Thursday, April 6, 2006

Losing My Religion...

Okay, so I must be honest about a few things... I used to be one of those damn conservatives...

[Gasp!!! No!!!! Goodness gracious!!! The horror!!!]

Please, please calm down everyone. Granted, I finally dumped it after dropping out of Appalachian Bible College in 1997, when I realized that there was no way, after 16, 17 years, that God wasn't suddenly going to make me un-gay. But I think I gave him a fair shot. I mean, hello? How many times do you have to berate yourself, cry yourself to sleep at night because you hate who you are, lie to everyone, and consider suicide before you come to terms?

I was sitting in my apartment (okay, okay, trailer, if you must know) that I was renting in West Virginia at the time. My sophomore year had just ended. I pretty much had broken off my third quasi-engagement (I was trying really really hard to not be gay). It was dark, I had just gotten off work at Walden's at the local mall. The stars were gorgeous, and (as a side note, I have to say that even though West Virginia is beautiful, there's always a mountain in the way, no matter where you're going or what you want to do, there's a mountain), staring at the stars on the gorgeous fall evening, I realized the thing that made me evil, the thing that made me hate myself to no end, wasn't going away.

I was raised by really conservative parent's. Myself and my four siblings went to a private school that taught God created the earth, he loves everyone, oh, and here's a story about how he smote the Philistines because they were squatting on the Israelites supposed land. But he loves you, don't worry. He killed his kid so that, if you give him enough props, he'll save you from eternal fire and brimstone. Of course, don't give him props, hell it is for you. But, oh yeah, he loves you. He also let's people kill others in his name, maim, torture, lie, extort, rape--all in his name. He loves you, though, so don't take any of it the wrong way.

Within all this evilness, I had what I realize now was my first crush. His name was Ryan. He never made fun of me, always asked how I was. Didn't make fun of the way I ran (like certain brothers who shall remain nameless), didn't make fun of how I couldn't hit a baseball to save my life (like certain gym teachers who shall remain nameless), didn't mind that I liked to draw instead of run on the playground. He even asked me to draw him a picture once, and I did so--very willingly.

Once we each in turn hit seventh grade, my parents sent us to public school, as private school is really expensive. I never saw Ryan again, and public school was a complete culture shock for me. I had never heard of MTV, or anything remotely like it. Rock music, as I'd always been taught, was from the devil. Oh, and so was alcohol and dancing. I became shy, overweight, and generally introspective. I had crushes on boys come and go, but I always made sure to ask a girl out, just so I could say I had one. I didn't even have the balls to kiss a girl until tenth grade, and that was only because I thought people were talking. Of course, I realize now, everyone who didn't fit in back then was called fag and dyke. They didn't know my secret, the secret I wouldn't even admit to myself. But I was afraid they did, and tried my best to hide it.

I had an uncle named Tim who was gay. He was kicked out of the family by my great-grandfather. I only ever met him once, I think when I was about 10, maybe 11. He was dying of AIDS, and that was back when not to many people knew what it was. I remember my grandmother making him eat on paper plates, drink out of paper cups, and then throw away his own garbage. She didn't want the "gay disease." That made up my mind there that I wasn't going to be "gay." I started praying for my evil sin to go away.

I joined the military right out of high school, which shocked the hell out of my father. I was the only boy he had that didn't like sports, was very anti-violence, never rough-housed with my brothers, but rather, enjoyed redesigning the layout of my sister's Barbie house, building homes with my lego's, and such. (I'm still surprised that they didn't know before I did.)

And of course, this move was to reassert my manliness (the joining of the military), that I wasn't what all the boys in the locker room talked about, a "fag." And of course, the land of "don't ask, don't tell" is where I had my first real homosexual experience. Ironic, isn't it? His name was ... well, I won't out him, just in case. Anyway, he was from Idaho, a real farmer's boy, and the body of Zeus. I had lost a good share of my baby fat and water weight, and wasn't looking to shabby, if I do say so myself. See, exercise is good for something. :D

I dove into church after that, head first, convinced that maybe I hadn't really gotten "saved" the first two hundred times I had asked Jesus to "come into my heart." I knew it was my evil nature that had made it happen, that it was my "inherent sin nature" that caused me to sin so badly. I signed up for Bible college. I would become a pastor.

Of course, my parents were thrilled. As were their parent's. I was following in the footsteps of both my grandfather's, one a Baptist preacher, and the other a deacon for a Protestant church. Two years of studying the "word of god." You learn a lot about the Christian mind set, let me tell you. Of course, I already had the mind set. I had been raised on it. Even when in public school, it was church twice on Sundays, Wednesday's, and youth group stuff any time it could be fit in.

I should have known bible college wasn't a good idea during orientation. Not only because of "Jason," the hot guy on the soccer team from the meet-and-greet crew. But when the Dean of Men got up and laid out the rules for dorm living. The one that really got my goat was "no beards." It may seem like an innocuous little rule, considering there was "no pre-approved CDs," no talking to girls between certain hours and in certain locations, no pre-approved off-campus destinations, no movie theaters, no playing cards, no dancing, no radios, no pets, no anything pretty much. But "no beards" got me. I raised my hand.

The dean looked up, all smiles, and said, "Yes?"
"Why no beards?"
"Some people just don't look good in beards."
(And this part was totally out of character for my shy, inward, self-loathing, self-esteem self, but basic training had done a lot for me.) I said, "Yeah, and some people don't look good in pink shirts. Should there be a rule against wearing pink?"
There was silence. A clearing of the throat. None of the other guys seemed to now want to be associated with me, as chairs shuffled and people leaned back at my table.
"Well, no, that's doesn't seem necessary." And he moved on.

But I was peeved. But I swallowed my anger, moved on. I spent the next two years sneaking in movies, sneaking out of the dorm to try to figure out what my life was and was going to be.

I called Rachel and broke up with her that summer of '97. She didn't handle it well. But I knew nothing would be changing about myself at that point. I called my parent's and told them I needed to move home. They were down the next weekend. I never told my landlord I was leaving, but I'm sure by now he's figured it out. (This was in 1997, so I really do hope he has figured it out by now; of course, this was in West Virginia... No offense, Tammy :D)

I didn't do so hot after that for a while. I transferred my job to the Walden's up that way. I was lonely. I was too afraid to go out anywhere as I might run into someone I know. I had a few one-night stands (and thank my lucky stars I didn't get anything--I was so young and stupid!) I moved out of mom and dad's house 3 months after moving home. Unfortunately, I could not afford my own place in the suburbs of Philly--standard of living or something. So a church friend and my older brother moved in as well, and we all pretty much kept to ourselves.

The first person I came out to was my sister Sylvia. She was having a rotten time of it. She had just given up her child for adoption; she was working part-time at the video store; and she was being ostracized by the church for not only being a teen pregnancy, but then giving up Sam and not "dealing with her sin." It was awful how mean they were to her. The pastor made her get up in front of the church and apologize. APOLOGIZE!!!!!! for being a bad witness of Christ. Assholes.

Anyhow within the comfort and tranquility of a booth at Michaels Diner, she was lamenting about my perfect life, and so I opened up to her (I thought confidentially). When I went home that night to my apartment in Allentown, I was feeling pretty good that, even though Sylvia had been shocked and awed by the awfulness of my "sin" compared to hers, I felt good knowing I had alleviated her sense of aloneness in the world.

I get a call that night, like 3 a.m. or something. It's my stupid brother Mike.

Mike: Hey, Jay, what's happening! (He sounds slightly drunk)
Me: Dude, it's three in the morning...
Mike: How come we never talk?
Me: What? (I try to rub the sleep from my eyes. When Mike gets drunk, he also gets long-winded)
Mike: How come you never talk to me about ... stuff?
Me: Mike, I have no idea--
Mike: You know, about stuff?!?!
(Fuck! No-no-no-no-no-no, goddamn Sylvia!!! I am wide-awake now, but just want to get off the phone)
Me: Listen, Mike--
Mike: No, it's all cool! I just want to know why we don't talk?
Me: Listen, it's 3 in the morning, and I have to be at work at eight, okay? So we'll talk later...
Mike: We'll talk later?
Me: Later! Good night!
Gradually (and by gradually, think 2 days), everyone but my dad knew. And that's only because my mom told me not to tell him. She would do so when she thought he could handle it.

I, of course, threw myself into dancing, drinking, and socializing, convinced I would never hear from anyone in my family again. I knew the horror stories, both from my own families experience and from others.

But this post is getting really, really long, so I'll save that story for another time.

4 comments:

Kelly said...

Powerful stuff. Very interesting.

WarAxe said...

That was a good read. I can't say I can relate, but I can subtly imagine.

I don't think you had very good Christian examples or teaching in your life, though. Just my snapshot opinion from a single post. Your slaying of the Philistines was amusing :-) but just a wee bit out of context. Oh I know... it wasn't the point.

I don't agree with your gay-ness, but God doesn't "hate fags"... nor should anyone else. Lose the religion... that's fine by me... by hopefully FAITH will come 'round sooner or later. :-)

exbeliever said...

Jason,

I have a friend who went through the exact same things. He graduated from The Master's College (a very conservative Christian college), all the while hoping god would "make him straight."

He still seems to have a problem accepting himself fully. He and his partner have been together for about 12 years, but he can't get over the fact that he is somehow sinning.

On his blog, I posted the following comment [his name is Ty, his partner's name is Dennis]:

----
You wrote: "As it is, I have tended to live in a very awkward and untenable spot, acknowledging the 'biblical' position on homosexuality, yet continuing in my relationship because it makes my life better. It just does. I have made no pretense of saying it's the perfect or ideal situation, but it gives me stability and helps me focus on other matters, among which is how to be a better Christian."

I don't understand how you say that your situation is not "ideal." For whatever reason, it seems that you have determined that loving a person of your own sex is sinful.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked some questions that I really wish you would answer.

I asked:

Do you think your relationship to Dennis is "sinful"?

If so, why?

What about your relationship is sinful?

Is it sinful when you and Dennis watch a movie together?

Have dinner?

Talk about your day?

Say "I love you"?

Go out with friends?

Encourage each other?

Listen to music together?

Go to bookstores?

Fuck?

What exactly is "sinful" about what you do with Dennis?

Do you think any "god" worthy of that name would give a flying royal fuck who you love?

You say that there is a "biblical position" on this issue. Which of these does the Bible condemn? Why does the Bible condemn it?

Would you say there was a "biblical position" on the eating of consecrated bread in the Bible? Sure there was. It was not allowed. Yet, Jesus said that the situation determined whether or not the act was really sinful, because people were more important than rules (see Mark 2).

All this fundamentalist Christianity seems to have done some kind of mind-fuck on you. I don't get you.
-----

He wrote a brief response that I, in turn, responded to.

-----
You wrote: "But it's pretty messed up to have to ask, Which part of my relationship is sinful? What kind of question is that?"

A rhetorical one.

Think about how laughable it is that something like your relationship is sinful, but something like the fundamentalist ideal (i.e. submissive wife) is not sinful.

My questions are meant to demonstrate how ridiculous that claim is.

Let me break it down:

1) It's not sinful to care deeply about someone of the same sex. Christian heterosexuals do this. The sin can't be that you care deeply for Dennis; that you care what happens to him in his life; that you are glad when good things happen to him; that you are sad when he is sad. These are all feelings that all of us have for other people we care deeply about.

2) It's not sinful to enjoy someone's company when they are your same sex. Christian heterosexuals do this. Almost everyone has someone of the same sex that they like to spend time with.

3) Attraction is neither sinful nor praiseworthy; it just is. Attraction is uncontrollable; someone cannot force themselves to be not-attracted to someone nor can they force themselves to be attracted to someone. Ask any Christian heterosexual about an actor or actress that they find physically attractive. They will all have an answer. Married Christian men (if they have a brain and at least one working testicle) will tell you that Angelina Jolie is fucking hot. Married Christian women will tell you that Johnny Depp is beautiful. No Christian will say that attraction is sinful per se

So far, then, it is not sinful to care deeply for someone of the same sex, it is not sinful to enjoy spending time with someone of the same sex, and attraction per se cannot be controlled and is, therefore, not sinful; it just is.

What percentage of your relationship with Dennis have I just described? Care for, enjoy spending time with, and are attracted to. I would say that is a full 98% of my marriage.

So, what am I missing? Oh yea, sex! After ten years of marriage, I average about twice a month (although we have just started calendaring our intimate moments so that we have sex at least 4 times a month). [Oh, and in case any of you abstinent single (and, therefore, horny) people who read this are shocked by this, I can only say, "Just you wait!" And, also, don't think that you won't masturbate just as much when you are married as you do now. My wife and I are just honest about our masturbation habits, and we laugh about it.]

So, where was I, oh yeah, at least 98% of your relationship is sin free.

But what about that 2%? [I'm going to get graphic, here, so skip ahead if you are squeamish.]

Let me talk about my sex-life first. I have a penis. I can acheive an orgasm when my penis is stimulated for several minutes. Usually, my sexual encounters involve (a) kissing, (b) heavy-petting over and inside the clothes, (c) grinding (i.e. outside of the clothes genital on genital rubbing), (d) oral sex, and (e) vaginal intercourse until orgasm (hopefully, for both of us).

Now, what would male on male sex include? I would guess a-e are all a part of it. Some homosexual male couples may enjoy anal intercourse (but, then again, so do some heterosexual couples, so that can't be sinful.).

So, that's the biology of it all. What about the culture of it? Culturally, sex is the expression of numbers 1-3 above, right? Sex is a way of showing your lover that you care deeply about them, that you enjoy spending time with them, and that you are attracted to them. We have established, though, that 1-3 aren't sinful, so how can expressing these be sinful.

So, what is the part that the Bible deems sinful? Maybe it is the biology. Homosexual couples can't reproduce. But wait, there are some heterosexual couples that can' t reproduce either. Some biblical couples were in this situation. Those relationships aren't sinful, though. So it can't be the inability to reproduce.

What is the Christian god so concerned about? Think of a being who is all-powerful, all-wise, and morally perfect. Do you really think this being would give one goddamn about the biology of two humans having sex for 30 minutes 2-4 times a month? You've got to be kidding me!!! Do you really think a being powerfully, intellectually, and morally superior to any person we've ever met is petty enough to be concerned with so slight a matter? It's fucking absurd to think so.

So, why is it in the Bible? Because it was culturally a big deal. There were no "nations" during this time, there were only big cities that loosely controlled other cities. The more people in your city, the better off you were in the case of war. It was all about reproduction.

Want further proof that the Bible includes it because of the cultural concern of reproduction and power? How about polygamy? A lot of preachers simply say that the Hebrew Bible does not condemn polygamy, but it does not condone it either. Bullshit!

Consider 2 Samuel 12:8, "I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more."

One guess about who said this. That's right, your god said it, according to the Bible. God gave David Saul's wives.

There's your answer. There's why homosexuality is a "sin" in the Bible. Two dudes or two dudettes can't make babies, so their relationship can't make a city more powerful. Homosexuality, therefore, is culturally condemned. The Bible is a product of its culture, so it jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation.

The situation, however, has changed, my friend. We've got too goddamn many kids in this country anyway. The fucking Mormons and Catholics are reproducing enough for us all. You are actually doing us a favor by fucking someone who can't get pregnant.

Let's review:

1) Caring deeply about someone of the same sex is not sinful.

2) Enjoying the company of someone of the same sex is not sinful.

3) Attraction is uncontrollable and therefore, not sinful.

4) No being worthy of the name "god" could possibly be petty enough to care what your genitals rub against for 1-2 hours a month.

5) Homosexuality is only a sin in the Bible because the assholes who wrote it wanted to build a strong city that could defend itself in war.

It's ri-goddamn-diculous to continue cowering in a corner feeling guilty about your relationship.

Tyson, you're a damn fine human being. You're trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, and brave (holy shit did those Boy Scouts brainwash the fuck out of me!). I'm proud to call you my friend, and I wish this world contained more of you than it does.

Now, stop letting these assholes and that piece-of-shit book of mythology mind-fuck you so much. If those fucking Christians don't value your participation in their ever-increasingly irrelevant religion, then come join us apostate atheists. We would be honored to have a person of your character in our club.
----

Sorry for taking up so much space with my comment, but I have a lot of friends in the exact position you describe.

Jason Hughes said...

waraxe: True, I did not have many good examples, but there were a few in my life that stand as true examples of what I think, in my mind, what a christian should be if they want to claim that mantle. I have just decided, though, that that mantle i not for me, at least not at this time in my spiritual life... but thank you for your comments!

exbeliever: Holy crap! And I thought I could be long-winded! :D

Those are some great questions you posed to your friend, and i hope he is eventually able to come to terms. It didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would, but I had a great support system in place, ready to use for any crisis in my life...

Of course, I will have to desect your logic to see if I agree with it 100%, but that's just my nature... :D

Kelly: Thanks! It's the product of three months of "should I post this? shouldn't I post this?" especially since I know a lot of my family reads this blog now.

Thank you all for your comments!