V Interesting

God Loves the Gays with Kevin Garcia, This World is On Fire, Sinful Surveillance

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A UN committee just released its newest report on climate change, and it’s dire. V explains the stakes, the goals, and the action we need to hold our governments accountable for in order to get on the right track. Plus, V details how a Catholic organization in Colorado abused mobile data to uncover private information about clergy members — and how it’s not the apps that we use, but the purchasers of our data, that are to fear. Then, to reset our spiritual palate, V welcomes Kevin Garcia, a spiritual coach and expert on deconstructing the harmful effects of certain religious practices. Kevin is no stranger to the pain of oppressive religion, and they’ve made it their mission to help others find faith that works for them, no actual mission required.

Note: This conversation contains mention of suicidal ideation. If you think this will be hard or harmful to listen to, you can turn off the episode after the headlines/first commercial break. For immediate support, dial 988 to reach the national suicide and crisis lifeline.

For more information about religious deconstruction, check out Kevin’s spiritual coaching work and follow them on Twitter and TikTok at @thekevingarcia_ or at @thekevingarcia on Instagram.

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V Spehar, Kevin Garcia

V Spehar  00:00

Hi, friends quick note before we start today’s guest and I talk about mental health and internal struggles, including suicidal ideation. So if you think that’s going to be hard or harmful for you to listen to just skip that part of the episode. I appreciate you being here, but always take care of yourself first. Okay? All right, let’s go. Hey, friends, it’s Friday, March 24 2023. Welcome to be interesting, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed.

V Spehar  00:38

I’m V Spehar. And today, we’re talking about the UN’s newest report on stopping climate change, which is urgent as ever, as well as the things that we can do to start chipping away at the problem. Plus how a Catholic organization in Colorado abused user data and the way that we are constantly worrying people will, then we’ll be joined by Kevin Garcia, who will talk us through all the love that they have found through faith and spirituality, even though for a while it didn’t love them back. All that more on today’s be interesting from Lebanon media. Let’s be smart together. Scientists have tried to warn us there is a limit we have to stay within globally when it comes to global warming. If we don’t, it’ll basically be impossible to handle what temperature shift will cause next could be unbearable. Heat waves might be a drought, crop failures, floods, and the extinction of many species. But we’ve just been plowing on Word. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assembled by the UN has had to ring the alarm once again, because they’re now calculating that dangerous threshold, that point of no return is only about 10 years away. Do you understand what that means? environmental catastrophes have already been on the rise, and they could become a much more common occurrence. The norm, not the exception, our day to day will become a scary dystopian video game that you can’t just like Control Alt Delete yourself out of. But that is if we do nothing, we have to do something. We only have until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gases by 50%. Then we have the next few decades to cut back even more. Because by the early 2050s, we’ll need to hit Net Zero co2 emissions. scientists calculate that that’s the only way to halt climate change where it is. And right now that is honestly the best we can ask for. I mean, it’s not going back in time, but it’s a hell of a lot better than a literal, unlivable world. And this is super important. Experts calculate that there is already enough money globally to make the changes that we need to make like to transition over power sources and to build new infrastructure. These things will be expensive and unattainable and regions that are struggling financially. But that’s why we have to look to high earning countries like the United States, because UN officials acknowledge that high earning countries are often also high polluting ones. The US in particular is to blame for so much of it, which means that we have many areas where we can and we must pursue change. Here’s what you can do at home to hold officials at every level accountable. Pressure politicians like really pressure them to build and use more solar and more wind power actively and consistently leverage any local power you have to oppose new coal plants, voting folks who have actionable plans for making communities more bikable and more walkable, advocate for legislation that diverts food waste and support organizations working to cut back on agricultural pollution. There are existing guardrails for making this kind of progress. But there’s not many, for example, airlines alone produce about 3% of global emissions. And once those carbon emissions reach a certain level, which is going to happen in like maybe the next year, some airlines will be required to purchase carbon offset credits, but carbon offsets are nowhere near a one for one trade off. So when it comes to climate safeguards, we mostly have just the loose promises that world leaders made at the Paris Climate Change Conference way back in 2015. So it’s going to take us regular folks getting on the same page so that we can redirect the ship. We need like a climate community mutiny, so please, please absorb these words from the UN Secretary General. He’s not messing around and on Monday, he said, quote, the climate time bomb is ticking. Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast.

V Spehar  04:45

Okay, so speaking of thin ice, a new report about people’s trust in Fox News just came out. Publication variety analyzed exclusive data about viewership and the findings are not great. At first, the headline of the survey seemed to be either 21% of Fox viewers said they trusted the network less than they used to. for them. The turning point was learning that multiple news personalities new claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election were false. And yet these folks still went on the air to say that it was true. A fifth of viewer said, that was bad, I trust foxes word less now. But there were lots of other findings in this survey as well. 45% of all viewers said that this bombshell didn’t change their opinion of the network at all. That means nearly half of the people who saw their news sources admit that they were lying, just don’t feel different about their new sources at all. The survey even asked more specifically, how has your understanding changed about whether or not the 2020 election was stolen? And again, half of respondents said, this didn’t make a difference to me at all. I still think the election was stolen. Change is happening though. Responding to that same question 13% of Fox News viewers said that they had changed their mind that they now believe the election was run fairly. 13% is small, but it’s not nothing. Remember, half of viewers were given this evidence and still refuse to believe it. With that frame of reference. The fact that minds were changed at all is actually pretty remarkable. So I guess the moral of the story is, I mean, pretty similar to the takeaways from the Climate report, that things are really, really, really bad. But the changes can still happen. And change is happening. And we can’t let up. We have to work together until people understand the reality we’re living in so that no one gets left behind. People all over the world have this it’s almost too late, but not yet attitude. Over in Kent County, England, conservationists are trying to recreate the natural landscape of a big stretch of land. The hope is that by introducing the species that used to naturally roam there, the ecosystem will rebalance and get back to a state of strength, resilience and diversity. Until now, this area was not being treated very well. It had been transformed into what’s called a tree plantation, which sounds as horrible as it is. That’s where commercial companies plant a bunch of the same kind of tree and then immediately cut them down over and over and over. monocultures like this are bad for the earth. And any farmer could tell you that. It’s bad for the soil, the bugs, the animals, basically everything except for the paper industry. conservationists are attempting to restore this land, and they know that human activity just isn’t going to be the way to do it. So they’re putting animals on the job. As of this week, the project has introduced ponies, pigs, and Longhorn cattle to the land, as well as the first wild bison that the UK has had in 1000s of years. 1000s The idea is to reintroduce animals that were native to the area centuries ago. After all, a natural given take ecosystem is adaptable and climate resilient. Each of these animals has its own role that it intrinsically knows how to fill which is just the coolest thing to me. The Bison will strip off the tree bark, and then the insects will decompose that. And then the ponies will help the cleanup efforts by eating some of the softer vegetation, and then the pigs the pigs will dig around for roots and bulbs which will allow new seeds to spread and germinate. As if this process wasn’t cool enough. It also has the best name. Are you ready? It’s called RE wilding rewilding, The Guardian points out that rewilding is especially important and exciting in the UK, there are certain species that have lost more than half their population, just since 1970, and years of destructive agriculture have turned inland into one of the most nature depleted countries on the planet. The project facilitators are planning to expand the restoration area this summer, partly by building tunnels for the animals. That way they can reach and treat new corners of the land without having to encounter humans. If there was ever a picture of historically destructive people getting their priorities straight about the Earth. This is it, America take note.

V Spehar  09:06

Conservation shows us how we can look to the past to help the present and future. Unfortunately, some folks were out here using today’s technology to undo progress of the past. For those of us following along at home, that’s backwards. The Washington Post recently uncovered that a Catholic nonprofit was conducting a secret project to out priests. That group was called Catholic lady and clergy for renewal. And he used consumer data that is created simply by making an account on an app. In this case, the people working on the secret project obtained this user data from data brokers, and that data came from certain dating apps, most of which appeared to be from the gay dating app, Grindr. Documents state that the motivation of the project was to identify weaknesses in priests in order to improve their training. Considering the emphasis on gay user activity, this appears to not just be a horrific invasive way to hold priests to an oath of celibacy. It also looks a lot like specifically targeting men who are attracted to men. At this point, it’s unclear what the group planned or still plans to do with that data. Bishops might confront suspected gay priests directly. They might deny them promotions without explaining why there’s a lot of pain and mess that can come from this. So even without all the homophobic stuff, there’s just a super messed up effort that the group took on. So how did they actually do it? The people behind this project had data from dating and hookup apps, like the location of a user and the type of device they were using. They then cross reference that user data with the addresses of church residencies and seminaries. They could then draw conclusions about clergy members who appear to have used those apps. It’s imperfect. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something and the team compiled those conclusions into reports and shared them with bishops around the United States. And this effort was all supported by money from wealthy sympathetic donors. Lots of folks agree when companies collect our data, it’s not always inherently bad. It helps restaurants decide which menu items to prioritize it can help you remember that gift you wanted to buy your mom but you forgot about where it becomes nefarious is when people with hateful uninformed motives are also people who have money, and then those people are given the opportunity to buy data. As we can see, this is actively happening in the United States. This data is collected and sold in marketplaces to advertisers, but any group can get their hands on it. And the Washington Post was sure to point out that, quote, no US data privacy laws prohibit the sale of this data. A few sources with direct knowledge of the project spoke anonymously to the post. They criticize the project, especially its flawed approach to morality, which they called and Catholic. Another source even went so far as to say this kind of surveillance is a sin is descent. The only remotely hopeful thing about this whole story, perhaps, but I’m here to tell you that there are lots and lots of people who are committed to undoing the harm that overreaching religious groups cause our next guest, Kevin Garcia experienced it firsthand, and they fought their way past it. They are here to help us see all the ways that faith queerness health and happiness can coexist. We just have to do some unlearning. First, you deserve and are worth love and good things, my friends and we’re gonna get there together. So sit tight when we get back we’ll have an important funny and even cathartic conversation with the one and only Kevin Garcia.

V Spehar  12:56

Welcome back friends, we are here with spiritual coach and self-proclaimed CE influencer Kevin Garcia. Kevin is based in Atlanta, Georgia and lives a robust love filled life. But they were brought up in a strict Evangelical community which led them to hide and feel shame about so many things, including their queerness. Fortunately, Kevin found their way out. And they’ve since written a book that documents their journey and serves as a guide for people in similar situations. They specifically want folks to know that it’s possible not only to break free from oppressive religion, but to enter into something even better, because Kevin still has faith. They know they can be loved and then want others to know they deserve the same. So Kevin Garcia, thank you so much for being here with me today.

Kevin Garcia  13:43

I am more than pleased. So joyful. Thank you for having me in the space.

V Spehar  13:47

So we’re gonna get into all kinds of things. Tarot cards, let’s do it growing up Christian. But first, I wanted to ask you the author of the book, bad theology kills, undoing toxic beliefs and reclaiming your spiritual authority. Why did you write this book?

Kevin Garcia  14:03

I wrote this book because when I was coming out, initially, I was very, very much identified as a gay Christian man. And it was very strictly Gay Christian man, and there was nothing out in the world. That a reflected my experience, or B gave me the language or tools to pull apart all of the shitty theology that kept me stuck in a place that was killing me for so long. And when I say theology, I mean, the beliefs or the thoughts that we hold about ultimate reality, what some people would call God. And I wrote the book basically, because the theology that states that queer people specifically, are not fully loved by God or by the or not created on purpose or that there’s something wrong with queer people something sinful about being queer, trans and what that resulted in my own life. And here’s a little trigger warning for folks who have analyzing issues in their life. That theology for 12 years I was in ex-gay therapy, like conversion therapy, whatever you want to call it from age 13 to about 25-ish. I was there at the beginning of Exodus International. I was there for now. But yeah, so I spent, you know, most of my life afraid of God. And then I tried to analyze myself twice. And I had friends of mine, who, unfortunately are no longer with us, because we tried so hard to be good. Christians, we tried so hard to change who we innately are, and it killed people. And it’s still killing people. And it’s still causing so many people across this country to go into like wild things like the club Q shooting that happened in Colorado Springs, what happened at Pulse all those years ago, what’s happening now at drag queen story hour with Neo Nazis showing up to harass children and parents alike. It doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a very specific part of the Christian tradition, which has unfortunately been exported to the rest of the world through white supremacy and colonialism. And so it’s not just queer theology that’s killing us. It’s too bad theology that also says that cops shouldn’t have to face repercussions after they shoot somebody. It’s the theology that says that it’s okay for the government to truly destroy Alaska, with the willow project coming up at the Earth is not our home. That’s a bad theology that’s going to kill all of us. And so this book, it tackles purity culture, it tackles our obsession with monogamous straight marriage, it tackles gender, it tackles the concept of hell itself. Because there are too many people who are afraid of God or afraid of, I would say afraid of love. Because they think that God somewhere out there, I’m gonna watch you and you sleep, I know, and you’re awake, and I’m going to punish you if you don’t believe in white Jesus. But this book was my way of both exercising all of the theological tools I learned from my incredible mentors, and coming up with a tool that was like both like part memoir and part like actual hefty theological discourse. So like, if you’re somebody who likes theology, and likes to argue with those old dudes from 2000 years ago, this is your book. Like we get into the verse number chapter, the whole nine.

V Spehar  17:43

Because you were deeply involved in the church to start off with going back to the beginning of before you had this realization that you could be loved by God, and you could help other people feel that same way. What was it like growing up? Would you mind sharing just Sure. What was that about?

Kevin Garcia  18:00

My mom was the worship leader of, of the church that we grew up in. My uncle was the pastor. And we were part of that strange time when like, Harry Potter is about witchcraft. And like, my uncle was the pastor. I remember him saying, and I’m in the middle of Prisoner of Azkaban, right. And he says, Harry Potter is causing children to run away to Mexico to attend magic school. And I was thinking, Where is that bus? Stop? Why am I not on it? I’m like, you’re not making this like the Jesus thing like attractive for me, uncle.

V Spehar  18:32

I want to go to Harry Potter school. Yeah, that sounds great. So yeah, right. So they were against that.

Kevin Garcia  18:36

But the My childhood was, you know, we were good Americans. My daddy was military. And I was real pious. And when you get told from birth, that who you are as sinful, and that if you don’t accept Jesus, you’re going to hell. And I knew from a very young age that I was different. I didn’t have the language for it. But I knew that I was queer at like, four or five. But I couldn’t call it that. I didn’t know is that because that was a sin. And let me tell you what thinking that any thought you have, can land you in eternal conscious torment you get that burned into your brain, no pun intended. From you know, birth until you know, finally get scared enough to say yes, I believe in you, Jesus at Jesus Camp. After I had my fire insurance, it was like I still was seeking an actual connection with God or with love are specifically to the person of Jesus. And I felt that even at that young age, that very tender age that I did it, I felt it was a very pure thing that I had at that time. And it was just one of those things where it wasn’t giving up my faith that led me out of the closet, it was actually studying everything that they taught me with, like, not even a close reading, just like what did they say in this book? You know, whatever the it seemed very simple to me and like, apparently the church makes it much more complicated.

V Spehar  20:03

I have to go back to did you call it fire insurance? Is that the assurance that you’re not gonna go to hell?

Kevin Garcia  20:11

Ding ding ding.

V Spehar  20:14

know. First of all, I grew up like a crusader Catholic in Connecticut, I was very reserved from this. And so no, we don’t, we didn’t. First of all, we didn’t even have Bibles in the things. So I wasn’t reading any books. The priests read the book, they told you what happened, and you went out for a pasta afternoon lunch after that. You have a lovely time until the next time. So it’s called fire insurance is that like we saved?

Kevin Garcia  20:36

It’s kind of a chastising term, just like oh, you’re the kind of you’re just the kind of Christian who goes to church on Sunday to get your fire insurance on. You’re not actually living out Jesus’s truth and telling people about the gospel.

V Spehar  20:47

See, I would have been like, yes, yes, I am. That sounds good enough for me.

Kevin Garcia  20:51

I mean, yeah, like, I got bills to pay. And just like you want me to do all the other things like nah, man, I’m like, sorry.

V Spehar  20:58

You got into studying theology, because you were a person who was like, Okay, this is coming at me, and I believe it. And so I have to study it. So I can understand it. Like anything we fear, we try to become an expert on that thing that we fear so that we could maybe have some semblance of control over. That’s correct. So did you go to school for this? Or like, where did you start your studying of the Bible and of Christian theology to try and like, understand it better?

Kevin Garcia  21:22

Well, within evangelical spaces, it is pretty discouraged to read anything that’s outside of like the white sis heteronormativity, you know, classic. And so at first, I was reading like megachurch pastors who were writing these things, and then I discovered the writings of one Rob Bell. He was a pastor for a long time, and he’s been writing on spirituality, like within the realm of Christianity, you know, 20 plus years. This first his first big book was called velvet Elvis. And I remember at 16th reading that my faith should not be something stuck on a wall that can’t change like a like a velvet, Elvis. But it should be more like a spring on a trampoline, where it’s like, I can pull it apart and stretch it and examine it. And still, I can take it off. And if I take one spring off the trampoline should be able to still bounce, right? That’s it’s flexible. That’s what faith does. It tests everything. So that began and then I read irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, which led me to black liberation theology, with Cohn with James Cohn specifically, which led me into womanist theology, etc, etc. So like, I’m getting all this stuff, and I’m still scared because I’m gay. You know, it wasn’t till I’m on the other side of the Earth in India serving as a missionary. I’m not kidding you.

V Spehar  22:43

You checked all the boxes. You tried them all.

Kevin Garcia  22:46

I had to figure out. Yeah. Like, you know, what’s the task that’s going to be good enough for God to come down here and find the fucking fix me? You know, you can raise your goddamn self from the dead. But you can’t come over and just like flip the switch and me? How dare you, Jesus, you’re an ass.

V Spehar  23:01

Very annoying, right? Like how can we can’t just turn it off.

Kevin Garcia  23:05

Also, if it is a choice, which like us, so many fucking conservative pastors will say it’s a choice, like you’re choosing to sin against God. I’m just like, if sexuality is a choice, I’ve never heard of any straight person willingly choosing to switch. They’re like, if that’s true, that Pastor up there should be able to switch and I’m just like, but you have nowhere in your psyche that you want to have sex with a man right? Of course not. Well, why do you think it’s any different with me? But of course, logic doesn’t work with Evangelicals, but sorry to rag on them. But it’s, you know, you know, it’s where it came from. So I feel like I’ve earned it at this point.

V Spehar  23:45

So you’re studying this theology, you’re trying to understand the things that you fear at the same time you are enrolled? I guess I would call it in conversion therapy.

Kevin Garcia  23:56

Yeah, I was a part of an ex-gay ministry. The organization I went with around the world, we did 11 countries in 11 months. So like, woof.

V Spehar  24:06

Wow. And just trying to tell people they could pray the gateway basically.

Kevin Garcia  24:10

Just for us. It was just like, we’re going to serve people help them out with their knees and then try to convert them at some point. Oh, maybe. At that point, I had been in conversion therapy long enough that I thought I could handle it. I thought I could go out into the world and just do whatever. When I tell you what, we were in Romania. We were like, we met some college kids. And I’m just like, okay, you know what, let’s go down to the river where everybody’s drinking and hanging out to do ministry. And, you know, become friends with them. And then, of course, I’ve always been this flaming, I’ve always been this gay. And I’m walking around with like, one of the guys I’m supposed to be quote unquote ministering to and he’s, you know, we’re both in our 20s and he’s just like, I want to make out with you. And I’m like, okay, and then we do, and I didn’t burst into flames.

V Spehar  24:54

Was it a religious experience?

Kevin Garcia  24:55

I did speak in […]

V Spehar  25:04

Yeah, it’s also interpretation and perception.

Kevin Garcia  25:06

Yes, hello. But it was that kind of moment that kind of clued me in. I was like, Wait a second. I don’t feel bad about this. What does that mean? Am I such a bad sinner that I can’t even tell the difference between sin and not send any more. That’s what the training does, it kicks in. And so I stayed there for way too long. And by the time I left there, I would left in the middle of month seven, it was like, I was back to like wanting to analyze myself. And it just became very clear that this is not going away. And everybody that was so interesting, it’s just like, This is what many evangelical churches and mega churches and I think parachurch organizations will do, they will love bomb the shit out of you. They will tell you how special you are, they will tell you that you are called to tell you that you have a destiny that you have a place in this family. And then the moment that you believe or even hint at changing your thought from what is considered orthodox. You are an apostate, you are a heretic, you are the enemy and you are erased from community memory. Wow. Like I can’t tell you how quickly I went from like, celebrity within this like mini culture to never heard of her. Wow. Best thing that could have happened to me.

V Spehar  26:22

You know, so often. I’ll think back like on my childhood and think like, there was no role model for me. There was no word for what I felt like. I was I mean, as close as I could get was like Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen I guess it was like summarization of that.

Kevin Garcia  26:37

I wondered why I loved her so much.

V Spehar  26:39

There was there was like nothing that you were like, I know, I’m something but it’s not. It’s not making sense. And I’m not seeing myself in anyone here. As a young person who was so deeply involved in the church and knew that you felt differently. Did you see other adults in your church struggling, being ostracized by the church for coming out? What was that impact, like on you?

Kevin Garcia  26:58

I don’t think I knew an openly queer person until high school, Andrew, he was on he was on the cheerleading squad. And that was like the first openly gay person I’ve ever seen in the wild. You know, I can go back to my catalogue of memory, and I can see how different people in our churches, I’m just like, oh, you were probably a lesbian. Oh, you were probably gay. Oh, you are on your gender journey, I can tell. But the only thing I heard growing up was gay people are threats to society, to the family. It was around that time in the mid-90s. And early 2000s, when Exodus International, also pivoted to becoming a quite a political organizing arm. And in mobilizing the evangelical voting bloc, which has kind of grown into what you see now as machination. At least from the evangelical side of it.

V Spehar  27:54

Can you tell folks, what is Exodus International?

Kevin Garcia  27:57

Yeah, Exodus International was the largest ex-gay ministry in the world. And when they started off, it was truly just an innocent group of Christians who were gay, who were trying to faithfully live into what they thought was like a call for healing or celibacy. And by the time they realized that it was killing people, and it had been so institutionalized that like it was a mindfuck. So they closed their doors, I believe in 2008. And the guy who ran it, Alan Chambers said, we have hurt people. And we have to acknowledge that the 99% of the people who go through this program that don’t experience change, and that 1% was one of the former directors who went on and like, tried to hold on for a little bit longer until she came out as bisexual and is now you know, on the other side of it, so 100% of the people who went through this program, experience no change. That’s zero, that’s a failure.

V Spehar  29:08

When did you know, what was your like? lightbulb moment as you were in the church, as you were doing the ex-gay ministry as you were living this life where you were like, You know what? I literally can’t, I can’t.

Kevin Garcia  29:23

The aha moment was when I was on a road trip with my girlfriend to meet her family. After only dating for like three months. Wow. Like, because that’s what you do in evangelical world is like, we were like, looking at rings. We were getting ready to get engaged, like, because this is what God wants for us. Because the highest aspiration for anybody who doesn’t want to be an evangelical pastor in the evangelical church is to be a good husband or a good wife. That’s and to raise your family. That’s like the pinnacle, the wildest obsession. It’s also great crowd control. All, you know. And also if you don’t fit into that, whether because you’re queer or just because you’re single for whatever reason, you know, you get old and single, you’re weird. Get out there. But when I realized was we were sleeping in the hotel in separate beds, because we were good Christians. I was a very, very good Christian man. I never, ever would want to violate my future wife before.

V Spehar  30:25

I was, Kevin, all through high school, I was the nicest Catholic girl you ever did meet? I didn’t even hold hands. God is watching. And my high school boyfriend went on to be gay. That’s how we do it. We find each other.

Kevin Garcia  30:40

But I realized there like in that bedroom, like lying there, like staring at the ceiling, not sleeping, because I feel you know, every fucking emotion. I was like, I don’t think I can do this anymore. And so like, we get home, I break up with her weekly, but that’s when it was it was just like, I realized that if I tried to do what this theology was telling me I had to do, I would be lying to this woman. Like, yeah, I loved her. I thought like, she became my best friend. And I just thought, Oh, this is what love and romance is supposed to be. You’re just supposed to be with your best friend. And it feels like and maybe we’re gonna have sex sometime, because that’s our family do that’s not what it’s about. But it was I didn’t want to get married to her because I loved her in a romantic sense and wanted to like make some sort of self-sacrificial lifetime commitment. It was because I needed to be assured that I was in that I wasn’t going to go to hell, that I was, quote, unquote, healed. This was going to be the proof of it. And I tell you, what, if I would have gotten married to her, I would have been one of those megachurch pastors who had a son who would have a scandal 20 years later, a big huge gay scandal. I might, it would have been, Jerry Falwell, who that’s the level of that I would be going for.

V Spehar  31:59

It sounds to me like you are a good person. And that’s why you couldn’t do this. Yeah. So often, we think like, oh, you turned your back on the church in your community, but it’s like, I didn’t, I couldn’t lie to people like this. I couldn’t hurt them. I couldn’t use them. Even if it meant I was gonna go to hell for not using them for not abusing them for not playing a role. Really hard to reckon with.

Kevin Garcia  32:26

Yeah, I mean, at first, I had just had to, like get on the page with like, God’s okay with me being gay. And you know, there are like, I can teach like, you know, the 10 point sermon on the biblical case, if you still need to hold the Bible as the Word of God to him, I can argue that case, but also someone else can argue a case in the opposite direction, using different verses. And all I’ve got to say to that now is I don’t give a fuck what verses you are reading anymore. Because at the end of the day, nobody deserves to live miserable. Nobody deserves because what you’re asking people to do is to forego some of the most instrumental, impactful kinds of relationships, you know, falling in love, possibly making a family, you know, getting heartbroken learning how to be friends with someone after you’ve broken up with them or not how to like, you’re asking someone to basically give up life. And that’s seems very cruel to me. And yeah, I’m really glad I’m not doing that anymore, because luff. I remember, like what it was to, like, want to die. And then as soon on the other side of it, as soon as I started, like, coming into myself, I was like, I want to live. I’ve never wanted to live so badly. I have to make up I just I keep saying I’ve been only been up for seven years now. I’m making up for so much last time.

V Spehar  33:52

How did your family react to this light bulb moment? To you saying God loves gay people to you believing that?

Kevin Garcia  34:01

Yeah. My mom at first, like because like it came out to her like years earlier. And then ex-gay therapy. And I basically told her, I said, when we were doing that I wanted to not be alive. And she understood in that moment, like it was just very clear to him just Oh, I did something that wasn’t right. And so it took her about a year to come around and like a very stern talking to her saying like, if you don’t show up for my life, I’m gonna stop showing up for yours. Did you hear that? Loud and clear. And then my brothers, I have three brothers, two older one younger. They were tight and really, really cool. My little brother like, he’s such a dude, like in the classic sense. And my favorite thing is how he has come into being such a good man. Like he was telling me how he got mom watching Queer Eye and that was the thing that finally spurred on some conversation about gender with me and my mother. And I’m just like my little brother. I thought you were an idiot. But damn, you’re actually..

V Spehar  35:01

They call meAndy sometimes.

Kevin Garcia  35:05

My immediate family is dope. My extended family has been sweet. I don’t go home quite often because it just doesn’t feel right all the time. But I would say that as far as family, I had it real easy. My dad and I, we always had a rocky relationship. So it was like, I never really expected much from him, unfortunately. But on this, like, you know, I’m going, we’re going home for Christmas. And, you know, if me and the boyfriend are still together, I’ll drag him out to Denver. And so, we’ll see. Serious. So here we bid, you know, we’ve been living in sin, you know, living together, caught living in sin. I love it. We’ve been living together for we were roommates first. And then he moved out. And then we started dating. And I’m like, are you gonna move back in? And so I’m just like, yeah. Was he from the church also? Yeah, he was like, you know, same route as me worship leader, you know, very, like both of us incredibly talented musicians, both of us leading worship teams. And then both of us on the other side of it, just like we say, well, how are we doing?

V Spehar  36:04

And it seems like a lot of people have had this sort of realization that you’re having, that’s like, I want to have a relationship with God, I believe a lot of the principles a lot of the tenants, I’m good with those things make sense to me. But they need to deconstruct some of the religious trauma, some of the stuff that wasn’t working so well. And they feel alone, because you’re essentially walking away for your entire family and community. Sometimes there’s a loneliness and coming to this realization. And then there’s the steps of how do you even deconstruct, and this is something that you’ve been an expert on? And I know you are in good company with some other tech talkers who have been talking about it a lot. How did you develop a process for deconstruction, that still allowed you to have faith?

Kevin Garcia  36:49

Very good, nice question. There’s this wonderful theological device called the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Because I’m a theology nerd. I also got my Master’s from Columbia Theological Seminary. So just if people say is like, oh, you don’t know, I’m just like, Bitch, I went to school. I read the papers, I preached the sermons at me. So the Wesleyan quadrilateral is a tool that I use it’s very classical thing that comes to us from John Wesley, who’s the founder of the Methodist Church. It’s made up of four things. And that is tradition, scripture, reason and experience. Now, what many people will argue about is like, what shape does this quadrilateral take? Is it a square, or all sides? Or even you’re supposed to weigh everything evenly? Is it a rhombus or a parallelogram? Is one side longer than the other? Meaning it has more weight. Traditionally, you have to start with tradition, what is your tradition? Say? You know, my tradition would say, why it says Heteronormativity is the only way to go any deviation from that as a sin. And so what I do with that, I take it into scripture, and I’m like, Okay, well, here’s all the verses that support that. Okay, that informs my reason. And then my reason is going to help me kind of just like, curate my lived experience, until you have an experience that does not fit in to the box that you’ve created. For me, it was like, okay, my queerness is not going away. So what I’m going to do about that, I say, go in reverse order. You know, start with your experience, what is your lived experience tell you about the nature of God, the nature of the universe, the nature of love itself. And my experience was telling me that trying to change who I was, was kill, it was deadly, it was hurtful, it was miserable. And so that led me to my reason and you know, my god given reason tells me to be miserable is I don’t think that’s God’s will best for me. I don’t think that’s what a like a loving a Good Father will, you know, give to their child? You know, that’s, that’s kind of fucked. And then it took me back to Scripture. I’m just like, Okay, so there’s all yes, there are those seven verses out there that people use to quote unquote, clever passages that people use to disenfranchise and obliterate queer and trans people from public life. But then there’s also these other verses like that say, before you were in it together in your mother’s womb, I knew you. And I’m just like, Oh, what if that’s true? What if that’s just as true or more true than this other thing? There’s another verse out there it says, there’s nothing in all creation, height, nor depth, angels, nor demons, powers or principalities, nor anything in all creation, are things present or things to come that could get in the love of the way of the love of God for me. What if that’s true? You know, what if it’s, there’s a verse in Galatians that says, There is in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free for you are all one. So right there, the apostle Paul is obliterating gender, and we’re not talking about it. And so for me, all of these, like I’m just like, well, that informs my tradition. I was like, Okay, well, we’ll by tradition says anything outside of sis white Heteronormativity is wrong. And so do I just been to tradition? Do I just say, oh, yeah, tradition had it right. You know, my tradition also said that Black people would be property. My tradition also said that women should be silent. My tradition also said that the decimation of native peoples on Turtle Island was ordained, like, and we all look at those things throughout history, and we say, I think we got it wrong. I think tradition may be a screw that up. And you know what? For those who still identify as Christians, you need to look at your tradition. And I want you to really think, given all that, you know, given all that you’ve experienced, do you really think that your Tradition has it right? And if the evidence, I would say, of your theology, if the fruit of your theology is death, and you’re not at minimum willing to question, just question, you don’t have to change your mind. But question, why you believe what you do, then I would question your absolute humanity, I would question your kindness, I would question whether or not you actually do love your neighbor as yourself, which is the second greatest commandment that your teacher told you. If I you know, not to quote your Bible out you didn’t know I was at a church bit.

V Spehar  41:02

I haven’t been in quite a while but Easter’s coming up. So this was a good warm up. The Cross are coming any day now my favorite ones, because they’re a little play.

Kevin Garcia  41:12

We love the dramaturgy.

V Spehar  41:15

in the in the pattern tree and everything about it. So you’ve taken all of this passion, you’ve taken all of this education, you’ve done this roundabout work to say like, okay, where does the tradition line up with experience line up with reasoning. And that is what deconstruction is. So then you’re coming up with essentially a new framework for what?

Kevin Garcia  41:34

A new framework for living, really. And that’s when I’m working with my students. And the thing I try to tell a lot of people is that, you know, I can quote scripture like the back of my hand, because it’s the religious language that I grew up with. But I can also quote the Gita. I can also quote Rumi, I can quote Emily Dickinson. I can quote my other friends who are other queer theologians. And so I think there’s like as we move away from, there’s a right way to do it. I tell people don’t look for what is true anymore true as a moving target, as we know. But look for what is helpful. What is this belief doing? For me? To me in me? Is it causing me to bloom and come alive? Is it causing me to feel more myself more at ease more at peace? Can I breathe? When I hold the thought? God hates fags in my head? No, I can’t. But if I hold the thought God is love. Or God created crew people on purpose, or even the thought God is a trans woman. I hold that thought in my head. What does that do for me, it fills me with wonder. And that is what I think we should be looking for now, stop looking for the truth, you’re not going to be able to prove texture, way into a sense of peace. Once you find what’s helpful, which for most of us, and what I teach people, you need movement. And you need stillness, you need a meditation practice that like gets you breathing and get you inside your body, you probably need to go to therapy too. But starting even with a very, very simple breath, work meditation practice to remind your body, what it feels like to feel good to remind your body and teach your body somatically that it’s safe again, to be safe in your own hands. It starts with a very, very practical things that then transform our inner world. And then once that starts to happening, the rest of our life begins to blossom. That’s what I’m telling people, you don’t need to arrive anywhere. It’s not an arrival point, you need to find new practices, a new language, new poetry, because of once you get that life becomes about enjoying it. And that is much more interesting than constantly like, it’s like, unpack all the trauma, talk about it for as long as you want. And then my question is, what do you want to do next? And that’s what I think many of us are at.

V Spehar  44:07

Are there approaches that you use in your spiritual practices now that are similar to the ones you had when you were younger?

Kevin Garcia  44:14

And I think the only thing that is similar is doing funny enough. And even all my evangelicals and experts out there, you know, quiet time is ever heard of quiet time. Growing up, we have this thing called quiet time. And no one really taught it well. evangelicals are notorious for not really teaching regular spiritual practices or different kinds of spiritual practices. Because if you do that, you will start to get spiritually independent. And if you get too independent, that’s a problem. But I was again, I was very pious kid I got baptized at age nine. So like, I was a daily Bible reader in a daily journal or in a daily prayer to God who was the separate thing out there in the universe who may or may not be listening, I’m not sure but I’m gonna keep, praying like he is. And hopefully he can help me pass my spelling tests. As I was. I’m just like second week, I didn’t get diagnosed till college. So we’ll speak

V Spehar  45:10

And yes, it’s quite the struggle with lots of talking to Jesus on the spelling tests, because that’s what he has time for.

Kevin Garcia  45:17

And that’s what he’s most concerned about. I think, yes, he’s very concerned. But the things that I’ve kept from it, I think, like having a daily practice, that’s not a bad thing. And having. So for me, I tell people, I think the living practice consists of one inspiring texts. So find texts that really light you up. So whether, and it doesn’t need to be the Bible, please, for those of you who need to put it down for a time or for forever, just do it, let it go. It can be there if you want it, but I read poetry. Currently, I’m reading through the essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks. Oh, you want off just go pick it up. Some sort of sacred texts, you know, some type of inspiring text to get your imagination going to some kind of meditative practice that is somatic and embodied just even a simple breath practice, like you can google like, tick, not Han, and just listen to Him guide you saying, I noticed my in breath, and I smile on my outbreath that alone can start to change your life. And then the third thing, I think, is true friendship. I think that the thing that really makes this whole thing sustainable is finding people to share your joys and your life, but then also your questions and your painful things. And so I have like both like people online, and I’m also lucky enough in Atlanta to have friends who get it. And also people who are into similar spiritual practices as me and who are interested in becoming better humans. So try to find those people who make it feel like home. Who do you don’t have to explain everything in front of who you can like fall apart in front of and like, one minute, you’re truly atheist, and the next weekend, God is dead. Those are the people that you can like, that’s me. It’s evolving. Yeah, it’s a living practice. It’s not meant to be stagnant, and it will change. It should change over time to suit what you need. But stillness, and movement, those two things are my advice to anybody.

V Spehar  47:18

Something that I watched on your website probably 500 times before we did this interview, because I thought it was just so clever. You were talking about the idea that the miracle is always with you, even when you’re sad, even when you’re gay, even when you’ve sinned or whatever. That the miracle of running rivers and crisp air and leaves changing and feeling love is ever present, even though all of your doubt. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to that realization and what it means to you now?

Kevin Garcia  47:52

So I mean, there’s this there’s this notion within like, my Christian traditions that I kind of, it’s kind of a more mystical idea that I probably heard from Richard father Richard Rohr. But he says, like, so many times, American Christians are seeking, oh, God, they would say something like, Oh, God really showed up in that service, meaning I had a moment of religious euphoria, which, you know, kind of felt the similar to like what I felt at the One Direction concert, but let’s not, let’s not go there. We’re not ready for that conversation. So that feeling, you know, for example, that that person felt in the worship service, and like, yeah, that’s the recognition of peace, you know, our recognition or connection in some way. But you have to recognize that it’s not that God showed up is that God has everywhere, love is everywhere, it’s in all things. And it is merely my awareness of that, that gets in the way. And by that, I mean, like, whatever in my life, like that’s going on. Because we live in a world that’s very dynamic, and we got shit to do, we got places to be, we’ve got karma that we’re burning off, if you will. And at any given moment, those things could distract me from the reality that I could see peace instead of this. That’s a line from A Course in Miracles. And so in every single moment, every single breath, if I recognize I’m really fucking stressed out right now, and like yesterday, I got super triggered in the gym because I got body stuff going on. And I came home and I cried, and just like, felt super out of control. And then I just kept remembering just like, this is gonna pass. I know that piece is coming pieces on the way. That’s something I will say to myself to like, when I’m really, you know, when I’m feeling out of control. And it’s just, it’s as simple as the breath. And, you know, sometimes it’s very, very hard when you’re a traumatized person, if got trauma in the body. If you are a queer person living in America, if you’re a person of color, if you’re someone who doesn’t have your needs met. Of course, it feels so hard to like, tap into that presence into that awareness because what are you worried about? You’re worried about your kid. You’re worried about how you’re going to pay your rent. It’s like Guess what? If it makes so much sense, and also oh my god, stop blaming yourself for it. Stop blaming yourself for a systemic problem that is outside of your control in this moment. But for this one moment, would you give yourself a little bit of love, a little bit of space to breathe, a little bit of chance for the nervous system to regulate, and come back to a sense of like, you might not know what to do, but you will have a clearer picture of the next step, when your breath is even. And that’s maybe the all you can do. And maybe that’s all you can move towards. But over time with consistency and earnestness of seeking, I think if someone wants to feel peace, they will. And so what I mean by that, when I say miracle, of course in miracles would define a miracle as just a movement of perspective, from fear to love, a change of thought that moves you from hell into heaven, which for me, is just returned from high stress to peace. And that can be as simple as that. That to me, is so beautiful. And how simple I’m just like, that’s what I’m going for.

V Spehar  51:08

You use some tools in your spirituality that might have been considered bad before. Oh, yeah. The Tarot cards? Yes, we’ve got the crystals. We’ve got all that kind of stuff. When did you start to bring that into the practice? And how has it helped you? Yeah.

Kevin Garcia  51:20

I kind of early on honestly, it was like, I came out of the closet. And I reasoned that, okay, so they told me being gay was the devil. And so I’m just going to seek where all the other places that the devil is apparently lurking, I think I might find God there. And then I had a friend who did an energy healing session with me. And I was like, This is gonna be hokey. Because again, I was a conservative in every way, except for like, you can be gay. That was like, my initial deconstruction. But like, this ex-Catholic lesbian, which got me in touch with the Holy Ghost, and just broke something open in me and where I realized, oh, I need to forgive my father. Still, and it was the same spirit, the same feeling I had during like a worship set. And I was like, Oh, fuck. And so I knew that she read tarot cards, I’d always been interested in, you know, the metaphysical and the new age and the occult. And I was just like, Okay, let me just, I’ll just get a tarot deck, and I’m gonna channel the Holy Spirit. So I’m only going to talk to the Holy Ghost, when I’m reading Tarot. And it’s expanded way beyond that. But like, that was my introduction. And as I was reading the cards, I was realizing, Oh, this is another way for spirit or God or universe, ultimate reality, my truest self, my highest self, whatever language you want to put on it. It was a way for me to get some wisdom to get in touch with that wisdom that was already present in me. And we already did it all these cards, like my mom said, what don’t you think it’s a little hokey. And the thing I said to her is, if at minimum, these are just a bunch of playing cards with pictures that have specific meanings attached to them, and symbols that stir up different questions in my mind, and when I lay them out in a certain way, it causes me to be more introspective, more kind to myself more loving towards my neighbor, if that’s all it’s doing. Pretty dope. Yeah, I’ll take it. And that’s the thing now is like, I don’t need anyone to believe in what I believe anymore. You know, because I’m full blown woowoo. And both, let me say this, I’m so much in like a, I want proof. I want the evidence. I want to be a science and fact base as I can. And I also just leave enough room for again, what is helpful. And so for me, tarot, astrology, my yogic practice and applied yogic philosophy, using, you know, the bits of like practical Christian theology that are still helpful, like, everything belongs. And if it’s going to get me closer to a sense of the lovingness. Like, why would I not want that? Why would we deny ourselves that? Because we’re scared of how.

V Spehar  54:01

We gotta get our fire insurance still.

V Spehar  54:03

Kevin, you have been so helpful, and I’m so grateful that you gave us the time today. Where can people find you? I know that you do spiritual coaching. They got the book that they can look towards, but where’s the best place for folks to find you and learn more?

Kevin Garcia  54:16

Find me across social media. I’m on Instagram Tik Tok and Twitter at the Kevin Garcia. Please be warned there are scammers out there impersonating me. I will never DM you don’t send anybody money through Paypal or Venmo. Like that’s not me. Okay. It’s very easy to be confused. You can find me on my website, the Kevin garcia.com. And the book bad theology kills, undoing toxic belief and reclaiming your spiritual authority is available worldwide at bad theology. kills.com other thing this summer starting May 15. I have like a summer program that I’m calling living practice summer school. If you’re someone who’s been deconstructing your faith, you’re trying to find a new spiritual practice. Come I’m hanging out with us. It’s at the Kevin garcia.com/summer school. It’s gonna be the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life. I love this.

V Spehar  55:06

And don’t forget the merch. The merch is so good y’all. He has sin fluence or merch that I immediately purchased and wear frequently.

Kevin Garcia  55:20

It’s so comfortable. It’s like the most comfortable sweater in the world.

V Spehar  55:22

It’s a really well made feature. I love mine. And I love the looks I get from people who are like, what?

Kevin Garcia  55:30

And I’m just like, Yeah, it’s like, yeah, you got to be there. You got to own it. Thank you for having me. What a treat what a dream. You’re so wonderful. I’m so grateful for your presence and like I feel honored. Thank you for having me.

CREDITS  55:44

Thanks for being here, Kevin. Don’t worry about the money, just worry about taking care of people. That is the kind of advice we need to hear sometimes. It’s so simple, but so much of what he said about finding the miracle and every day, and the way that even when we feel disconnected from the world, the wind still blows the sun still rises and that miracle of just like being a living organism continues on it is great perspective and it brought me a lot of peace today. I hope it brought you a little peace. Also, be sure to tune into next week’s episode where we dig into the headlines you might have missed. Leave us a five star rating wherever you are listening. It really does help people find the show. Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends there is even more V INTERESTING with Lemonada premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like Gina Plata-Nino from the Food Research Action Center telling us what a food shortage is and why 2023 was the year of expensive eggs. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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