Why I left the faith: it wasn’t The Gay

Part 2   (Part 1 here) (Part 3 here)

So I was a Christian.  That much has been established.  What next?

Well, as any good Bible-believer will tell you, Christians sometimes go through trials and tribulations.  Sometimes Christians go through a period where they are are seduced by The World, and they allow their faith to stagnate.  I was no different.  While I was in college, my fire started to fade.  I went through several ups and downs, where I would try to re-ignite that spark, but then would lose interest or feel disillusioned with god and the church.  I just wasn’t sure how certain I could be about god.  I stopped reading my bible, I stopped praying.  I made only a few half-hearted efforts to go back to church.  Apathy towards god had crept up in my life.  It was all very Laodicean.

But like any good Christian, I had a turning point.  I had a conversion story, praise Jesus.  What was that turning point?

I realized I was gay.

Yep, coming out as gay turned me into a hardcore Christian again.  It wasn’t immediate.  At first I was scared.  Holy hell was I scared.  I stewed quietly in my guilt, wondering what in the world I had done to damn me to this fate.  I knew, of course, all gays go to hell… at least those that act on it.  I determined that I would not let my love for another woman compel me to act against god.  I tried to bottle it up, deny it, and hope it would fade away, even as my heart broke over the love I would never be able to have.  During this phase, I wasn’t reaching out to god.  I was hiding from him.  I was terrified, confused, betrayed, bewildered, and ashamed.  God was the last person I wanted to show up.  I was hoping that I had mostly escaped his notice.

But eventually, I was encouraged by the woman I loved as well as my family to study, reach out to god, and seek out answers on the matter.  I started reading, studying, praying, fasting, research, confessing, soul-searching, crying, counseling, and speaking to elders.  Much to my surprise, I discovered a depth to my religious experience that was totally new to me.  I felt god speaking to me again, I felt his overwhelming love.  I felt him embracing me wholeheartedly and welcoming me back to his flock.  Amazing things started to happen.  Without going into the long  and gory details, my revival story has all the hallmarks of a perfect Christian “return to god” narrative: visions from god, supernatural signs, prophecies from various godly men and women, even a miracle that saved my life at the darkest moment.  I returned to my faith with joy and passion.  But there was one little unfortunate problem.

Each of those spiritual Jesus-moments affirmed to me that god accepted my love for another woman.

That was not the answer that my family or my church had expected me to find.  While they had first joyfully encouraged me to seek god’s will, they now began to clutch for power over me to get me to see the “correct” answer.  God could not be telling me that it was okay to be gay.  How did they know?  Well, God had told them that it wasn’t okay.  So there.

Christians in my life, especially my parents and sister, began escalating the number of hoops that they expected me to jump through in order to “seek god’s will”.  “You can’t make up your mind,” they said, “until you try reading this book, doing this fast, going to this church, speaking to this pastor, praying this much, and enduring these trials.”  Desiring to thoroughly test my belief, I conceded to these tests.  Each time I would return with the same answer.  “God accepts me.”

“Well, of course god accepts you,” they complained.  “You just somehow missed the part where he said accepts the not-gay version of you.  Try again!”

What followed was a righteous game of supernatural dick-measuring: whose God Experience was the biggest?  They started sharing their own Jesus Moments with me.  These included demons possessing bedrooms, spirits of oppression, dreams and visions, prophecies, signs from god, and feelings of hatred given to them by the Holy Spirit.  All of these things were supposedly clear messages that I was wrong.  I conceded that this might seem to be the case, but that it didn’t explain why all the messages I was getting were the complete opposite.  How was I supposed to know which one to trust?  “Just trust in our authority,” they said.  But I then committed the gravest sin a Fundamentalist Christian can commit.

I said no.

I said “if God can give us both visions and miracles and messages from on high, then he can damn well make his answer known to me.  I have thrown all of my trust on him… every bit of it and everything that I have to offer.  I know he will come through for me.”

And so, I was banished from my family home.

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30 responses

  1. Wow, you’re female? All this time I thought you were male. Silly me.

    1. Haha well… it’s complicated. I was female at the time that this was all going on. I’ve since come out as transgender male, and I have transitioned. I often end up playing a little fast and loose with gender in my writings because it gets confusing trying to figure out which ones I should use! I usually end up referring to myself as female anytime before I came out, because my upbringing in purity culture was heavily influenced by the gender I was raised as.

      1. Okay, then I’m not crazy. I thought it was you who stated that you had transitioned. This series is so compelling that I just can’t wait for the rest of it.

      2. Well thank you. I’m flattered you find it compelling. 🙂 I have struggled to figure out how to write down some of my experiences for ages. There’s so much weird stuff, so much dark stuff, that I wasn’t sure how on earth to put it down succinctly when so much of what happened requires pages of explanation or backstory. I finally settled on being irreverent and light-hearted because that just makes me feel better while rehashing some of the darker times of my life. 😀

      3. I was born and raised in a Fundamentalist, Bible-only home. I know about darkness. I will probably “get” quite a bit of your story. I already identify your experience as your family “counseled” you when you came out. Being thrown out by a family for any reason (other than physical danger eg a murderer) is so awful.

    2. I think I was right there with you

      1. 😀 Sorry for the confusion! I hope it makes sense now.

      2. It does make sense and you have my sympathies

  2. Hi, it sounds like they were trying to deny your spiritual existence, but all this time it was your experience with God that was the truthful one.

    The traditional evangelicals have one big flaw because they expect 7 sentences of the Scriptures quoted out of context to be able to control God. But it was God who was in control, not human interpretations.

    They were wrong before with slavery, and woman’s suffrage. They can still be wrong on many things.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment. I can’t completely agree, because I no longer think that either of us were likely actually having supernatural experiences. Rather, I suspect that we both had such high expectations to “hear from god” that we interpreted perfectly natural experiences and coincidences as divine. Each of us simply interpreted events and gathered evidence that supported our own implicit biases, resulting in spectacular claims of miracles and prophecies and signs that completely contradicted each other.

      But I will agree with you that traditional evangelicals are severely flawed in the way they view scripture. They assume that scripture + divinely inspired understanding is all they need to determine all morality. Of course, this leaves them especially vulnerable to their own confirmation biases. We all tend to notice and place significance on evidence that already supports our assumptions. Evangelicals just take this to the next level, picking 7 sentences out of an ancient book (as you say) and deciding that their modern, uneducated, cultural, arbitrary, and personal interpretation of them are words from God’s mouth. The hubris of this is honestly spectacular.

      1. I agree with your perspective, GE. If there were truly a “god” that provided its devotees with “spiritual experiences”, then we wouldn’t have over 40,000 different sects of Christianity alone. Unless this “god” were a capricious, sadistic bastard who got his jollies from messing with people, setting them at each other’s throats, and making them unhappy! Here is a Buddhist perspective on “spiritual experiences” that I think you might like:

        But for an earnest believer, the God-idea is more than a mere device for explaining external facts like the origin of the world. For him it is an object of faith that can bestow a strong feeling of certainty, not only as to God’s existence “somewhere out there,” but as to God’s consoling presence and closeness to himself. This feeling of certainty requires close scrutiny. Such scrutiny will reveal that in most cases the God-idea is only the devotee’s projection of his ideal — generally a noble one — and of his fervent wish and deeply felt need to believe. These projections are largely conditioned by external influences, such as childhood impressions, education, tradition and social environment. Charged with a strong emotional emphasis, brought to life by man’s powerful capacity for image-formation, visualization and the creation of myth, they then come to be identified with the images and concepts of whatever religion the devotee follows. In the case of many of the most sincere believers, a searching analysis would show that their “God-experience” has no more specific content than this.

        Yet the range and significance of God-belief and God-experience are not fully exhausted by the preceding remarks. The lives and writings of the mystics of all great religions bear witness to religious experiences of great intensity, in which considerable changes are effected in the quality of consciousness. Profound absorption in prayer or meditation can bring about a deepening and widening, a brightening and intensifying of consciousness, accompanied by a transporting feeling of rapture and bliss. The contrast between these states and normal conscious awareness is so great that the mystic believes his experience to be manifestations of the divine; and given the contrast, this assumption is quite understandable. Mystical experiences are also characterized by a marked reduction or temporary exclusion of the multiplicity of sense-perceptions and restless thoughts, and this relative unification of mind is then interpreted as a union or communion with the One God. All these deeply moving impressions and the first spontaneous interpretations the mystic subsequently identifies with his particular theology. It is interesting to note, however, that the attempts of most great Western mystics to relate their mystical experiences to the official dogmas of their respective churches often resulted in teachings which were often looked upon askance by the orthodox, if not considered downright heretical.

        From http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/godidea.html

        Note: I am a strong atheist, a critical atheist, not a member of any religion. But I find the most respect-worthy religious stuff comes out of Theravada Buddhism. And let’s also acknowledge that a lot of what is claimed as powerful intervention by God can be symptoms of serious mental illness, such as hearing voices.

        More on flavors of atheism here: http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/smith.htm

      2. I was actually wondering how you would interpret your religious experiences such as sensing the presence of God now that you have deconverted. I assume more detailed description of how your thoughts evolved is coming in a future installment?

        Very interesting read, and I’m sorry you had to go through all that with your family. Most of us begin our lives very emotionally invested in family and it can be very difficult to realize that they aren’t really invested in you, or that their love is so misguided (for whatever reason) that it’s actually harmful.

        Look forward to reading more!

      3. Yes, my thoughts have evolved on that matter, and I no longer think my experiences were spiritual. However, some of the moments that I experienced meant a lot to me and some of them still do. I like to imagine sometimes that it WAS god who was there for me at those times. I don’t fully believe it anymore, mostly because I don’t have any way that I could know for sure. But it’s a nice thought. 🙂

        I’m glad you’re enjoying reading.

  3. This didn’t end too well. Are you in touch with them now?

    1. No, sadly, they decided just a few months ago to announce that they were done with me and did not want to hear from me again. This came around four years after the events I’m currently describing in my story, so it was a long, drawn-out death of our relationship. I had long hoped I’d be able to work out a live-and-let-live coexistence with them, but they were never interested and only played along in hopes of having another chance to “fix” me. The recent end of it all is part of what prompted me to try to tell this story.

      1. This is so sad to hear. I don’t know what else to say.

      2. I’m devastated and flabbergasted at the same time. I can’t think of a single thing either of my two children could say or do that would cause me to throw them away. My heart hurts so much when I hear these stories. And there are far too many of them.

      3. I do think for a long time they thought their “tough love” would bring me back to them and make me repent. But over the years, I’ve seen what love they had become obscured by their own pride. When they finally cut me out of their lives, it was definitely because their pride was wounded rather than out of any love or interest in me.

      4. “I had long hoped I’d be able to work out a live-and-let-live coexistence with them, but they were never interested and only played along in hopes of having another chance to “fix” me.”

        After my own intensive indoctrination from birth into Evangelical Christianity (which I rejected at about age 11, shortly after outgrowing Santa Claus as well), I fell into a pseudo-Buddhist cult in my late 20s, which took me just over 20 years to extricate myself from. Now I’m an anti-cult activist, but that’s another story 🙂

        Intolerant groups hold their acceptance over their members’ heads – the members all know, on some level, that they must not deviate markedly from the group’s norms and expectations, or they will be cut off and shunned. It’s a brutal, remarkably effective means of coercion for fragile members of a social species. All the intolerant cults do it, you’ll notice, whether we’re talking Mormons or Scientologists or SGI or Branch Davidians or even certain families. And when someone DOES make it clear that s/he’s thinking for himself/herself and no longer knuckling under, some may stay superficially involved in hopes of drawing the apostate back in, but it’s a shallow ploy – the “friendly member” may well have been assigned to the apostate. It’s dishonest and despicable.

      5. I’m with Sheila – I have two children of my own, both teenagers, and there is absolutely *NOTHING* they could do that could make me want to do anything cruel or harmful to them. NOTHING.

  4. I’m very sorry your family is so broken. Christianity tends to do that to families – let’s all remember that Jesus Himself supposedly said it was his goal to destroy families (Matt. 10:34-37) and Luke 14:26 –

    “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. etc.”

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”

    (Notice there’s no mention of “or husband” *ahem*)

    My devout Christian mother would not love me as much as my sister-in-law because my s-i-l was a bible banger like she was and I was a Buddhist atheist (now just atheist, thanks). My mother died in 2008 and I’m very glad she’s dead 🙂

    I would refer you to a couple archive articles over at Roll to Disbelieve:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2013/06/16/why-im-glad-the-christian-god-isnt-my-father/ and http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2013/06/23/clan-of-the-cave-jesus/

    I would also like to refer everyone to “Prayers for Bobby”, a movie starring Sigourney Weaver as the devout Christian mother whose insistence that her gay son fix himself and become straight through Jesus resulted in his suicide. I’m glad you are okay – when one leaves intolerant groups, one walks out alone. When you leave, you will take no friends with you, because intolerant groups’ “love” is entirely conditional and based on you being very much like them. If you leave, you’re not enough like them for them to tolerate, so they shun you. This happens in cults, religions (what’s the diff, really?) – and families. You’ll be okay. Make your OWN family better!

    1. Thank you. I will definitely make my own family better. My wife and I already have a wonderful life together and, someday, that life will include another!

      1. You’re off to a wonderful start! Congratulations 🙂

  5. Wow! I’m so glad you found out who you truly were… and that love was possible, after all.

    Because that is what matters.

    1. Thank you! As it turns out, at this point in my story, I was still a long ways away from finding out who I was. But I was on the right track, and I’ve found the love of my life whom I married last year. 🙂

  6. […] and it was deeply important to my life. Second is why I did not leave the faith. It was not because I wanted to sin, it was not because I was mistreated by Christians, and it was not because I disagreed on a […]

  7. Wow! An amazing story which grows ever more intriguing (as well as totally devastating). You have to be a really amazing person too, to have gone through what you did, clung to who you were, and made a way in spite of everything. What a tremendous inspiration you are! So glad I am reading your story, though I’m scared a little too since I have a background in Christianity similar to yours and I’m not sure I want to go where you have gone. However, I do believe we can learn from others and must if we are to survive. I love all the comments too as they reveal so much more than you tell in the blog. Thanks again for sharing so openly and honestly.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for the comment and encouragement. I am glad that you find this useful and meaningful. No need to be scared… your story might not go the way mine did, and even if it does, it’ll be what you want it to be.

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