I haven’t considered myself a Christian in over 20 years.
I was raised in a very conservative, Evangelical family. Let me elaborate on that. My father was raised in a Mennonite home, although he left the Mennonite church when he turned 18. His grandfather was a Mennonite pastor. My mom was also raised in a very conservative, well-known family. Her grandfather was a pastor in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (which later became known as the Missionary Church).
We went to church 3 times a week (Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night), we were not allowed to listen to secular music, not allowed to watch movies, not allowed to dance and certainly not allowed to drink alcohol. We weren’t even allowed to say “geez” or “gosh”, or anything like that as it was just slang for “Jesus or God” and therefore was swearing. We went to church camp for 2 weeks every summer, participated in Quiz teams (a team of 4 or 5 that are “quizzed” on Bible verses), went to youth group events and were baptized.
We were taught that we were sinners and would only be saved by the Grace of God. However, if you didn’t obey God, there would be consequences. Bad things happen because its God’s will and he’s either trying to teach you something or it’s punishment for your sins. If you’ve never actually read the entire Bible, I suggest you do it… it will be very eye-opening.
I won’t go into the hypocrisy I saw in my own home, but it will suffice to say that looking back as an adult, I find it hard to see a God in that house.
I was probably in 5th or 6th grade when I really started to notice the hypocrisy of Christians. The worst ones were pastor’s kids. They were mean, un-accepting and entitled. I cannot tell you how many times I was picked on or bullied by pastor’s kids because I was ugly, or I looked like a boy, or I wasn’t wearing name brand clothes.
When I graduated from high school, I went off to college, attending the denomination’s college (one coincidentally my family helped found and has several buildings on campus named after family members) as expected. Here, I witnessed even more hypocrisy and overall exclusion of those who did not fit into the “perfect Christian” mold. There were pastor’s kids having sex, there was alcohol and that horrible thing called dancing, even though school rules prohibited all of that. In fact, we weren’t allowed to have the opposite sex in our dorms after a certain hour of night.
It wasn’t until I graduated and started working at the district office for our denomination that I truly witnessed the extent of the hypocrisy. It’s something I’ve never written about (I’ve spoken of it several times) because I guess I cared what everyone would think. Now, I have zero qualms about it. It was during this short work period that the district superintendent found out (via another staff member who apparently was reading my AOL history) that I was gay (at least I was only left to assume that since I was never really given an explanation). I was immediately fired, and the reason I was given was that they had discovered I was “in to” things that were not acceptable (he couldn’t even bring himself to actually SAY the words). What happened following that, I can only guess at, but my guess is he realized he would have to do damage control since a large portion of the district pastors were family members (uncles, cousins, brother, etc.) and he proceeded to send out a letter to only those he thought were NOT related to me. Unfortunately for him, he miscalculated the reach of those who had great respect and affection for my grandparents and one of those pastor’s brought it to my mom’s attention. I never actually saw the letter, but we were told that it basically said that I “was no longer with the district office and that I had things in my life that went against the church.”
This was the beginning of the end of my association with any organized religion. It wasn’t so much that they knew I was gay, it was the way it had been handled, and by a district superintendent no less. He could have simply sent out a letter to all pastor’s in the district informing them that I was no longer working there. He did not need to include any “shaming” language and the fact that he purposefully excluded any pastor he thought was related to me, only proves his malice intent in sending it. He never spoke another word to me, even though we attended the same church. Shortly after this, I stopped attending church and I have never returned, nor will I. That was 1996.
Looking back, that was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me out of that sheltered bubble where I had only been taught things that supported their ideology. I got out into the real world, discovered that there is diversity and diversity is good. There are scientific studies and those are good! There are different religions and that’s okay, we live in a country that guarantees us the right to practice whatever religion we choose (or none at all).
There have been continued events throughout the years of my experiences with so-called Christians that have only furthered my belief that it’s an antiquated belief system that is fueled by fear (fear of God, fear of death, fear of sin, fear of things that are different, etc.) instead of by joy and life. Who wants to practice a religion where you worship a God who killed everyone on earth by drowning them, simply because they didn’t do what he wanted (to rid the earth of evil), yet God created evil… and evil still exists so what was the point of drowning everyone? Why would you worship a God who supposedly has the ability to cure cancer, end world hunger and stop wars, yet chooses not to… and his lack of doing so is blamed on human beings because we aren’t doing what he wants us to and those things exist in the world because there is evil (don’t forget that scripture says GOD created evil). That doesn’t sound like the kind of God I want to follow.
Over the years, I’ve continued to read, learn, investigate and question. I’ve read about sciences (like archaeology, geology, etc.) that are dispelling a lot of the stories told in the Bible. I’ve read stories (and other information) from the Bible that were actually used by other earlier civilizations in that area (such as the Mesopotamia) that appear to be what some bits of the Bible were formed from – just copied from older writings and changed to suit their needs. I began to understand why the conservative Christian community dislikes science so much and try to dissuade anyone from believing in its findings.
As a gay child, in a conservative family, I have found it overwhelmingly sad to reconcile the things I was taught with the things I have experienced. My family tells me they love me (and I’m sure to some extent they do). However, here is where I have a hang up with out relationship. As a parent, I love my child unconditionally. He is who he is, perfectly Xavier. He is how he was meant to be. Is he 100% how I imagined him to be? No, and I’m certain as he gets older, my preconceived notions and expectations about him may fall short. I’ll still love him and accept him for who he is because it’s my own expectations that I’ve placed on him and it’s unfair of me to hold him to them. The sticking point with my family is that I (gay me) am “tolerated”, I am not “accepted”. Tolerating someone is entirely different from accepting someone. I am tolerated in the hopes that some day I will decide to not be gay anymore, as if I can magically wave a wand and change the way I am. Accepting is to celebrate who I am, not shame me. Not tell me “I have chosen to live this way” as if to say anything bad that comes my way from the Trump administration is because I deserve it.
Here is how I have “chosen” to live my life and it’s in vast contrast to how I was raised. I choose to live a life of joy, not fear. I chose to adopt my son out of foster care because I am pro-life. I believe my son is worth every single second of effort that it will take to help him succeed, because the reward of watching him do so far exceeds anything else. I choose to approach life with an open-mind. I don’t know everything, but I can learn from others who are not like me and therefore extend my knowledge far beyond what I alone could experience. I choose to see beyond someone’s skin color, their clothing, their accent, their customs, their religion and see that they are just a human being like me, no better and no worse. I choose to accept and celebrate people’s differences instead of shaming them and trying to “save” them. I choose all those things and more…. and I just happen to be gay.
These are some of the reasons I have not considered myself a Christian in 20+ years. I can no longer accept the ideology that is preached and even more so in today’s climate where conservatives have supported the Trump administration and continue to do so (or are just turning a blind eye to what’s happening).
A large portion of my family immigrated to this country due to religious persecution (they were being imprisoned, exiled or worse). THAT is persecution. Christians in this country seem to think they are being persecuted because they haven’t been allowed to discriminate against others who do not share the same beliefs. That is not persecution, that’s called equality and civil rights. No one is telling you that you can’t worship the way you want, no one is telling you that you have to practice Buddhism. No one is telling you that you have to believe that being gay is not a sin. Those are your rights guaranteed by Freedom of Religion. Those rights do not state that you have the right deny another citizens rights, simply because they do not share your beliefs. If baking a cake for a gay wedding is going to trash your relationship with your God, you’ve got bigger issues. It’s called hypocrisy. Making a cake for a gay couple isn’t contributing to their gayness, just like not making one for them isn’t going to make them straight. A cake has nothing to do with someone’s sexuality any more than it has to do with let’s say… being an alcoholic, or an adulterer… yet I don’t see any establishments denying service to alcoholics based on their religious beliefs that alcohol is the devil and therefore you cannot support them in their sin. Same thing goes for an adulterer… providing photography services for them at their child’s graduation party doesn’t aid them in sleeping with their neighbor, so why would you deny them service? The Bible says that no sin is greater than another… yet it seems that the Christian conservatives have taken it upon themselves to deem the “sin” of homosexuality public enemy #1 and therefore those people should be denied rights. Otherwise, I’d expect them to be filing suit to deny adulterer’s the right to re-marry, the right to adopt kids, etc. I’d expect to see them working to deny alcoholics the right to buy alcohol or enter any establishment that sells alcohol. Last time I checked, I don’t recall any of those things occurring for any other “sinners”.
The final nail in the coffin has been this election. Just the simple fact that so many conservative Christians support(ed) Trump and continue to support him is absolutely reprehensible. It has to be the greatest feat of hypocrisy ever witnessed. The fact that you can turn a blind eye to a man who has been married 3 times, admitted to sexually assaulting women, has been sued more times than any of us can count because of “shady” business deals in which he never pays his suppliers (sometimes resulting in the supplier going bankrupt), has a LONG history of derogatory comments about women in general, lies so much that even he, probably doesn’t know what the truth actually is anymore and you wash it all away by the excuse of “he’s surrounded himself with good people”. .. and yet you still call yourself a “Christian” is absolutely disgusting. All of that just serves to further my belief that the best thing that ever happened to me, was walking away from the Christian church.
I’ll bid you adieu and leave you to worry about what goes on in my bedroom. I’ll even through in an appetizer that my DNA carries more races than just Caucasian.
In the meantime, I’ll be living my life to the best of my ability… and without fear.