Episode #43: Leaving God, Suffering Caused by Churches and why Religious Persecution of People is Not of God with John Follis, Writer, Director and Filmmaker



About John Follis / “LEAVING GOD”


John Follis is the award-winning writer/director of the documentary “LEAVING GOD” (2017). 


Winner of a Hollywood International Documentary Film award the film explores a major cultural shift happening in America — a shift away from religion and God. Paralleling this trend it also shares John’s fascinating personal story. 

Described as “Compelling” by the BBC, “LEAVING GOD” has been seen by over 36,000 people from 98 countries via Vimeo, YouTube, and TopDocumentaryFilms.com.    


Before becoming a filmmaker John was an award-winning Madison Ave ad man who actually helped sell God. His 16-year ad campaign for New York’s Marble Church received national attention via The New York Times, USAToday and TIME magazine. That story is included in the film. 




INCLUDED IN THIS EPISODE (But not limited to):


·      A Documentary About People Leaving God

·      Preachers Coming Out!!!

·      Separation Of Church and State

·      Radical Republicans

·      The Ways Churches Hurt People

·      Why Religious Persecution of People Is Wrong

·      The Differences Between God And The Church

·      Tribalism Defined

·      The Importance Of Obtaining Discernment

·      Catholic Shade




Website & Film: https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/leaving-god/

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3IvRjH0

Facebook:   https://bit.ly/357oAuA

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnfollis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnFollis

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnfollis/









Website: https://www.SexDrugsAndJesus.com

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Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sexdrugsandjesuspodcast/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TabooTopix

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/devannon

Email: DeVannon@SexDrugsAndJesus.com





·      Pray Away Documentary (NETFLIX)


TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk_CqGVfxEs


·      Upwork: https://www.upwork.com

·      FreeUp: https://freeup.net

·      Disabled American Veterans (DAV): https://www.dav.org

·      American Legion: https://www.legion.org




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You’re listening to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast, where we discuss whatever the fuck we want to! And yes, we can put sex and drugs and Jesus all in the same bed and still be all right at the end of the day. My name is De’Vannon and I’ll be interviewing guests from every corner of this world as we dig into topics that are too risqué for the morning show, as we strive to help you understand what’s really going on in your life.

There is nothing off the table and we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s dive right into this episode.

De’Vannon: Hello? Hello. Hello. Are you beautiful people out there in the world? I am so fucking happy and excited to have you with me again. One more week today, I’m talking with a man by the name of John Follas. His man is an award winning creative director, writer, and filmmaker. Now he didn’t made a documentary called leaving God.

And in this film, he’s talking about the ways church has hurt people in this mass Exodus of people away from Christianity and religion. [00:01:00] It’s not very often. Did I hear people’s story about the ways that, that they were hurt by the church? Like how I was? So this was a particularly close to home.

So in this show, we’re going to talk about preaches coming out and we’re not talking about coming out gay honey. They coming out another way and talking about why religious persecution of people is wrong and the differences between God and the church. Take a listen, baby. Hello, John. Hey, Davanon Mr. John. Fallas welcome to the sex drugs in Jesus podcast. How are you today? I am 

John: awesome. Awesome. Thanks for having me on your show. 

De’Vannon: Thank you for stopping by and thank you for creating the film you have. Today we’re gonna be talking a lot about it and the things that are in it.

The title of it is leaving God. And it’s a free video’s out there for all to see through your YouTube channel and [00:02:00] different things like that. I’ll let you tell people exactly how to find it and everything. I was impressed with how, how personal you got in the documentary because usually whenever I watch a documentary.

The, the emphasis it’s like the lenses turn on whatever the subject matter is, or, or whoever the, the documentary is about. But you you, I think you tow the line well in between covering the subject matter and, and talking a lot about yourself and a lot about your personal life. And that transparency is something that I, I find to be like gold.

I really, really love a good transparent person. And and so I appreciate that, that willingness to, to expose yourself like that, because, you know, that’s what really connects people to the story. Right. Exactly. So tell us in your own words then about this film and why on earth would you make such a.[00:03:00]

John: Well, I made it because it talks about one of the most major cultural shifts currently happening in America right now, which is more and more people leaving the church, leaving religion and leaving God. So that’s why I made it. I thought that’s a very, I I’m, I pay attention to pop culture. I, I, I paying a attention to what’s half happening in society and because my personal story was part of that cultural shift that’s happening in America.

It definitely related to me on a personal level, as you just mentioned in the introduction. So I mean, this is something that I had been, I, I, you know, like you, I’m interested in the big themes of life, sex money not so much drugs. Jesus, God health. You know, all those, the big themes in life are the ones I wanted to know as much [00:04:00] as possible about because the more you know about these big themes, I think the more, the better happier life you will have, you know, the more things you can figure out.

Right? So I’ve always been intrigued by the of God. And once I was old enough to begin thinking for myself, when I’d say probably high school and college, I started pursuing my curiosity about God and trying to learn as much about who God is and how I can, you know, if he, or she, or whatever it is, is really that powerful and can be so helpful in my life.

I wanted to really, you know, see what it’s about. So I could work it to my benefit. Right? So this documentary really part of it talks about what I just mentioned, but the, the main catalyst was again, [00:05:00] paying attention to current events and just continuing to see more articles about churches closing and more and more people walking away from the church and religion.

And I think the tipping point Devana and for me was when I started doing some research about ministers and priests who were coming out. Right. I mean, I can’t think of anything more taboo than coming out as a nonbeliever. If you’re a priest or a minister. Religious, you know, someone in the clergy, nothing.

I can’t think of anything more taboo than that. So when I did re because I, I wasn’t sure that there were people like that, but I started doing some research in 2017 just to see if I could find any stories about that. And that led me to something called the clergy project, which was a project dedicated specifically [00:06:00] to people like this.

People in the clergy who had changed their minds about God and religion. And didn’t have a place to go to kind of talk about it, get support. So the clergy project was started, I think in 2012 or something like that, specifically as a place for these people to go, to get, get Presa ministers, clergy, people, to kind of talk about their feelings, cuz they were in a lot of pain, right.

It’s almost, you know, it’s like being L G B T or transgender. Right. And not having a place to go and talk about that. Right. You know, if you’re, if you’re in a society that is not supportive of who you are as a person and what you think and how you believe you’re gonna be living a very isolated life with a lot of pain and feeling afraid to talk about these things are a big part [00:07:00] of who you are and what you, how you think.

So. The clergy project was really intriguing to me. And that to me, was the tipping point. The idea of these priest ministers coming out, I thought would make an interesting documentary. I didn’t think my story was that unique because there’s just so many people who grew up religious and through circumstances over time, change their perspective on that.

There’s nothing really that unique about that. But when you start talking about clergy members who spent their career as, as a priest or minister or something like that, and then suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, but for whatever reason to they no longer believe, I thought that was a very subject that deserved to be looked at.

And I thought that would at least be the start of my documentary, where it went from there. I wasn’t totally sure, but that was the, that was the tipping point for me to say I’ve gotta try making something [00:08:00] about this, cuz this is just too interesting.

De’Vannon: Hmm. Yeah. So in the, in the video and that is a very interesting point. It, it seemed like it, it, the, the part about the clergy coming out was kind of sprinkled through it. And I seemed like it got a little bit more gritty about it towards the end. And I do have a lot of questions that I want to ask about the clergy, but before I get on that, I want to kind of kinda lay a bit of framework here.

So, and I wanna read like, Like a, a quote from this, or from, from about the from about the film that I thought was interesting and says that the, the fastest growing religion in the United States seems to be no religion at all. [00:09:00] A 2016 study conducted by the public religion research Institute found that a quarter of the subject survey claim, no religious affiliate and this surprising figure increased substantially among the younger generation.

Now in the video, it was showing like I think it was graphs or charts about how, how, how, how younger people like at each generation less and less, less and less seemed to have any sort of religious affiliation at all. And I thought that this was so interesting because like, I’m about to be 40 this year.

And my boyfriend’s 25. And so. And so, so all his friends are like in between like maybe 21 and 25, you know, somewhere around in that range. And when it comes to the matters of religion and stuff like that, all of them that I know of so far are the same way. They’re just kind of like, we don’t do religion, you know, we just don’t have that.

You know, it’s not what they [00:10:00] do and stuff like that. And I thought about, you know, as to why this could be, you know, you know, what example do they have to really go of, you know, look at what look at what has become of the church, you know, with the, with the preachers leaving and what, how crazy religion looks on television?

You know, you got all your evangelicals and all the Republican nonsense mixed into it, you know, why do you think that that so many young people specifically like young people are not interested in religion? I think it’s because of the bad example that, that they have had to look at, but what do you think.

John: Don’t know. I think, you know, it doesn’t really matter what I think. I think it’s just, you know, I, what concerns me a little bit is when I talk about this film to people and tell them the title of it, they think that I’m anti God and that this film is about my opinion [00:11:00] and my bias against God. And that’s not what the film is about.

I mean, you watched it. This is a documentary and I, I approached it like an investigative journalist and then talking about what’s happening. Starting with these priest ministers who are now leaving the church and then talking about the statistics of the general population and then weaving my personal story into it for, you know, the second half of the film.

So I mean, I’m glad to give you my opinion, but my opinion doesn’t really matter. I want people to come to their own, you know, come to their own conclusions. I’m no expert, I’m no theolo, you know, theologian it doesn’t, you know, why people are leaving. Everyone’s got their own reasons. I just, you know, I, I think that it doesn’t the, the, I would guess that the younger people are leaving more and more are leaving religion in church is because it doesn’t serve them in a, in [00:12:00] a way that it serve their parents.

I mean, I can just tell you from my experience, I mean, the reason. I grew up religious is because my parents this was part of their tradition. It was just a thing to do on Sunday. You went to church and if you didn’t, it was a sin. So there was, you know, some, some some of that fear of God and extend there to keep you, you know, going to church on, on Sunday.

 One of the things I point out in the film Devana and is one of the, the, the, the reasons, many people especially people of a certain age, younger people under, under 40 has been the internet because they have more access to information. If they’re, if they wanna get, get the facts on stuff, they can, they can research it.

So there was an interesting graph that I showed. In the film that that the, the shift away from religion began B about 30 years ago in the early to mid nineties. And it has increased significantly [00:13:00]since then for, you know, up, up until about the, the early nineties, it was about five to 7% of people who consider themselves nonreligious.

 But since since that time it’s gone up significantly every year. And even since I made the film in 2016, it’s gone up about 5%. When I made the film, I was using a, a pew research statistic from 2016 that said it was about 24% or 25%. And just two months ago, they came out with an update on that.

It’s now closer to 30%. So there is a parallel between people walking away from church, religion, and God, and use of the internet. So that may be a contributing factor. 

De’Vannon: Right? Well, I appreciate your, your insight on that. I love the sharing of insights and opinions, you know, because it’s thought provoking, it’ll still get people thinking, you know, and it’ll still lead them to their own, [00:14:00] to their own conclusions, but sometimes people need that little nudge.

And so, so speaking more on the preachers who came out, you know, it’s so interesting whenever I hear the term coming out and using a reference, that’s not G B T Q I a. And so But it still, it still echoes the same vulnerability and risk of exposure and fear that can mean coming out. And so yeah, on the video, you’ve got these preachers going on, television preachers who had, you know, were, had, you know, pretty high up and everything like that.

Now they’re no longer in these religions anymore because of various reasons. You know, and then there, and one of em, I just should say one of ’em was from Louisiana. One of the guys that I profiled Jerry, I can’t remember his last name, but you may recall if you watch it recently. Devana and at the end of the film, I, I took some, some a clip from a New York times [00:15:00] documentary that followed this guy around for a while.

John: And He had a really hard time. I mean, it’s, it’s hard enough coming out anywhere as a nonbeliever, but when you’re in the deep south in a small town, Louisiana, I don’t have to tell you what that’s like. And his wife left him his congregation, you know, naturally turned on him. He was outta work.

He had to leave the state eight. He basically, he, he was like a man without a country. And I don’t know what he’s doing now, but he really paid the price for coming out as a nonbeliever, which is why it’s so courageous, I think to do it’s like, you know, now I just watched a clip on tick to talk.

 Talking about the the Russian propaganda machine and they showed a clip of a Russian female newscaster, just, you know, like a robotically reading the script from Putin about what’s going on and right behind her, there was a, a, a woman holding [00:16:00] up a, a sign saying this is all bullshit. They’re you’re telling you lies, just went up.

It went viral. So it takes a lot of courage. I guess I’m making a parallel sometimes to stand up for what you believe, you know, you’re gonna pay the price. So I, I, I, I can’t tell you how much admiration and respect I have for people who are willing to come out for what they believe when it’s not popular.

De’Vannon: Right. And I found the interesting that when these preachers came out, it’s like they turned. Into into like atheists. It’s like the, the, cause a lot of the quotes you have towards the end of the film are like kind of like, you know, atheistic in nature. So I can kind of see how some of the people you were saying in the beginning, how some people might see that you might feel like you’re Antigo.

I kind of was thinking that too, by the end of the film, like I wonder if he’s Antigo, like, I don’t know. I’m gonna ask him about that. So where exactly [00:17:00] at your point in your life, do you stand on God? And then I want to get back to, to this vibe that I was getting from the preachers in the film. Okay. So I’m not 

John: Antigo.

 And just the quotes that you’re referring to were from people like mark Twain mm-hmm and George Washington and people like that who made comments. That were very quotable that basically shared their opinion about God or church mm-hmm . So again, this is nothing about this film, this opinion, those were quotes from these people.

And I think there’s a lot of people in America that have a belief that this that our forefathers wrote the constitution based on a Christian perspective. And some of the quotes, I some of the people that I quote are from the founding fathers [00:18:00] kind of contradict that, that theory. So, and again, you can look up, you can research everything that I have in the movie.

 Is you is, is true. And you, you could, you could research it yourself, but I just thought it would be interesting to just share the perspective of some, some famous people who had perspectives on what I just talked about in the film about God and religion mm-hmm and, and church. So yeah, so I, I’m not Antigo, I don’t really care what people believe as long as it doesn’t mess with my life.

You know what I’m saying? As long as they don’t tell me that I’ve gotta, you know, I think the problem start, the problem I start having with, with religion is when it gets political, I, I really, you know, talking about our forefathers, anyone knows, who knows anything about the constitution knows that there’s, there’s a division between church and state John Adams, when he [00:19:00] wrote and, and Thomas Jefferson, when they constructed.

The declaration of independence in the constitution were very clear about that. They wanted to make sure that unlike things in England and other countries, they didn’t didn’t want politics and, and religion to to cross pollinate. They wanted to have a definite separation between church and religion.

They didn’t wanna have any ministers telling people to be involved with people’s rights as human beings and, and the things that they put in the, in the, the constitution. So what’s happening is that, especially in the, in the Republican party they have crossed that line many times. I mean, I think religion has become a big part for many politicians, especially in the Republican party and the constitution and the declaration of independence [00:20:00] is very clear about keeping that separate 

De’Vannon: too true, too true.

I say that all the time, but you know, here we are. So what, what, what interested me the else about the preachers in your film? It’s like they went from being all about God and in the church and whenever whatever happened, it caused them to be done with that. Like, one of them was preaching like. Like kind of like, you don’t need Donna.

There is no, like you don’t need, there is no divine power out there. You already have all, all the power that you need within you. So it’s, it was like he abandoned all concepts of God all together and then he switched gears. And so, and it reminded me of how I felt when I got kicked out of Lakewood church in Houston, Texas, you know, for not being straight.

And, and I, and I took a very negative reaction to that. And then I stopped associating with God and I never got to a point where I was like, he doesn’t exist, but I stopped going to [00:21:00] church and everything like that because of the hurt that I received there. And so, which was, which was an immature to, for me to do, I shouldn’t have done that.

I should have, you know, I taken a more positive approach to that. Got some counseling, went to a gay affirming church and not let what happened at Lakewood cause me to stop, you know, my faith all together. Are 

John: you or at Lakewood? Is that Joel Stein, right? Oh, wow. Okay. 

De’Vannon: So and so and so I have a blog about that on my website and I go into detail and in my memoir, but you know, I wasn’t, you know, I’m not straight.

And I was, you know, singing the adult choir. I was teaching the kids ministry worship leading in the kids ministry. And I applied for a job there. They went look up, looked up my social media on MySpace page as a part of their application process, cuz the, the 2, 2, 2 or three years that I’ve volunteered there four or five, you know, at least what 1, 2, 4 days a week at the church, wasn’t enough to vouch for my, my work ethic.

[00:22:00] They needed to go ask my space as well. And so while, while they were looking, they saw that I was hanging out in S which is the gay district in Houston. And I had a really RA photo on my cover. So because of that, they fired me from all the aspects of ministry and everything like that. And so. And so that’s 

John: how they, so what did they, did they give you a reason for that to van on when they fired you?

Did they tell you, why did they say, you know, we don’t like gay people. 

De’Vannon: She said that you can’t be doing that hanging out there with them. Ah 

John: so did you ask her to be more,

go there with them. I love that. 

De’Vannon: so it was on me because I shouldn’t have lied on the application. When I filled out the application, the volunteer in the kids ministry, they had on their straight up, like, we don’t want gay people were being around our children [00:23:00] and you know, the mind that I have now, really, they actually 

John: had that.

Yes, that was on in, in writing. In writing. Yes. And this is Joel Olsteen’s church saying we don’t want, hold on a second.

We don’t the, we don’t want gay people hanging around our children, correct. With Joel Olstein church. Okay. 

De’Vannon: And so, okay, 

John: go ahead. I wonder what he, I wonder what he would say if he was interviewed about that and confronted with that on their application. I wonder how he would answer that you should get him on your show.


he would make a great kiss for you. 

De’Vannon: I don’t know what I would ever say if I was face to face with him, but, you know, I don’t know how good it would go. I need to, I need to mature my war before that day comes. So, but I thought, 

John: I thought they’re [00:24:00] supposed to love everyone. 

De’Vannon: You know, churches are not like that.

You know, they are, they have an agenda. Every church has an agenda. Tell me about it. And you know, but for all, and it’s not just. And that sort of stuff happens at all kinds of churches. The Hillsong church in Australia, which are very good friends with Lakewood church have the same policy. And they’re very bold about it.

They’re like no gay people can be on staff or volunteer here. They said it countless times. They don’t give a fuck. So, and but you know, the mind that I have now, if I ever come across that on an application or something, then I know that that’s simply not the organization for me to be at, but I had just got out of the military serving during don’t ask don’t tell.

And so I was conditioned to function in an environment where I couldn’t fully be myself. So I just thought it was another Don as don’t tell situation. I’ve had some PE, some legal friends of mine tell me that it’s not legal for a church to do that. I didn’t even know that it even much gotten to the realm of illegality.

You know, I just was like, well, [00:25:00] I wanna volunteer. I’m not trying to like, fuck any children or anything like that. So. That’s, you know, and especially with the litany of paperwork, you know, they do like full background checks and every damn thing on new social security numbers, you know, and everything just to volunteer.

It’s not like, it’s not like I’m gonna give them all of that information on me, how to find me and everything to go in there and commit a crime. It’s like the dumbest thing 

John: did you van, and I’m curious is because I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I would wonder about that. Did you ever do any research on that or speak to any legal authorities to find out if that’s 

De’Vannon: true?

No. And even because by the time I got done with all of my nervous breakdown and everything that that helped to contribute to we’re talking a good

10 years after, so whatever statute of limitations, I was sure it would’ve been pass that, but it would never hurt to look into cuz I didn’t, I think the person who I was talking to said it gets into the realm of like discrimination or something like that. [00:26:00] And so, which made sense when they said it, but I was so.

Fucked up in my head whenever they fired me from volunteering that I, that I couldn’t, I couldn’t even much, I didn’t think I was just like, okay, well fuck them. And so, but, but the preacher in the film reminded me of that because when he was talking about how he doesn’t really believe in God anymore, we don’t.

And you know, it sounded to me like he was coming from like a place of pain and it sounded like he was still hurting from that. And it really reminded me of how I was back then. And I wonder, you know, in the future, once he’s healed, you know, if all of that, if he would still be like, you know, anti, he was very more like, like anti guy.

And he was saying like, there’s nothing Toine, you know? And so, so I, I, so I wanna encourage people, you know, Not to conflate church and God, you know, those are two separate things, religion, and [00:27:00] God are two separate things. And the confusion that I had when I got kicked outta Lakewood was I didn’t separate the two.

And so when the church rejected me, I took that as though God had rejected me and I allowed that to it cause a rift where there should not have been a rift, you know? And I feel like, well, they’re 

John: pretty, you have to admit, they’re pretty connected. religion and God. Right. 

De’Vannon: Well, when I say religion, I mean denominations like denominations churches, the physical manifestation of what God is supposed to be, they are connected.

But at the same time, it’s like, they’re not, it’s like when two people are married, they’re connected and they do become one in many ways. But at the same time, they’re very much still individuals and, and everything that a preacher says is not. The divine voice of God. And every decision at a church makes is not the divine will of God.

And so we gotta learn how to put them together when they are together, but how to separate them when they need to be separated. [00:28:00] Cuz they’re not always in tandem. 

John: So divine and I’m gonna make a suggestion to you. I, I it sounds like you’re not ready to have, have Joel Olstein as a guest on your show, but here’s someone that you might, you might be open to because while you were talking about refr referencing that, that minister in my film, I just remembered the guy’s name.

And he is, he is the guy from Louisiana. His name is Jerry Dewitt, D E w I T T. So if he’s written a couple of books he’s had a podcast. So if you pop him into Google I think he will find him. Jerry that’s J Jerry with a J E R R Y D E w I T T. And you could, you could invite him on your show and ask him these questions yourself.

He might, you know, since you’re a Louisiana boy and, and he is too he might, he might be to be on your guest mm-hmm [00:29:00] and, you know, talk to a homeboy 

De’Vannon: I’ll reach out. You never know what could be. It would be great. Yeah. To talk to someone who used to be in clergy who left. Yeah. You know, I’m coming from a, from a volunteer perspective, he’s coming from a, from aler clergy’s per perspective.

That could be pretty kick ass. Yeah. So, 

John: so, so like I said, I don’t, you know, I, I, I kind of, I get off on a tangent there, but you know, as far as my feelings about. Being against God. Again, I, I don’t this is a free country. People are free to be who they are and believe in what they want to, as long as it doesn’t mess with my life.

And the only way someone’s belief in a particular religion or God would mess with my life is it’s that starts getting involved with politics. For example, if I was a woman and I believed in abortion and I had some [00:30:00] co you know, ultra conservative or evangelical Congress, people who were trying to overturn Roe versus the, the, he weighed, then I would probably have a problem with that.

Do you know what I’m saying 

De’Vannon: as do I, and you know, the crazy thing about it is the whole concept of what God is. It’s subjective. Everybody’s gonna have a different opinion about that. How to interpret scripture as subjective. Everybody’s gonna have a different opinion about that. You know, there’s, there’s precedent in the Bible about why it’s not a good idea to try to establish laws against people based on your personal beliefs.

And that is, that is the main takeaway that I get from the convert version story of SA, because what did Saul do before he became Paul? He was a big person in the San Hedron. The San Hedron was a part of the religious people who governed, you know, over there in the middle east. He went to them, got permission to go and [00:31:00] persecute people who were not living according to his opinion of how they should.

That’s exactly what it was. I believe in this. They’re not living how I think they should. So I’m gonna go make them do it. That was his whole point of going to Damascus and Jesus knocks him off his horse, the blinding light, the whole story. We know how it goes. And Jesus is like, yo dude, cut this shit out.

This is not how I want you to go about it. And that’s exactly what Republicans are doing when they say, Hey, we think those people over there should live a different way. Let’s go make some laws to force ’em it’s the same thing. But when they read through the Bible, they’re not reading about it on how to improve themselves.

They’re reading. If they read it at all, you know, is about how to change other people. And when I was in seminary, before I left seminary, one of the reasons I left seminary was cuz one of the professors was just like, yeah, we want to control people in churches. And he said this as, just as just like the sky is [00:32:00] blue.

And I was like, what the fuck are you talking about? so, and 

John: he actually said he wants to control people. Yes. He was at the law, profess least he was on, at least he was honest about 

De’Vannon: it. At least he was honest, but I was, but it wasn’t just him, but all the classmates were nodding in agreement. Like they didn’t have a problem with what this man was saying.

And so he was like, and he was coming from a Baptist background if I recall correctly. And, and I was just like, no, we would not be controlling people. it’s not what this is about. But, but the Republican culture and everything like that is so much about control, which I believe stems from insecurities and fear within people cuz confident, happy.

People don’t go about the business of trying to make life miserable for other people. , you know, it’s just not what we do. We’re too busy being happy. so, right, right. 

John: And so, well, they think they’re on a mission. This is what, what the problem I have with religion and ultra religious people is because [00:33:00] they feel like they’re on a mission from God and they’re doing in God’s will it’s the same motive behind the, do you know, have you heard of the crusades?

Do you know what the crusades were about? Are you to history? Yes. Okay. Do you know, do you know what the crusades 

De’Vannon: are about? Yeah. That’s getting into the church, like prosecuting people and I think like heritage fix, you know, and maybe 

John: like the crusades, the crusades were A mission done. I think they were done in the, in the 10 or 11 hundreds that were initiated by a couple of popes during that time period where they felt that they were on a mission from God to convert the people who were not Christians and sent all their troops kind of, kind of like what Putin is doing to Ukraine.

 These guys did to the middle east, they got all their, their armies and their weapons, and they went on a mission from God, their, on their, on their [00:34:00] shirts, the van, their would be these big red crosses. They, they that’s how they identified themselves. These big, giant red crosses. They were, they were so Christian soldiers and they got these huge forces and they marched into the middle east.

And they just started slaughtering people because it was easy for them to do because when you, when you look at people who don’t think the way you do or look the way you do, it’s easy to minimize them. Right. And it’s easier to to do bad stuff to them because you think that they’re less right? They’re, they’re, Heins, they’re nonbelievers, so it’s an easy excuse to kill them.

And, and that’s what the, the crusades were about. They were doing. They totally believe they were on a mission from God. And in God’s name, just murdered. Tens of thousands of people. I mean, look it up. It’s pretty, pretty scary. 

De’Vannon: Yeah. I do have [00:35:00] that I wrote a blog about that and I have a, a link and they called it like, I think like the inquisition and I think they labeled people as like heretics and I think there was like a, that’s 

John: a different that’s that’s, that’s similar, but different.

Okay. Similar that is different than the crusades. Okay. But same idea. You know, going after people that don’t think a certain way, that’s, that’s the, the common thread between the two. 

De’Vannon: That makes sense. But, but 

John: I, you know, I’m making a parallel, you mentioned the Republicans and again, the parallel that they believe that many of them are evangelical.

And if I, if I’m, if I’m Understand it correctly is that the whole idea is that you’ve gotta basically convert everyone to think the way you do evangelize. That’s the whole premise of E even I can’t even say evangelism to, to, you know, go out and witness and change [00:36:00] people and convert people. And to your minister’s point, control people, you know, that’s not uncommon that he was evangelical.

You said, and that’s what he said to you. And that that’s what many evangelicals believe they might not be. So honest about it. You know, Joel may not admit that that’s what he is looking to do. That you’ve gotta be a certain way. You’ve gotta look a certain way. You’ve gotta have a certain sexuality.

You’ve gotta conform to their version of the Bible. And if you don’t off with your head, That, 

De’Vannon: that mentality seemed to kind of like prevail because when they fired me, they let me know that I wasn’t the first one, they were like, we do this all the time. , you know, you know, the, they did offer, you should have 

John: been wearing a wire.

You should have been wearing a wire. So you had that on, on, on all 

De’Vannon: audio. Well, you know, this is back like. Gosh, [00:37:00] and maybe like 2008, 2009. So the concept of everything being recorded and being so available, I think we may have just been converting from flip phones and shit, you know, and pages, you know, technology.

Wasn’t like, you know, everything, wasn’t like, Ooh, I got you on camera. You know? Yeah, no, no, I’m 

John: just I and 

De’Vannon: facetious. But I’ve thought about that before, like how great it would be if I, if I could, if I would’ve had that recorded, you know, and stuff like that. But I had no idea that that’s what they would’ve done.

Cause I thought maybe I was gonna actually be getting hired or something, but instead, instead I got fired. Well you, when you saw, when you watched my doc, I I had a somewhat similar situation where I received a letter from the church saying don’t come to Bible study anymore. Remember that part 

in the film.

Right. Right. Because you cause you, you y’all had an interesting thing going on where you had a singles ministry at this church now we’re in New York city and it was like the marble something collegiate marble [00:38:00] collegiate church. And the singles group was twenties and thirties. You were in your forties and they had a real strict thing about that.

So they would, as you say, in the film, tap people on the shoulder in a way and tell them, Hey, you’re too old. So stop coming here. And 

John: so what was, well, it wasn’t, it wasn’t let me just interrupt you. It wasn’t real strict. Because we’re talking about as an experience in the film or part in the film.

I talk about experience. I had, where I was kind of dragged into a Bible study. I really wasn’t interested in going, but someone dragged me into this thing. It was after the, the Sunday sermon and there were probably 40 people in there and there were quite a few people in there that were over 40. I looked around and I was not the, I was maybe 45, 46 at the time.

 So I I was reluctant to go because I thought it was strict. I thought, you know, you get carted at the door to make sure you’re, you’re under 40, which you know, is kind of silly when you think of a church, both about how inclusive they are [00:39:00] to restrict a Bible study to people of a certain age. I don’t really understand the logic behind that, but I certainly was not the only one who was over 40.

 And, and even though that’s the reason that they gave me in the letter that I shouldn’t continue going the real reason is I suspect something that was quite different that I mentioned in the film. 

De’Vannon: Right? Because you challenged the the preacher, he asked the question. And then your, he asked if anyone had any questions during this Bible study and your question was something like, what is truth?

Oh, no, your question was, is it true? Correct. And then he was silent. He really couldn’t say much. And then you said something to kind of help him out of the rabbit hole that, that he found him. And then he said something like, truth is objective or like, what is truth? Right. 

John: Which was a pretty lame answer.

As far as I was concerned. well, churches do, but, but it [00:40:00] was, it was shortly thereafter that I received a letter saying we really value you as person and don’t come to Bible study anymore. You’re too old. 

De’Vannon: Right, but in the video, you know, and that sucks that that happened to you. But in the video you said that, that, that, that did happen to other people.

And then you observed that those people not only stopped going to the group, but they stopped going to the church as well. And I, I, and I, and that’s a very, I thought that was very interesting point because sometimes when I tell people say I got kicked out of lake, it, they go that they tell you, you can’t come back.

And then I have to make it clear. When you kick a person out of one, part of a church, you kick them out of the whole church because it makes it very fucking awkward. When you try to go back there, it feels weird. It feels, I don’t even have a word for it. It feels alien. Suddenly you just don’t, it feels like a whole different world.

When someone’s told you that you, [00:41:00] for being who you are being the age or who you choose to love how old you are or whatever physical characteristic you have or something that. You really can’t help. We don’t want you here. 

John: well, it makes you feel like you’re not fully accepted, 

De’Vannon: right? So you don’t have to say bitch, leave the whole church and don’t come back.

You know, just telling someone to get out of any part of it, because a church is, is not supposed to be like that. You can’t like everyone come on in, the doors are open, but we only want certain, certain of you in certain portions of the church, you know, that just doesn’t work that way. Well, what 

John: I, what I, what I’ve discovered dev van en sounds like you’ve discovered it as well, is what churches say and what they do are often very different things.

De’Vannon: This is true. And a big part of my ministry, my calling, whatever you want to refer to it as is to get people to a point where [00:42:00] they can. See, what, what is real and what is fake and understand, like you say, in your video, that just because someone’s a preacher doesn’t mean that they are right, or that they’re gonna be right all the time.

They’re just human. And and so, so we gotta take these preachers and pastors off of these pedestals, we gotta take these churches off of these pedestals. Now, you know, a word came up called, try that somebody in your film said, and I thought that that was very interesting. And he said that our tribal instincts can override our rational thought of a writer.

One once upon a time said, no, man is an island. Okay. Because we have this innate sense to, to congregate. Be it gangs to be it in a church. Be it. And the military, you know, this, this, this there’s this group, you know, we need each other. And so we are always gonna find some kind of way. When I got kicked outta church, I replaced the church group with the, with the nightlife.

And then I began to dive deeper into like the clubs and stuff like that. And that’s ultimately how I became a [00:43:00] drug dealer. And I didn’t know it then, but we’re gonna always and seek out communities some kind of way, because that’s just how we’re designed. And then in the case of, and then we let our need for community override our rational.

So we’ll stay at the church and listen to the preacher and try to be involved. Even though we’ve seen things that we know don’t make sense, you know, and we rationalize it a way.

Which ain’t good. You know, if we see something and it doesn’t make sense, then that should be addressed. If if the priest are abusing the altar boys or different people, we can’t just sweep it under the rug and rationalize it away and go, oh, I’ll just stay right. 

John: Well, it’s almost like being in a bad marriage, right?

You’re you’re in a marriage and you get used to it. I, and the longer you’re in it, the more you’re willing to accept bad behavior because you’re kind of used to it. And you kind of you rationalize that while there’s a lot of good [00:44:00] in it. Because it’s hard to walk away. I mean, a church for many people and certainly was with me was a very big part of my life.

Mm-hmm so it’s easy to rationalize. Well, it’s not perfect. And no church, what church is perfect. Right? And it’s, you know, it’s a very, and listen, I don’t fault people for thinking that way to each his own, you know, they’re right. Nothing is totally perfect. The church that I went to in New York, wasn’t perfect.

But the reason I stayed involved with it as long as I did is be because of tribalism, I, I looked forward to seeing my friends every Sunday. Sometimes I would just skip the sermon and I’d go straight to the coffee hour, just so I could hang out with my friends. That was very, very, a big, important part of my life in New York city that I valued.

But once I got over were 40 and was not so welcome in the, in the singles group, they really didn’t have a singles group for I’m trying to think. Oh yeah, they [00:45:00] did have a singles group for people. Over 40 and everyone was 70. So I remember Dick dip dipping my toe in there when I was like 42. And the next youngest person to me was like 63.

So I did not feel like trying to ingratiate myself to a new group with people were you know, 10, 15, 20 years older than me, especially when I’d been just part of a group for the past 15 years of people, many, many people just, you know, a couple of years younger than me. So I didn’t really, I, I didn’t like the fact that they had a hard cutoff at 40, you know, I, I, I just thought that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Like, what are they trying to tell you that if you’re not married by the time you’re 40, you’re a loser, you know, which is kind of what they were saying. At least that’s a message. That’s how I interpreted. 

De’Vannon: In, in other churches, Lakewood and other churches too. Have, [00:46:00] you know, the, the groups divided by ages, I think just either have a singles fucking group or don’t have one regardless of the age, because a 20 year old, a 20 year old may be attracted to a 60 year old.

You know, the very concept of that is trying to act like is trying to force people into a certain age range. That’s very presumptuous. 

John: Yeah. And, you know, listen, it, it it really hurt a lot of people. I mean, I was just a little perturbed by it, but there are a lot of women very attractive, smart career women in New York city, right.

Who spend most of their twenties and thirties focusing on their career, which is very much the case of the kind of women you meet in New York city. So, you know, here they are Approaching 40. Right. And now suddenly they’re thinking, gee I, I, I do I wanna have a family? Do I wanna switch gears here?

 I’m still single. But at least church is a big part of my life. And then having a, being, having them [00:47:00] get tapped on the shoulder saying us, sorry, you’re out of this group. I mean, that was a pretty big deal for a lot of those women who were really, really hurt by the fact that they were no longer welcome.

Welcome in this single group is hard enough for anyone to turn 40. You’re gonna be turning 40, but especially at think in our society for women. I don’t think, you know, our society is rarely friendly to women that you know, of a certain age, older women. So that’s a pretty big birthday for many women.

And on top of dealing with that on an emotional, psychological level to have your church saying sorry we, you really can’t come to this group anymore group that they may have been a part of for 5, 10, 15 years, where all their friends were to get, you know, tapped outta that group. That makes no sense to me, especially coming from a church that on their website says how inclusive [00:48:00] they are and welcoming they are to everyone.

De’Vannon: Yeah. And then it just, its a certain type of.

That I just, it just can’t be described because you think about the money that you’ve given to the church and the time you spent volunteering and stuff like that, it does feel like a marriage or some sort of relationship and to be dismissed from it, for any for, and unless you’ve done something bad against the church and like stolen their money or actually done something, then maybe they could say something, but they still shouldn’t dismiss you.

It feels like a bad breakup. And 

John: for me it means bad. It’s bad business. I have to say, you know, from a business perspective, listen, every, every church is paying attention to their finances. Right? So the last thing you want to do is do something that’s going to Get people to leave your church, especially when you’re in your early forties, [00:49:00] in New York city, you’re in your prime earning years.

And this is what I mentioned in the film. Why would you wanna do something that upsets someone enough that they’re gonna walk away from, from the church and stop giving their charitable contributions? I mean, the church, their lifeblood are, is charitable contributions. So, you know, loosen up a little bit with your, with your rules on Bible studies.

You know, I mean, gimme a freaking break here and stop scaring people away or not scaring people away, but push people away with a stupid rule. Like, you know, an age thing. It just, it just made no sense to me. And when I brought that to the attention of the minister minister, who I knew was interested.

In keeping people coming to the church because he hired me to do an ad campaign to attract more people. So I knew he was very concerned about attracting and keeping people to, to [00:50:00] the church. I didn’t understand why he just kind of dismissed the fact that that people were leaving the church because they felt as you said, you kick ’em outta one group.

They’re not gonna feel welcome. If that’s the main connection to the church, there’s a good chance that they’re gonna stop coming to that church. If they can’t continue going to that group where all their friends are,

De’Vannon: these are decisions that people make when they’re not accustomed to being rejected or being told they can’t come places.

So, you know, people. You would hope to not to get that same sort of behavior from people who are, have been the victim of discrimination and all kinds of prejudice throughout life, but people who have always been accepted will never get why, why, why do they, why, why did they just leave? You know, we only kicked them outta one part.

We don’t see what the big is. That’s right. That’s right. So right. But you know, when I think about preachers like that, I hope and pray that they [00:51:00] didn’t start out with cold hearts. You know, you know, my, my spiritual leader told me that, you know, a preacher is either gonna be really, really strong or really, really weak.

And that, that, that there’s no in between. And so it, to me, like maybe these preachers start out with the best of intentions, but in the process of time, as the congregation grows, as the money grows, you know, or something like that, maybe their, maybe their motives get corrupt, but, and they don’t even realize that it’s happening, cuz it happens so gradually.

 You know, maybe it is all at once, but there’s not much we can do about that, but I want church people and people who still look up the preachers and listen at what they say to become, to have a greater level of scrutiny that they, than what they have now to actually judge what the preachers saying and not just accept that it’s fact.

And if some foolishness shows up, then the whole, their priest you’re accountable, they don’t get to get away with things and, you know, and, you know, and, and things matter like that. [00:52:00] Right. You a quote that you had in here, which stuck out in my nogging a concerning your, your marriage, you know, you, you know, you, your divorced man, and you talk about that.

In the film. You said, if I had to pick a moment, when my attitude about God began to sour, this would be it you’re talking about a woman that you had met in church. I think it may have been in the singles group that I’m not sure. Yeah, but like it, wasn’t the singles group, you in church, everything’s going great.

All the boxes are checked, but a few weeks later there’s trouble. You, you said you felt betrayed by her in, by God. 

John: So for your listeners I’ll do a little ex explaining here in the film. I talk about a woman. I met at church in the singles group that I got married to. And the quote that Devana just referred to was [00:53:00] the quote that I said in the film that Happened the day I got married in the church that if there was a time that my attitude about church and God began to sour this would be it the day that I got married at the church.

And the reason I said that, and as I share in the film is that despite the fact that I met this woman in church, and I thought the marriage was ordained by God. Our marriage went downhill immediately. I mean, immediately it was a crash and burn that could never have predicted, and I didn’t understand it.

 It like, it was like my wife had become turned into a different person. Immediately after we got married, I didn’t understand what was going on. It seemed pretty clear that even though she gave me an ultimatum, it’s kind of ironic because I wasn’t so [00:54:00] sure about getting married and it took her giving me an ultimatum to make the decision to get married.

 And, but once I made that decision, I was, I was committed. But my wife’s attitude seemed not, seemed, definitely changed immediately after we got married. And I was blindsided by it and I couldn’t in it because as I said, I thought this marriage and this relationship was ordained by God.

So it really challenged. My beliefs in God, when the marriage started going downhill and we were in marriage counseling and I was impersonal, we were in personal counseling, but she got involved with another guy. And didn’t seem that interested in getting back with me. So, so it didn’t really matter how much I tried, if I’m with a partner who is not exhibiting behavior to support the idea of [00:55:00]being in a marriage anymore.

 And we went through, we were separated for almost three years, so I was not willing to give up on the marriage, even after I found out that she had been involved with another guy, I was willing to continue to work on the marriage and try to get it back on track. She did not seem to have that similar perspective.

And so that kind of changed my attitude about things being ordained by God. And that’s when I began questioning the whole idea of God and all that stuff. Why? But I thought our marriage was based on that. Why 

De’Vannon: did you think it was ordained by God? What did God did God tell you something that he speak to you in some way to make you believe?

John: Well, first of all, I met the woman in church, so that’s a good start, right? When you meet someone in church, you think, okay, maybe God has something to do with bringing us together because it is God’s house, right? [00:56:00] That’s what church is supposed to big God’s 

De’Vannon: house. I’ll say that that’s an assumption that a lot of us make.

And I used to be that way when I attended churches and I was in singles groups too. And that that’s a pitfall. I wanna warn people right now, not to get into, as you walk through life with God and you gain spiritual understanding, don’t go put God’s mouth on things. You know, if he didn’t speak, just cuz you’re in church and you meet some woman or some dude or whatever.

That don’t mean automatically that you should run off and marry them as they say, not everyone in church is saved, you know, and not, not everything, not everything that happens under his roof is ordained by him. But see, we get caught up in our emotions and stuff like that. And then, and then, and the stuff the preachers are telling us, and then we, sometimes we wanna say that that’s the voice of, of God when God didn’t actually speak.

And so, so basically you’re saying y’all met in church. All the, the boxes are being checked. This looks like it would be of God, but God didn’t necessarily speak to you personally. [00:57:00] Well, 

John: I thought I had a supernatural experience to Von. Okay. In addition to what I just said beyond the fact that we met in church and our relationship blossomed at church events and retreats that we attended together, but there was one experience that I, I was, I had convinced myself was a supernatural met that I received from God.

And that was when we were sitting in church one Sunday morning. And as the minister was preaching about something to do with God’s love and bringing people together, whatever he was talking about at the moment he was talking about God’s love and loving people. I felt myself. Bathed in light and brightness.

And the reason I felt that way is because there was a beam of light that was coming through one of the stain glass windows and was shining directly on me and my [00:58:00] girlfriend at the time. So it was a very, very directed beam of light that was just hitting the, the window at a certain way. That for at least maybe a minute or two was illuminating, the two of us.

And I said, oh my God, this is the sign. Because I at the am, we had been going out for a while and I think she had been kind of hinting at getting married. And I, I still had some doubts about whether or not this was something I, I was ready to do. So when that experience happened to me, I thought it was a sign by a sign from God.

De’Vannon: Do you still think it was? No. So if it wasn’t a sign from God, do you think maybe you kinda like ma made it up or just, just, this is what you believe, what you were wrong. 

John: Listen, when you, when you’re, when you’re indoctrinated into religious thought, right. It’s easier for [00:59:00] you to justify natural things as supernatural 

De’Vannon: Uhhuh.

yeah, that does happen too. So we, so we wanna avoid that. We wanna gain discernment. We wanna always be praying for discernment so we can see the truth of things. And but you know, to me, like, You know, with her, you know, seeing the other guy she’s actually having sex with him, she’s become an adultist, you know, at this point, you know, you know, was she that, you know of, you said she was seeing the other guy, do you know she was sleeping with him?

Yes. Cuz I asked her. Okay. And so that’s according to G she and 

John: she, and she admitted it. 

De’Vannon: Oh, she was a bold bitch, you know? And according to Jesus’ teachings, you know, the only reason that people can lawfully get divorces in the case of infidelity. So it’s almost like God was giving you a way out through this, whether you wanted to take it, you know, or not, at least the door was [01:00:00] open to, to the divorce legally, this, this brings me to another issue I take with people who take issue with people, meaning like you’re.

Straight people, quote, unquote, your Republicans and everything like that. And these preachers who are on like their fifth marriage and shit who get divorced all the time, for reasons other than infidelity, but in the Bible, you know, Jesus said, if you get divorced for any reason, other than infidelity, then that’s wrong.

And this voice he’s concerned that you’re still married. Yet. We find in churches all across the land that people in, all these unions have been divorced, but it was not for infidelity. And somehow it’s perfectly okay. And then they continue on preaching against gay people and women who won get, get, get abortions and everything like that.

But they don’t really preach too much about how you’re supposed to stay married unless it’s for infidelity. So that’s one of my pet peeves that I have now. I don’t go around judging people who were divorced for reasons other than infidelity. Cuz I don’t care. [01:01:00] Cuz like you said, what, what they’re doing and who they’re fucking don’t affect me.

But since they wanna have problems with other people, you know, I bring it up because there’s they’re because they’re hypocrites.

 Now you, during this time you went to go see a, a preacher, a priest or whatever, cuz he is, this is a Catholic church, right? Not a Catholic church. Okay. No, no. This is a preacher. And and he told you to stay married. He’s like divorce is not the way, but then later on he would get like, I think two divorces or something like that.

And I don’t think he was removed from that post from being a preacher. And so how did that make? He was, 

John: he was the, he was the head minister of the church that I’d been going to for 15 years. 

De’Vannon: Okay. He was a head minister. He told you not to get divorced later on. He gets a divorce twice, twice. How did that, how did that make you feel?

John: Well, what do you think?

De’Vannon: I might have said some 

John: exploitation. The, the H I, you, I think you [01:02:00] said it earlier, it’s the H word hypot. Yeah. I mean, I, I, I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than someone telling you, you shouldn’t get divorced and then they get divorced, not once, but twice.

I mean, that’s the definition of hypocritical and it extends 

De’Vannon: beyond that because he didn’t get removed from that position. I mean, us, both of those wives cheated on him and he had the lawful way out, but yet they’re removing people for being two years over the age limit. You know, in, in the singles 

John: group?

Well, I wasn’t removed just to be clear the van and I wasn’t removed from church. I just got a letter saying, please don’t come to this group anymore. 

De’Vannon: all right. That makes it so much more palatable. 

John: I wanna be clear. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna unfairly you know, trust the church. I still have the letter by the way.


De’Vannon: but people I’ve talked. I talked to [01:03:00] someone before who got divorced and they removed him from his volunteer positions in church. So it’s very interesting, you know, but you know, those, those double standards get applied everywhere you go. When I was in the middle was the same way. Somebody who was like to say is their first year in the air force.

If they got a DUI, they get kicked out. If they were got, if they were caught drinking underage. But if they, someone who had been in there 20 years did the same thing. They wouldn’t be treated as harshly, you know, The standards, they just don’t seem to apply when you get higher up in organizations. Mm-hmm so the last thing I wanna talk about before we wrap this up is a little bit about Catholicism.

I love to throw, throw shade at the Catholic church because I don’t, I, I really, I have, I have no disrespect for Catholic people. I just think that is one huge mind. Fuck. And I cannot understand [01:04:00] where they come up with all of these damn rules and shit that have nothing to do with the Bible. And I guess the popes made it up or someone who’s supposed to be holy made it up.

And then therefore it is believed by people, but the, the billions of people who make up the Catholic church and give the church it’s power and things like that. And I just don’t see what they’re getting. In return. The Bible tells us not to pray to angels and to anyone, but God, and they’re praying all these saints, there’s all these dead people.

There’s all these robes and all this kneeling. When I, when I went one time and I was like, am I sucking Dick in the sanctuary today? Or what is going on? Why am on, on my knee? well, of my needs were half the 

John: service. Well, hopefully you weren’t doing that in church, Savannah. It 

De’Vannon: would’ve made it worth it . If, if, if, while I was down there, one time someone had stuck something in my mouth.

So I’m gonna quote you again. You had some interesting one [01:05:00] liners, 

John: if you have, well, there might have been a few priests that would be happy 

De’Vannon: to accommodate you. I think I would’ve been too old for them at the right age. I think I might have been in my twenties and you know, and then the right age of 21, you know, they seem much too old for them.

And so, you know, you never know. So you sad in here. I don’t know if you have any books, man, but if not, I think you should write one. Cause you have some interesting one-liners in their, in this film. So referring to Catholic sex, sex education, you said to get a basic sex education, you need to be taught by people who had sex, who actually had sex, who actually had sex.

So you were talking about getting sex education from like these crazy ass looking nuns and stuff like that. So just tell us, as we begin to wrap up about your Catholic experience and what you think of the Catholic church. 

John: So in the film I talk about going to parochial school, junior high school which was [01:06:00]13, 14, 15 years old.

And one of the required courses was weekly courses was a course in religion and they kind of cross pollinated religion and sex education with, I guess, you know, they could only hire so many teachers and I guess they couldn’t have a dedicated teacher teaching sex education and a Catholic school.

So the, the teacher was teaching religion integrated some what, what they considered sex education. I would say sex lack of education would be a better way to phrase it. And one of the things they I was told at the age of 13 was that I’m, I’m trying to remember cuz it was quite a while ago, but the clear message I got was that you really should not be having sexual thoughts in your head.

And if you do or do it too much, or don’t turn your brain off immediately, once that sex sexual [01:07:00] thought pops in your head, if you don’t immediately shut that down, you’re walking on thin, thin ice with Jesus and, and you, you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna sin in against Jesus now, do you? So that was kind of the message I got is that it would be a, a sin or could be a sin against Jesus.

If you don’t shut down really quickly, any sexual thought about you know, my case, naked women or naked girls that, that pop into your head, you, which is a pretty big mind fuck to tell a 13 year old kid. And I have to tell you when you’re, when you’re being told that by an authority figure at school, and then you’re having that reinforced by parents, you know, that, that don’t have a healthy perspective of sex and kind of give you the message that anything sexual is taboo.

It really, you think that they’re they’re [01:08:00] right. And it, it it’s it’s wiring that gets burned into your brain. That’s really hard to undo. And for many years beyond that in my twenties and thirties, I really struggled with feelings of GA she shame and guilt related to sex. 

De’Vannon: How did you undo it?

John: Not easy. I Well, I stopped being religious. I think that helped, excuse me, that may have been the most significant shift because there was a definite definite relationship between my beliefs in God and the shame and guilt that I associate around sex. So the more I detached from the concept of a supernatural judgemental, shameful, or guilt inducing, God, I think the more I was able to accept.

My normal [01:09:00] feelings around sex and, you know, reading a lot of books learning a lot of stuff. And I, I was in therapy for a while years ago. I think that helped, but you know, just seeking other sources of information beyond religious perspectives. 

De’Vannon: Yeah. And I wanna say Dr. Ruth, remember Dr.

John: Ruth Dr. Ruth West Heimer. I mean, when she came on the scene in New York, I remember was I think in the eighties, I mean, that was mind blowing cuz there was this woman with this strong German accent and was to me, I remember I was in New York at the time and her, her program was weekly or, or some daily and I, I loved her programs because she just had a very open honest perspective of, of sex and it, I, it helped me a lot.

De’Vannon: Well, that, that sounds like a healthier place than, than the church. And I wanna say that how you said PA your parents reinforced what [01:10:00] the preacher said. I wanna say the parents, like your silence also reinforces negative sexual instruction. So if the church is saying something bad, it, and you’re going home and not saying anything to counter that well, you’re also reinforcing it because you’re silently agreeing with what the church is saying.

And the church really overextends itself. When I was growing up, they were telling me, masturbation is the devil, you know, in your case, you can’t even much have a thought. And they said that too, in the Pentecostal church but the thing is much like when they’re telling the 42 year olds that, you know, they can’t stay in the singles group where they’re not telling you where you can go, you know, you’re not giving you any sort of realistic.

 Outlet in the, in the forties and above where everyone’s 70 is not a realistic outlet. So if you’re gonna have a young man in his teens with a hard Dick, he needs to figure out something to do with it. You can’t just tell him, well, pray about it. You know, that’s not going to cut it because , [01:11:00] and so that, that silence, you know, is damaging and it takes time.

I think you did do well to, you know, to step away from the church. Cuz that church turned into the church, turned into a trigger for you for, for the, for being the source of your trauma. You can’t keep exposing yourself to the source of your trauma. Now the most important thing in our entire spiritual walk is our alone time with God, a church and a preacher is nothing more than an accessory to that.

So there come the time where you need to lay down church for a minute, then you do it and you’re not gonna burn up and go to hell. That’s not even biblical. People made that up to keep you coming to church because they have an agenda. They need to keep the seats filled. They need to keep your money coming in and all kinds of stuff.

Churches are businesses. They pay the preachers, you know, many of them do, you know? And so and I don’t know, people, people really are devout Catholics. I know so many people who are just like, fuck all Catholicism. It it doesn’t seem like it’s a pleasurable [01:12:00] experience the way it it’s it’s in your film.

It doesn’t seem like you really enjoyed it. This whole catechism thing when somebody has to, I don’t know. There’s just so much shit about the Catholic church that I’m just like, okay, this is nothing, but man here, I don’t see much of God in the CA at the church. And I’m just gonna hush about that. Cause I can do a whole episode on the Catholic church and what I don’t like about it.

So you can just tell people if you will, where they can find your film or where they can find you and any kind of closing words you have for the world. 

John: So the way they can find the film, I think if they just search and Google leaving God film, maybe. So those three words, leaving God film or leaving God documentary, it should pop right up.

And again, it’s not an Antigo film, that’s not what I’m about. That’s not what the film is about. It just talks about what’s happening. And what’s been happening in the us the few years and, and explains why it’s not going to change that. It’s only gonna keep going in the same direction that [01:13:00] more and more people are going to be leaving church and, and changing their attitudes about God.

And then it talks about some of the things we just shared today about. My personal experience with the church that I think you’ll find interesting cuz one of the things Devana didn’t talk about was the ad campaign that I did for the church which is pretty interesting. The church I ran a New York advertising agency and at one point the minister, when he found out that at that approached me and asked me what I would do with $150,000 for an ad campaign in New York.

And the film talks about what I came up with the ad campaign I came up with for the church. So that, that was pretty interesting. But that’s, that’s about it. I’m on LinkedIn, if they wanna try to luck me up on LinkedIn feel free to do that. But other than that, again, thanks for having me on your show.


De’Vannon: absolutely. It’s been a total pleasure and all your social media and everything will go in the show notes as I always do. [01:14:00] So, yeah. 

John: And if you wanna put a link to the film feel free to do that, or put a link to the trailer of the film. I don’t know if I sent you that stuff, but if I didn’t let me know, I’ll send you a link for that.

So at least I could check the trailer out. 

De’Vannon: I will be sure to include that and yeah. Yeah, you did send all that to me. Okay. Thank you so much on I look forward to releasing this.

Thank you all so much for taking time to listen to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast. It really means everything to me. Look, if you love the show, you can find more information and resources at sex, drugs, and jesus.com or wherever you listen to your podcast. Feel free to reach out to me directly at DeVannon@SexDrugsAndJesus.com and on Twitter and Facebook as well.

My name is De’Vannon and it’s been wonderful being your host today and just remember that everything is gonna be all right.


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