Number Two: The Three “H’s”: “Holiness”
Let’s be honest, my first blog on here stunk on ice. I should have done it like I planned to: exactly how I was feeling it. Last blog was written for the masses, something I cannot and should not try to do. This will reach those it needs to, hopefully. The threat of rejection should NEVER color one’s opinion, especially when said opinion is on such a public forum. Either keep it real or keep it to yourself. I choose the former. Besides, I don’t do all that copy/paste sh*t so well, anyhow. So I’ll get right to it…
Along with Islam, homosexuality is apparently the ultimate plague on decent society. At least, if you go by what you hear on Christian radio. Preachers have made a VERY good living, sold hundreds of millions of DVDs, and packed arenas and convention centers with people wanting to hear them extol the evils of homosexuality.The scary part about it is that the very agenda so many of these preachers are railing against… is one they are seemingly participating in. The number of prominent “clergymen” being named and in fact caught in the act is rising. A couple of months back, a fellow church member and I were discussing one such man. The man in question pastors a megachurch in Atlanta, and is being accused by several young men of sexual activities with them while he preaches against homosexuality. While we agreed the accusations were probably motivated by money, the church member felt the allegations could not possibly be true. I felt they could be, and had a damned good reason for beleiving it.
When I first moved to Chattanooga in 2004, I never could have guessed how complicated things would become. I had left my native South Pittsburg, which I doubt has 10,000 people, for the “big city”, one with 170,000. Things were going about as well as could be expected: I was working, had my own “apartment”, and had a new “church home”. I had left the very strict Church of Christ prior to moving after being in it the bulk of my life. The Church of Christ is so conservative, they condemn alcohol and tobacco use. They don’t use musical instruments in the worship service, and refuse to allow other denominational fellowship. It also believes that only it’s the only religious body going to heaven. That statement gives it the reputation of a cult, but I don’t think it is. The C of C I went to was doing good to have 10 members in attendance on Sunday morning, and the service was cut and dry. I joined a Presbyterian outfit just before I moved. I had been attending for about six months prior to that. I got turned onto it though an employee assistance program. One of the representatives there recommended the church to me. (That wasn’t the only thing they mentioned to me; I’ll get to that in just a moment). Nonetheless, I did indeed go to the church. The worship service featured a “praise team”, which I had never heard of, leading the masses in an extravagant song ensemble. And the masses of at least 200 at the 8:30 service were a far cry from what I was used to. And there were a LOT of interracial marriages. But the people were so nice. I got comfortable. It was radical to me and consoling at the same time. But all those mixed couples (which included the pastor himself), the vivid song selection, the pomp and circumstance,and the trappings of middle-class White people was exciting.
For a while.
It took a few years, but inevitably the honeymoon was over. I got to see how much like everybody else (and in some cases, worse) some middle- class White people are. I got to see how mean some of their kids can be. Add that to the fact that they’re oftentimes conflicted about their ethnic identity, and it gets TWICE as bad. And the political correctness and sophistry of the worship service began to irritate me. In addition, I had moved into a shared house with several other people, knowing I like my space. There were weekly beer bashes with some 40 possible people there at one time, most of whom were fellow church members. Then there was the confrontation with the worker at the “ex-gay” ministry I was attending.
Don’t act like you didn’t know.
The guy at the EAP not only recommended the church, but he also recommended a ministry that allegedly helps steer people out of the homosexual lifestyle. The opportunity to put the “faggot” chants to rest, the chance to have a family, and the urge to be “normal” was too good to pass up. I went to several meetings, and saw for the first time other guys who were tormented by their sexuality. They, like me, were trying to fight what we all thought was a dead end. We were in the trenches together, and became like a band of brothers. Several of the guys were members of the church I went to. As expected, there were unconventional aspects to the ministry: A lot of tears of frustration, a lot of Bible, and testimonials from those who had apparently stopped being homosexuals. The key to redemption, we were summarily told, was fleeing temptation, prayer, and faith. This meant radical changes in our lives. It meant avoiding public venues where a lot of skin would be revealed, like the beach or parks. It meant cancelling certain gym memberships, in particular the YMCA clubs with the steam rooms, a known hotbed for anonymous gay sex. Hell, some of the men were compelled to take their damned TV’s out of their houses. I did all that except for the TV part. At one point, I went six months without intimacy of any kind. I went through all this abnormal activity for a chance at normalcy. I kept telling myself, “If I only beleive enough, I’ll get my happy ending. I won’t have to be like Bruce Banner. I’ll be normal. I’ll be rid of the Hulk at last.”
When I finally “relapsed”, I felt guilty, and told a roommate. He went on to tell me he’d pray for me and proceeded to head to a beer bash. To drown my sorrows, I let my guilt go and went to a nearby gay bar. As I was walking out with my new bff, I see one of the staff of the ministry, dancing with someone of their own gender. Angry at my own shortcomings, and at seeing people in general as the flawed characters they are, I questioned the worker about their presence. It got heated. Confrontations are always a two-edged sword, and the instigator is usually the first to get cut. It was a battle I should have never commenced. Under most circumstances, pulling somebody aside for that would be absolutely right. But the circumstances in this case were hardly that. Well, we met again shortly afterward, in an attempt to “clear the air”. The worker told me in effect that God understood their situation, and whatever they did when they were not working at that ministry was their business. I felt like that was a typical, overeducated alibi for what a person knew to be wrong, but left it at that. I actually felt guilt for what I knew was blatant hypocrisy. From that point on we would still run into each other in the bar, and the ministry, and even the church that was funding the ministry. We both were out of both the ministry and the church by at least 2007.
Around the last of 2009, I saw that same worker while I was driving a cab. The worker and some friends had called the company I worked for to get a ride. It was awkward as hell at first, but finally the “ex-gay” leader said something that sticks with me even now:
“I just decided to be what I am, and quit living a lie.”
Out of respect for that person, I’ll not even give their gender. I refuse to make them a target for anything else. The respect I have for this person is due to the fact of what they went through, and where they were the second time around. This worker had actually appeared on a nationally released DVD of testimonials of people who had allegedly left the homosexual lifestyle, spoken at conferences seen by audiences all over the world, and had maybe even led others away from being gay. They could have kept up appearances, and maybe made some good-ass money. Instead, they walked away, rather than go on living a lie.
Living a lie. Both of us were doing that.
The church member I had the discussion with over the controversial pastor had no idea of my history. But I did. It’s one of the reasons I had such a firm stance against the pastor. It was also proof to me presonally, that the hit dog howls loudest. But I wanted to look like just plain old Bruce Banner, and let out a brutish, Hulk-like reaction. I wanted to be like everybody else. The sad part is, I may have well succeeded.
From the first time I got sent to Sunday school when I was three years old until now, religion has been somewhere in my life. Inbetween constantly moving, rebelling against my parents and the torment of my peers for my mannerisms, religion was the freedom from all the things that hurt me. I always thought of it as overkill, but it gave me comfort and a social outlet. But as time went on, you’re supposed to have some sort of “spiritual growth”.There are many people who I know have nothing but the best in mind for other people as they serve in the ministry. I could give you a list a mile wide. They beleive, after years in the church, what they do. The problem is I don’t. And unlike a lot of people, I can admit it. It really doesn’t take much to be what most people call a “Christian”. All you really have to do is show up in church and be able to tell how Jesus Christ has made your life better.That’s what’s called your “testimony”. So long as you do that, you can pretty much do what you want. You can drink till you drop, have a bastard child with the guy you’re “shacking up” with (aka the fiancee you’re living with), and even do drugs. But you CAN’T be a homosexual. That’s the only point at which the average “Christian” draws the line. And that’s only because the average “Christian” knows there are so few openly gay people around them at any given time. It’s kind of like realtors redlining housing areas. And where do they say the right, indeed, obligation to do this is? Why, the Bible, of course.
When people use is it as a weapon constantly against others they don’t like, you begin to see what it is, as it is. The statement is often made that if man makes it, it will inevitably be flawed. Oh, I know, everybody says, “The Bible is inspired by God”. There are some 150 versions of the Bible available today. Are every one of them right? It depends on who you ask. Every one of them is created by a person or group for the sake of an agenda. All have varying numbers of verses, since some are added, deleted, or combined. They allow a person or group of people dominion over their congregations. And not a single congregation follows their particular Bible accurately. In short, I think the creation of the Bible is the greatest proof of mankind’s need to bring God down to his level.
I believe that there is a God. No doubt about it. All the stuff on this planet couldn’t have possibly got here on its own. I believe He is the source of all there is. We owe Him our very existence, but I don’t see how I, as a mere human, could possibly show gratitude for that. I’m not so sure He, being absolutely everything, needs it. Humans have needs, but God does not. The Bible depicts the almighty Creator as a very powerful force, albeit with very human characteristics. It’s almost insulting to believe that a super powered human could create all things.
Think about this: Why would an omnipotent God create a Son, just to kill Him for humanity’s sake? On top of that, the only time mankind will know if his death really did mean anything is after we die. God creates something, and has it killed so others can be happier after they’re dead, too? A Creator who creates a cycle of death? What’s the point?
Even more pointless is the concept of God creating his own worse enemy. Now, pastors have made many a living setting up straw bosses they can trample over and declare victory against through the years, most notably homosexuality, Islam, and Communism. They and their congregations love to “cowboy up on the bad guys”, like John Wayne used to do. But for God to create the Devil? How and why would an omnipotent Creator make an Adversary to fight? He’s got nothing to gain, or lose,by winning.
Which brings me back to how people follow the Bible, or better yet, DON’T follow it. As I mentioned earlier, God is all powerful. We could never really bring him anything other than what He gave us. And being all-knowing, I’m 100% sure He knows who’s being exalted when a paid music director lead a praise team who excites the crowd. Don’t you think God knows the difference between a congregational worship and a paying audience? And isn’t it kind of arrogant to of man decide for himself that the best way to exalt God is through things he likes, such as mime shows, dance troupes, or having those big steroid freaks “pray up” the power to run through a brick wall unscathed?
Sure, I could do like a lot of people, and throw out the television, and put my shoes that took me to places to sin on the altar. (I know, WE decide where the shoes go, but hey, that’s religion.) I could fill my days with Bible verses. I could avoid being around men with their shirts off. And I could sway my hands to contemporary “jitterbug Jesus” songs or dance to urban Gospel and say “JESUS” and “GLORY” every other word. And at the end of the day, what proof do I have that God approves, or even notices, all my big sacrifices? It’s not like he needs them. And it kills me to see how all these people quote all these soothing Bible verses on Facebook, then go hook up with anything on two feet or get drunk or cuss somebody out. They obviously see the Bible as I do; they just aren’t to the point of admitting it. That’s why I bash the holidays like Easter and Christmas. The average “Bible-beleiver” has no clue that those days were part of the Catholic Church’s attempt to satisfy both the Christians and pagan followers at the same time. And don’t care because their participation shows how spiritual they are…to the other people who are perpetrating, too. On a side note, one of the roommates I had in the shared house was also struggling with his sexuality. He’s one of those “Madea/church lady” types, praying and singing his way through his “evil thoughts”. When he crept in my room one day and found one of my adult DVD’s [(and I was VERY good at hiding those kinds of things), he accused of me of “causing me to stumble”. I love the boy dearly, but it’s SO uncalled for at times.
This is not an angry, Tuscon-shooter style setup. This is not an attempt to get attention. Really, I’m posting how I feel in a blog because I know that many people won’t read it, which means that many will not be offended. And I’m sorry for the ones I DO offend. But if I owe you nothing else I owe you honesty. And to be honest, homosexuality is not the Hulk I want and need to be free of. RELIGION is. The falsehood I, knowing my sexuality, will have to keep up, is the Hulk. The sin, repent, repeat as necessary cycle that comes with it, that’s the gamma powered monster that won’t leave me alone. And above all else, me beleiving God is the author of a cycle of death, that God has to create a punching bag to knock around for eternity to boost his own ego, or that he needs us, his creation, to entertain him like a spectator at a concert… I’m letting that Hulk fade away. Bruce Banner may not get the green, half-ton WMD off his back, but I’ll damned sure get him off mine. I feel the best thing to do is simply appreciate God as all there is. That’s a lot more respectful than living a lie.