I’m Not Crying On Sundays

cross

 

I saw two words. “God” and “Gay.”  Separate but together. A porthole opened allowing a whole new understanding of faith for me.

Something once complicated suddenly became clear.  Tangled threads of confusion separated, they hung untied and free.   I knew I could not dismiss these two words.  I knew I had to write.

 

I sincerely hope I can capture this on paper, that it comes out the way I intend. It’s a touchy subject and I have never addressed it so directly and honestly.

I stumbled across the words “Gay” and “God” next to each other. That was it. Simple.  Nothing mattered except the contemplating in my intrigued mind and the sense to follow it, discerning this was my opportunity to finally write about my opinions and experiences.

 

This subject is in a different league than the other experiences I write about.  The stories of domestic abuse, drugs, abandonment, and trauma are solely mine.  They are part of me.  No one else can claim them.  Those are a different kind of expression.  This feels different. I am choosing each word with careful thought.  Yes, I will share my own story.  But, although I do not chose to believe in God anymore, I still sense I ought to be careful in how I portray my experience.  I will not disclose names, because I will not disrespect those who were a part of my life for several years.  I may be a gay, sarcastic atheist, but I do not hate.

 

Small in structure, yet huge in meaning.  Why did those two words call out to me?  They are often used in a negative context together, gays minding their own business being attacked by Christians who are not.    Maybe they stood out to me because I have often wondered if God was a closet gay.  After all, he wouldn’t sleep with Mary.  He used a magic wand instead.  That’s bordering gay too.

 

Unlike most people , who at some point in their life,  have claimed a religious congregation to define their life, flavor not being important… I held an opinion before blindly stumbling upon a Christian lifestyle, and I have an even stronger opinion after mindfully walking away.

 

A subject fascinating and simple, yet heavy and complicated.  I will take a leap of faith (an unintended pun) in writing this story. I feel confidently qualified as a once brainwashed Christian who now, objectively, can see how it happened.

 

Sitting in church week after week, I  listened to a pastor agonize over how the country was going down the toilet morally because his congregation’s pleading and prayers had not yet magically convinced lawmakers to take a stand on certain pressing issues. We always prayed for God to be on our side when politics were concerned.  This irritated me because politics and prayer shouldn’t play in the sandbox together.  Had not that been decided long ago?   How about Roe V. Wade,  a landmark decision in favor of women rights regarding abortion.   Sitting, listening to a sermon on a typical Sunday, out of the blue I hear a plea to God for a reversal of Roe V. Wade one day.  Are you kidding me?  It’s been 30 years. My jaw dropped so low I had to look around to see if anyone saw my reaction. I was hoping someone in that room shared my sentiment of shock.  I felt like the only human in that room who knew what respect for a woman’s body even meant.  Everyone else’s eyes were glazed over, as they always were.  And then I remembered with great sadness and disgust that I sat surrounded by followers of an alliance formed by men and led by men.  I knew I was pro choice.  I always had been and I had no intention of changing that.  Why was I sitting there listening to such craziness.  You tell me, Pastor, what does it feel like to have a coat hanger shoved up through your cervix because there is no such thing as an abortion clinic anymore?   Go ahead and try to pray away Roe V. Wade.  It’ll never happen.  Ever.  Do you want to see complete hysteria and the stoning of men?  Well alright then.  And, no, I don’t regret my abortion by the way.  Excuse me a moment while I pray in gratitude for the sterile instruments, the competent and gentle doctor, the sedatives, the nurse who held my hand,  and the birth control pills.  Amen.

 

I am a recovered Christian.  A born again liberal who once again assembles her own thoughts without permission.  I am excited to say, I am walking freely along a windy and wide road, instead of the straight and narrow path I was instructed to walk before.  I attended church faithfully for 7 years.  It was a small yet powerful church.  I went to a Megachurch for a year much later.  It was powerful as well, but in a different way.  Both were all about Jesus.  Not Mary, not statues, not religion.  But a core foundation based on a relationship with Jesus.  I thought that made sense.  I had never been to church before by choice.  (My husband made the decision that we would live this lifestyle.  I resisted, but went along.)  I didn’t know what to expect.  I had attended a Catholic school.  During Mass, I sat in the back and carved anarchy symbols into my folder.  I could not follow what was happening if I tried.  An old man in a big shiny dress/cloak talking inaudible mumbling in a quiet tone.  What good does that do anybody?   This church was my first experience with real people welcoming me with smiles on their face.  This was a far cry from Wednesday Liturgy.  It felt warm and non-judgemental.   I came as dirty and tainted as Mary coming to Jesus with nothing to offer but the washing of his feet with her hair.  When I looked around, I saw pretty, tan, stylish individuals, either 10 years younger or 10 years older.  I felt so out of place.  When I looked around, I saw cliques. It was like middle school all over again.

 

In this small church, many of the members had been bred there.  Seriously.  Although, they welcomed everyone,  most had been going there for the churches 20 year lifespan.  A majority eventually married each other’s kids and so on and so on.  Every week, it seemed, a blossoming courtship was announced.  Two young adults who had known each other since birth were going to marry, and make more babies who grow up and marry their friend’s kids.

 

The teachings there were advanced and dynamic.  The Pastor didn’t break the scripture down word for word like the pastor at the megachurch.  Rather, he referenced a few scriptures, and then gave a confusing interpretation loaded with metaphors.  We were expected to take notes, and he would call you out if you were just staring into space.  He was a pastor with deep insight and genuine love.  I saw it.  I felt it.   I looked into his eyes as he greeted me or passed me in the hallway, and to my surprise, I never sensed a looked of judgement or indifference.  Just love…as it should be, unlike some of his seasoned members.  Some had grown complacent.  It happens.   He called people out on that too, suggesting we sit somewhere different each week,  talk to someone we have never talked to before.  Despite his efforts, people eventually reverted back to comfort and familiarity.  It happens.  It’s in our nature.

 

There were two other pastors.  One I felt indifferent toward since I didn’t talk to him much.  His wife, though, made me feel comfortable when she sensed my insecurities.   She told me she had a hard time quitting smoking while they were starting the church.  And myself having 2 small children, she made me feel human again by telling me she would almost ‘lose it’ on a daily basis raising 3 boys.  She made herself real to me by showing me her struggles.  That was rare.

 

The other pastor made me nervous.  He was kind, but I  felt he disapproved of us. When we first walked through those doors, we were not married yet and had been living together for over a year.  They wanted us to separate to avoid fornication.  In fact, they did everything short of force us.  They were also aware of my pregnancy which I ended up terminating.  My ex was told by the pastor and an elder that he was leading me down a wrong path, as we had recently left a life of drugs and crime.  I never warmed up to this pastor, even after my husband and I were married.  He had this stern look all the time.  Ironically, he had a daughter there who, while in college, became pregnant.  I can imagine the shame he must have felt.  But she had the baby and returned to the church.  She, of course, married a man who somehow was intertwined in this attempt to keep everyone related by marriage, not to mention in the same neighborhood.   A few cliques in the church actually occupied whole cul de sacs on street blocks.  That blew my mind. Great for childcare though.

 

A respected elder, also a doctor,  sternly approached my husband  when he found out I was pregnant.  He lectured him about not having a job or a place to live.  How irresponsible it was to get me pregnant.  We were supposed to be abstaining.  That’s not easy when you have been together and lived together as long as we had. We weren’t used to following rules or submitting to authority.  The doctor was right though.  We had nothing.  Sick, I visited his office once.  There were Bibles where magazines should have been.  How can you practice medicine and be a Christian as solid as he?  I thought of how awkward people must have felt when they realized they made an appointment with a Doctor whose office is stocked with Bibles.   He was without a doubt  a caring and qualified doctor.  It just doesn’t work though. There must be a point when the limits are pushed and the lines cross.  Just as church and state should be separate.  So should medicine and faith.  Bibles belong in church and at home.  It’s weird.  It makes little sense.  Medicine is based on facts.  Faith, is well, based on nothing one can ever know.   I wouldn’t bet my life on that.  So does he roll the dice?  Are we going to pray or do the procedure?  Both. How about at the same time. Jesus as an assistant?  And if the procedure does not work, well it was God’s will.  I think his job is easier than other doctors.  He has a crutch, an explanation for every outcome.  Good or bad, it’s God’s will.  What bliss.  You don’t have to take responsibility or feel bad about anything.

 

I lived in a constant state of shame.  I knew the doctor didn’t approve of me. None of them did.  He may have actually felt bad for me because my ex told him something traumatic he did to me out of guilt.  He wanted to confess and be cleansed.  That’s great for him. I still felt like shit. But as long as he is forgiven, right?   The Doctor had a daughter, the oldest of 5 kids I believe.  She was innocent and oblivious, just like all who are raised in the church.  She was growing up, around 12 years old.  I had watched her grow up for the last 5 or so years.  She honored her dad and her dad cherished her.  She never questioned anything.  That’s the bliss of being surrounded by this lifestyle from birth.  She had unshakable faith. She knew of nothing else.  I felt envious.  I often felt envy when I observed people who just believed blindly.  This was most of the congregation.  I knew I  did not belong there.  You would think I would, after all,  Jesus said, “Come as you are.”  There were only a handful of us at that church with a past.

One day, we were approached and told we needed to step it up a little.  Implying we needed to commit and become members, go to homegroup every Thursday nights, and tithe,  no exceptions.  We thought we had done enough.  We had been tithing faithfully for years (always to my horror), we went to homegroup, special events, had both of our babies dedicated to God in front of the entire congregation, my husband played the drums in the band.  Where were we falling short?  After 20 years, this church had not grown beyond 800 people.  That’s not a lot of growth.  Their standards were simply unrealistic.

 

In the seven years I went there,  people prayed for me and tried to help me.  I never felt comfortable praying or being in small groups.  But we had to in order to be a member.  That is, belong to a home group or cell group.  I enjoyed the discussions, but always dreaded the praying.  I would be sick over it.  In all that time, not one drug addict walked through the doors of that church.  Not one person agonizing over an abortion I could help.  I was tired of being the lowest on the totem pole.  Where were the real people like me?  I knew there were plenty out there. These followers were all too perfect for me.  After 7 years, I was still crying on the way home every Sunday from discouragement.  I wanted to go to a church closer to home, not in the rich area we traveled every week.  That was the problem.  A homeless person was never going to crawl through the doors of a church in Kirkland, and if he did, I’m not sure the members there would have known what to do except hide their belongings. That is judgement, not acceptance.

 

We brought a man there who shocked everyone.  He made everyone feel uncomfortable, and that was good for them.  We met him on the street.  He tried to sell us drugs.  He ended up in tears in the back  seat of our car.  He was a backslidden Christian.  We took him to church. He was black and always singing.  He stood out like a sore thumb.  He was the most grateful man to walk through those doors in some time. No one else was bringing in people off the street.  What good does ‘good news’ do, if no one hears it?  Creating and populating your own little colony of followers is not helping anyone at all.  In retrospect, it just looks like a big waste of time. It was like going to school and being reprimanded for not doing your work correctly.  We learned without expecting to teach, while being told, not shown, how  to be better Christians.  I never lived up to that.  I didn’t want to. But I felt like I had to, which is , once again, why I cried every Sunday as soon as we hit the on ramp. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would have wanted for me.

 

After years of begging, I finally got my way.  I wanted to attend a church where I could feel comfortably in my my own skin, and in my torn jeans.  I longed for a church with diversity.  Strong Christians.  New Christians.  Drug addicts.  Agnostics.  All under one roof.  I wanted to be surrounded with sinners like myself.  Somewhere further South where all the tarnished people resided.  I longed for the opposite of our old church on the Eastside, where the rich, untainted, and privileged reigned.  And if they were tainted, they sure as hell didn’t show it.  A little humility and transparency goes a long way with someone like me.  I left in tears  feeling as if I remained the only one needing a bath to rid me of my filth.  A filth I could not identify in any of the other people there.  Loving the Lord is supposed to be uplifting and freeing, not discouraging and lonely.

 

I had heard about a church close to us.  There was more than one campus to choose from.  5 in all.   The pastor was young, in his 30’s.  He always wore jeans, sometimes a tee shirt, sometimes a button up casual shirt with stylish embroidery or iron on designs.  He looked cool.   He looked approachable.  I am sure this was all part of his plan.  He drew a huge crowd and never disappointed.  Unlike our old pastor, this pastor considered himself an equal to the other leaders in the church.  At the beginning of every sermon, he introduced himself as one of the pastors, not the head pastor.  I liked that.  Also unlike our old pastor, he was a literal teacher.  He would pick one sentence from scripture, and spend an hour dissecting it.  He could explain 5 words in a way I had never heard.  I understood the bible for the first time.  I did not have to decode metaphors.  Also, there was a group for people dealing with sin issues, drugs, abuse, porn addiction.  Real people with difficult obstacles to overcome like me.  These are the people who need Jesus.  These are the very people Jesus chose to be with.  This made sense. These people were not robots with tans.  Nor were they stagnant.

 

As it turned out, this Pastor did not interpret anything.  He believed every word of the Bible, Old Testament and all,  no exception.  I am not sure why I thought he would never criticize homosexuality, or proclaim his strong feelings for life at conception.  But when he did, I was disappointed.  He preached his awareness of his congregation’s ongoing sin.  Fine, he said.  It’s one thing to walk through these doors drenched in iniquity and need for salvation.  If you have been here more than a few times, you need to start seeking change.  You can’t expect anything to happen if you just stand in the back every week, go on home, and continue in your sin.

 

Now it was clear I did not belong there either.  It’s not that he was talking to me.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong.  However, there are two issues which have remained constants in my life since I was old enough to understand them and form my own opinion.  Three actually.  Supporting Gay Equality.  Being Pro Choice.  And not supporting  the death penalty.  I will argue these issues until I am blue in the face.  And I will not back down because I know I am right.  My ex and I used to argue about these topics even before we were married.  He disagrees and always has.  He says he is old fashioned and believes in God’s word.  He was raised in a Christian home by hypocrites. If he is what he claims, he never would have hit me or led me down that ugly path.  Gentlemen don’t hurt ladies, especially their wives.  The bible says not to strike your wife.  I guess he was confused.  It also claims abuse is grounds for divorce.  I now stand on that ground.

 

We were told to go home and study the message.  He never questioned it.  I always looked at it with a skeptical eye.  However,  I can remember believing some of the lies.  Much of the content I balked at in my head, but I was beginning to live by some of those principals, accidentally.  I even taught my kids all the make believe Sunday school stories.  If you can grow up glued to a church,  then as an adult still believe Eve came from Adam’s rib with no medical equipment, or that Jonah was swallowed by and lived in a whale for a few days, and my personal favorite, that God flooded the earth and now we have rainbows to take comfort in that He will never drown us again, you definitely were not offered both sides of the coin to choose from. Not to mention truly confused.

I have lived both lives.  The further I backed away from Christianity, the clearer my vision became.  The more illogical people in positions of power I watched make fools of themselves in the name of Jesus, the more I saw the deception.  There are countless scriptures in the Bible I have seen which go overlooked.  I have been in arguments over them, yelling about what is right there in black and white.  The Bible has been translated so many times.  If you want to take the so called word of God at face value, completely literal, both Old and New Testament?  Then, you should be in a cult.  I believe my first church was a cult. This civilization we live in has far surpassed your book of insane delusions in terms of rational thought, truth, and proof.

 

The doctor I mentioned, his wife taught a class I attended.  She was smart, getting her Master’s I think.  But her teaching set out to discredit  the theory of evolution while nudging truth into the theory of creation.  I thought, Oh this should be good. Evolution and Creation are both theories.  Get over it.  Evolution will be proved long before Creation.  It’s like comparing Alice in Wonderland to Seabuscuit.  One is make believe and the other is reality.   I thought her class was nonsense.   I was truly disappointed.  She was such an intelligent woman.  It turns out she was just as brainwashed as the rest.

 

I may have been living a life of faith alongside these people, but I never took my safety glasses off.  All the other sheep walked around with blinders on.  I never could.  I knew deep down none of it was real.  I could not place my faith in something I could not see, something no one alive has seen, but I am supposed to believe Jesus will return on a White Horse any minute?  Not a chance. Do you hear how crazy that sounds?  Say it out loud.  And I dare you to still believe it.  Mrs. Doctor may have been on her way to be a Doctor of something herself, but with my little Bachelor’s degree, I questioned every statement she proclaimed, and just knew it was wrong.  How on earth can creation make more sense than evolution, unless you’re a toddler or just an idiot?  Both toddlers and idiots have it easy  in this department.   Just shut up and believe.  Easy prey. They make fantastic robots. They do not form opinions on their own.  They are programmable. That’s why the Bible tells us to have the faith of a child.

Perfect for a church.  Calling all children and idiots.  Attention everyone. Form a line here.  Aww, you look just like the sheep in my picture bible.

 

In conclusion, regardless of how big or small, casual or fancy, strict or lenient, the Bible states what it states.  Some take it literal while others interpret out of context.  I have been around a lot of Christians.  I am relieved that most of them are out of my life and forgotten.  The few I do know are genuine people. They cherish their spirituality and don’t need to go flaunt it in a building every Sunday.  When I saw the word “God” next to the word “Gay” my heart ached a little, but I was mostly angry.  I see the signs fanatics hold up that say God hates fags!  I read the headlines about Right Wing Republican’s barbaric disapproval of gays and how to get rid of them. Don’t get me started on  the ludicrous idea of praying the gay away… That is the opposite of what Jesus was about.   I’ll never walk into a church again.  It ruins people.  Most people, not all.  It takes a genuine love from the core of your soul that drenches all of you and soaks everyone around you, those are the people God wants working for him.  That’s love.  God does not hate fags. His hypocritical, overzealous, misinformed, ignorant followers do.

 

I have lived with religion and without,  and through this,  learned my lessons about people.  I am happy now seeing things in hindsight.  I really do believe people get sucked in by the initial romance of Jesus.  And then soon they are believing everything they are told.    If that works for you? Great.  Myself, I was pessimistic and cautious to begin with.  I knew in elementary school those stories were a lie.  I guess Jesus should have courted me a few years earlier.  I’m glad I got away.

 

I don’t know how much sense this made. I have a hundred thoughts about this and more stories.  I hope I got my point across without being too cross. (another unintended pun).

I don’t cry on Sundays anymore.  That speaks volumes to me.

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