49 Comments

This might be such a therapist-y thing to say (...sorry), but the tone of your essay today, I feel, really exudes the healing you've been working on for yourself - and I am really happy for you. Not letting the power-hungry narcissistic men [of footnote 5: " Peel away all the Christianese that these men spoke/wrote constantly, and they are just narcissistic men obsessed with their own legacy" !!!! YES] steal all our energy and joy. Just noticing your impulses to fix and protest, and what ways it's been helpful, and what ways not so much. It just felt really nice reading this essay.

Also, I'm going to sit with the idea of the Jesus of the totalist religion. *boooom* Whoa. Because yes, that's also true. And also, not the healthiest. Post-evangelicalism, I am highly skeptical of totalist ANYTHING, and framing the Jesus movement (small m) but also the ahistorical Jesus that way is sort of blowing my mind right now.

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

When I was a youth pastor I was more or less forced to take the kids to a Greg Laurie ‘crusade’ (what an awful word) and it was such a terrible experience I felt sick for exposing kids to it.

On a different topic, I’ve been thinking a lot about the obsession I had with Keith Green, who was another big Jesus Movement figure who looked a lot like Lonnie Frisbee but died young and got to be immortalized instead of erased. But really his obsessive radical views made me feel so responsible and guilty if I wasn’t giving up everything I loved/felt/knew about myself to go be a missionary. He has this song ‘Jesus Commands Us to Go....it should be the exception if we stay’. Ughh. I get sad for my young self thinking about it now.

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I first heard about the Jesus People movement in 2017, when a pastor mentioned "hippies getting saved" in his sermon, and he mentioned that was how their church started...I'm not naming this church in my public life but will say it's affiliated with one of the three big ones mentioned in DL's essay. Looking back, the pastor's words definitely sparked an autistic special interest. I was quickly able to find info about Lonnie Frisbee, his queer identity and his erasure from church history. I didn't watch the documentary until a couple years later, and was disappointed that it was told from a non-affirming perspective. I think I have a fascination with Lonnie and the early Jesus People movement because I was finally able to claim queerness in the history of my faith tradition (not just Lonnie, there were Christian communes!). I wrote an essay for a creative writing class where I compared Lonnie's experiences in the emerging movement to my experiences growing up evangelical in the 2010s and how both expressions of evangelicalism tried to make rigid conservative Christian theology palatable and "cool" to young people by infusing it with pop culture.

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I grew up adjacent to the Jesus Movement (my family was less charismatic and more of the buttoned-up fundamentalist type of the really-into-End-Times-Baptist variety, but the communities we ran in tended to be more charismatic than we were). Thank you for sharing this erased history with us. I feel for Lonnie and see such a familiar story of hurt and abuse in his life. I feel for my younger self who just wanted to know she was loved by God and wasn't going to be punished in hell (or send others there) and was determined to do anything to get God's love (including ignoring her own body). So appreciate your work and loving the ways you are setting boundaries for yourself in your research and looking for ways to be present in your body today. Peace!

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Mar 1Liked by D.L. Mayfield

Growing up in a very stuffy, liturgical tradition, I prayed for God to be real. In 1980, I got ‘saved’ @college & suddenly God felt real for the 1st time. The non-denom Charismatic church on campus was like family—in fact, all for Jesus, I turned my back on my own family to enter into what I’m only finding out now was the Shepherding movement. I quit college, & have spent the last 40 years in high control, totalist wyt conservative evangelical churches. A mental health crisis w a daughter changed everything. Add CoVID lock down, George Floyd & potus45, my eyes were finally opened. Church was not the safe space I always thought it was and I have been excavating my faith ever since. It’s been really painful & destabilizing but Danielle, you sharing your own journey toward healing with such searing honesty has been such a balm to my soul. So good to not be alone…thank you for all your deep dives. Just. Thank.you.

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

For the longest time I believed there were tiny authentic pockets within white evangelicalism, and if I could prove myself useful enough to one, I’d be given a sufficient platform to spark a movement. I was repeatedly useful enough to move in leadership circles, until I unexpectedly found myself an enemy of leadership (my insights were interesting until they hit too close to home). It’s wild and harrowing to see what “success” in my misguided sense of calling would have actually looked like. Thanks for sharing this story.

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“It’s not fair, and I want to make it RIGHT. The core need of so many autistic people, and the cause of so much of my pain.”

Well that just summarizes my whole life. Added to the same dynamic you go into of freezing/fawning most of life and now finally trying to have some agency, some fight.

My fawn response went straight into I must fix it, all of it. (Both fix my abusive father AND my emotionally immature codependent with me mother, my siblings, and then every single thing to cross my path obvi.) it’s only now, after 8 years of deconstruction & therapy & many many other things that I am beginning to just be me. To notice and not fix, as you mention.

And it isn’t surprising really, but it is still absolutely infuriating and disgusting. The ONLY thing that brings me a tiny bit of comfort is knowing the God/Jesus is not duped. Not for one second.

Thanks for sharing. And cheers to finding special interests that are calming and regulating, bc I’d like to get there as well.

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Mar 1Liked by D.L. Mayfield

I appreciate your sharing this piece with us. I relate a lot to your journey and the fawn response history. You put to words something I don't think I'd realized: I also channeled my fight response into fueling my extremely fearful and uncomfortable evangelistic efforts "for the Lord". It was part of learning early on to despise my introversion as sinful rebelliousness and what I'm coming to discover is my actual personality (that Jesus loved so much He died for, yet also wants me to erase entirely so I can be a clone of him, otherwise he can't see me at all, just my sin?).

Regarding less harmful special interests-can I recommend birding? It's been a refuge for me as my Christian life has imploded. Birdsong is supposed to be good for one's mental health, and they're just so darn cute (well, oftentimes they are). It's been wonderful to go out on field trips with my local birding group, where people are enthusiastic about such a wholesome thing, welcoming, and willing to share their knowledge and fancy equipment. As with any environmental thing, there are ways it can contribute to anxiety, and trigger feelings of responsibility to save the world (has for me at times), so I can't say it's perfectly harmless, but it's been a net positive for me.

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

I grew up in the Jesus Movement. My step-dad was in leadership at one of the first Calvary Chapels in the the 70s. He rubbed elbows with Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie. Calvary Chapel is how I met my future wife when I was 10 years old - her father (my future father-in-law being a Calvary Chapel youth pastor at the time). The odd thing is, I had heard about Lonnie Frisbee only a few times growing up. And then, only incidentally in passing as someone who was there, but left. I never even knew his last name until they started to promote this movie. It wasn't until my dad made a Facebook post the other day in conversation with my father-in-law that he didn't think Lonnie was necessarily gay just because he died of AIDS that I knew much of his story and how he died. That's frustrating to me. I've been deconstructing slowly for almost 20 years now, and I am just starting to see things I should have seen years ago. It makes me angry.

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Mar 1Liked by D.L. Mayfield

Thank you for this. I know the heavy stuff gets hard to call out and research and spend time in. But it meant a lot when you said it *should be enough* to get people to see the fruit is rotten. People should be able to hear stories of queer erasure and harm and fear and oppression and death and say "you know what? That evangelical fruit sure is rotten and we need to stop it," but instead it's "weeeell, Jesus is the important part so let's not be divisive" and "everything is so politicized and polarized these days, can't you just be happy the gospel is being preached even if it's not perfect or your preferences or up to your impossibly woke standards." They see our stories and history and statistics and exclusion and they say, "Well, that's going to upset some people, and we don't want to encourage sin, so let's set that aside" and "it's still a good movie, even if all these conservative people involved stand for things I say I don't agree with, just separate the art from the artist!" and "we need to learn to get along despite differences!" The exclusionary will always win because the majority doesn't care. It won't change them because they think it won't affect them. They keep cheering for Greg and Vineyard and the whole system because "look at all the good it will do!" and queer people are the acceptable collateral damage even if they claim to be inclusive or "God loves everyone" or welcoming.

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

Gosh this makes me ill. My husband’s extended family were/are all part of Calvary chapel. They went to see the movie. I love them dearly, and I’m sure they don’t know all this dark history. I don’t even want to tell them. :(

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

When I read your words and sense your feelings, I feel more healing happening in me. Grateful for you. I relate in many ways. Thank you for reminding me that my feelings are valid; What I’ve witnessed and felt/feel is real.

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Feb 28Liked by D.L. Mayfield

very interesting! I love reading about other people's special interests!

also re 1970s design, my life goal is to have a conversation-pit living room like on Mad Men. i wanna walk in the door and fall down into my couch!

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Your writing always brings up a hundred yesss’ and aha’s so I never quite know what to write in short in the comments, DL!

God (to me, a great mysterious unknown) IS still and always will be a special interest for me but this mystery is buried under so many politics, propaganda, ideologies, rules, wounds etc. I liken the journey of deconstruction to peeling back the layers (like an onion), or sifting through layers of compacted soil in my garden. I’m taking out the rocks one by one and building my boundaries out of them. It’s all I know to do at this point to stay sane.

I am finding gems along the way and sticking them in the bag I carry. Everything that doesn’t fit, I separate in piles in the confines of my own mind and decide what to make of them. What an arduous process.

Thank you for all the work you’re doing. It’s truly inspiring and makes me feel less crazy and alone!

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I was so giddy when I saw you were doing a deep dive on insta because ME TOO. My mom came over last week and told me how amazing it was and then how she & my dad were going to be visiting a (gross, reformer, lead my an egomaniac) church that weekend to see guest speaker: Eric metaxas!!! 😫😫😫 needless to say I did a deep dive the next few days (including an interview of Laurie BY Metaxas. 🤡 and when talking to my spouse about it later he said, “I know this makes you feel better....but were you reading about this all day??” Um, yes...and did I tell you Lonnie died of AIDS?!?” 💔

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Thank you, Danielle! I think it is helpful for me to hear people expose the truth behind the hype because I need reassurance that it's not just me seeing these things. I appreciate when people say the things that we weren't allowed to point out within conservative Christian circles. But also at times my need to be reassured, to constantly go back and look at how awful it is, keep dwelling on the patterns, does seem unhealthy.

I had never heard of Greg Laurie and I barely know anything about the Jesus Movement so I appreciate that you shared what you uncovered. Thinking about what you write and what it costs you, I realize that I have a lot of trust in you and the truth of what you are saying, more than with most people on the Internet, and it's because I know you go deep and do a lot of research, and you share your sources.

After reading this, I was drawn to google Greg Laurie (while wondering if this was a healthy impulse or no, I don't need to know any more about this!) What I noticed in his content online is the focus on the numbers, how the Jesus Movement led to so much church growth, so it must be truly from God Dwindling churches and groups transformed into a movement of thousands upon thousands. It's now blatantly packaged and sold to people as a technique, a church growth strategy, and continues to trickle down throughout Christianity wherever people want change. Part of the dots I am connecting is realizing that I was exposed to the influence of this movement, decades later, without knowing where it came from.

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