Scott Smith, founder of Banished from Eden, joins The Redeemed Man podcast. Scott Smith, who grew up in a troubled household and spent a decade away from the church before being “radically saved” a few years ago. Today, through a number of efforts including his blog Banished from Eden, Smith has made it his mission to help other men find their way out of depression and addiction and back to a meaningful relationship with God. “I have a personal passion for men to be restored to what Christ has called us to be, in our homes, in our churches, and in the world,” he says. “And what He’s called me to do is help restore the strong, bold Christian men that the church needs.”
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Welcome and Introduction
Good afternoon and welcome. I'm Paul Amos, founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is an organization that creates a community for men of all backgrounds to come together to discuss life's difficulties as well as the triumphs over those difficulties. Today, we're honored to have Scott Smith on the show to talk about his ministry, Banish from Eden, and a little bit about what he's doing to help men recover.
What does redemption mean to you?
Paul: Let's start today, Scott, if you don't mind with what the question we ask all of our guests, what does redemption mean to you?
Scott: Yeah, redeemed in the Christian sense, to me, means that Christ bought back those that He had chosen before the foundation of the Earth. And because once we are purchased back by Christ, he won't lose one. For me, it is probably the greatest piece of information or hope that you could possibly come up with.
Paul: Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. I think about my own past and about knowing that God had redeemed me ahead of all the things that I've done and all the places that I can continue to improve as a human being, knowing He goes ahead of me as the ultimate comfort.
Growing Up In A Physically Abusive Home
Paul: I've had the chance to hear a little bit about your background, but maybe you could for our audience, talk a little bit about your journey. What took you away from God and what brought you back?
Scott: Yeah, thanks for asking. It's quite a journey. Grew up in a physically abusive home and parents who divorced multiple times. My brother and I were most of the time raised by mother. In the midst of all that, grew up pretty heavy in the prosperity gospel.
It's an odd thing to grow up in an abusive household. From a young age, you learn to compartmentalize things pretty quickly. And what happens is that the person who is hurting you is now actually who you run to when you need protection. So it creates this really perverse view of God, in my opinion.
Then you layer on top of that multiple, multiple levels of bad theology and you have quite a disaster brewing on your hands.
I'm a guy who left home at 17, never looked back. Ended up meeting a girl in college, and her mom was so kind and generous and loving to me. I slept on her couch a lot, which was more peaceful than the fraternity house in which I resided. She cooked for me. She doted on me.
Fast forward several years after marrying her daughter, and she ended up passing away. She had a stroke and found cancer, and we spent a lot of time praying and taking authority over things, and God chose that path for her, to take her.
So it began to create a ton of questions inside of my head. Trying to understand why didn’t this work? If we can speak these things that will make them happen, why weren't we able to do that? It took two years for me to completely lose my faith.
During that time, I read a lot of books. I conversed with a lot of experts. I spent a lot of time with a lot of different pastors. I finally renounced my faith and became… sometimes I refer to it as an Atheist, I was probably more of an agnostic. I just think that... I think the Big Bang Theory is laughable, personally, so I always felt like there was some type of higher power maybe that was just based on growing up in the South and having it ingrained in your daily DNA.
I was an agnostic atheist for around 10 years, it was about how long it took, and then I was radically saved by God. He just never lost track of me and was gracious in my rebellion and lined up some pretty amazing things that brought me back to Him. And so, as I like to say now, He showed up in an amazing way in my life. I may always have questions, but I'll never doubt ever again.
Coping Mechanisms for Abusive Home
Paul: Well, that's an amazing testimony. Thank you so much for sharing. If we can go back a little bit to know that physically abusive home. So much of our audience has had abuse in one form or another. I'm curious what coping mechanisms you developed and how did you try to unlearn those as you became an adult?
Scott: That's a good question. The copy mechanism that I used most was manipulation. I tried to control everything, every scenario and control of people in my life. It kind of became a really twisted thing because trying to control them because so you can feel like you're in control. And at the same time, being able to control them and brought value to your life. It was like you were worth something. What a terrible copy mechanism.
Then I think typically kids from those types of learn to compartmentalize so early that they're able to move on quickly. So I think the coping mechanism is... Let's say you had to deal with grief, for instance, I've been talking about this lately in my personal life, you know the final stages of grief is acceptance. But when it comes to people who can compartmentalize quickly, when it comes to me... I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on things that are beyond my control. I readily accept them and I move on quickly. The downside of that is I readily accept them, I'll move on quickly.
So have you ever really dealt with what was there to deal with? You fast forward through, let's say that to the final stage of acceptance, have you missed some of the other stages you probably needed to spend at least a couple of minutes in?
Coming Back to God
Paul: Well, thank you for sharing those. It's something I can't say I’ve that personal experienced, but I hear so much about it, and it has such a profound impact not only on people's childhoods, but on their adult hood. Trauma is something that is a constantly evolving part of people's lives, and it's something that I think most people have to work through on a daily basis.
You talked a little bit about almost a decade away from God, and obviously the loss of someone is important as your mother-in-law can be critical. Can you talk about the things that kind of culminated in bringing you back and what was it that ultimately helped you make the decision to go back from agnostic to now what is a profound faith in God?
Scott: There were several things that standing on their own, he might say, Man, that is quite the coincidence. But when you begin to stack them all together, it just points to a loving and caring and personal God.
For instance, the further away I went, the closer my wife went towards God. Which became pretty annoying in our household for some time. The church she went to, I ended up meeting a lady that my wife brought home from her church and the resemblance to her mother was uncanny. It was kind of freaky, not just that, but the things she would say and the voice that she had was exactly like my mother-in-law.
All the way down to her handwriting was exactly the same, the first birthday card I got from her looked like it was written by my mother-in-law. On top of that, she was the same age as my mother-in-law would have been. And even more, she had had two sons and one had abruptly passed away at 25. Well, he would be the same age as me. And so from that, and we initially were drawn pretty clearly to each other, and it was like God was... I wasn't calling at that at the time… but what God was clearly providing some love in some spaces that we were both hurting. All of those things are pretty coincidental. There's no doubt about that.
And a little bit later, my wife and I have decided to go get some marital counseling. So we were talking to the counselor in the first session, and I said, Well, you know, I think I probably need to talk to you on my own. And he's like, Well, why would you think you need to talk to me? And I said, Well, I'm overly angry. I'm just, I'm angry all the time. And he said, Well, how long have you been angry? And I was like, I don't know, about 35 years or something like that. And he said, Yeah, yeah, you probably need to problem to talk to me.
So we fast-forward a couple of months later, and I just had this amazing breakthrough in one of the sessions. Once I left home, I didn't spend a lot of time talking to my mom. She visited a couple of times after I had some kids. But I didn't talk to her much for obvious reasons.
I thought I had forgiven her and all that kind of stuff, but clearly I had not. I realized that I hadn't forgiven myself for a whole lot of things. This story that I'm telling, it leads into a bit of timing when we had to have God's hand on it.
So I was able in that moment to forgive myself, and when I did, I was able to forgive my mother. In the very next moment I just kind of broke emotionally and realized that I found out that she was a victim of sexual abuse from a family member. And that caused her to want to control everything.
She never was able to deal with her anger issues obviously, but she was overly protective, and I wanted to control everything. So I saw her for what she was, and I was able to let that go and forgive her. Truly forgive her.
Well, a month later, my grandmother passed away, and I saw my mom for the first time in many, many years. I didn't get to talk to her very much.
My mother’s side is a huge, huge family, like absolutely huge. And I was kind of working the room and trying to get around to where she ended up, she was leaving, she wasn't feeling well. I was checking on her and I said, Well, I hope you feel better, just call me if you need something and I'll get it for you. I just want you know that. And I love you.
The next day was the grave side service, and she was too sick to make it. So I called her, same thing, just said, Hey, if there's anything I could do, and I just want you to know I love you. I hadn’t told my mom I loved her 10-15 years probably, and I told her twice inside of 24 hours.
I was working two weeks later, I got a phone call that she passed away suddenly. She just died. Keep in mind, I’m still not a Christian at this point. I remember sitting there and what... I don't know if you want to say, the word that bubbled up in my spirit or the word that I say washed over me was that I was spared. I was spared the bitterness that anger, the unforgiveness that I would carry maybe the rest of my life. That I was spared that in that the last couple of weeks in my mom's life, she heard her oldest son tell her that he loved her. I was just so thankful in that moment.
There's a lot to the story, but this culmination happens, I'm with a friend of mine, and we're out in Utah, and we're shooting guns way out in the desert with him, a friend. I'm just praying, and God has been working on me for months, and there were probably a couple of other things, like I told you as far as timing goes. I'm out there, we're in the mountains, and those are the guys were in the front seat, and so I'm in the back and I'm just like, God, I'm listening, I'm open. My heart is softened here and I'm about ready. I just want to see one more thing, would you show me a deer? Would you show me a buck? And so for the next three hours out of the mountains in the desert, I was looking, eyes peeled for a buck. I never saw one. And that's not really how that works.
And I got back to the house I was staying at, and I got a call from one of my brother-in-law, who he never calls me ever. He said he was just pray and felt like he should call me. I was kind of a bit of an emotional wreck at that point and just kind of threw up all over the phone for the next hour talking about all these things, and he's like, Well, I mean, I guess at this point, what else do you need to see?
And I was like A BUCK! But did you not hear what I just said? And so we had a good laugh about that. Anyway, a couple of days later, I'm flying home and I'm standing out on the edge of a jet bridge waiting on my luggage. And I had heard enough, and so I just gave my life to Christ, on the end on that jet bridge, grab my bag and headed out to the car. I was headed back to see my family and I'm driving to the airport and something caught my eye and running stride for stride with the car about 30 yards away, it was this huge buck. Big velvety antlers, right next to the car. And man, I just lost it in the car. That ran next to me for a few hundred yards, and then slowed up and crossed over behind me.
I've seen deer at that airport since, but I had not seen them before. I was on 48 airplanes that year, so I flew in and out of that airport a lot. And some people may say, What a coincidence. I would say, yeah, what a coincidence. It's like the other 15 that God lined up that were so personal. I think for me it was God's going to give you enough. And if you step out in faith, that He is going to reward your faith, and I think that day he was just telling me, I see you. And so from that day forward, I'm 100% committed and I'm committed to the restoration of men and men in the church in particular.
Paul: Wow, a buck to come up like that, that is one heck of a finale to a great story.
Scott: That night we sat down to dinner, and I have three kids, and they were a bit younger than in my youngest at the time, he was probably four, he said, Hey Dad, why don't you say the blessing? And of course, it was always, No, and I was like, Okay. And then my girls were older like, Wait, what is this? So I tell them the story in my middle when she's a pistol and she's like, Dad, why can't you mean why didn't you ask to see like a buffalo or something, and I was like, I should have asked for the buffalo.
Paul: It sounds like it was a perfect story no matter what.
Scott: Oh yeah, man. It's beautiful, it really is.
Religious Restoration: Impact on Children
Paul: Well, you mentioned having three kids. I have four and I know that I can have a profound influence on my kids to hear my story and my transformation. Right before I went under the beginning of my transformation, my second son turned to his mother and said, I don't think my dad loves me, which is one of the heartbreaking moments of my life and my transformation has allowed me to come back and be a great dad.
Talk to us for a moment about the impact that all this has had on your kids.
Scott: Yeah, so I have two older ones. Have a 17 and a 14-year-old. And those are my girls. And my son is 8. My redemption was four years ago, so my girl was in a sense have lived this out. They lived us going to church and leading community groups to... Dad doesn't believe in God.
To this story. So for them, they got to see it, which is really, really interesting, they saw the whole gamut of things. It's been an adjustment, I think. My wife had to be that spiritual leader, pouring them for years when I wasn't.
I think the bigger things they've seen as far as after me being saved is I work really hard to bring every situation back to.. ‘What's the Bible say?’ And everything we do, we run our filter through that now.
That is our filter and how we view things, how we approach things. I am much more apt to pray about someone who having a problem with work towards forgiveness, bitterness and letting all of that go, because we're called to do it. Work to find different ways to love people, we challenge our kids to do the same.
And so there's been a huge shift when it comes to that. I also tell my kids, have no one gets out of childhood alive, no one gets out of lot. Everyone's going to need counseling. So just chalk it up. Sometimes a big joke around our house. Like, Well, dad, what about this? You got to take it up with the counselor later, I mean that all there is to it.
The Bible has something to say about everything. That's a fact. About every single thing that's out there. And it's kind of new territory for me and my wife, she grew up in a Catholic home. And new for us to take everything and go back to... Well, what does the Bible say? Well, what does the Bible say? And our kids already know, now they're coming, well, I've got this problem, but this is what I think the Bible says about it. So we really are laying some good foundations, I think. In today's day and age, the moral sands are constantly shifting, so we've got to have that foundation in place.
Banished From Eden
Paul: Amen to that. Well, let's shift just for a moment and talk about the ministry that you've put your heart into. Banished from Eden, tell me a little bit about the formation of it and what your mission is.
Scott: After the breakthrough with the counselor, I still wasn't saved, that's when I started Banished From Eden. Banished From Eden for me and was kind of a tongue and cheek shot at Christianity, but of course, God always gets the last laugh. Right.
And so, Banished From Eden turned to the fight was born, and while it started off with just restoration for man, man to overcome, whatever it was that took their ability to walk and wholeness and completeness away for them, that was the focus. But now it's really about Christian man being restored not just spiritually and emotionally, but walking the way we're supposed to.
Patriarchy gets a bad wrap in today's society, but God has laid out of patriarchy of authority, and that spiritual authority to provide protect, love, lead that falls to men. And there seems to be a tremendous lack of men that are willing and able to do that in the church or to lead other men to do it.
Quite frankly, what I've found is that there are plenty of men that are out there that are hungry and thirsty to walk in that and they don't know how or they don't have someone to help them do that. So there are several of us out there that we own our pieces, and that's a big part of mine, and recently have kind of walked through some depressing stuff as well, and to find out that there's so many men struggling with that was a surprise to me.
So I think as Banished From Eden is concerned, it's really just about challenging us and opening a conversation with...What does it look like to be restored... What are we aiming at? We don't have a Target.
A lot of churches are trying to downplay or limit or take away what it means to be a masculine man inside of church, and by that I mean just walking in what Christ has called us to do, and so that's really what it's focusing around.
Paul: That's wonderful. Yeah, there seems to be so much of a political environment today that is affecting what men should be and what their role should be, hearing that you're restoring men to their biblical role is not only critical, but good to hear.
Tell me for a minute about this environment today, and what you're seeing is the places that you're trying to restore people from. I think about COVID, I think about pulling the way I think about all of the things that men are facing in the world today, and so maybe for our audience, you can just talk about some of the struggles that you're seeing men go through and what you're doing to help them.
COVID's Affect on Todays Religious Environment
Scott: Yeah, I think in particular with COVID, it made it really easy for the introverted group to go home and withdraw, and I have seen some pretty devastating effects from that. I've seen the erosion of faith of a very good pastor friend of mine. He's an introvert, has always been on record as being an introvert, and it was easy for him to go, and there were enough men around him going and knocking on his door, and we weren't at his church at the time, and just check in on them. I don't think that's a unique story. I think that is an epidemic that COVID has caused.
We as men, we have to be intentional about creating our circle anyway, right. It's really easy for us to get called up in our day-to-day responsibilities, and I think that's what happens to me, like my struggle is God's given me broad shoulders and I tend to carry too much on it and not defer enough to Him.
I think distraction has been absolutely devastating, not just for men, but just the church and society in general, but specifically to men, I think it's easier to go and binge Netflix than it is to hop on and binge an apologetics course or whatever it happens to be.
I think for me, I just got caught up in taking care of my family. When COVID hit, I'd say, one thing we did right. When all of it first started, we didn't know it sounds like it's going to be the bubonic play that that 40% of people are going to die. And so we decided, Hey, we're going to try to help our kids remember this time as joyful and not fearful. So we spent a lot of time playing board games and shutting off the television and not watching the news and doing all that kind of stuff.
Men and Depression
I think a lot of men are scared too, and I think that that fear has at least initially wormed their way into their life and their psyche and has caused him to doubt a lot of things. I see the gamut of emotions, I see just trouble. So for me, I had to realize here recently that if you would have said, Hey, I think you're depressed, I would have laughed it off. As far as referring to me, when I think of depression, I think of kick it out of bed every day is insurmountable, but as I began to look it up, depression in men manifest in different ways, a lack of sleep, up all night, looking for these huge physical achievements, I had already pulled up one of my old books out about running a 100 mile race, you're just trying to feel something to fight for, and I think that kind of snuck up on me.
And I had to come out of that, and I will say I was told by a counselor, any, when it comes to depression, you got to fight your way out of it. And I needed to hear those words. I think his men were born to fight, and so we're kind of looking for one a lot, and so I would just encourage anyone that struggled with being at home with COVID or a lot of times apathy is mistaken where it should be identified as depression. Engage, fight, reach out. Look for help. That's why I appreciate the redeemed.
Paul: Well, thank you so much for saying that. And that's exactly what we're trying to do. One of the things that we encourage is not just having a relationship with our Heavenly Father, but have a relationship with our band of brothers that are in a tribe. People out there who can help be supportive, you kind of hinted at that a little bit earlier, but maybe you could talk a little bit about the importance of iron sharpening iron and men depending on each other.
Scott: Yeah, I think it's imperative. Christ’s church is going to prevail. It's going to survive. We already read the end. We win the war. I just think that when it comes to men, we don't have the tribe, as you refer to it, around us, holding us accountable, building us up, encouraging us, praying for us, challenging us to be better husbands and fathers, and even entrepreneurs are just striking out to do things for the kingdom.
I think without those things that we are losing a lot more battles than we need to. So that's one as far as kingdom advancement goes, and what we should be doing in our thankfulness for being redeemed.
The other thing is, we need it, and it's really interesting to me that it's so easy for us not to engage. It is easy for us to just not do it. I have to be super intentional about, Hey man, this week, we are getting together one night, and this is what we're going to do, or I have to almost force myself and them to hold each other accountable to get it on the schedule. It's two ways, it's built, it's built intentionally, and spending time together over a long period of time, or it's built quickly in a tragic circumstance.
We don't want to wait until there is a tragic circumstance! We want to be intentional. We’ve got to realize that some of the things that we don't want to do are really good for us and good for our spirit.
Paul: I can totally hear you there and I can tell they appreciate what you're saying. Maybe for one last question, I know that biblical truth is a key component for you, and maybe you could talk a little bit about the importance of maintaining a strict view toward biblical truth. And how you adhere to really what God says.
Scott: Yeah, definitely. Thank you for asking that question. The three rules of biblical truth are context, context, context, right? So we need to make sure that whatever we're talking about is in context, and because God has a lot to say about everything. This is our guide.
The world is fallen, and we have this thing now where people are talking about your truth and his true, her truth. And we're really confused now that someone said, there’s upwards of 200 genders, this thing is completely out of control. There has to be a fixed point of truth, there has to be A truth giver.
And so for the Christian, it must be the Bible. God doesn't change. And so every time we have a conversation or everything that we drive to, we have to run it through the lens that God has given us, giving us His word, he's written it down. It couldn't be easier. And I preached hard back to the truth every time, because clearly having incorrect truths was…my faith was built on sand. Because of bad theology, I became an atheist. And so truth is paramount, it is the rock upon which we build our faith, and we need to be consistent with what God says, because God's word doesn't come back void.
There are a lot of people out there who manipulate, a lot of charlatans who are deceiving people. My friend that was in the pulpit, I was angry with him because he's leading people astray in their faith. He's leading people off the narrow path. Now that he stepped down, I'm not angry, he's just a seed, so I want to love and witness to him.
So to me, biblical truth is the only fixed point that's out there and we need to handle it rightly. God wrote it down for a reason. And several instances, this God repeated himself, which we should be very, very careful with the things he repeated and handle those would care. I think we'd have a lot more unity in the church if we all adhere to the fact that this is true, let's see what God's saying about it and not what I want it to say.
Paul: Well, Scott, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate you sharing your story about your ministry, in all aspects of your life. Thank you for giving us a sneak peek into everything you're doing, and we just thank you for all that you're doing to for Banished From Eden.
To our audience today, thank you so much for taking the time to come and listen, and we hope that it's been meaningful to you. As you know, every third Thursday, we're launching a new webcast, we encourage you to watch. We thank you. And hope you follow us on social media. Have a wonderful night and God bless.