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Beth Moore on her memoir 'All My Knotted-Up Life'

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

I have to say, I've read "Portraits Of Devotion."

BETH MOORE: See, I didn't know if you'd have any familiarity, really.

RASCOE: Oh, yes. I found it in Walmart, started reading it. I was like, now, who wrote this?

MOORE: Oh, you know, I knew we would connect as women, but I didn't know if we would have faith in common.

RASCOE: So, yes, I'm so glad to have you here.

Beth Moore was the epitome of a modern Southern Baptist and a model for Southern Baptist women - and not just Southern Baptist women, evangelical women. I'm talking about selling out arenas all over the country with her women-focused Bible study events. Then came Donald Trump and the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. Moore spoke out against him and didn't back down. A firestorm ensued that would end with her leaving the Southern Baptist denomination in 2021. Now, in her new memoir, "All My Knotted-Up Life," she tells a story of splitting with the church that raised her and about surviving abuse as a child. Beth Moore joins us now. Welcome to the program.

MOORE: Thank you so much for having me.

RASCOE: In the book, you talk about growing up as a Baptist in Arkansas.

MOORE: Yes.

RASCOE: I have to say that reading this - I grew up Pentecostal. I'm still in a Pentecostal church.

MOORE: Yes, yes.

RASCOE: I always found it amusing because you were kind of having these experiences that - a little more mystical. They were seeming a little more Pentecostal, but you a Baptist.

MOORE: I got to tell you, Ayesha, 'cause you are on to something. You're on to the reason why I didn't just become controversial a couple of years ago. And I think it was - I really have had trouble fitting because I have a very Pentecostal personality, and I was more demonstrative and more enthusiastic than my world was accustomed to. I will tell you that.

RASCOE: You know - and, I mean, there was a funny thing where you said in one of your conferences that one of the women - you laid hands on her and she fell out...

MOORE: Fell completely out.

RASCOE: ...And you kind of whispered to her, please get up, 'cause they...

MOORE: Oh, you're going to get me fired.

RASCOE: ...You're going to get me fired.

MOORE: Literally, she dropped in my arms - I have never had this happen in my life - dropped in my arms. I had her around the waist, and I literally swung her back up. And it was like, I'm really going to need you to wake up, really going to...

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: So these things are delightful to me. I got to serve in - all the way from the Frozen Chosen. I have been with what I would have considered back in the day the Froot Loops. I would - I've been with all of them at this point and would not take anything for the experience. Nothing.

RASCOE: You talk about growing up in your faith and how that shaped you, but also the book talks a lot about some traumatic things that happened in your family.

MOORE: Yes.

RASCOE: I want to say right here, if it wasn't already clear in my introduction, I want to warn listeners because we are about to talk about sexual abuse.

MOORE: Yes.

RASCOE: You had said in the past you were sexually abused, but you never revealed the identity of the abuser.

MOORE: That is right.

RASCOE: Now, in this book, you identify your father...

MOORE: Yes.

RASCOE: ...Who is now deceased, as the person who abused you. How did you make that decision, and how are you feeling now that this will be public?

MOORE: I have thought about this for a number of years, and I have wanted to be able to go a bit deeper with women who have been traumatized in similar ways to my own trauma. And that - understand with me, there is no kind of abuse whatsoever that is not profoundly affecting. None. Zero. When your protector is your perpetrator, it so messes you up - or let me make that more personal. It so messed me up. But I long to be able to say, if you have been in this situation, I want you to know that I have, too. And if you made every conceivable poor decision in the wake of it, I want you to know that I did, too. If you have been prone to self-sabotage every single time something good was about to happen to you in your adolescence and young adulthood, I want you to know - me, as well.

RASCOE: To go through what you went through - and you talk about how you had to confront it...

MOORE: Yes.

RASCOE: ...To then, these many years later, see what - the reporting about sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention...

MOORE: Yes, yes, yes.

RASCOE: ...It being covered up - how did these things shape your reaction to learning what was going on in your own denomination?

MOORE: Ayesha, I don't remember a time in my life that I did not feel an inexplicable shame. Even prior to when I remember - I've got so many blackouts in my early childhood. But even before, I remember the - actually being abused in that car that I tell about. I already had a strong sense of shame - unshakeable shame. So now fast-forward to 2016, and I start there because of the Access Hollywood tapes.

RASCOE: Yes.

MOORE: The kinds of things he described - and I'm talking about Donald Trump right now - we're not even talking about sexual immorality there. We are talking about sexual criminality. And the fact that it would be downplayed - to me, it felt clear that women were just expendable. So very quickly now, you have the expose on the Southern Baptist churches, and what happens is that I watch a very odd thing occur. There's this diversion instead of dealing with the actual problem. Well, I brought the diversion. I didn't mean to.

RASCOE: And I guess I'll break this down. What happened is that you - in the Southern Baptist Convention, women are not supposed to preach.

MOORE: Correct.

RASCOE: And you joked about talking at a service, teaching...

MOORE: On Mother's Day.

RASCOE: ...At a service on Mother's Day. And then there was a firestorm. I read - they was talking about you. They were calling you everything but a child of God.

MOORE: So you got to understand, the peak of the sexual abuse crisis, what becomes most important is to talk about whether or not a woman could speak on a Sunday at a Southern Baptist church. And it has been the way we have seen problems dealt with before. It seems to me - and I'm talking not about everyone, but I'm talking about a very powerful contingent of people - not dealing with the actual problem, but finding another diversion so that we can consider that to be the crisis and not what the actual problem is. Yeah, it was over and nearly killed me. It was a death. It was a death.

And you have to understand, this is coming from someone who tried her hardest to play by the rules. You know, I will never know, because I'll never have the chance to live it over and see what might have been different. I will tell you that God has been faithful to me, and that in all of the disappointment, to come to grips with the idea that some of what had been imposed on me had been out of motives other than those in scripture...

RASCOE: It was misogyny. That it wasn't just - it was misogyny.

MOORE: Right. I mean, it's just devastating. It's just devastating. But I will tell you, in all the shaking of it and disappointing myself, looking back over it and thinking, oh, my gosh, it's not just them that taught these things. I taught them. I helped with this. I was part of this. Just devastating.

RASCOE: You go to an Anglican church now, which is about as different as you can get from Baptist. What - have you - I know you've kept your faith. Has it made you more sympathetic to other people who are looking on the outside and say...

MOORE: Oh, yes.

RASCOE: ...These - I am hated by the church.

MOORE: Oh, yes.

RASCOE: I am not accepted because of who I am, because of who I love.

MOORE: Yes, yes.

RASCOE: Has it made you more sympathetic?

MOORE: Absolutely. I know what it is like to be made to feel like you are no longer wanted and you are, you know, outcast. But I will tell you this. I say this with a smile on my face. I'm just going to keep doing what God's called me to do, and then he'll worry about who listens to it or receives it. You know, I'm in the Jesus thing until the death, because he's just my whole life.

RASCOE: That's Beth Moore. Her new memoir is called "All My Knotted-Up Life." Thank you so much for joining us.

MOORE: I had a blast with you, Ayesha. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.