08 May 2014

Why I Will Not Rejoin the Evangelical Church Today

This is a guest post at a favorite blogger's site. Since early this year I've been religiously (ahem) following posts by blogger Esther Emery I stumbled across her writing when she was in a no-godtalk phase. She's since opted to go back to overt mention of Jesus; she self-identifies as an evangelical Christian and writes for an audience of her peers. Yet she also has much to say to me.
Side note; I sometimes wonder if she and gay standup comic/musician Kevin J. Thornton were twins separated at birth. Both write with verve and near-scandalous honesty/transparency. Both are voluble about their relationship with religion; both have gone off into the woods in search of a deeper experience of life (Kevin came back in short order; Esther and her husband built a yurt and stayed); both are creative and pursue life with passion; both have written books aimed at encouraging others to live their true selves. Both sense there is something more to life than meets the eye.

I often find myself reacting to Esther's posts—she stirs me up inside, makes me think and feel. I love this about her writing, I who spent much of my life wanting to be accepted, wanting to prove myself acceptable, feeling the need to cover up, cover over, say the right thing, offend no one, please everyone in reach. I couldn't let folks see who I really was on the inside—one, I didn't know myself, and two, I suspected if anyone ever did see the real me they'd send me to hell. (I was right about this. And got to taste it first-hand when I came out in mid-life. My gosh, the furor raised and fervor with which I was roundly condemned. If William Congreve is correct, and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then evangelical church surely places a close second.)

Esther's candor speaks to me. Too, her ready acceptance and advocacy for LGBTQ+ persons. When she asked me to compose a guest post for her blog, I was happy to do so. Happy and sad at the same time, because of the issues raised. She'd recently posted about her decision not to leave the evangelical church, even though she finds its actions incompatible with her own beliefs. I'm in a much different place, and for many reasons, not the least of which is the lasting harm done to LGBT+ people by the evangelical church, all in the name of Jesus.

The harm done LGBTQ+ persons in the name of evangelicalism is all too real, and lasting. In this guest post on Esther's blog, I offer a glimpse of the real-life consequences. I begin like this:

At his funeral one minister after another called him “the consummate Presbyterian.” I can believe it. He was fussily exacting in all he did, and he went at it with a will, impassioned, dedicated, committed. Consummate. He had been a leader in his church, at the local level and beyond.

At his funeral, one minister after another called him innovator, helper, instructor, teacher. He had made a difference locally and across the state because of his skill and efforts at networking, pooling resources, thinking creatively to serve more with less.
At his funeral he was described as a thinker, philosopher, colleague nearing retirement, mentor, exemplar and friend. His sense of humor was noted, as well as his encyclopaedic knowledge of classic American cinematography. 

But at his funeral no one described him as gay. No one described him as conflicted, soul-torn between who he felt himself to be on the inside and what his religious-based employer, his church family, his small-town evangelical Christian community told him about men who are attracted to other men.

Read the rest of it HERE.

photo credit: Jonathan Cohen at

01 May 2014

I Did. I Almost Did. I Do.

    Did I grow up hearing the word “gay” mostly on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons as in,

    When you're with the Flintstones
    Have a yabba-dabba-doo time
    A dabba_doo time
    You'll have a gay old time

and notice a gay old time week in and week out involved a grown man getting locked out of his own house and hammering at the door to be let back in?

    I did.

    Did I make my way through the world compliant and quiet, the middle child, a people-pleaser who valued appearances because they helped keep the peace and make folks happy?

    I did.

    Did I embrace the Bible thumping tenets of my family with a fervor all my own, label my same-sex attraction sinful temptation fanned by the flames of hell, plead with God to remove from me the stubborn desire to lust after other boys, promise to read my Bible two hours every day, never backtalk my mother and become a missionary when I grew up, if only I could be cured?

    I did.

    Did I hear whispered that homosexuals are monsters, child molesters with horns and red eyes who lisp and can’t hit a baseball, and know for a fact I wasn’t one of those even though the part about the baseball fit?

    I did.

    Did I lean on my reputation as the shy studious type to avoid dating women in high school and college as much as possible?

    I did.

    Did I learn to live in my body as in a house divided, keep at arm’s length the despicable part of me that lusted after men, assure myself this wasn’t the real me, and succeed so well that as a college senior I could find excuses to bathe whenever our floor’s resident Greek god padded his way down the hall to the group showers wrapped only in a towel, and envy the towel, yet banish from consciousness the idea I might be gay?

    I did.

    Did I marry a hard-headed woman in the sincere belief I was doing what was right, honorable and holy, and in the hope she would save me from myself only to learn she did not have the power to change me?

    I did.

    Did I become father to three sons, change diapers, read stories, play Robin Hood, sing songs, make funny voices and discover that parenthood, while demanding, did not lessen my attraction to men nor its accompanying self-hatred?

    I did.

    Did I finally devise a way to kill myself and test it on several small animals to make sure it worked?

    I did.

    Did I successfully use it on myself?

    No. I almost did. Although I peered into the void, I did not follow through with my planned suicide. After I composed my final farewell, I made a small choice for life, postponed my death for an hour, then a day, a week. (At such times grace may be measured in minutes.)

    Even as I believed hope was gone and all was finished, a whole new world was waiting to be born—a world I had never dared imagine, never heard described in positive terms, never believed would receive, bless and nurture the likes of me. A world in which I am acceptable as I am, loved without having to change, remake or undo myself. Nowadays I often see it reflected in my gay friends and chosen family, in our shared laughter, warm embraces, genuine regard.

    Here’s the thing: this world had been there all along. It had been and was and is within me. Within each one of us.

    The path is uncharted, the way perilous, the door hidden, the night dark. Yet life endures. Life cloaks itself even in catastrophe, calls to us ever and anon, in tones loud and soft.

    May we with courage listen, respond, reach deep, take hold the key, unlock and prise open the door, step into all that awaits us there.

    Did I commit myself to such action, to shaking myself awake and having a go at it over and again?

    I did. I do.

+ + +

Illustration credit: Spooky Dad, at flickr