I was raised in a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist household. Given the fact I now write for a sweary and irreverent outlet focussed on pop culture, I think I came out of the situation quite alright: Harry Potter and Pokémon were banned at my school. We had a pastor unironically tell us Lady Gaga and Jay-Z were card-carrying members of the Illuminati, and every Friday night was either spent at home or at some preposterously hormonal youth service.
What I’m saying is that in addition to becoming very, very good at papering over the gaping holes in my pop culture knowledge, I’ve also managed to extricate myself from the church, its theology, and its overarching culture*. So, when I get a little thrill when I discover other prominent figures in the media, entertainment, and music industries emerged from relatively sheltered religious backgrounds.
Today, that thrill comes by way of comedian Deborah Frances-White. The latest edition of her Guilty Feminist podcast delves into her upbringing in the Jehovah’s Witness faith – a religion not culturally dissimilar to Seventh-Day Adventism – and her friendship with one ‘Brother Peter.’ Brother Peter Andre.
After describing her transgressive “hope outlet” of improv theatre and comedy, Frances-White said “artists find their way out, or oppression creates artists, I don’t know which. But I do know a lot of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses are artists, and they all find their own path.”
And I know this, specifically because on the Gold Coast, all those years back, there was a boy and his little outlet was to dress up like Michael Jackson and do the dances. And he was an amazing dancer, and an amazing singer.
Now, back then we knew him as Brother Peter, but you may know him as Peter Andre. A man, then, to whom all girls were mysterious. And I bumped into him in the loo of a studio where he was filming a music video, and I was doing something else. It was a unisex loo, and I bumped into him, and I said ‘Oh my God, Peter, I haven’t seen you since the Gold Coast!’
And he said ‘Oh, Deb, that’s amazing! Are you not a Jehovah’s Witness anymore either?’ And I said ‘no, I got to the point where I couldn’t reconcile my feminism with such a patriarchal religion, and the intellectual disconnect between what I was living and feeling was such that I wasn’t able to maintain the lifestyle anymore. The doctrinal hegemony became too oppressive for the lifestyle that I wanted to live.’
And he goes ‘Yeah? I just really needed to have sex.'”
While I didn’t jettison myself from my weird offshoot of American Protestantism exclusively to root, I can definitely respect anyone who does. Now, go listen to Mysterious Girl and imagine that same fella may once have been madly oppressed in the church. And then, listen to the January 22 podcast, which is available HERE.
*I’m always down to smash a haystack, though. Invite me to your 13th Sabbath combined lunch. I’ll bring the So Good.