Discover more from Katie Mae's Dailies
Belief Part 8
Welcome to Part 8 of my post series where I am sharing about my experiences with belief and faith starting when I was young and ending with where I am today.
Thanks for reading Katie Mae's Dailies! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
CW: If you have church, faith, or any kind of relationship trauma or abuse, please approach with caution, take breaks, or don’t read my posts at all.
Sometimes reading other people’s stories can help us heal and feel not-so-alone in our experiences, and other times we need to take a break from all the things that open us back up and bring the feeling back to the surface. Check in with yourself as you read. <3
When I first moved to FL to be with T, I worked for a doc I knew from DC in his private practice. I worked there for almost 2 years before I realized it wasn’t the job for me.
T and I had a close friend who worked for a non-profit international children’s ministry and told us he’d heard of a position where he worked that might be perfect for me.
I would be working for the president of the ministry doing something that involved writing, but he wasn’t sure of the details. I immediately told him I was interested and before I knew it I was on the phone with the person who was currently in that position.
After what felt like years of waiting (it was weeks) I was finally contacted to arrange an in-person interview with the president and the office of the president staff.
As the Prez walked into the meeting room, his charisma entered before he did. He was funny, engaging, kind, and based by the anxious looks on the faces of those around us, going a little off script in what he was sharing with me about the position.
I liked him right away.
As a world traveler all his life he had amassed quite an extensive list of big important Evangelical contacts and needed assistance in staying connected with them.
The Prez liked my vibe. He wanted to make sure I was well-versed in Christianeze and church culture, since that was the language of his donors, but he was also hoping to find someone for the position who wasn’t all starry-eyed about Christian culture “celebrities”.
There was going to be a lot of high profile Evangelicals in his orbit and I would have to be able to be very discrete and keep the things I read and heard all to myself.
“Mums the word”, said I!
I was hired right away.
By some miracle, despite very little training, I got up to speed pretty quickly.
Everyone was happy to help, seeing as how I so very clearly did not grow up as a church person.
“So, you mentioned someone named Willy Gr…?…wait, Billy Graham, was it? I don’t know her.”
The Prez is somewhat of an evangelical nepotism baby. His dad had founded the ministry in the 80s and the Prez, who had been next in line in succession, had taken over as the CEO of the ministry many years before I arrived.
Well-known mega church pastors in America who make millions and live in mansions may seem like the tippy top of the evangelical food chain, but in reality they are new-money-small-potatoes compared to the kind of international legacy conservative evangelicals the Prez and his Dad do
business ministry work with on the daily.
The heavy hitting legacy leaders of the international evangelical church, which includes the Prez, are basically the puppeteers pulling the strings of global evangelical church culture.
At first, I really enjoyed working there.
Everyone was welcoming and helpful. The staff was fairly diverse in race, age, and culture compared to most of the churches I had attended. I was able to connect with people outside of our church. And the Prez and his family are very down to earth for being as well connected as they are.
Even though all employees were required to attend a church service at the company chapel every Wednesday morning and I didn’t think that was super great, I chose to see it as nice break from sitting at my desk all day.
Even though all employees were required to log a certain amount of hours per week in the prayer call-room where we would sit side by side wearing headsets like we were in a call center and call strangers on the phone and ask them if we could pray for them and then ask them for money and doing this gave me introverted-autistic-girl panic attacks every time, I decided the free coffee and snacks were a welcome little pick-me-up throughout the week.
Even though I was struggling at my church and with my faith in general because of harmful, unhealthy evangelical church culture and was working for the President of a ministry that was directly linked to those who are forming and perpetuating the harmful, unhealthy culture that was slowly killing my spirit in the first place, I thought perhaps God had brought me to this place “at just such as time as this” in order to have some influence on changing things for the better.
Oh, sweet summer child.
After Izzy was born, I had 3 months off for maternity leave and had all but stopped going to our church by that point.
Coming back from maternity leave was much harder for me than I ever could have imagined. Even though there was a day-care run by an arm of the ministry I worked for a few floors down from me and I could go down and see my little sweet baby any time I wanted, I was struggling to balance motherhood, work, home, my crumbling spiritual life, and the tensions in our marriage.
When T and I started talking about moving and starting fresh I was more than ready to do it. I talked with the Prez and told him our plan to move. Instead of quitting when we moved they asked me to work remotely for as long as I could. They were hiring a new COO in the office of the President and wanted me to train him. I accepted their offer and worked remotely from Charlotte while also taking care of Izzy full time.
Once T was working, I knew it was time to transition to full time stay-at-home-mom status and officially resigned. The COO was trained and things were running smoothly. They were sad to lose me, but supported my choice.
Every so often D would reach out and ask me to come back. She would make great offers that were hard to turn down, but I was still trying to get my stay-at-home-mom sea legs and heal from the church hurts that just kept coming.
It wasn’t until the kids were 2 and 4 -and I had recently left a job working as a Customer Service Manager at an online candy company (this is another story for another day)- that I decided to seriously consider the offer when D reached out to me and asked me to come back again.
After having a phone interview with the COO, D, and the Prez, they gave me an excellent offer and within a few weeks I was working remotely for the children’s ministry again.
The more meetings I transcribed or sat in on between the Prez and all the evangelical heavy hitters he was connected with, the more I discovered the whole deal was bullshit.
The whole deal being: evangelical church culture
I saw in real time how global evangelical church culture isn’t some supernatural God-designed, Christ-led, Body of Christ setup like we are all led to believe. It is, and has been for decades, not much more than a business and power brokerage designed by rich, well-connected (mostly) white men from all over the globe who use their power and status to determine the beliefs and missions of evangelical church culture with little regard to the effects it has on the individual believers sitting in the pews just doing their best to please God.
Church culture is a strategic multilevel marketing scheme designed to benefit those at the top by manipulating and controlling those at the bottom.
If this is starting to sound more like the mafia than a group of sweet old church elders choosing the location for the potluck, you aren’t misunderstanding the situation.
In my work life I was getting a good, clear look into the belly of the evangelical beast and in my church life I was seeing the trickle down effect from the decisions made by the people who had the power to shape church culture from the top.
I was both appalled and enthralled by it all.
After we finally left church I decided I was going to be more vocal in advocating for what was right and telling my stories in the hopes that people would learn or get healing from them.
My writing started to be published on Romper.com. I spoke at a rally against hate and racism in my hometown.
I was invited to speak at a church in my hometown pastored by a friend I grew up with. He invited me to come and share my thoughts and experiences in response to the #metoo movement sweeping the nation at that time.
Before I went to speak at the church, I reached out to the COO where I worked and told him what I had been invited to do and asked for a day off work for traveling.
The COO told me he would love to see an outline of my sermon just to see if he could offer any help. I explained I didn’t need any help, but he insisted.
I wrote something up and sent it to him and the Prez feeling confident I wasn’t going to say anything that would go against anything our ministry stood for.
Who would stand for harassing, mistreating, or assaulting women?
Shortly after I sent the COO my sermon outline he asked to have a meeting with me.
Because of how my brain works I take very accurate meeting notes using a short hand typing system I came up with for myself that allows me to take faster notes without missing anything.
As we started our call, the COO said he had reviewed my sermon outline but wanted to hear more about what I was planning to say.
He asked me detailed questions about the church I was going to be speaking at and why they had asked me to come.
I started to share with him how excited I was for the opportunity to preach because I had always felt that I would become a preacher or church leader one day.
He started to laugh at me.
In a mocking tone he said, “Ohhhh yes. PREACHER Katie. PASTOR Katie. PRIESTESS Katie. Oh I can hear it now.”
Laughing, laughing, laughing.
I didn’t understand why he was laughing so I said, “I don’t understand? What’s so funny?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make fun of you. It’s cute that you are so excited. Your first sermon. Wanting to be a preacher one day. It’s just all sweet that’s all.”
Cute and sweet?
Although he had been condescending to me before and tended to “mansplain” too often, he had never been so blatantly demeaning to me before.
Before I could say anything, he went on.
“Look, I know this is your first sermon so I wanted to help you. As you know I have been a pastor and church leader for many, many years. I have some advice for you that will help you…”
And so he went on for many minutes giving me feedback about my sermon while I took detailed notes. Suggesting so many changes, he was essentially changing the whole thing.
“Well, right here where you are saying this. This needs to be changed. Really, the whole tone is very combative. You don’t want to say things that make it sound like you are bashing men or angry at them. You want to be sure you don’t come across as blaming men or singling them out. And all this talk of ‘toxic masculinity’ isn’t very graceful and caring towards your brothers in Christ. Focus on the hope in Jesus instead of making it sound like men are to blame. Are they going to be recording this? Can you send the video or audio to us afterwards, please?”
And that is when my cheeks turned to fire.
I stopped him and said, “Look, I appreciate your concern, but I am going to give the sermon I planned to give. I’m talking about the #metoo movement. There isn’t a way to talk about it without bringing men into focus. It’s a movement about how men have been mistreating women. It sounds like this might be a problem. Are you telling me I need to change my sermon? Are you telling me this as my boss?”
He tried to smooth the tension a bit and say that he was just giving advice and didn’t mean to upset me. He ended the call because he had another meeting, but I was leaving to give my sermon in two days and I felt very anxious that if I didn’t make the changes he suggested, at worst my job would be at risk, and at the very least he would make things hard for me for not taking his unsolicited advice.
The day before I was leaving I decided to reach out to the Prez and confirm that my job wasn’t in jeopardy if I gave the sermon I planned to give. I had sent my sermon notes to the Prez as well and wanted to make sure he didn’t have any issues before I moved forward.
But, I didn’t hear back from him.
That night I wrote a post in social media announcing the sermon I was about to give that weekend. I said in that post how disappointed and sad I was that not only to do I have a story to share about being sexually assaulted while in college, but I also have stories from every job I’ve ever had of being either sexually harassed, belittled, ignored, mansplained to, or mistreated by men.
At 9am the next morning I got a phone call from HR in regards to my social media post.
Apparently someone had alerted HR and the higher ups to my post and HR called me to get more information about what I meant when I said that at every job I had experienced these issues.
I told the HR lady I didn’t mean every single one of those things had happened to me at every single job, but yes, at every job I have experienced at least one of them.
“Well, which ones have you experienced here? Because people reading your post will know you are including your current employer. As your current employer we want to know what happened to you…
So we can help you.”
(Pro tip: When HR says they want to “help you”, they actually mean they want to help the company that pays their paycheck. Tread carefully and protect yourself.)
Regretfully, I decided to be honest and tell her about what had happened during my recent call with the COO and how uncomfortable and belittled I felt by what he had said to me. I told her how he had laughed at me and said things that made me concerned to give my sermon. I also added it wasn't the first time he had talked down to me or “mansplained” me into oblivion, but it certainly was the most uncomfortable.
She immediately shifted into a whole different mode.
She told me she was going to get the Prez on the line with her and call me back.
I said to her, “Before you get him on the line, would you like for me to send you both the detailed meeting notes from my call with the COO? I keep very accurate notes of what is said in meetings and you can see what was said from my notes.”
“Yes, send them to us. But only us. And don’t contact anyone else about it. Also, if you would please take down your social media post as well that would be great.”
I wish I hadn’t been so trusting and naive to the wheels that had been set in motion against me.
From this point things moved quickly. I got on the call with HR and the Prez and they both listened to me, thanked me for sharing, and then said they would get back with me.
A few hours later, I got a call from the ministry’s lawyer.
M was not only a full time on-staff lawyer for the ministry, he was also the EVP and a close long-time personal friend of the Prez and his family.
“Katie, we are taking what you wrote on social media and what you shared with us this morning seriously. In order to do a thorough investigation we want you to take some time off work with pay right now as we look into this matter. You aren’t in trouble, we just want to ensure there is no contact between you and the COO while we investigate. You can go do your sermon this weekend and you will hear from us next week with the next steps. It’s best that you not talk to anyone about this. And thank you for taking down the social media post.”
I went to WV, did my sermon, had a wonderful time, and came back home.
On Monday I got a call from M and the lady in HR.
They told me they had completed their investigation and had concluded there was no pattern of inappropriate behavior in regards to the COO and in order to make sure I would be comfortable from this point on, they were going to move me to a new department to work for a female executive.
Before I could open my mouth to object, M explained that he had already spoken with the VP of that department. She knew I was being moved to her team, but was not told why in order to keep what I shared confidential.
To protect me.
I was in shock.
“Wait?…What? Why are you moving me? What did I do wrong? What did the COO say? What is happening with him? I don’t understand. All I said the morning the HR lady called was that I felt uncomfortable about how the COO was talking to me. The next thing I know I am talking to a lawyer and being told to take time off with pay? And then all of a sudden I’ve lost my job? This is wrong!”
That’s when the loud talking started.
They both started talking over each other loudly accusing me of putting the whole ministry in jeopardy with my social media post insinuating that there was wrong doing and harassment happening at their ministry when their investigation revealed there absolutely wasn’t. They accused me of using my social media post to damage the ministry because I was retaliating against the COO.
They told me the founder of the ministry, Prez’s dad, wanted me to be fired immediately for sharing that social media post.
I. Was. LIVID.
I told both of them I wanted to know every detail of their investigation, what they found, what is going to happen with the COO, and what the Prez thinks about me being moved to another department against my will.
M said, “We met with the COO and asked him questions about your meeting and shared the notes with him that you took of your meeting. When he heard you felt uncomfortable and upset about what he had said he was absolutely devastated. He said he felt horrible that you had taken his words that way. He said he never meant to upset or offend you and was merely offering guidance.
We also interviewed the rest of the employees who report directly to the COO to see if there was a pattern of this behavior and we found no evidence there was. After talking with the leadership, who wanted us to fire you for that social media post, we all compromised on moving you to a place you could be more comfortable. Yes, this is the Prez’s decision as well. You did not ‘lose your job’. You will be working for a woman now and that should prevent any more feelings that you are being mistreated by men at work.
After a few deep breaths to gather myself I said, “I don’t want any other job at this ministry. I will not be moving to another department. All of this has been done without my input, knowledge, or consent. The whole situation has been blown so far out of proportion it is truly comical. I feel like I am absolutely being punished for speaking up about being uncomfortable with my boss’s behavior.
Anyone reading my post on social media knew what I was saying. Plus, what I said is true. I have been demeaned by a man at this job. The COO DID do what I said he did. He didn’t deny he said all of it. After my call with the COO, based on his behavior and what he said to me, I felt that my job, or at least my job satisfaction, was in jeopardy if I didn’t take his suggestions and change my sermon. What he did was wrong. That was the point of my social media post about my sermon. Men treating women this way is everywhere. Even here….”
They tried to interrupt me, but I went on, “I reached out to the Prez for guidance after my call with the COO and he never got back with me. The next thing I know I am on the phone with a lawyer being told to take paid time off so you all could investigate. When you started talking about investigating and paid time off so I wouldn’t have to interact with the COO, I thought it was an intense reaction, but I honestly assumed I must not have been the only person to come to you with issues with the COO and that is why you were reacting this way.
No one asked me what I wanted to have happen.
He needs to be disciplined for his behavior, required to change it, but instead of moving me, someone could have mediated a conversation between the two of us so we could all act like the grown adults we are and work it out with maturity.
I’m not afraid of the COO.
I’m not afraid to work with him or any men.
But it sounds like he is afraid of me. It sounds like he doesn’t know how to work with me.
And that’s his issue, not mine.
Instead of treating me with respect, all of you have treated me like a child and taken my job from me with no notice or discussion. Do you know how ironic it is that I am losing my job for speaking up about being uncomfortable over something that happened with my male boss just after giving a sermon about the #metoo movement and how women have been mistreated by men in the workplace? You have really outdone yourselves here, folks.”
The HR lady started to laugh in frustration and raise her voice again, but M interrupted and said I had until the end of business Friday of that week to decide what I wanted to do about my new position and could continue taking time off with pay until I decided.
The next morning I got an email from my “new boss” asking me when I was starting and when we could meet about my first writing project. I wrote her back and informed her that I hadn’t chosen to be moved from my job and was assigned to her prior to being told about the decision. I let her know I was still deciding if I was going to take the new position or not.
She was not happy to hear that.
Shortly after I emailed her I got another call from M and the HR lady. My new boss had reached out to them to get more information about why I had been moved to her without asking to be like she had been told.
“I’m not going to lie to anyone about what happened. I have nothing to hide.” I said.
“We’re trying to protect you. None of what happened needs to be talked about. No one needs to know about what you said or did. You can just move on and no one needs to talk about it anymore.” M explained.
“And what about the COO? What is his punishment? Clearly I am being punished for speaking up, so what is happening to him?
M responded incredulously, “What do you mean what is ‘his punishment’? He feels bad. He regrets upsetting you. What, do you want? For us to fire him? You were the one accusing our ministry on social media.”
“Why not move him out of the office of the president instead of moving me? I didn’t do anything wrong by speaking up and I didn’t do anything wrong by what I said in my social media post. I’m not the one afraid to work with him. If he can’t work with me or can’t work with women without talking down to them and making them uncomfortable then he should be the one to be moved,” I responded.
They both started laughing at me.
“Move the COO instead of you? Who do you think is more valuable to the Prez? You or the COO? I mean, come on. You’re being ridiculous. He made a mistake, he feels bad about it. You don’t have to work with someone who hurt your feelings anymore. The Prez depends on the COO so he will not be going anywhere. The Prez okay’ed you being moved. End of discussion.”
The boldness of what they were saying to me was shocking considering how completely and obviously unprofessional they were being, but that’s what happens when you are a part of a culture and system where the people with power and connections never have to face consequences.
I took another breath and said, “I’m not moving. I’m not taking the new job. I came back to work for the Prez specifically. D called me over and over again for years after I left the first time asking me to come back because they needed me, and so I came back to do the work I am good at and that they asked me to do. I am not going to do another job.”
M didn’t like that.
This grown-ass man lost what little composure he had left and started yelling at me, “Listen to me, you WILL be taking this job and you will say nothing about what has happened. You are acting like a child. You are not going to make us feel bad for you. You jeopardized our ministry with your post. We have done all we can to help you and you have done nothing but make everything harder for us and for yourself. We defended you when they wanted to fire you and this is how you repay us?
When you came to work for us, you came to work for the ministry, not just the President. You will work where we put you. If we needed you to clean the bathrooms, that is where you will go because we are a ministry that serves God’s will not our own. Now, enough of this. Take the offer and stop with all this fuss.”
“I. Quit…Effective immediately. You can send my last paycheck to my current address. Come up with whatever lie you want to cover up what you’ve done to me, but I will always know the truth. I hope you don’t sleep well at night.”
“We do not accept your resignation.”
“I quit whether you accept it or not.”
M got very quiet and said, “Ok, Katie. Have it your way. And I’m sure you are going to want to write all about this on your blog. Well, you can go ahead write whatever you want about us on your little blog and tell whatever story you want to tell to try and hurt us or get revenge, but we also know the truth and we have power you don’t have.”
An announcement was made at the ministry that I had decided to leave my job due to personal reasons.
I sent an email to the Prez and told him what happened and how hurt I was. I asked him to do the right thing and had hoped he would be the person I thought he was.
He never wrote me back and I haven’t heard from him since.
For years I have been afraid to tell this story.
M is right. They have power and connections I don’t have.
I have taken what he said about their power as a threat, as I am sure he intended it to be.
I didn’t write anything about it in my little blog at the time. Of course I wanted to scream it from the mountaintops because of how stunned and hurt I was by it all. One more injustice in my life enacted by supposed Christ-followers.
I wanted justice. I wanted to be believed. I wanted everyone to know the truth.
But, I was also afraid.
At that time, I only told a select few people what had happened. And while this was the least of my concerns, I felt really embarrassed that because of the lies the leadership decided to tell about what happened, my coworkers, many of them close friends, thought I was the kind of person who would just quit my job one day with no notice. Or worse, that they might think, based off such little information provided about what happened, that the leadership was hiding something bad I had done.
I lost friendships and connections over this. I lost my job over this.
But as the years have gone on, I have become less and less afraid. Part of it is that I have no desire to protect unhealthy, abusive systems and cultures that haven’t done much more for me than chew me up and spit me out over and over again.
In fact, I want to speak out against these diseased cultures and systems and be a part of dismantling them.
Another part is that I have nothing to hide.
I haven’t done anything wrong.
I am tired of keeping this secret.
The ministry may have more power than I do, but their power is nothing more than an illusion.
The power and connections they have are really only effective in evangelical church culture and even then, it is only effective if we agree to let it be.
It’s like trying to use Monopoly money at the grocery store.
The ministry’s power is no good over here where I stand on the other side of their broken culture.
I’m not afraid anymore, because I have already lost everything they could threaten to take away from me.
In my next post I will share about my faith and belief journey since leaving the church and losing my job at the ministry.
It was important to me to write this series, highlighting a few stories that showcase my experiences in evangelical and church culture, so that when I talk about where I am now, you can have a glimpse into how I arrived here.
Thank you for reading.
Thanks for reading Katie Mae's Dailies! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.