Was It Real? Can We Still Love Our Church Experiences? A Conversation About Toronto & Bethel Movements

Spiritual “movements” such as the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and the Bethel movement out of Redding, CA have had profound impact on people’s lives. For those who have left our Church communities behind, how do we look back at what we knew? Fondly? With disappointment? With a feeling we were deceived?

Maybe the answer is all of the above. Tara Jean Stevens asked all those questions in a powerful podcast called Heaven Bent. She still loves her past and the community she left behind, but is asking “what really happened?”

It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.

Transcript. Transcribed by AI:

Was it real? That’s a question. I get asked a lot by people in this season. And what they’re asking is where the experiences we had in our church, legit. Can we look back on them fondly, even though we’ve now left some who have left because that church created great trauma. It’s a, it’s a heart-wrenching question to ask.

We all have moments that were pleasant and wonderful and even transformational. And now do we have to throw those out and say they didn’t matter? Because the church we loved growing up has proven to be something very different than what we believe. Tara Jean Stephens did a podcast called heaven, bent.

She’s working on more seasons now. And she wrestles with these questions of the, the religious belief and the fervor and the joy and the passion and the transformation of her youth. And I love the questions she’s asking. I recommend that podcast and I recommend you listen to our conversation today.

We’re going to talk to her in just a bit, because I think the story. It’s so important. It speaks to just the very heart of who we are as people. Was it real? Did I interact with God? Did I interact with something divine or was it all a ruse where we just deceived. Let’s wrestle with those questions a little bit today in this podcast where we like to have unconventional conversations pointed towards this message, that God is not mad at you.

I want to remind you as we go into this podcast, that you can be a part of helping to support the work we do here at with pastor Paul by joining our Patrion page. Or just giving a gift. We are a for-profit work, so you don’t get a tax deduction, but your reward can just be in your generosity if you can.

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Tara Jean Stephens is the producer host innovator of an incredible podcast called heaven, bent where they look at these tough questions of what does our look back on our spiritual life of the past. Looked like. I hope you enjoyed this discussion. And for those of you listening or watching this over Thanksgiving holiday, I wish you a happy holiday season here in America.

And those tough times with family to be carried out with me and you ๐Ÿ“ sharing together our energy and hope and power to be ourselves. Even when others try to press us to not be. So my blessing to you enjoy my conversation with Tara Jean Stephens. It’s an important one. It’s a ๐Ÿ“ good one. And you’re going to love her.

All right, Paul swearing-in here at pastor Paul. Ticktock on social media, glad you’re with us today for what’s going to be a really interesting conversation from a super podcaster that I’ve really enjoyed listening to. And I think this is going to be a great discussion. Because many of you talk to me about how it’s a struggle of what was it real?

Do I still get to enjoy what I loved in my days of going to church and being in my church community as I’m walking this deconstruction journey. So our guests did they, Tara Jean Stephens has walked that journey. And did a podcast about it. Uh, it’s called the heaven bent podcast. She’s also a radio broadcaster for kiss radio in Vancouver and joins us from up in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, Tara, Jean, how are you today?

I’m awesome. Thanks for having me, pastor Paul. It’s a pleasure.

Well, you’re welcome to call me Paul, but thank you for that. That honors

pastor in awhile. It’s been

awhile. Well, I got to tell you that my, my wife and I loved the podcast, um, and we, uh, grew up charismatic kids, uh, kids in charismatic, evangelical churches.

And. We loved it. And it was so painful at the same time. And for anybody that doesn’t know, the podcast talked about this Toronto movement in the vineyard association of churches, where I actually was first ordained as a pastor and Bethel church out of Redding. And we know so many people up there they’re very close friends.

And I say that saying, don’t be afraid that I’m going to be angry about. I thought you did a fascinating look at these two movements that have been very impactful in the lives of my household. Tell me, how did you decide to do this podcast? How did it come?

Well, I grew up in the Pentecostal church in Canada, and I lived in a pretty remote town called prince Rupert, which is way up the BC coast at the end of the Alaskan panhandle.

And we were incredibly isolated, a very small town and our little church became impacted by the Toronto blessing movement in the night. And it happened by a group of people from our church, hearing that something special was happening in Toronto. And they all flew out there as a group. And when they were there, uh, some of this phenomenon happened.

So, uh, they said that gold dust was falling from the ceiling. People were shaking and falling to the ground. Uh, the big one though, and this was really the sort of kickstart later in life. Making this podcast was this memory that I have of being a teenager, going to church one Sunday morning. And this group of people standing in front of the church, fresh back from Toronto, and one of the women opened up her mouth and said that God had given her a gold tooth molar.

And we all stood in a line after the service to look in her mouth and. I remember at the time, just not being shocked because we lived in this world. Right? Like it, it

wasn’t a world where you expected miracles to

happen. Yeah, exactly. We expected miracles to happen and we claimed them and said they were happening in our lives, but nothing like that.

I mean, this was a whole other level. Uh, but it was in my later teen years and I moved away. I graduated high school shortly after that, moved away to the big city. And, um, and for me, I guess I didn’t have a word for it until recently was slowly deconstructing. I found fault in the church. I identified some of the incidents and the memories I had as actually being quite traumatic.

And, um, that eventually led me to, to therapy and some post-secondary non-Christian education to help educate myself, but there was still this memory I had of the gold tooth. And as I started to let go of my fundamental beliefs, I couldn’t stop thinking about that gold tooth because Paul, if that woman got a gold tooth from.

Then I was going to go to hell because I was not living that life anymore.

If that was real, then it all is

real. Right. Exactly. Exactly. So I was probably. How old was I? About 26 when, um, my, my boyfriend, my future husband, my still husband now said to me, Hey, you know, there’s this thing called Google. You could go on there and maybe like search up some words and see what you find.

So I Googled a gold tooth, Toronto. I didn’t even know what the Toronto blessing was at the time. I had no idea. I’d never heard those words before. I just knew about teeth. And so I. I Googled gold gold teeth, Toronto church. And the first thing that came up was this blog that one of the pastors, uh, one of the leaders in Toronto at the time, um, had posted after the fact apologizing actually, and the blog was.

From a Christian point of view, he was still a pastor, but he felt at the time, and I don’t even know what his name was. Cause I can’t find that blog anymore. And he said, I want to apologize to anyone who is negatively impacted by this movement. I feel that we, as leadership allowed things to get out of control, where people were making false claims and having spiritual hallucinations and I wept.

And I, I could even right now just the fact that. I did it. Then he was still in the church and apologizing for, it meant a lot to me, it made that apology more accessible. Um, but as much as that guy probably didn’t mean to completely snip my faith in that moment, it did, it released me. It released me and it allowed me to.

Get answers to questions that I hadn’t been able to comprehend. You know, like even just scientific stuff, you know, stuff I had been raised in the Christian Church never went to public school until grade 11. So I couldn’t understand. Uh, let’s say like evolution, because I’d been taught that the dinosaur bones were planted by devils minions in order to trick us to think that the world was older.

So I had a lot of, I had a lot of time then after that moment to unpack it. And then later on. I decided that it was a story that I wanted to tell. So that’s when I decided to launch heaven, bent, and it’s been an incredible journey and I’ve realized that I’m not alone in all of these questions.

I’m not alone in all

the, on all the trauma and confusion and divisive conversations amongst family.

Like I’m not alone and that’s okay. That’s what I’ve discovered through my pod did

the, the pastor’s blog, did he debunk the gold teeth? And there were all kinds of ways that, uh, I guess manifest, uh, this, this movement manifest in people, but, but gold teeth was one of the big, common miracles that happened in what’s.

He debunking. Yeah,

his blog included photos of people going to the dentist and, um, finding out that they just forgotten that a dentist had put the gold tooth there. Um, but at the same time, like as part of my investigation, or I always hesitated to use that word, my exploration was to go back to prince Rupert and talk to some of the adults who made these claims.

And they are the most lovely people that are so close to my heart and they have. Well, like Paul, these women helped raise me, you know, and these memories for them, and these claims are so important to their current walk, faith, their, their current walk with God and how they understand the world. And so it was really hard for me to come in there and not question it, but to hear out their stories and make sure that I presented them in a way where I wasn’t making fun.

I, but I never found any real gold teeth.

And your goal of the podcast. And I love hearing that beautiful emotion from you right there that even that, that community still stirs that passion and their love for that movement. It still causes love. I think that’s a, a wrestling match for a lot of us. And so, yeah.

I really think you did this beautifully in the podcast. You didn’t come to attack the movement or the people in it or say it was even bad necessarily, but just taking a really honest look is, is that kind of your approach when you came to it? Cause, cause that’s what we heard.

Yeah. Well, a hundred percent that’s that was how I wanted to come at it.

I’m just realizing I should’ve brought Kleenex.

I would give you one.

I’ll use my phone for.

Yeah. I mean, one of the, the first things that I did, the very first thing I did when I decided I wanted to tell this story and start looking into it was have a conversation with my parents. Uh, are you okay if I start poking around in this, are you comfortable? If I reach out to people from our past and family, friends, and start asking about this, um, my parents don’t go to a church anymore, but I think if you ask.

They’re still Christians. I don’t think that they ever thought in a thousand years, that two decades later their daughter would come up and be like, okay, what the heck was that? Okay. Cause there was some really weird stuff that happened beyond the gold teeth. You know, I remember. I remember the day that my dad got, um, got baptized in a private swimming pool in our little town.

And when we left, he said he was drunk in the spirit and he was driving weird and a cop pulled us over. And my dad just howling and said, I got drunk in the spirit. You can’t arrest me. And that was just normal. But now I look back on it and go. Yeah, that was really, that was really

strange. Did you have any of those experiences?

Oh, of course,

of course. For me, it was, uh, when we would go to the youth conventions. So, uh, in British Columbia, the big youth conventions were in, um, some towns in the interior called Kamloops in Colona. And there were thousands of teenagers there from the Yukon and British Columbia. And every year we would bus down there in the spring and over the course of the mid nineties.

The Toronto blue, I didn’t know at the time, but a lot of these leaders were ushering in sort of the spirit of the Toronto blessing to us there and telling us like at the start of these meetings, something incredible is going to happen here tonight. Many of you are going to shake and fall to the ground.

Some of you are going to receive miracles. You’re going to be speaking in tongues in languages that you’ve never heard before. There was a great sense of anticipation and that stuff did happen. And if I remove everything that. Picked apart and put my poked at so much. Now I still look back on those meetings and think, yeah, but how beautiful it was that from sitting in my seat, when I got called to the alter that I felt myself go from cold air to warm water, that I felt a closer bond with my friends in that moment and something that we can still talk about and look back on fondly.

Um, I’m first, but it took a lot of therapy though. Paul, for me to be able to isolate the two things, because there was positive, there was harmless, there was community, there was joy and dancing and beautiful music and harmonizing and the presence of something that I now, for me, it’s not about a God or the holy spirit, but about when people gather together with something.

In their hearts that something magical can happen. I still believe in that. Um, but ๐Ÿ“ there was also the trauma and that’s the part that I can’t, I can’t ignore anymore. I ๐Ÿ“ can’t brush that. I can’t brush that over.

I hope you’re enjoying this discussion with Tara Jean. It’s so important and it’s amazing. I think she’s just an awesome, awesome person. I just want to take a quick break to remind you that we have ways to touch in together in community. As we pursue this unconventional spiritual life of the 21st century together all week long, Wednesday morning, 7:00 AM Pacific.

We have our spiritual mindfulness moment at time of contemplation and prayer. Connecting together and connecting with the divine Thursdays, we release our God’s not mad at you podcast. Saturdays are our sermon of pastor Paul’s Bible talks. Sunday. We get together in Sunday community and every third, Tuesday of the month, we have our unconventional conversations together.

So join us all week long as we walk out this unconventional, spiritual life together. ๐Ÿ“ I love connecting with you along the way. Now, back to our unconventional conversation with Tara, Jean Stephens of the heaven ๐Ÿ“ bent podcast.

Do you believe in anything sort of divine and out of the realm of. Yeah,

I D I do, actually, I believe that there are things in this world that we don’t understand.

I don’t believe that they’ve been explained in a way that makes sense to me anymore. Um, and that goes back to what I said at the start there about, um, finding fault in the church and when you’re, I was raised so fundamental it, every, this is, this is what’s real, nothing in this is wrong. And when I started to find things that were absolutely.

The whole thing fell apart for me. And I’m

like, I want a story

happening right now. I just want to say to like the fundamental church, if you’re upset about us leaving, that’s why. Cause it, it fall, it fell apart so easily. Mostly for me, it was attributed to meeting people who were openly gay in the city and realizing that they were not the people that I had been told about at summer camp.

These evil people. They just weren’t and I went, okay, well, if they’re not the, okay, what else is going on here? You know,

I call that the string in the sweater. Uh, experience you. Okay. This isn’t, this isn’t matching up with what I’ve been told or what I’ve, how I’ve been taught to read the Bible. And once you pull that first string, it just kind of keeps coming and keeps coming then doesn’t it?

It sure does. You know what I also think a lot about too, and especially as I’ve started to make heaven bent and now. Talk, I’m talking again with people who are believers, people who are on fire, Christians, you know, former, you know, kids that I went to high school with who are now youth pastors. And when I talk with them now, I just said there, I’m still fascinated about why did it break in me and not in you?

What is it about how come I have. How come I’m not televangelist. That’s what I thought I was going to be like, I now work in radio and television and I host TV shows and I have a podcast, but if that hadn’t broken in me, I would have been. Probably a prophet with a TV show. Like I really do believe that that’s yeah.

A Canadian version. So I do wonder, like how come you got to keep believing and you still got to keep going to church and you still have that community in your life. And I miss that, I miss the music. I missed the fellowship. I can’t go

anymore. Isn’t that the thing of it all is I just think as humans, we’re so wired for community and we love the community.

And Rachel held Evans who wrote searching for Sunday. I don’t know if you’ve read that book, but such a great book and having to leave her church and know she can’t be there anymore because she doesn’t believe the way. They believe and driving away and saying, who’s going to bring us casseroles when we have a baby.

Now, you know, it’s, it’s this, isn’t a tragic, it’s so

true. And, and also, you know, another repercussion of that is as much as I’ve, you know, my belief system has totally changed. And now I just believe that there is a beautiful mystery in this world that I can’t quite explain. Um, I because of the fundamental upbringing, I can’t lean on any other communities.

It’s still, I can’t do yoga without thinking that I’m presenting my body to the devil. Like, I, I, I just can’t I think, oh no, it’s meditation. It’s yoga. It’s allowing devil demons. And like, I,

for people that are just like, I know, I don’t believe this anymore, but I’m still sure that I’m going to hell. It’s just such a crazy thing.

Exactly. For people listening in, you know, these are experiences that very much shaped. Uh, I, you know, I grew up in a, in an assemblies of God household. My dad was a pastor. We, a lot of speaking in tongues, a lot of prayer for healing. And then I had my pagan years, I say through college where I rejected it all, but then came back around and.

And the vineyard association of churches, that’s vineyard movement, and then Bethel were very impactful and I’ve had these experiences of falling down and of having people prophesied and say things that they really couldn’t have known that they had no access to know. And, and so it’s, it’s still this wrestling match in me of, I know, I don’t believe that anymore.

Uh, even once we had a guy prophesied, you know, it using that language that, Hey, there’s somebody here with a left foot that, that hurts. And this guy next to me, raised his hand that his left foot hurt. And so I asked him if I could pray for his left foot. So I got down on a knee and I’m praying for his left foot.

And the next thing I know he’s like, I can hear. And I, I was like what? He said, I’d been deaf in my left ear for 15 years and I can hear. And so somehow, somehow in the midst of this atmosphere where maybe there’s just some human expectation of something supernatural happening then, and I just kept going, well, what about your foot?

I’m praying for your foot. But you know, his friend was like, yeah, we’ve known you have to be on his right side. Cause he can’t hear out of his left ear. There’s something out there. And, and so I keep telling people, like, if I have access to something like that, I’m not going to reject that I don’t want to lose.

But I also don’t believe there’s some guy in heaven on a throne with a gray beard, like looking to throw lightning at me whenever he can. And neural. Yeah. That has been very helpful to work that through. Let me get back to the podcast or do you mind if I play a quick clip of the podcast, please? All right.

Let me see if I can remember how to do that on this machine here, but this is the heaven bent podcasts. I looked around for really good clips. And then finally decided, you know, you probably picked the first clip for a reason, and I think it’s the best one. So here is Tara Jean’s podcast, season one, episode one heaven bent.

Let’s listen.

I haven’t heard this in awhile.

On January 20th, 1994. Strange things started happening at Toronto airport vineyard, a small Christian Church near the end of a runway. I Toronto Pearson international airport.

We need to walk to the front. They were just knocked to the floor underneath their chairs, all over the.

During that Thursday evening service right around the corner from Canada’s busiest airport, pastor John Arnott handed the microphone over to his invited guest speaker.

Right at that moment, it was like a holy spirit exploded across the rooms.

His guest was a Missouri pastor named Randy Clark attention to your emotions and pay attention to your body. We don’t

want any Kirsty dry. And the room erupted. It keeps shaking, laughing, crying, screaming.

There were 130 or so people in the room that night and at the end of Randy Clark’s sermon nearly every single one of them fell to the.

And this was only the beginning.

Yeah. Beautifully done. I love the, the production of all of that. Um, so what has been the response now from people that you’ve known, people that you haven’t known? Has there been anybody get really angry about what your.

Um, I think if anyone is super angry, they don’t tell me about it. I know that I can imagine that, um, that you’d necessarily, are you still there?

I just wanted everybody just to look at you, as you said.

Um, yeah, I definitely. I did hear from, like, let’s say I got a tweet once from someone that said that I was going to go to hell for what I was doing. Um, that’s probably. The hardest feedback I’ve heard, but I think that’s because anyone who really has a sore spot about it just doesn’t let me know about it.

And probably doesn’t even listen to the whole podcast either. So I did

not hear from the R knots, the pastors of the

Toronto, I didn’t hear from the Arnotts, but I did hear from the current pastor of the. Church. Uh, his name is blanking on me, presently lovely guy who wrote me after I had, he had obviously heard about the podcast while it was launching.

So a couple of years ago I was probably two episodes out and he wrote me and just wanted to let me know that he was listening and that he appreciated that at that point in the podcast. And I hope he still feels like that if he continued to listen, uh, he thanked me for not making fun of anyone. He’s like.

Thank you for not making fun of our beliefs and our behavior. And we all know it got a little silly at times. Even people who are still in the movement think that it got a little silly in a way from itself, you know? Um, I

didn’t

care. Even the vineyard ultimately said we don’t want to have any part of it.

Shirt

did good. Um, yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t hear from him again after episode three, I felt like we had had a bit of a dialogue going on. So there’s part of me that wonders if maybe there was something in that episode that may be stopped him from wanting to continue the dialogue with me. Um, I’ve also heard, I mean, and things.

The episode, our season one was a totally different beast mood wise compared to season two. And compared to the seasons I’m working on right now, um, the Toronto blessing, the people I spoke with, the people who were impacted, I’m not saying it was perfect, but it was very innocent. It was. Um, and I think that’s a word that I use a bunch of, like, nobody has anything bad to say about John and Carol, you know, like mom

and dad

they’re superstars, like.

As much as all the stuff that I’ve looked at and gone through, like they’re stars to me. And I would enjoy sitting in a room and hearing them speak even today. I mean, the people who I just felt like it was just like a sense of wonder and maybe a bit of confusion and silliness and whatever. And then when I finished season one, I from my research then knew, okay.

I think Bethel in writing is going to be the follow-up and it, things got a little bit. And things got things got, uh, the people who wanted to share stories with me. Um, it was not just about confusion and wonder and innocence. There was abuse happening and traumatic instances happening and a lot of gaslighting and a lot of countries.

And that scared me. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought it was going to be the same sort of journey and it hasn’t been,

I’d like to hear more on that. And we’re talking with Tara Jean Stephens, who is from Vancouver, Canada, creator, host producer, all of the above with some help, uh, of the heaven bent podcast.

And as you mentioned, the first season was about Toronto and the Toronto blessing. Second season. Bethel church in Redding and this movement of music and full transparency. Many of the leaders of that are good friends of my household. And I would say probably our relationship has. At least then doubt some since we’ve kind of been on our own journey out of that church.

Um, but also people that had tremendous impact in our lives and just positive impact. It’s complicated. It is complicated. It’s very complicated. And so I want to talk about that because I was listening to you on another podcast that you had done in the past before season two came out and you talked about.

Bethel being a, sort of a darker version of this and, and tell me, you know, what did you find in that? How did you see that as sort of a, I guess a darker version of Toronto? Um,

I think, well, I’ll start off with saying that with bill, with bill Johnson, who was the same as, as John and Cara. Even people who have been, yeah, I really liked him.

I’ve never met him. I did have this like secret fantasy. Like maybe I could convince them to enjoy it. I just never, obviously that was never going to work out. The further I get into this, I realized like it’s getting harder and harder to get, um, anyone who’s a Christian to come on my podcast. And so at something I’m really having to toy with with how do I find that balance I found in the first season and a little in the second season and these future seasons, if people who believe won’t talk to me anymore, Um, so that’s something I’m wrestling with, but, uh, and

by the way, we’re also polarized.

Now it’s getting more and more difficult to have discussions across these divides a little bit. Yeah.

A hundred percent, a hundred percent, which is too bad. Um, yeah.

And honestly, Terry part of, part of our journey was, uh, like you say, kind of questioning, wow. There’s some things that I don’t agree with here.

And particularly for us in the. GW Bush administration, my wife and I were like, man, this, this right wing stuff that’s mixed in with our religion is, is a problem. We didn’t see it as an overarching problem. And then Donald Trump came along and I think that was the tipping point for many people that we’re seeing now of like, oh, this, this right wing stuff.

Isn’t benign. It’s really ugly. And, and honestly that was seeing that, not so much from bill Johnson, who was the pastor of writing church, although he did write an op-ed in Christianity today about why he voted for Donald Trump that I found horrifying, but many other leaders became very, very strong advocates, even for Q Anon, Elvis.

I’m sorry. I totally interrupted your, your answer.

No, I mean, this is, this is part of my answer.

Yeah, this is, this is what. Some of, it became a breaking point for us where my wife and I were like, oh, we got to speak out about this. And then we quickly realized we couldn’t speak out about it and still run in the same circles that we were in before.

So yeah. Again, I

apologize. It’s this train that’s taken off from there. And

like, if you disagree with it, you’re evil. I mean, there, there’s not a disagreement to be had. You’re either totally for this Trump side of things or you’re for the devil.

Yes. Um, oh yeah, a hundred percent. Um, and so that’s where it gets dark.

Right because people who are having instinctual reactions to the treatment or the messages that they’re hearing either on the pulpit or just from regular people in therapy sessions, uh that’s where a lot of that stuff, I felt the people that were telling me stories that’s where a lot of the traumatic stuff was happening was in regards to, um, you know, Dealing with child abuse and getting demons out of their body or whatever.

Like a lot of these people just needed a good therapist and instead they were in an exorcism, you know? Um, and so if there’s not a conversation happening there about where’s the line here where we’re humans and then we’re in the supernatural world, it’s like, it’s, it’s really muddy there. Um, one of the, um, One of the big things.

I think that came up for me is exactly what you just mentioned though. Is it got political? It got Trumpy. It got Q and on. It got a S you know, the Q Anon thing shocked me. I’m like, how did that get passed? Like that there’s nothing in the Bible about that. What are you wearing? How did this, why am I talking about this in my podcast?

And that was the number one complaint. If you know, it’s been very successful, but the number one complaint that I got from people regarding season two, from people who really liked season one, is it got political. That wasn’t my fault, right? That was

not my fault. That is political because it got political.

Cause

it got political. And so, I mean, I wish that sometimes I could hop on apple podcasts and respond to people that have given that comment because. I would’ve loved there’s I would’ve loved if it didn’t get political, I would’ve loved if it stayed all supernatural and questioning whether miracles were real and whether someone’s leg had grown, I was perfectly happy with staying in that world, but, um, you know, With the election happening during the time that I was researching it with, uh, Sean Foyt and his tour and how political that God and his connections to Bethel, I just had to follow sort of the breadcrumbs that were being left.

And yeah, it got

dark. Now, Sean Foyt was a in Bethel is really known for its music and Sean was not maybe a part of it, but certainly related and had moved to Redding to be a part of Bethel and then became a person touring the country during Clover, uh, during COVID having sort of anti mask rallies, but calling it a worship service.

And, and I really do think this is dangerous. We’re drawing people into a politicized religious book. And I honestly think if you read the gospels, it’s, it’s the very thing that Jesus despised and stood against was a politicized, nationalized, racialized religion that this has become also, I know you were dealing with a, and you were talking to some students, Bethel has what’s called the.

Bethel supernatural school of ministry, B S S M, which is huge. And people come from all over the world to this little bitty town of red in California, too.

I probably would have wound up there myself

and, and the gay issue. The LGBTQ plus plus affirmation is a huge issue in the oven angelical church right now.

And that was something you dealt with in the past.

Yeah. I mean, it, it was really important for me to deal with that. Mainly because of that thing that I mentioned before about leaving the church and coming to the city and meeting gay people and realizing that they weren’t, these evil people that have been presented to me.

Um, and then also just finding out how harmful that message was to people, my peers growing up who were gay, who. Who would have been trans if the world had been different back then, you know, like how damaging that was to them. And I felt like, even though I wasn’t the one telling that message that I sat there in it, I didn’t know better at the time, but that now as an adult, I do know about.

And so I feel like I have a mission to help with healing and I, it is completely against what the church taught me, you know? And there’s still that part in me that I feel like a bad girl. I feel like I’m doing something wrong. Um, but then I just have to talk to these people and hear about the journeys that they’ve been through to know that I’m, I feel like I’m doing something right by them.

Uh, even in just creating a space where you can have these conversations.

How far removed are you from being in, in that belief system? How far removed am I from? Cause I’m intrigued that you still wrestle with these things. All these,

I think they’re embedded in me. Yeah. I, I believe that Jesus was a real man that was in the world and that he was a revolutionary and that he probably was like super interesting and had gatherings of people.

And, but he was, I don’t believe that he was the son of God. I don’t believe that the world is 3000 years old. I don’t believe that the Bible is without fault. I don’t believe in the Trinity. I don’t. I just don’t. I think. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Did, uh, I went to college and I found out that there were myths long before all that, that, that just got moved into.

And that to me, I don’t know why, but I still go, how come my friend is still a Christian. How come you’re still a Christian. You seem like a guy that can have conversations like this. I, I, I’m more so fascinated with just how we all can have the same information and still come up with different conclusions.

It’s just a mystery. This

is the mystery. It’s a mystery, I think. And again, I think that need for community is a huge thing and people will choose. Uh, I see many, many Christians choosing to live cognitively dissonant to use, uh, a catchphrase maybe of the day to be able to stay in the community. Like you, you actually have to make that choice.

Um, I, I actually think there’s a middle ground. Just like you. I think the story of Jesus is a. And if he wasn’t born of a Virgin and didn’t raise from the dead, I still think the story is amazing. And, and life-changing, and, and I want to unbuckle us from some of the, some of the other stuff. And I, and I think to argue that the Bible is inerrant and you read it as two dimensional words on the page, like they were written by an American, you really get it wrong.

And so we can have an honest conversation about what the Bible is. And still love it and glean wisdom from it and not hate people because of it. So that’s really the, the pursuit that, that I’m in here. So it’s, it’s beautiful to hear that you still hold on to some of the, the kind of that core, uh, of goodness, love your neighbor as yourself, kind of Jesus, and be able to sort of say, and some of the other stuff’s a little out there.

Yeah. A hundred percent. I think you, you bring up a really interesting point too, about. Uh, especially when I got into Bethel about this suddenly becoming an American story about Christianity, because there is, we’re very different countries. We’re very similar. We’re super similar to other people, but if you compare us just face-to-face were very, very different.

And I think that is why the Toronto blessing was so different from. Bethel, why season one was so different from season two, it really was America. It’s a completely different world down there, you know? And that’s why up here, like politics did not get involved whatsoever. It was a different time too, but, um, There is definitely just a different element in the states.

And it’s unfortunate that it’s, it’s all good. I think it’s really unfortunate that it, that it’s all got caught up because I think whatever positive maybe could have come from a place like Bethel, I don’t think that it’s that’s happening. I think that I personally feel in regards to my research that there’s far more negative that have come from that than post.

You said you talked to the current pastor of the, what, what was once the Toronto vineyard church? Did you reach out to Bethel leadership at all? Did you connect, were you able to talk to anybody from Bethel church? Um,

yeah, I mean, I spoke with, uh, um, Uh, I, I can’t remember his name right now, but he was the communications manager for Bethel and I reached out to him very start.

Very start. Hey, I’ve done this podcast. I’m working on a second season on Bethel. I’ve just want to start a conversation about potentially having some interviews with people within the church teachers. Wow. You know, bill himself, like I’m just open to anything and everything. And he was very receptive. He was super friendly with me.

I heard nothing but good things from other people about this guy, people who were ex Bethel, um, members or graduates that are no longer in the church from the school, they all had good things to say about them. And, uh, we did have a really good back and forth. And then at one point he just, uh, I think it was like once the season had launched, I was still working on it.

I was still hoping something would come together and he I’m gonna use the word ghosted, but he just stopped responding to any of my messages. So that’s when I knew, okay, I’m on my own on.

And how did you find the guests that you found for that second season? The students that you talked to in such? Oh, it was so

it was so special.

I mean, uh, I had one student, one student who really made a huge difference for me in that season that allowed for the balance that I’m still longing for in my future seasons. And her name was grace and she was at the time that I was doing my research and building the, you know, scripts and everything she had just started.

Uh, her first term at Bethel school of supernatural ministry. And she was so open to allowing me to use the audio from her socials, as she figured out what she was doing there. I would check in with her every few months to see where she was at. And I just appreciated her so much

because she’s still a believer, right?

She’s still a believer. She’s still there. She knew that I was questioning it. She knew that I wasn’t a Christian. That’s always anybody that I invite on my show. And I know I’m taking a risk because I say, Hey, this is what I’m doing. I’m not a Christian. This is not a Christian podcast, but I really want your voice to be here.

I want to hear your point of view. I want to hear about your struggles and your miracles and all that kind of stuff. So, grace, for me in season two was definitely, um, the big one. There were other Christians that seasoned, including like a former teacher at the school and stuff like that. But, um, Grace for me was the touch point throughout that season and the person that so many people that I talk to now about that season connected with, um, they see a lot of themselves in her, in her, whether they’re still Christians or they’ve walked away, she was a very relatable person.

And so I appreciated that she was willing to, to talk about. Yeah, but again like, oh, I want people to keep doing that, but I’m having shovel

and she was, she was sweet. And again, I would tell people, listen to the podcast, even if you love Bethel and love the vineyard movement and Bethel, like you say, really is sort of the next iteration.

They came out of that vineyard movement really. And. And

scandalous expos where I just crap all over it at all.

It, it shows and grace was the, I’m glad you brought her up. Cause it’s that, that, that they’re not evil people. They they’re, they’re they’re whole heartedly going after what they believe is God and, and it’s, and it’s actually beautiful.

And for some it’s very life-transforming and again, for me, it was transformed transformative, but then. There’s this sort of underbelly of things that is, is really my message of, but we have to be honest to that. And if we don’t get that out, we are hurting people and we have hurt generations of people with purity culture and all of these things that come out.

Now you have there’s another, another young man. He said he was a, a two-spirit, which is, uh, a term I just found out about.

Me too. I that’s how I, it from my guest. Yeah. He grew up in Bethel, grew up in Bethel supernatural ministry school. He was a leader there.

And explain what a two-spirit is or what he explained.

Yeah. Well, he’s, he’s indigenous and, uh, they have a term called two-spirit, which means you have both a feminine and a masculine spirit. Um, uh, they. Uh, you would understand them probably as, as gay or homosexual. And I mean, I’m still trying to figure out now too, like I’m raising a 12 year old girl, uh, completely different from how I was raised.

And so she’s like, you know, I’m talking about her friends and they, them, he, she, like, I got to make sure I get it all straight. And that’s how I felt meeting, meeting this guest was okay, what are their, what are their pronouns? And making sure that I get this all right. They figured out the, who they, they are coming out of Bethel, but being told for so long that they were evil and wrong going through some incredibly traumatic, um, therapy sessions within, um, movements within the, within Bethel, like the ex-gay movement,

um, strong movement inside Bethel that you, you can become non-gay.

Yeah,

that you can become non-gay and ex-gay yeah. Ex-gay uh, so yeah, another guest that I was so, um, thankful, uh, their name was snowflake actually, so thankful that they were willing to trust me. Right. Because they’d never talked publicly about that. And snowflake was one guest amongst many, uh, that were worried about legal repercussions.

Um, so. No, no, there haven’t there. Haven’t I have, I mean, I’m not a journalist. Some people might call me a journalist. I think of myself as more as a documentarian. Um, but also I’m not unbiased, even though I try to do this, I also make it clear. I have my own opinions on this. Um, when I was working on that season, I did get a really strange, uh, contact from someone that warned me about.

How extreme they felt that Bethel might get and trying to protect their message and image. But I honestly leaned towards, I felt like that person was more speaking from a delicate mental health place. Um, because I didn’t get that from Bethel, especially considering I’d had many back and forth with the communications manager there who was aware of what I was doing.

And, um, yeah, I ended up getting shut down in the end, but I get that.

We’re talking with Tara, Jean Stephens from heaven bent podcast, man, I have so many more questions. Our time is running short. Um, I have a couple more things I want to ask you. One was this, the scene where you go back to your old church is I don’t even know how to describe it.

It’s it’s beautiful. And what was that like for you to go back there? Oh

my God. The best. And what was so cool about that trip was like, that is the. Trip that I’ve taken since the pandemic started the pandemic. Uh, I took that trip in the last weekend in February of 2020. And of course the world changed the following month.

I’m surprised I didn’t catch COVID on the flights up there that, I mean, it was going around. So. Yeah. I, I flew up there with all my recording gear. I had not been back there in a long time. I didn’t know who in the church was going to be willing to talk to me about this. I was literally just going to show up.

So I turned on the recorder and walked into the church. The I, there was like a girl. I went to Christian school with who’s now the pastor of the church. And I got to see the old sanctuary again. And of course, what was so incredible was these women who had the gold teeth stories were willing to sit down with me after Sunday morning service and tell me their testimonies and what those moments meant to them and what the Toronto blessing meant to them.

And it really allowed for me to see the innocence in it and the. I guess that, that even though I’ve again, found fault in it, that there was still something meaningful and positive about it, especially in their lives. I think there was also, there’s also a quality about, um, I felt like as adults and I was a child that there was some accountability maybe.

Um, you

want an apology?

I don’t know if I wanted an apology, but like if, if there was an ounce of doubt in them, then maybe I felt like there was some accountability, but there wasn’t, they still believed. And I, I was inspired by that too, because it’s magic. Right? It’s that they still believe that. Made me.

I don’t know what made me feel good. I don’t know why it doesn’t make any sense to me, but that also comes down to the fact that like, I never went into this and still don’t know, I’m not trying to like take down the church. I’m not trying to rip anything to shreds. I’m not trying to make anyone not be a Christian anymore.

I’m just pointing out that there is trauma and confusion. That has come from this. And, uh, there are a lot of us who were kids back then when that was happening. It’s damaged us as human beings. And I think that there needs to be a conversation about that.

And that really does play into my last question.

Cause, cause your podcast. And then I don’t know if you’ve been listening at all to the rise and fall of Mars hill podcast. If

everyone’s telling me I got to hear it,

I literally feel myself dying inside as I listened to it because. In some ways I’m angry. I’m angry that that sum that we were sort of misled.

And then I’m sorry, because I was also a part of it. And, and so it is. You know, it it’s a little bit voyeuristic, um, watching somebody else be torn limb from limb, you know, in some ways there there’s is a much more critical podcast perhaps then than yours. Although still I think they do a good job of saying, and these good things happen people’s lives were changed.

Um, but also just, it, it is so bittersweet. And, and so I guess, and you sort of answered this, but that’s, that’s the idea of what we’re trying to get at now, I guess a little. Let’s just have an honest conversation about what happened is, is that kind of the fruit of this?

Yeah, I do. I think it’s just, uh, maybe taking it, taking a step back if, if you can, from your beliefs and look at each other as humans for a moment and acknowledge that leg as much as let’s say, like, for example, like the exorcisms, you know, as much as you believe in the devil.

You’re telling a 16 year old kid that he’s got a demon in him because of his, you know, like that is trauma to you’re hurting people so deeply with these things, with these it’s these, oh God, I’m

getting all worked up again on people. I’m learning about. The ID disassociative identity disorder. And we would have called the demonic and, and had an exorcism for somebody that actually was a tool of their mental health and survival

and survival protecting themselves.

Well, that’s terrible. Can you, can you give us, so what’s the preview of what you have about. Yeah. So

I’ve got, uh, I’m simultaneously working on two seasons. Um, one of them is going to be a big beast. I’m doing the international house of prayer in Kansas city. Um, so that one is that specifically the one that I’m having trouble finding people who are still within it that are willing to talk, because there has been a very specific directive that they don’t talk to journalists.

They don’t talk to document they’ve been burned in the past. So I’m really having to wrestle with, I’ve got this scroll of people. Who want to talk to me about their experiences? And it’s a fascinating place. There’s the whole prophetic history and like, you know, crazy comments coming down and like the prayer house and the fact that it’s been going for so long.

I mean, there is a lot of like really fascinating things there, but again, there’s also a hell of a lot of trauma going on there and there’s a lot of people that want to speak about it. So I don’t know if there’s anyone listening, who. Is still coming from like a real faith-based perspective that has had anything to do with the international house of prayer and can help paint for me, the positives that come for that place.

I really do want to reflect that in this season, but at this point I’ve been working on it several months. I haven’t reached out to the church specifically yet. I’ve been working now with more individual people. Um, but at this. I CA I cannot find that perspective for the season. So it’s making me wonder, you know, like, are future seasons going to have to take a shift?

Cause I’m still going to explore this. If they speak to me or not. And the other thing. Okay. There’s these in is, uh, is in the same world. It’s like, it’s a, it’s based on a group of churches in the Nashville area. So Pentecostal based, uh, definitely got wrapped up in like Brownsville revival type of movement, which again was also Toronto, but it’s definitely going to have more of that Southern gospel vibe.

We’re going to learn about the history of gospel music, um, but also the shaking and the falling in the south. And how. That sort of atmosphere and south in the American south still impacted me up in prince Rupert. You know, I felt like I was in the south when I was shaking and calling out to Jesus. What are those connections between us and the influence that the, the, uh, Southern American Pentecostal church has had on the rest of us.

So connect with you, if they could be a good, uh, a good resource for you.

Yeah, there’s lots of ways to reach me. Um, any of my socials, uh, I’m at Terra, Jean online, uh, on Twitter and Instagram, you can find the heaven bent pod on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and I’m even on Tik TOK. I’ve had some, I’ve had some fun connecting with people who are deconstructing on tick-tock.

I think there’s a real world there. It’s an interesting world that’s happening on there? You can also just friend request me on Facebook, Tara, Jean Stephens. There’s lots of ways to find me. And I love hearing from.

Wonderful. Well, it is a fantastic podcast. I wholeheartedly recommend you listen to it. It’s it’s on apple pod.

It’s on all the other places out there for people to find. And particularly for those deconstructing. And again, I hear it a lot from people like, can I still be okay with some of the beautiful things that happen? I think Tara Jean’s podcast will really be helpful for you in that process because it is a beautiful.

Sort of dissecting through that, so make sure and check it out. And Tara, Jean, I have loved talking to you. Thanks for, yeah. Beautiful.

Nice to ๐Ÿ“ connect ๐Ÿ“ with you.

Thanks for hanging out with us today. We’ll see you guys soon.

Hey, thanks for watching my video. Don’t forget to subscribe or watch one of these videos.

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