We came up with Christmas for Heathens.
I didn’t realise what we were sitting on until the original venue we’d booked asked us to consider removing an act from our line-up. Absolutely no shade to that venue because it’s always a venue’s prerogative as to what sort of things they want to align themselves with, but that was when I realised we were crossing some people’s lines.
The show was great. For me it was empowering and changed the way I see myself as a performer. It went off well enough that we decided we’d go ahead with Heathens as a holiday-based show all year round, and started planning Easter.
When the poster dropped a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my social media followers dropped along with it. Every time I shared the poster or talked about the show, my follower count went down a little bit. I guess it was bound to happen — an offensive Christmas show is one thing, but Easter is the religious holiday. It is the time where God made the sacrifice of his only son, when Jesus rose from the dead, and when eternal life was born. But I’ve been stewing on it for a while and I think it’s probably time to talk about why, despite loving the holidays, that I have no problem referring to myself as a Heathen.
I’m not worried about the lost followers, but I am worried about the lack of conversation around how much consideration I put into aligning myself publicly this way. I am worried that people think that I’m producing and being a part of these shows specifically in order to offend people, which I did not. Being a heathen and being a part of these shows is something I put a lot of thought in and something that means a lot to me.
So the girl in the picture above is me in 2005, age 23. Here, I’m on my first ever overseas trip to the city I have dreamed of my entire life. I am actually extremely happy at this moment because I am free. This trip to America changed me because it gave me a glimpse at what adult life could be like if I wasn’t completely, 100% devoted to the cult that I was in back home.
When I went home after new year, I did go back to them. It was actually the second time I’d been away and come back, but this trip was truly the beginning of the end and a defining moment.
That place stole most of my early twenties and, since I’m still in therapy dealing with some of the trauma that just won’t quit, it’s taken much more than just time. That place, masquerading as a Christian church — a place of love, respect, and acceptance — systematically broke me down. They took my time, my money (I’d actually probably own multiple houses now if it wasn’t for them), and my life. Leaders lifted me up only to yell at and berate me. They kept me busy, tired, financially dependent, and desperate. They isolated me from friends and family and made it really, really hard to escape. It was emotional abuse of the highest order.
In the process of recovering and becoming a free-thinking, healthy human being again, I’ve met so, so many people who have been hurt by church and religion. I’m writing my MFA thesis on religion and I’ll more than likely step it up a notch in the next year to write my PhD thesis on it as well. I am endlessly fascinated by what happened to me and others, and I want to be a living example of how someone can recover their life and independence outside of a place like that.
But I’m not an asshole about it. I’ve actually been to church several times in the last few years. I’ve had sit downs with pastors and leaders and friends who are still Christian and we’ve had some frank and difficult discussions about religion, Christianity, my experiences, and their experiences. I’ve never once told someone who is Christian or religious in any way that they’re wrong. I don’t know for sure if any one of us is right or wrong, so it’s not my place.
When I left my church, lots of people told me I was wrong. They called me apostate, chased me down in the supermarket and tried to scare me into coming back. I would go to hell, my family would go to hell (that one they’d been spouting the whole time I was actually a member).
Want to know something funny though? The people in the church were just as bad as my so-called Godless heathen friends. My friends ‘inside’ would go out on Saturday night. They’d get drunk, get high, screw around with each other and then get up on Sunday morning to be washed clean at church. That was some next level hypocrisy, and some of the shit that actually made me start to see the actual light.
One of the ways in which the church broke me was taking away my singing voice. Since I left I’ve been battling with terrible, crippling stage fright. The kind where you step out on stage and feel fine, but no sound comes out when you try to sing. They put so many rules and restrictions around my desire to sing, they broke my self confidence so much that they literally took my singing voice from me.
Obviously, I’ve made it back. But this is why being a heathen is important to me. Sure, it pushes buttons and starts conversations (which, I think ALL art should do), but on a personal level, being a heathen has allowed me to reclaim something I’ve lost. The song I’ve chosen for our Easter show does a good job, I think, of expressing my feelings about my former church, and I would so love for you to come along and see it. It will also be my last time on stage for a while because I am taking a (completely voluntary) break from performing.
I am sorry if you’re offended by us, I really am. But I promise, this is not about you, this is about me.
Tickets to Easter for Heathens are available by clicking here.
Photos of me from Christmas for Heathens by Pandom Images
Poster design by Ivy Dynamite