Santiago reads stories shared by listeners of the podcast: A woman who left the conservative fringes of Adventism, a trans woman from Puerto Rico, and someone who was raised in the SDA Reform Church.
You can read these stories and more on our Stories page.
Have a story to share? Write to us, send a DM or voice message on Instagram, or leave a voicemail at (301) 750-8648.
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Credits: Abby and Ami, creators of the Seventh-day Atheist Podcast • Music: Hall of the Mountain King Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Haystacks & Hell Intro
[00:00:00] Santiago: Welcome to Haystacks and Hell, an ex-Adventist podcast where we tell stories about growing up Seventh-day Adventist, leaving faith behind, and building new, fulfilling lives.
Coming Up: Listener Stories
[00:00:16] Santiago: Welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. I'm your host Santiago and today, we have a special bonus episode. As I've mentioned before, one of the goals of this podcast is to amplify the voices of people who were in the Adventist system. So for this episode, I'm going to read three stories that were submitted by listeners like you.
[00:00:37] If you have a story you'd like to share, you can see the show notes or visit our website at hell.bio for details.
[00:00:44] Before I forget, make sure to follow the show by subscribing on YouTube or your favorite podcast app. And for anyone listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave a rating and review to help other folks find the show. With that, let's jump into the stories.
[00:01:02] Santiago: First, we have a story that was shared on January 8, 2023, by someone using the pseudonym Faithless Fundie. She writes:
[00:01:12] Santiago (Narrating): Hello! Just listened to the first episode of the podcast and I'm excited to continue this journey. I've been deconstructing for the past year from the very conservative fringes of Adventism. I went to Adventist education all the way through college, I was vegan for a few years, left glow tracts/signs of the times in store bathrooms, and almost threw away all my pants once to only wear skirts. I was very fundamentalistic and quite proud, because I was pretty good at keeping the rules. Until college, that is.
[00:01:46] I fell into a moderate depression when I realized I couldn't meet the impossible standards that were being preached at my school. I believed that I could literally become perfect and sinless because when probation closed, we wouldn't have an intercessor between that time and Jesus' return to Earth. I never thought that would be more than a day or so, just however long it takes Jesus to travel to earth from heaven. But in this period of time, I would have to be perfect. So to prepare for the close of probation I better be pretty damn close to perfect now.
[00:02:24] So any little thing I did that was quote "sinful" like eating junk food, staying up late, reading fiction, tore me apart with guilt and self-loathing. I finally decided I was damned to hell, and that thought actually gave me some comfort. When I died, I would simply cease to exist. But I wouldn't have to keep trying so hard to do the impossible in the meantime. I gave up, deciding it was better to be lost, but still had guilt. Of course on the outside, I was still playing the perfect Adventist girl that was a spiritual role model for so many classmates.
[00:03:06] I think forcing myself to live such a fake life really contributed to the depression. I had a friend at this college who was Christian but not Adventist who shared this with me, quote: 'I find it really hard being at a place where everyone seems so perfect when I know I'm not' end quote. And that really resonated with me.
[00:03:30] There were many other things at this school that bothered me, such as the pastor/Bible teacher calling out students who skipped prayer meeting or "sinned" in some other way from the pulpit, dissing on all other Adventist colleges because we're so much better, and making fun of/laughing about people being lost, like Darwin, et cetera.
[00:03:55] I finally came to the conclusion that either the Bible wasn't infallible or God wasn't good. This isn't to say there wasn't anything positive about my college experience, but unfortunately these experiences were tainted by my internal conflict. Anyways, after graduating I was able to distance myself a bit from the stifling spiritual environment. I still went to church every Sabbath but wasn't required to attend four other worship services each week and could interact with people who weren't Adventist at work.
[00:04:31] This is when I started really questioning my faith. It was and still is terribly painful, like you are mourning the loss of a loved one. Jesus was supposed to be my best friend, and it's like he abandoned me or died. I'm still not sure what my identity is outside of the church, but the more I learn and engage with ex-Adventist communities, the easier it gets.
[00:04:58] Some of the other thoughts/ideas that really challenged my beliefs are
[00:05:03] 1) Why does God answer my prayers or the prayers of some star athlete about trivial things but he doesn't answer the thousands of prayers of starving, oppressed, or, otherwise struggling people?
[00:05:19] 2) How can I be sure my religion is the quote "true" one when nearly every other religion makes this claim too?
[00:05:30] 3) Why would God condemn something so harshly that he created or allowed to happen like LGBTQ+ people?
[00:05:41] I was told to think of homosexuality like alcoholism — some are born with a tendency towards it, but you can choose to avoid it. But asking someone to give up alcohol to get to heaven is so different than asking someone to never know the experience of a romantic relationship.
[00:06:00] Some time after I graduated a lawsuit was filed against my college for sexual harassment of an employee who had also been a student at the same time as me. This really shook me up and opened my eyes to see this place wasn't nearly as holy as it declared itself to be. They're still trying to sweep it under the rug like so many other injustices, which may work for some people, but not me. I was finally able to take off the rose colored glasses at that point.
[00:06:35] This is only a fraction of what I could share about my faith deconstruction journey and experiences in the church, but it's already quite lengthy. I've had a pretty crazy experience in the church and would love to share more about the extreme fundamentalistic cultures within Adventism that I experienced.
[00:06:55] Santiago: So that was Faithless Fundie's story, and I want to say thank you again to her for being willing to share and for giving permission to share her story on the website and this podcast.
[00:07:06] Santiago: Next, we have a story that was shared a few days later on January 11 by Madison. She writes:
[00:07:14] Santiago (Narrating): Hello, I'm from Puerto Rico! I enjoyed the first episode and figured I'd share my story in case it's of help for others. I grew up in church and since young, my parents would take me to various churches to preach and/or play piano. My parents were very involved as Adventists and by proxy, I was too.
[00:07:35] As I grew up and began dealing with body dysphoria, I felt like I wasn't taking my faith seriously and that if I devoted more time in church, these feelings would go away. I would pray every night for god to remove these feelings and would spend more time reading the Bible and studying the lesson book they would give us, but how I felt never really went away. And with time, I began to feel worse about my body and how it was changing in a way I hated.
[00:08:06] I dealt with depression and felt broken and ashamed of who I was. There wasn't anyone I could talk to about how I felt because I was scared of getting kicked out and being judged by family, the congregation and everyone that I knew. I remember when I was around 16 during one sermon, my pastor began talking about LGBTQ people and how we were an abomination, perverts and evil wicked people who chose to be this way.
[00:08:39] He kept preaching and I just remember thinking afterwards, 'I never chose to be this way.' That sparked me to question how true what the pastor was saying was, and overall what this religion pushed as quote "true." After that I decided to learn more about my beliefs and whether or not I had a good reason to believe. The more I looked into the church and the Bible, the less I believed in it.
[00:09:07] It took me till I turned 20 to deconstruct my faith and accept myself as a trans woman. It was a difficult process, the only person from my close family that knows is my mom and surprisingly, what hurt her more was finding out I didn't believe anymore rather than me being trans. She still does not accept nor support me for who I am, and most likely most in my family won't since they share the same religious beliefs.
[00:09:40] At the end of the day, regardless of how my parents feel, it is my life and I refuse to continue lying and hiding. I want to keep on learning, live an authentic life free from shame towards myself, and continue to meet new people and forming friendships with people that accept me for who I am.
[00:10:01] Finding communities and podcasts similar to this one has helped me to feel supported and not alone in my experience. Can't wait to hear more stories about the food and overall experiences you've all had when going to church. I still have nightmares about having to wash feet during the last supper ceremony.
[00:10:23] Santiago: So that was Madison's story, and I also want to say thank you so much to her for being willing to share her story.
[00:10:30] Santiago: Last but definitely not least, we have a story shared a few days ago on January 21. This person chose to stay anonymous and uses They/Them pronouns. They wrote:
[00:10:43] Santiago (Narrating): To start, I wasn't raised in the SDA church, I was raised in the SDA Reform church, which most Adventists probably aren't familiar with. It is a smaller church that branched off the bigger SDA church around a hundred years ago.
[00:11:00] A recent experience I had was this past summer when I went to a youth seminar. Some necessary background info is that in the "reform", as those in the church call it, they adhere to a sort of distinction between the sexes in terms of clothing.
[00:11:18] Women are not under any circumstances allowed to wear quote "men's clothing." Pants were only allowed if absolutely necessary, for example, an issue of safety in the workplace, while men wearing quote "women's clothing" wasn't even within the realm of possibility because, you know, gay people.
[00:11:41] Well, when I went to this seminar, which was in the south during the hottest time of the year, I didn't bring many skirts or dresses because I just don't own very many. I almost exclusively wear pants despite my parents' rare remarks about wearing skirts more often.
[00:12:00] On around the third or fourth day there, I had decided I was tired of dealing with the sweat and horrible chafing, so I decided to wear a pair of loose wide leg pants made of a light fabric so I wouldn't sweat my ass off. These weren't skinny ripped jeans or short athletic shorts as the rest of the story might have you believe.
[00:12:25] During breakfast, this old lady who was a member of the church, not so discreetly came up to me and told me in a very concerned tone that some brothers and sisters had seen me and that I should change out of my pants immediately because they didn't want more sisters to see me.
[00:12:46] Poor them right? Imagine the horror of a group of teenagers and young women seeing an 18 year old girl wear pants.
[00:12:57] Because I had no friends and no one to sort of egg me on or give me confidence, I caved and went to my room after breakfast and changed into a dress that I had already worn a day prior. I laugh about the interaction now because of how ridiculous and almost comedic it sounds, but in the moment it made me feel really shitty and almost humiliated.
[00:13:23] Being forced to wear skirts and dresses for two weeks out of fear of another situation like that contributed to my horrible mental state at that time and I honestly continued to feel humiliated. Then, and my whole life really, I would constantly feel "othered" and as a kid, I always thought it was unfair that boys got to wear pants and shorts while I was stuck wearing uncomfortable skirts.
[00:13:53] I think the worst part of being in that seminar is just the fact that all the other young people and pastors genuinely thought that the ideas they were preaching were true and in the best interest of everyone, not just those within the church.
Share Your Story
[00:14:10] Santiago: All right, that's the end of this story and I also want to say thank you to this person and thank you again to Madison and Faithless Fundie for sharing their stories.
[00:14:20] As you've probably heard Abby mention in earlier episodes, Adventism is not a monolith. We all have different experiences and as this last story shows, there are some offshoots of the SDA church that can be even more extreme in some ways.
[00:14:37] Once again, I want to encourage you to share your story. You can choose to share your real name if you want, but you can also use a pseudonym or stay completely anonymous if you want. For people who aren't as concerned with anonymity, you can also leave a voicemail or for better audio quality, send a voice message through Instagram.
[00:14:58] Our voicemail number is 301-750-8648 and you can find us on Instagram @haystacksnhell. That's haystacks, the letter "N", hell.
[00:15:14] There's a link to our Instagram in the show notes and there's also a link to our Stories page on our website, where you can see each one of these stories and share them if you'd like.
[00:15:25] Thanks again for listening and make sure to follow, rate, and review the show.