God, I have some thoughts about this. I understand the world isn't perfect. I don't like this. But because it's happened to me, I feel like I should have a pass on all the other things. I've experienced the hard things now God, and I don't want to have to deal with any more crap." So that was that was really like, it really jumped started me into thinking about what's real and what isn't.
Amy Fritz 07:44
Seeing that the Lord walks with those they're suffering. You know, Jesus, I mentioned, I don't know if you have read any work by Dr. Diane Langberg. But she is very well known in the like religious trauma world. She has been a therapist for, I think, five decades. And she wrote a book recently called Redeeming Power. I had a chance to meet her a few weeks ago. And I mentioned the whole thing about wanting a pass. And she's like, "No, even Jesus didn't get a pass. God's own Son." And you know, what, a way of shocking you back into reality, like God's own Son didn't even get a pass on these hard things. And so it was during that season where I was like, all right, I am gonna see if this is real or not. And we had some struggle. It was just a hard time with my mom passing away. And then we had another baby. Her husband's job was sort of changing. We were frustrated, we were in a small, tiny little rural town. We wanted to be out of there so badly. I just was, I felt stuck. And my husband found a job. Well, I found a job that sounded like a really great opportunity for him. It was a web developer position and working for Dave Ramsey. And we were like, "This is awesome. They are a for profit company, you can make money," because he had worked been working at a small Christian college where, you know, you don't make hardly anything. We were kind of able to pay our bills. But we were just in a really discouraging times. We're like, this is our chance. And so he went through the process, and he got hired, and we were so—it was it was really cool to see how he made it through all these different interview portions of the process. And that he was then able to go from being really discouraged in his job to being able to do something that he loved. Being able to do web development was a dream come true. And he got to be sitting next to people that were a part of a mission that he was really excited about. And so the way God worked that out for us and brought us out of feeling like we were stuck in this place to my husband being able to really flourish and learn and grow with some great people, and for us to be in a town where a lot of people were moving, a lot of people move to this area, Middle Tennessee.
Michelle Rayburn 10:11
So you had to move quite a ways for the job.
Amy Fritz 10:14
Yeah, we moved from Minnesota, which, you know, we moved from a rural, you know, an hour west of Minneapolis, which had it really was a really tiny town. Winstead, Minnesota, only really known for like music festivals. I don't think were there even 1000 people in the town. I don't even know, it was very small. Most people grew up there. I mean, there wasn't a lot of people like moving in. To moving to Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb much more suburban than where we were in this rural town. I had Target, Walmart, like five grocery stores, and all the things and all the people and a bunch of people that were hungry for relationship because many had relocated. And so it was a really easy experience to get connected to people. Yeah. And we... and it was such a great thing for us for many years, my husband's job there until it really ended in a really painful time, which was another wake-up call about our faith and what we really believed and really shook us the way that all ended at the end there.
Michelle Rayburn 11:23
So you made new friendships, you found a new church, had you really had strong spiritual connections there?
Amy Fritz 11:30
Yeah, yeah. We had, before we moved, we had tried out a new church. There was just so many things were up in the air. But when we moved to Franklin, we were able to get connected in a church that we felt really good about. And it was, it was a good place for us for a while until it wasn't. How sometimes that works. And that was hard. We found out our pastor had been plagiarizing, like all every word of every sermon, basically, that he had preached. And kind of reckoning with that and realizing the leadership. It wasn't a slam dunk decision for them of what to do with him. And I was like, how, why? How could this have been such a struggle for you to figure out what to do with somebody that was so deceitful, you know, working through that, and we found a new a new church home, that was good for us. And actually, we're at another church home now. Because you know, life is just changes a lot. Sometimes you outgrow different places, but we're currently attending Presbyterian Church. This is a whole new experience for us, which is very different than what we kind of grew up with. So but it's been a good, a good change for us. Yeah.
Michelle Rayburn 12:41
I'm hearing your story. And, and hearing a couple of places where you've come to a faith crossroads. I mean, the one you just described with your church is one, but then prior to that, you talked about your husband's job ending in a bad way. And he was working for a company that claims to be faith based, correct?
Amy Fritz 13:02
Yeah. Yeah. That was really it was really more than a tiny road bump.
Michelle Rayburn 13:08
Yeah. So what did that do to your faith?
Amy Fritz 13:10
Yeah, um, I think what what really happened there was we hit a point where we were faced with seeing that things weren't what we thought they were, and the righteous living that they profess to be all about. They were sort of fudging and covering for certain people that were not living that way. One of their highest profile personality speakers....We found evidence that he was cheating on his spouse. And when you see something that doesn't fit with what you thought to be true, you have to figure out a way to reckon with that. And for us initially, what it meant was praying our hearts out, just because we didn't know what to do about it. And we knew that the stakes were really high. They were high if we got it wrong, because you're not you don't want to like wrongfully accused somebody of something so humongous. And so we actually spent like, December, January, February, March, in part of April, praying, journaling, talking, my husband and I talking to each other, lots of walks around the neighborhood, about it. For those of you that listen, that are married, there's something magical that can happen when you can go for a walk with your spouse, and you can kind of work things out as you go for a walk. And I remember just pacing my room, listening to worship music and praying for wisdom from God until, you know he moved some things that sort of forced the issue. And my husband ended up in a meeting with some board members where they were like, "We know you have some concerns," and it was pretty clear that they were covering for this person. And they told Nathan, my husband, that he needed to decide if he trusted the leadership or not. And if he didn't, they basically said, "Well, you know what you need to do."
Amy Fritz 15:16
And it was like, this horrible feeling. You know, that night of just sitting with each other and thinking. I didn't want to say it. I didn't want to say that loud. I didn't want to be the one to say, even though I think we both knew what was going to have to happen. And so I just said, "I don't want to have to do this. I don't want to have to. I don't want you to have to quit." But that was basically the admission that we knew that it was going to have to happen. But the miracle in this is that even though we knew it would cost us something, for some reason, with no backup plan at all, my husband was able to walk back into work. And when they checked back in with him, he said, "I don't trust you." And he knew he was going to lose his job. We had no other job. And he went home. And we were like, "Well, then!" I know, we didn't know about what friends we were going to lose. I had a list of friends. You know, as we were working through this, the stakes are so high. Yeah, like who will still be our friend? And what might we lose? And you don't know until you do it, until you make the decision. You know, what is the most important thing.
Amy Fritz 16:44
I just talked to Kyle Howard the other day, he's pretty active and talking about religious trauma and racial issues. And he said he faced a similar situation where he had to choose, you know, his integrity, or like his connections and relationships in the industry, you know, the evangelical industrial complex, as they say. And that he made the choice to choose his integrity, and his wife said to him, "I have never been more proud of you." And that resonated with me so strongly, because I was so proud of my husband, so proud in that moment. We faced some hard things since then, you know, we were lied about, had a big meeting with all the employees and said terrible things about my husband. And later on, they went after—they went to malign my husband to his new employer, when we when we spoke up about why we why Nathan left, about a year later,
Amy Fritz 17:43
I shared the story on my website, and we ended up being threatened and having, like the CTO from the Ramsey organization, set up a meeting with my husband's new boss, and, you know, basically maligned him. And it was shocking, the sort of when that sort of thing happens. And these are people that profess to be believers that you know, that they are doing this running this business in the name of Christ, and you see something that is so completely opposite. You have to make a difference in your mind between what is what is Christ, and what is a culture that ended up who knows if it started out, okay, but ended up somewhere else completely. And as difficult as that was and has continued to be, we... God provided a job for my husband, even though he had another job threatened later on. He provided community for us, you know, we sort of found other refugees in this, people that had either left the organization earlier or shortly after us, where we could really encourage each other and people that have gone through certain similar things. There's just a really is a really sweet community where you would never want someone to have to experience that. But it's so nice to not be alone. And, and just an understanding, a deeper sensitivity to other people that have experienced hurt in religious communities, faith communities, because it's so tied into so much of who we are. Our faith is, it infuses everything that we do. But being able to learn that this really stinks, it really hurts. But it is not Jesus. This isn't Jesus. This is something else entirely. This is Christian culture that can sometimes be co opted for bad means because there are people in the world that are corrupted by power and money or whatever it is. Not everybody goes to that extreme, but to say, and to be able to just differentiate like, and like some of our systems are unhealthy that we've set up, and I'm really interested to see what our churches what a Christian organizations are going to look like. Even in the next decade, I feel like there's a reckoning that's happening is it's painful, but I feel like it's gonna lead to something good people want something real people want things that are meaningful. And I'm seeing some people leave the church, but I'm also seeing other people say, I think I want to worship God, maybe in a different denomination than the one that felt so unhealthy or a different way. There's a lot of people that are looking at what is the Anglican Church like I want maybe I want something more liturgical, maybe I want something that is less focused on a big personality, and more focused on taking communion together. And like reading common liturgies together, where you don't feel like something's weaponized against you are used because somebody wants to raise money for a capital campaign, you know, of course, some of that cynicism sneaks in, but I have seen a real hunger in people for something that is real and less of a willingness to accept a showy shallow fate. Yeah, the end?
Michelle Rayburn 21:31
How did you sort that out? Because I've met people who have completely walked away from their faith because that inconsistency was there. And they couldn't see that this isn't Jesus. These were the people who represented Jesus to them from the time they were a child, and they've completely walked away. So how did you stay with Jesus and not become completely disconnected from faith?
Amy Fritz 21:55
I think some of it was finding some really great resources. I mentioned Dr. Diane Langberg earlier. She, her book Redeeming Power. And I had found some videos that she had done early on about narcissism in the church. And I know that doesn't sound like the sort of thing—or narcissism and systems—it doesn't sound like something that would give somebody hope. But seeing somebody like that, that really loved Jesus and had walked faithfully and just served hurting people gave me hope. Talking to people that work with the hurting, you know, that they say that's where they see Jesus, they're seeing Jesus, in the survivors of the wreckage of some of these places. And I cannot explain it. But, you know, some of it is in that fellowship with people that you would not have wanted to be in the club. And people that give you permission to say, that aren't freaked out, that are a non anxious presence as they, as like my therapist would say, you know, if somebody's really struggling with their faith because they've experienced something painful in their church or Christian organization, to have somebody respond, that loves Jesus, and is not worried and freaked out about their faith, because they're not going to be part of a certain organization. I think is really helpful when we— Because somebody did that for me, somebody supported the idea that you can love Jesus and unsubscribe from the things that aren't him, and it might mean unsubscribing from a certain church, it might mean worshiping differently for a while. It might mean not being in the building for a little while and finding community elsewhere. I know that sounds crazy and painful. And you know, because you we do absolutely need community. So I'm not saying detached from everybody. But there are lots of ways to find community. And I would argue that the way that our modern, especially American evangelical, church systems are set up aren't necessarily reflective of what we see in the New Testament. Some of it's very American culture based. And to say that that is not serving your faith is not walking away from Jesus. It's not the same thing. And I know some people, some people do, but I just hold on to hope and say, you know it, Jesus is hanging on to them, even through that hard, really dark time. And just to I think the more that somebody has allowed me space to grieve, the easier it's been to heal and not to throw it all out.
Michelle Rayburn 24:49
I think that's, you know, I'm now willing to have conversations with anybody who wants to talk about any questions they have, but that wasn't who I was before I fell right into it before. I was the Pharisee, who wouldn't— I was that person was like, "I have to disconnect with you because you have abandoned your faith." Therefore, it was like, almost like this Amish shunning like... And instead, it sounds like you've discovered the path of reconciliation and grace and all the things that Jesus represents.
Amy Fritz 25:22
Well, and I, it's this long journey. And I'm hoping I'm closer to seeing an understanding than I was before. You know, the New Testament, there's a verse that says we see through a glass darkly. And that means that there are things we just don't know, and don't understand now. If we believe that to be the case, if we believe the Scripture, and so as I have grown in my faith, and I get this impression from you, as well, that I am more comfortable with the questions. And I feel less anxious when someone else has them.
Michelle Rayburn 26:01
Amy Fritz 26:02
And I feel less like I need to defend something or have the right answers.
Michelle Rayburn 26:06
Amy Fritz 26:07
I'm much more comfortable saying, "I really believe this to be the case. But I could be wrong." And I'm okay with it. I'm gonna hold it with an open hand, like, I hold really firmly to like the creeds like the Nicene Creed. Jesus, you know, God exists. You know, his Son came to save us died for us. He rose again to forgive our sins, like, these things are non negotiables. There's so many other things that we don't know for sure. And following an almighty guide, who can do anything means we have to allow for him, we have to allow for mystery.
Michelle Rayburn 26:49
Amy Fritz 26:49
And in... see, there's a part of our brain that doesn't want that. But there's also a part of me that's just has this sigh of relief, that it's not up to me to know all the answers. And it never really was. Like if I if I don't get it right, I don't fail the test. If I don't understand God perfectly. It only makes sense. Who does. There are things we don't know, there's things he hasn't revealed to us. And that has helped my faith. I read Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson. That has been another thing that's been helpful for my face, too. Like somebody had mentioned reading dead people. Wait till somebody's dead. Did you know if they like were faithful all the way through, right? But he talks about—
Michelle Rayburn 27:40
Can't tarnish their...
Amy Fritz 27:41
They're not gonna let me down, right? And maybe wait a few more years just to make sure we know all that we need to know. But you know, everyone's gonna, everyone's imperfect people are gonna let us down. But he that book just gave such a picture of what it looked like to be a pastor. And it was it was he talked about Nineveh and Jonah, you know, running away from Nineveh, because he was running toward the thing that was that he really wanted to be. And he talks about how there is that pull for pastors to kind of, to go away from Nineveh, we should be planting our feet there, doing the faithful work. And then it really is about—it's not about fancy buildings. It's about building those relationships and helping point people to Jesus. All the other stuff is extra, and often, frankly, can get in the way, right?
Michelle Rayburn 28:40
Amy Fritz 28:41
He tells some really funny stories about when he was church planting and how he was required to do some reports, you have to read the book. And at a certain point, he figured out they probably weren't reading their reports, like on one side, you're supposed to report like numbers, like attending, giving and stuff. And then the other side, like other notes, and so he started just putting the most bizarre things on there to see if they were paying attention, like saying that he was doing drugs, including it in the Eucharist and that he was having an affair, and then he called them on it. Like, "I don't think you read it." And they're like, "Yeah, we did." And he's like, "Well, what did you think of my affair? What did you think of me doing drugs?
And they're like, "No." I mean, it just shows sometimes we measure the wrong things, we pay attention to the wrong things. And just reading reading his work, Eugene Peterson has been a real encouragement, and I wouldn't have thought of that. It was another person that I had talked to that was like, This person is a pastor is kind of being a pastor to me, even though I'm not going to meet him in real life. And I was like, I'm gonna get that book. What's one book I should get? And he recommended Under the Unpredictable Plant.
Michelle Rayburn 29:52
I will link to that in the show notes.
Amy Fritz 29:53
I've read it several times. Yeah.
Michelle Rayburn 29:59
This episode is brought to you by the book and Bible study called The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure. Are their experiences you'd rather toss in the dumpster? Discover the repurposed and upcycled life. This Christian living and humor book and accompanying Bible study will help you see how some of your greatest disappointments, mistakes, and hurts can be beautiful treasures from God. Move forward with new purpose even in the midst of the trashy stuff of life. The workbook includes small group discussion, Bible study, doodles to color, and optional at-home applications each week. This is a study for busy women—with easy prep for leaders and very little homework for participants. This simple format is welcomed for busy women who are looking for deeper relationships with one another without the burden of extra homework. You'll find more about the best selling book The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure at Michellerayburn.com.
Michelle Rayburn 31:08
Something that's happened sometimes when there's this disillusionment spiritually, that happens in an organization and a Christian church, is that we get angry. And then we find other people who are also angry. And then we just sit in the anger. And you've gone beyond. You've found people, but you've gone beyond to solutions. And I love that you've done that with your podcast, because you are you've set out to help people who have been spiritually abused, and not in a way of let's just sit around and and bash the people who abused us. I mean, not that they don't deserve the words that are said, but you've figured out how to take next steps and move beyond. So how did your podcast come about? First, it's Untangled Faith. How did that come about?
Thank you, first of all, for saying such kind words about it. I have to say I still have anger. I still have some anger days. But I think I realized pretty early on that I wanted to be about something that I was for more than about creating something that I was against. But I don't know if that does. Like I didn't just want to talk about the negative, this is what we're fighting. I also want to talk about what we're, like fighting for, which is like healthy communities, healthy people, pointing people toward encouraging resources. So I have always been interested in the topic of spiritual abuse. And I don't know why God put that on my heart. I had started writing a little bit about that on like a blog. And at a certain point, I realized that it was just too close to what I was seeing happening in my husband's work. And I couldn't see it, I didn't want to see it. And I just sort of walked away from it for a little while because it was too painful for me to see. The cognitive dissonance was too much. And so fall reading the books and writing about it and following the things was going to make us see something I didn't want to see. And so like sort of turned away from that for a little while. Until after my husband left his job. And I'm like, I think I I know why I wasn't able to enter into this. And I started thinking about how do I want to write what I've always loved words. And there's a, you know, if you do a Venn diagram of writers podcasters, there's overlap. We love words, love communicating. But one way I hadn't tried was with my voice. And I thought, well, people are doing podcasts. I'm just gonna try it out. I know I have a technically savvy husband. If I have any questions, he can help me he can set it up for me. He can make sure it's working. But then I just dug in, I taught myself. I decided, you know, this is a topic I've been passionate about. Let's see what happens if I do podcasts. Of course, my guinea pigs, the first people you talk to are your friends. So I interviewed a friend early on. And somehow I felt comfortable enough to like reach out to Mary DeMuth. She was the first person I interviewed that wasn't a friend that I knew in real life. And she was so gracious.
Michelle Rayburn 34:23
Uou interview people, but then you have some additional commentary in between.
Amy Fritz 34:27
So yeah, I have—I that's one thing that I have decided to do with it. That is a little bit different than some people it's not just an...I never really set out to do an interview show. It is mostly turned into a lot of interviews, but sometimes I want to follow a theme. And so but I also want people to learn something to take away with them. And so that is one of the fun magic things about podcasting is that as a podcaster, I can like pause time and I can step out of the story. And then I can do a voiceover that says, "Here's some things that have happened that," you know, "we haven't been able to get into," you know, or I can decide, do I want to do a voiceover here? Or do I just want them to say it? Or did we miss something? Do I need to clarify something? Or do I need to share something else that I have learned? That I want to say, "Hey, do you see this is what's happening here in this situation? You might not know it..." But you know, this expert or, you know, this sort of thing. And it's really been fun. I...that's sort of the bow that gets tied on at the end, when I'm like, I think I have all the audio. Now I want to land the plane.
Michelle Rayburn 35:40
You've told some really good stories. You featured guests that have talked about all many versions of disillusionment, spiritual abuse, deconstructing faith, healing, and you've balanced it out. So listener, I'm encouraging you to check out Amy's podcast, too.
Amy Fritz 35:58
Thank you. Yeah, my point is not to discourage people, but to tell people that you aren't alone, and you aren't crazy, if you're feeling like something is off. Because there are some things, it's been a hard, it's been a really particularly rough season for faith communities in the last, you know, four years. And even more than that, with all the things happening in the world that have just heightened tensions, our churches have not been immune to that. And it has really sort of escalated some of the unhealthy things that were already there, you know, just sort of brought them to the surface. You know, some days, I'm like, burn it down. And other days, I'm like, okay, maybe just burn this one thing down. And, and let's see what, let's see what grows, let's see what stays, let's see what's worth saving. And I think Jesus decides what that is, we're going to see that we'll see what that is. And, you know, I would imagine most of your listeners are probably in the US. You know, we're very us-focused. We're very, like the world revolves around us. Because the US has been such a strong cultural influence, and financial superpower, all the things, it's completely true. But when it comes to the church and Christianity, it is much bigger. And so to sort of, you know, make our imagination be a little bigger about what what is God doing in the world. And maybe the leaders in that will come from a different part of the world. It won't be from like, Minneapolis, and it won't be from Nashville, maybe.
Michelle Rayburn 37:41
For people who have something come—. Here's an example. I've heard stories from women who are experiencing narcissism and emotional abuse in their homes, and they go to church leadership, but their husband is an elder. And so nobody wants to listen to their story, because this elder here couldn't possibly be doing the things you're saying he is. And so they don't—they just shrink back and they don't tell their story. And for those of us who know that there are people like that I'm encouraging us to be more open to listening to people's stories. But what do you say to the person who's tangled up in something that claims to be Christian but is abusive? What encouragement do you have for that person who's listening today?
Man, that that is that's a hard one. That is that's really hard. I would say a lot of people in that situation don't even, haven't even named it themselves as as abuse. Because it's so painful to even see it. Because what does that even mean? And the reason why it's confusing. And the reason why it's effective, is because it's not bad all the time. Nobody, nobody would get away with it. If it was all if if an abusive person or abusive place was bad 100% of the time. So it makes sense that their brain feels scrambled that they feel crazy, and that other people don't understand people. If people have not lived through it. It makes sense that they don't get it. But there are some really wonderful safe resources out there that love Jesus. You don't have to trade your faith. For you don't have to trade your safety for your faith. You don't have to trade your emotional well being for your faith. And I would say there are some wonderful, you know, domestic violence places that may not be connected to your church, and it is okay and you will find Jesus and help not necessarily in your church. You can you can look somewhere else too. There's some really wonderful resources out there like Leslie Vernick has some resources about marriage and abuse, and she loves Jesus. But she's speaking out really strongly about abuse. People like Rachel Denhollander, who, as another example of you don't have to give a pass to hard things to things that are really painful, just because you're afraid that it might rock the boat in a faith community. And I would encourage... What I really want to do, instead of talking to the woman who's really hurting and stuck, is I want to talk to all the other women and men and say, just because this isn't happening to you, doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to know about what it looks like. And I would say one of the best gifts you can do to create healthy, safe environments is not to wait until someone comes to you and says, "I'm in an abusive marriage," or "I think something's wrong." A better thing would be to be proactive, and learning what that looks like. What does it look like when somebody is in an unsafe environment? And what can we do to be the place where somebody comes, they can get help and not be turned away? And not be? gaslit? Yeah, and not be told? Well, I don't see any bruises. So you know, must be, you know, or to give, like unsafe advice, because we just don't know better. We don't? Yeah, we don't, you know. To know that like saying just to pray about it and go to couples counseling when somebody is in an abusive environment, maybe they don't even know they are, is really dangerous. And most of us didn't know that growing up in the church. We thought couples counseling is the answer to all marriage problems. And people that are experts in abusive situations would say, No, you, you get to, you need to your own person that you talk to. And yeah, it's hard as I wish, I wish. And then just to understand that abuse is abuse, like, there are similarities, it's not all the same, but domestic violence looks a lot like spiritual abuse, which looks a lot like other, like emotional abuse and all the things there are, there are there are some similarities. Unfortunately, like a playbook.
Michelle Rayburn 42:22
But yeah, that's why I'm tying that in here. Because what Nathan went through with gaslighting at work spills over into the church and into the family. And so this is a broader topic than just what can happen in a workplace. And so that's why I wanted to bring that up today.
Amy Fritz 42:40
Yeah, there's two other resources. I think your readers, your listeners could could read, and one is a book called Something's Not Right by Wade Mullen, who is an expert, and he did his PhD dissertation in image management that Christian organizations do when they're faced with an image-threatening event.
Michelle Rayburn 43:03
It sounds good.
Amy Fritz 43:05
It is amazing. And it sounds like it'd be a hard book to read. No, it is super easy to read. I highly recommend it. And another one was called A Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight and his daughter, Laura Behringer. And it talks about creating a goodness culture in a church. Both of those resources I would want to put on the shelves of every church, and then the leadership in the libraries of leadership of faith communities all over the world. If I can afford to send them to everyone, I would just hand them out.
Michelle Rayburn 43:40
You have mentioned many great resources today. Where can people find you online?
Amy Fritz 43:46
Thank you. So I do have a website. UntangledFaithPodcast.com is my website. And then I my podcast is you know the Untangled Faith podcast. So if you look for Untangled Faith on any of your favorite podcast listening platforms, you should be able to find it and have just show up there mostly weekly. I'm on a little bit of a break right now. And I'll be back having new episodes starting in July. The best part about doing it is being able to meet people interact with people that are listening and seeing how they are meeting each other and encouraging each other. And then you know, being able to even meet some of them in person. It feels like a reunion. It's just a really sweet community. There's a sweet community of spiritual abuse survivors on on Twitter and in other places that people have found each other and have really become friends. And you know, who said you couldn't make friends online? We're meeting friends of you know, we're meeting friends on the internet all the time now.
Michelle Rayburn 44:53
All the time. And you're in my earbuds, when I'm at the track walking, I'm listening to your voice. So it's like we're together but we're not together.
Amy Fritz 44:54
It just this crazy thing. Then when you talk to people is that you could just kind of skip past smalltalk. You feel like you know each other a little bit, especially like if I've been telling someone's story on the podcast, and they've been on several episodes like, they're my friend now. We're friends, we know each other.
Michelle Rayburn 45:21
Amy, is there anything that we haven't covered today that you want to leave with the listeners as we wrap up?
Amy Fritz 45:26
I guess I just want to remind people that if you are feeling discouraged, it doesn't mean that Christianity isn't the real deal. Doesn't mean Jesus isn't the real deal. And you aren't alone. There's just a lot of things to be discouraged about. But there are there are pockets of goodness. And they may be somewhere nontraditional, somewhere different than you've been looking.
Michelle Rayburn 45:52
Thank you so much for sharing your story and encouraging other people who need hope.
Amy Fritz 45:57
Thank you for inviting me. I want... let's do this again.
Michelle Rayburn 46:00
Amy Fritz 46:01
Michelle Rayburn 46:05
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