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.