So here it is October 2010. I’ve been living life out-of-the-closet for 17 years. I’ve been out to my sister for 13 years, out to my mom for 4 years and out to my dad for almost a year. Funny how I still can’t seem to reconcile my homosexuality with religion.
Kurt: The reason I don't go to church is because churches don't think very much of gay people…I think God is kinda like Santa Claus for adults. Otherwise God's kind of a jerk, isn't he? I mean he makes me gay and then has his followers going around telling me it's something that I chose. As if someone would choose to be mocked every single day of their life!
Those feelings were brought back to the forefront of my life by the unlikeliest of things. Glee. That’s right, I said Glee. The “Grilled Cheesus” episode, which aired on October 5, 2010, is still running rampant through my brain. Kurt, the gay character on the show, spoke the words italicized above. The writer of the episode, Brad Falchuk, had his finger on the pulse of my past and present. The words issuing forth from the mouths of the characters were words that I myself have said aloud – pros and cons. I can’t seem to let it go. Maybe that’s because it’s always been an issue for me. Hell, it’s more than an issue; I’ve had a subscription for years.
• Religion – a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons
• Church – the whole body of Christian believers
• Faith – belief that is not based on proof
My early life is completely shaped by religion. Or is it church? Or is it faith? It’s all so confusing. In a medium-sized building add Christians and sinners. For texture and color sprinkle in a few homosexuals, a dash of the self-righteous, a backstabber or two and some truly good people. Add faith in God. Mix together until smooth and Church-like. Smother completely with religion. Simmer on low until inevitable boil(over).
I’m from a small town where there’s a church building on every corner instead of a Starbucks. I jest, but not a lot. I was raised Baptist. My family attended three times a week – Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. When there was a revival or summer tent meeting, we were there every night. Most of my friends, if not all, were part of the church.
I was very involved in my church growing up. My involvement was mostly in the form of music. I was 7 years old the first time I sang in church. If I remember correctly it was with my dad’s family. My first solo was a song called “Consider The Lilies.” I remember that like it was yesterday. I was at Central Baptist Church. Over the years, and in many different churches, I was a soloist or part of a group. The interesting thing is that I would stand up there in front of a congregation and sing of God’s love, all the while struggling in silence with my inner demon of homosexuality. Also knowing that most of the people who were listening to me sing, and enjoying it I might add, would not approve of my homosexuality. Truth be told I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to sing in church.
Sue: Do you believe in God, Jennie?
Jennie: Do you?
Sue: No, I don’t.
Jennie: Why not?
Sue: Because when we were little girls, you were perfect in my eyes and I watched the world be cruel to you so.
Jennie: God never makes mistakes. That's what I believe. You want me to pray for you Sue?
Sue: Yeah, that would be nice
The above is dialogue from the before mentioned episode of Glee. It took place between ballsy, tough-as-nails Sue Sylvester and her older sister Jennie, who has Down syndrome. I spent a lot of time praying that I wouldn’t have the feelings I had. That meant a lot of time praying that I wouldn’t be gay. That meant that I was trying to change the fundamental way I was born. I never would have chosen to be a gay man. I have felt shame for it, but that shame was derived from the way other people made me feel. I wasn’t strong enough to just accept me. I am thankful to work in a community where diversity, individuals and gay people are welcomed. Everyone doesn’t get that opportunity. I’m hard enough on myself, I don’t need to feel guilt over who I was born to love, particularly from a church of people who pick and choose what passages of the Bible are most important to teach. I said to my mom when we had the “coming out” talk that God doesn’t make mistakes. I still believe that. What if the gay teens that committed suicide could have turned to their church for support? Forgive me, but I just don’t think it would be there. As a pre-teen/teenager, the pastors that I had in my life would have done nothing to support me and everything to scare me into change. What is painful is the void left by the church family that I once had.
Here’s what I don’t understand. We’re all created in God’s image, right? That means that I am, as well as every other gay person in the world, created in His image. So if we’re all created in God’s image and God doesn’t make mistakes, why is there so much fear and hate? Why is it that I feel, as a gay man, I wouldn’t be welcomed as a church member? Why is it that I feel most of the prayers that would be sent up to heaven regarding me would be in the hopes that I would change my sinful ways instead of prayers lifted up just asking for blessings and support for my life. Life is hard enough. Maybe I’m the one stuck in the past. I’m willing to admit that all of these feelings could very well be residual from the fears of my youth. I don’t know.
So many people depend on their church for support. The world is a tough place for anyone that is different. Gay people don’t have the support of a church in a lot of cases. God is love. At least He is in my life. I feel that where religion is concerned a person has to believe, without question, what is being taught from the pulpit. After I left for college I didn’t really attend a church anymore. The more I began to understand and accept myself and question religion, the harder it was to go back and sit in a pew amidst people that I knew wouldn’t accept me for who I am; for the way I was born.
Why do people still, STILL, insist it’s a choice? How can anyone think being gay is a personality disorder (that one’s for you Christine O’Donnell of Delaware) or that it can be overcome (that one’s for you Elder Packer)? In her song “One of Us”, Joan Osborne asked the question, “What if God was one of us?” Can you imagine how God would react if confronted directly with all the hate and fear that fills many of us these days? I don’t understand how God could allow so many of us to be born gay and allow such hate to be directed at us. Hate is a human condition. You have to be taught to hate.
Journey sings “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I haven’t stopped believing. I just have a hard time believing on someone else’s terms. I believe what I believe and I’m probably more spiritual than ever. Nobody can take that relationship away from me. Nobody can tell me I can’t talk to God. I pray more now than I ever have in my life.
I asked Christ into my heart to save my soul from hell when I was 6 years old. I was gay then. I believed that my soul was saved from eternal damnation. I was gay then. I didn’t know it yet, but I was. God knew it. Now that I know it, am I supposed to believe the verse in the Bible that tells me I cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven? Really? But I believed I was saved from hell. Nothing changed. Sometimes it’s just maddening.
I believe in God. I pray to God. I didn’t denounce God for not changing me into a heterosexual man. That is not who I was born to be. I just ask God for the strength to live a good life and speak the truth, my truth, about him and me. God loves me. I feel blessed every day! I wish closed-minded churchgoers could see beyond the fear and just love and accept.
©2010 Michael Rohrer