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Now & Then

This journey truly began in August of 1969.  I became aware of my journey about age 4.. the exact time evades me.  I was baptized Catholic at birth and later converted to Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) somewhere around Jr. High.  Some of you remember that conversion, some don’t.  Nonetheless, my journey continued.

At a very young age, I knew that my attraction to men/boys/males was was legitimate. However, as I grew up in the deep south of Louisiana, I quickly became cognizant of the unacceptability of my inherent, genetic make up.  This began the hiding, shame and all the ugliness that goes with being gay in a straight world.  At least the world as I knew it.  Growing up in a very, very, very small town with only one stop light only added to my confusion, but I didn’t even know at the time that my geographical location could effect my upbringing and cause life-long consequences.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  But I knew that something wasn’t “A-Ok.” I was a stranger in my own mind and body. 

As a Catholic, I prayed the rosary, took the sacrament of communion and went to confession. I attended mass, catechism and bingo.  Ah yes… Bingo.  It’s a Catholic thing for all of you unfamiliar with it.  I was an altar boy and spent a lot of time at the church.  I was always infatuated with the “secrecy” of the church. What was behind that altar?  What was under the robe?  How did the water turn holy?  Was that real wine?  What was the wafer made from? Where did the priest live? What was in the priest side of the confessional booth? Could he really NOT see you?  Call me inquisitive.  Inquisitive I still am.  I love to seek and find the “why’s” of life.  Sometimes I never found the “WHY.” Why?  Why would god make me Gay and forbid me to live true to myself.  Why would god give me desire for men yet force me to deny it?  Sometimes the “Why” never comes.

I always wondered if god was real, how could it be?  Was I too inquisitive for my own good. But as a good Catholic and later a devout Pentecostal, I chose to just accept things as they were.  Just believe and embrace with a blind faith. Sit down, shut up and enjoy the ride.  I embraced it, loved it and lived it.  I even went to Bible College and became a minister with the Assemblies of God.  I was “sold out for JESUS!”  I gave him my all.  Honest, I really did.  I was a bona fide legalist, fundamental, evangelical christian. I was “all in.”

But I never really felt that god gave ME his all.  He was withholding something. Something very necessary to my life and faith. I felt broken, defective and sinful.  I sang amazing grace… that saved a wretch like me….  always with the emphasis on “wretch” and never the “saved” part of the lyrics.  No matter how much I prayed, preached, fasted, tithed, worshipped, spoke in tongues or repeated the “sinners prayer,” I never felt “saved.” I never felt whole like he promised. I somehow got skipped over when it came to completeness.  Why. Why. Why did he make me gay?  What a cruel thing to do to such a good kid like me. 

I believe religion that teaches that one is wretched and that we can do nothing and be NOTHING without god is dangerous at best. It’s a control tactic. In fact, it was the church that taught me to dislike myself.  Heck… what did I do?  I was born.  That’s all.  I was born.  Nothing else.  I did nothing to become so “wretched.”  It was the evangelical church that taught me to dislike myself so much that I MUST be “born again.”  Born Again???  Why do I need to be born again?

I love the Catholic approach to being born again.  A good catholic said to me once, “why do you evangelicals need to be born again? Don’t you believe that god got it right the first time?”  It still makes me giggle, but now,  yes… yes I believe that I was born right the first time. No born again needed here.  Thank you very much.

In my evangelical teachings, I was taught and I preached that god didn’t make mistakes. That god was good and fair and just.  He was perfect and he created us perfect. How then would he create a wretch, a loser, a broken, confused, hurting man?  I believed that I was a big fat nothing, I had nothing to live for. I felt that it would be better for everyone if I were dead and gone. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to carry out my planned suicide…out of fear of going to hell.  I felt powerless and useless without god, but yet it was god who made me this way. Oh the misery.  How could a loving god allow someone that loved him and dedicated his life to him be so broken, so defunct, so lost and so down-trodden even after being born again?  It just stopped making sense to me.

That was then.

Today is a different story.  I’ve realized that the authentic me is a happier me.  A braver me.  A more peaceful me.  A more loving me.  A more humanitarian me.  A more “godly” me.  I’ve realized that I don’t have to be religious to be a good and moral person.  Some of the most moral people that I know have no form of “religion” in their lives. They just treat others they way that they wish to be treated. Just plain and simple human kindness and character. 

I’ve come to understand and accept that I no longer have to be christian to be kind and have good things happen to and for me.  Heck, I now realize that I don’t have to give 10% of my income to a church or ministry to be “blessed.”  I don’t have to comply with the rules and regulations of church and christianity to live a happy and successful life.

When I made the choice to live authentic as a gay man, I was promised by god’s people… the very people that I ministered to… that I was no longer living in god’s will.  I would go to hell, be stricken with cancer or other diseases that would take my life, be financially destitute and likely homeless and begging for food.  Yes, all this from those that would fight till the death telling you what a loving and caring being that their god is… as long as you play by their rules…the bible.  This caused me great confusion.  How can he be so hateful and angry and so loving and kind at the same time???  It doesn’t compute for me any longer.

So when I say that I’ve chosen to be agnostic, I’m not saying that I’m atheist, although I see nothing inherently wrong with atheism.  I’m saying that I can no longer accept, subscribe to or identify with the god of modern evangelical, legalistic, fundamental christianity.  It no longer serves my highest and best needs as a human being.

So this is my now.  I don’t subscribe to a punitive hell.  I don’t describe to a literal interpretation of the bible. I don’t subscribe to religious rules and regulations.  I have made my choice. My choice to live a meaningful life.  Because humans have a 100% mortality rate.  We will all be gone one day. We will all soon die.

Where will we all be when we die? I dunno.  Life is a mystery, and so is the afterlife.  I’ve got one shot at this. One shot at living a happy, healthy and whole as my authentic self. I won’t live another day for anyone other than me.  By me, I mean everything that is a part of me.  My children, my friends, my family and animals…don’t forget the animals.  I refuse and reject living to please and fancy others and their religious rules and regulations that are not a part of who I wish to be. I won’t live my life for anyone who rejects my inherent being as a good, moral, kind gay man.  I was born right the first time.  I don’t need to be born again.  Requiring one to be born again assumes that someone or something wasn’t right the first time around.  I’m no mistake!  God got it right the first time.

So if you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you’ll see that I was a right-wing, republican, evangelical christian and living my life in a way that was pleasing to others.  I am no longer any of that.  This is my now. I do not blame or deny my “then.”  In fact, my then has guided me to my NOW.  I did the best with what I had.  When I knew better, I did better.  In fact, once I knew better, I was self-obligated to do better.

Life is a about choices.  I am free to choose which door I will enter into today.  When that choice no longer fits my highest and best need, then I am free to choose again.

Don’t let your then rule your now.

 

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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I Don’t Belong

From time to time I will blog when I am in a current state of “funk & blah.”  Yes… I just created that lil diddy. You may use it. You’re welcome.

I do this to capture the sincere and brutal reality of coming out after being closeted for 42 years due to evangelical religious oppression and societal bias.

I did my best to retain my faith after coming out.  Unfortunately evangelical religion has taken up arms against the gay community with guns blazing to force us to believe as they believe or go back into the closet. As if torturing us with threats of burning in a punitive hell our whole lives wasn’t hateful enough. That story has already been told, so this brief sound bite is for those readers that have not read my blog from the beginning.

So back to my “funk & blah.”   I was recently meeting a man for an impromptu coffee date. A resident physician man at that.  It was my lucky day… He was smart and cute. With the potential to be moderately rich. I digress.

We agreed to meet at Starbucks.  I arrived before he did. He overslept due to a late shift the night before in the Emergency Department.

As I placed my order and waited for him, I unintentionally began to notice all the men wearing wedding rings. Go figure. I kinda got gut-sick. Sadness slapped me and within no time I realized why taking off my wedding ring 4 years ago was like ripping off an unhealed scab. I weep as I write this.

I gave it to my former wife at one point so that she could sell it. But at some point I took it back. The memory and representation was much too much to process. That ring currently is in the console of my car where I will take it out from time to time and reminisce. I will likely never part from it. It will always be a tribute to the blood sweat and tears that I put into my marriage and family.  I cannot erase my history. I won’t even try. There is way too much value there.

I remember being in high school, college and the time between college and when I got married. I always wanted a wedding ring. I used to get fake rings and pretend that I was married. The ring part was super important to me.

The ring represented love, commitment and most of all it meant that I belonged to someone.  It meant that it wasn’t all about me.  It meant that someone counted on me and needed me. It meant that no matter what happened, that I wasn’t alone and I was important to someone. Again, I weep writing this.  Sometimes life just sucks damnit.

So as I sat there waiting for Dr. Coffee Date to arrive, a sudden awful feeling of “I don’t belong to anyone anymore” rushed over me in a not so welcomed way. I literally wanted to run to my car to get my ring and put it on so that I could belong to someone. It was a sick sick feeling.

And out of courtesy, please don’t be tempted to send me notes or quips about how I belong to God/Jesus. I cannot do enough brain aerobics to believe in a god that would allow such anguish, confusion and pain to someone like me that committed his life and career to serve others. It just doesn’t line up any longer. I’m happily agnostic. Namaste.

So I journey this journey.  I adjust as adjustment presents itself.  I cry as needed and I hurt as hurt is inevitable.  But this is just one stop along the way. Survivors don’t survive by happenstance. They intentionally survive. I shall live with brazen intention. I will return to a place of joy.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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ELEPHANT in the pew?!

I promised in a recent post that I would begin to blog about my journey from childhood until now.  I will keep that promise.  Today I want to answer another pressing question that I have recently asked myself since January when I first openly shared with my former wife that I was in fact gay.  The question I ask myself today and others have asked me as well is:  “Why do you continue to attend church even though you are gay?”

My initial answer is: “Because I haven’t been asked not to yet.”  Now that’s funny stuff right there.  I just made myself giggle a little.  So let me answer this in a bit more detail.  If my CAJUN accent comes into play, please just deal with it.  You can take the kid out of the bayou but you will not take the bayou out of the kid.

I attend church weekly for the same reason that you attend the grocery store as often as you do.  HUH?  Really!  What did you say?  Ok… I’ll say it again in CAJUN. Because I gitt Houngry!  Yah sees?

That’s right!  I get hungry.  I am hungry for God.  I am hungry for The Holy Spirit.  I am hungry for Jesus, and I am hungry to Worship.  My sexual orientation has no bearing on who God is.  He is not shocked and He is not shamed.  Trust me.  I’ve been in ministry before and you know I’m not the only imperfect person in that building fa sho!

Just as you go to a restaurant or a grocery store to feed your body, I go to church to feed my spiritual body.  It’s not about those around me, It’s not even about me.  It’s about Him.  It’s about Christ and his love for me.  You see… I am reminded about a dear friend of mine who is a beautiful Christian lady who said this to me: “For every person who, in their small mindedness rejects your and tries to shame you, there are a hundred more wonderful people out there who will hear your story and not only respect you, but he helped beyond measure.  …just like we wound others in the places where we remain wounded, we also heal other in the places where we have been healed.”  I couldn’t have said it any better, so I didn’t.  Thank you “P.C.” that was a defining moment for me.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “If you want to know where people have been wounded, watch where they wound others.”  Now that’s good reading.

So big deal Chet… how does that answer the question that you posed?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked.  Here ya go.  I believe that the modern Church has gotten a bad rap.  Yep… I said it.  A real bad rap.  While I agree that there are some churches that are still pretending to be perfect, they are far from it.  They are fakers and secret-sinners at best.  I’m not talking about “Jesus TV.”  I’m not talking about cults.  I’m talking about the modern church of which I am a part of.

I assure you that 90% of my friends on Facebook are professed Christians in some form or fashion.  When I went public with my “gayness” I sent a heartfelt letter to some of my friends.  The response was amazingly positive.  less than 5% rebuked me and chose to “leave the building.”  The rest who are Christ Followers stood with me.  They didn’t all agree or condone me, they just loved.  They did what Jesus would do…they loved and did not pass judgement in any form or fashion.  You see folks…That is the TRUE church. The 90 plus % that attend church regularly.  Not the fakers and secret sinners who pretend to be the church, but the real deals.  I want to share an analogy since I haven’t done so in a while.  This one is good.

Back in the day when check-writing was an acceptable form of payment at retailers across the U.S. (giggle)  …back in the day…   lol…   There was a certain large retailer that decided that they were taking too many losses with bad check writers.  They stopped accepting checks altogether at many of their stores.  For whatever reason, the retailer decided to put pen to paper to determine what percentage of their guests were legitimately writing bad checks.  The result was astounding…  less than 1%.  That’s right.  They were essentially punishing over 99% of their guests for a poor performance of less than 1%.  Needless to say, they began accepting checks again but required a photo I.D., credit card or debit card.  …and now we have debit and credit card fraud…what to do, what to do?

I’m not even sure that story is entirely true, but the analogy serves my point of punishing the majority for misbehavior of a very minute, small-minded, fundamentalist, self-glorifying, fake, secret-sinners and punks who attempt to ruin in for the good ones. Associate yourself with the TRUE, sincere, flawed, imperfect Christians.  Remember a rule of thumb with people in general.  If they do it with you…  they will do it to you.  Be wary of those that always have the “dirt” on others.  It won’t be long before they dig in your dirt and they will have no shame in sharing it.  “for the good of everyone involved” I’m sure.  Well… What if I punch you in the mouth in Jesus name?  Does that make it right?  See… I just giggled again.

I’m sure there are people who disagree with me being a gay Christian, but that is my issue.  What is your issue?  What is your monster-under-the-bed that your imagination has created?  Another great friend of mine who has gone through a similar event as me shared this:  “Instead of living a life strapped with ‘chains’ …you have the power to be you.  If others embrace it…let them come over the boundary wall.  If others don’t…then leave them outside the gate to educate themselves about perceived monsters…and by all means, don’t allow their words/myths to shape who you think you are or strap chains back on you.  …be very careful who you allow to speak into your life.”  Thanks “S.P.”  You are a man of great truth.

A new friend of mine recently contacted me when he read my blog and it resonated with him.  This is what he wrote:  “I certainly didn’t ask for it [being gay], at least I don’t remember thinking I could really go for a healthy dose of depression, self loathing and disappointment for myself and loved ones…  …I pushed away my family, my friends, my happiness, my life.  …I could suppress what I was feeling and pretend like it was not real and try to build a [fake] life around that, or I could call a duck a duck and play the cards I was dealt.  Wow “J.C.” that hit me right between the eyes.  In a good way of course.

You see, you have no idea what people face day-to-day.  You think you know, but you have no clue.  You see…  during my counseling I was told that I would not only have to give up my faith, but I would be forced to give up my wife and kids too.  I was told that the divorce would be ugly and that she would get everything including our friends.  I was told that I would not be accepted into the ‘church’ and that God himself would reject me.  I was told that it was impossible to call myself a Christian and be gay.  I rejected all of those “chains”  and legalism.  I have no better friend than my former wife, and my kids still think that their daddy hung the moon. …tell them differently and I will Kut U!  Das Right… I – WILL – KUT – U!  I broke stereotypes, I chose to believe differently, I will not allow the nay-Sayers to speak into my life about how I am damaging my children and causing them harm.  Here is another good word from my friend and a mother of two now college-age children, “P.C” who dealt with this exact situation years ago with a former spouse.  Notice I didn’t use the word “EX” spouse, because they too are best of friends who have children. Very aware and well-rounded children I must add who are both college students now.  Here is the word:  “…don’t believe for a minute that you are hurting your children.  Your honesty and authenticity — and commitment to continuing loving as you figure this out — can do nothing but make them stronger, more loving and self-aware adults.  The most damaged people I’ve ever met are those decimated [people] who have been drawn and quartered by religious fundamentalism.  By liberating yourselves for an authentic life, you are also liberating your children.”  WOW.  In the words of my friend at King Burger…  Owwwh…Is dhat what you had said?  Thanks Bon Qui Qui.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZkdcYlOn5M

Ok… so I said all that to say this.  Stop focusing on the pitiful 1% to 2% of people who can make anything look bad.  They are the ones who go to Disneyland and complain about everything.  We all know that it’s the unsatisfied people who scream the loudest.  Stop listening to them.  Make a conscious choice to “inspect the goods yourself” when you hear negative things about someone or something.  I would have missed out of a lot of love and snuggling with a little sweet dog that is the only dog on the planet that loves me in this house full of girls if I would have listened to what everyone else said about Chihuahuas.  He is the kindest most loving dog I have ever had.  Hee Hee.

Love people for who they are and not what they can do for you. Respect people, you don’t have to be in love with one to respect them.  Treat others like you wish to be treated.  Now get yourself together and make it to your house or place of worship and stop thinking it’s about you.

Here are a few links that I have read over the past few weeks.  It’s like eating fish…  Eat the meat and spit out the bones.  Use what you can and set the rest aside for later… or just throw it out.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/exodus-international-rejects-reparative-therapy-for-gays-77413/

http://www.danoah.com/2011/11/im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html

http://www.danoah.com/2012/04/a-teens-brave-response-to-im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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