Monday, March 18, 2013

That One Thing Part Two

I have a secret. 

I haven't told my mom that I use prayer beads.

I am terrified she'll find out someday and the disappointed sighs will begin.  There's nothing wrong with what I'm doing, none at all, and it still weighs on me in my relationship with her. I've even opened an online store selling the beads I make and would love to get her input on my designs, but I'm afraid she'll be just broken-hearted.  So I don't talk about it with her, and I hide my beads when she comes over.

But this isn't about me and my beads, this is about my brother.

"Michael" has always had a very tender heart towards God. He knows his Bible well and tries to live it.  He was a youth group leader for some time and graduated from Fundy University as I did.  He's six feet tall, muscular, handsome, and has a number of high-level belts in several different martial arts. He's intelligent too - he'll ace any trivia quiz you bring on and is fluent in JavaScript as well as Klingon.

And if you haven't guessed by now, he's also gay.

What was it like being gay in Fundyland? I can't even imagine what having such a deep secret would do to you.  Especially in a culture that constantly spews hatred towards people like you.  When my husband and I talked to a few close friends in Halfway Fundy Church about him as we struggled to come to terms with our changing beliefs, we were told things like, "He isn't letting God have full control of his life.  He isn't allowing God to change him."  My husband and I would shake our heads in frustration and look at each other with the same thought - that isn't Michael.  He would never fight God like that. That's not the answer. 

He finally came out of the closet a few years ago, and the reactions he's gotten have largely been terrible.  Fortunately, my parents didn't turn their backs on him but he's endured all kinds of ridiculous accusations from "friends" since then.  He's been told being gay means he's also a pedophile.  He's been told it was his mom's fault.  Or his dad's fault.  He's been told he was recruited into it as a young child.  He's been told he's going to get HIV and die.  And mostly, he's been told that he chose to be gay.  Here's part of what he wrote when I asked him to contribute to this conversation:
Allow me to clarify this a little bit. The belief I am listing here is not simply, “He chose to be in a relationship with him”, but “He chose to be attracted to other men.” Big difference. I would agree to the first statement, but not the second. This belief feeds the direct anger fundamentalists have at gay people. Why be gracious and caring to someone who is purposefully choosing to be a godless sexual deviant? I believe that this is one of the most damaging beliefs about homosexuality in the fundamentalist's misinformation.

I already mentioned that if you believe someone willfully chooses to be gay, you feel no need to show them mercy. This also seems to be near the root of why when gay person comes out, the fundies near them become upset and start saying things that include the words, “disappointed” and “betrayal”. They throw stone after stone, working themselves into a frenzy over the audacity for this person to chose to be gay. Hopefully, these stones that are worked up in the frenzy are only verbal. I myself have been threatened by folks that I knew for years in the fundamental circle when I came out.

My experience is that I tried desperately to be “normal” for nearly half my life. If there was ever an upbringing that you didn't want to be gay in, I had it. I'm not saying mine was the worst ever, because I know that's not true. It was not a good situation by any means, but it was not the worst situation. I know guys that lost their family when they came out. They were thrown from the house, told never to return and if they were seen again, they'd better start running. I didn't have that happen, thank God.

However, growing up I did have to deal with the fact that I knew I was attracted to men and not to women. I didn't ask for this, but with the preaching and the pressure, I assumed I somehow did. I tried to give everything in my life to God, pray to be cured from my sickness, drink deeply from the scripture and set my mind on those things. If only I could be show enough devotion to God, I would be cured. A sick sense of bargaining with God was going on. I was trying to purchase healing through dedication that began to feel more and more hollow as I felt more and more unable to please my Heavenly Father. 'I must repulse Him', I thought. 'God can't love me like this.'

I wondered what people would do or think if I told them about my struggle. I thought of the overnight activities with the church and how they segregated the men and the women. What would they do with me? Would they segregate me off to my own area? People at my age were now pairing off and getting married. That's not an option for me, I won't deceive some poor girl. My future began to look awful lonely. I pulled away from people, afraid of the the impending stigmatization and ostracism should I come out. My depression got worse and friends asked me what was wrong but I didn't have the courage to tell them the truth.

Do you see why I think this belief is one of the most dangerous ones held by Fundamental Christianity about homosexuality? This belief not only justifies people's hate for gays, but it also sinks into the minds of the young gay or lesbian mind that is raised in the midst of Fundamentalism. You are told that you have a choice, and when you can't control that “choice”, you condemn yourself for failing and heap the words you've heard all your life upon yourself.

Unnatural. Disgusting. Anathema. Faggot. Abomination.

At the close of this, I ask one thing. Please be kind to the gays you know. Odds are you cannot hate them as much as they hated themselves.

Now that he has accepted his homosexuality, he's a different person.   Or, more appropriately, he's his old self again.  The suicidality and anger and depression have evaporated.   His kindness and love are growing again.

Those are fruit of the Spirit. 

I don't completely understand it. But I understand enough to know that he isn't wrong.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

That One Thing

There's one topic on which I have made a drastic change in thought that I have studiously avoided blogging about to this point.

One of the reasons I have avoided it is because it shouldn't be the huge explosive issue that it is.  It just shouldn't.  Christians have WAY more important things to be doing.  Like loving our neighbors, protecting the vulnerable, and feeding the hungry.  This world is full of hurt, and we are called to do God's work in alleviating that hurt, not piling it on further.  It's wearying to give this topic even more attention because it has gotten entirely too much already.

But the damage Christians are causing - well, I guess that's ultimately what a blog about coming out of Fundamentalism is really about.  Damage.  Damage and hate and unkindness and abuse and manipulation.   So I can't continue to pretend this isn't an issue forever.

I recently read a news story with the exceptionally silly title of "Tim Tebow Betrays The Christian Right".  Silly, because Mr. Tebow was not elected to any position of authority in any religious organization.  He is not under any person's or organization's authority either.  He is a lone individual - admittedly with a lot of star power - who is just trying to do what he feels deeply is right.  He also hasn't been ugly about it as far as I know. (For that, I admire him.  Don't always agree with him, but I have always wished him the best.) And "betrays" is an emotionally charged word that feels way out of line here for a guy who doesn't officially represent anyone.

But perhaps that was the writer's point.  Showing the impropriety of a group of people who essentially made someone their de facto spokesman and then turned on him when he said something they didn't like. 

And what dreadful thing did Mr. Tebow do?  He had the audacity to cancel a speaking engagement at a church where the Pastor was known for making strong statements about homosexuality, Muslims, and Mormons, among other things. 

Strong is a little too, well, weak of a term.  If, for example, an imam said similar things about Christianity that he has said about Islam - no matter now "nice" of a guy he was - many American Christians would be upset and his words would be seen for the harsh rhetoric they are.  His words violate the Golden Rule and fly directly in the face of I Timothy 2:23-24*.  The Pastor's quote in that news article even seems to put soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) on par with an anti-gay stance.  That's a major red flag in my book - because if it wasn't in the Nicene Creed it isn't soteriology-level. No one should dare put it there.

Well, Mr. Tebow decided maybe he didn't want to be associated with that kind of message. 

That's a gutsy move.  Really gutsy for someone who has that particular unasked-for constituency.

Why didn't he want to be associated with that message?  I'm assuming because he understands that Christians are called to love.  Called to heal the wounded and support the weak and stand up for the vulnerable. We shouldn't be spending time instead wounding people and trampling them down. 

And we certainly shouldn't be spending time angry with or separating from someone who reminds us of that.  Just reveals how much politics and how little Christ is involved in the Religious Right.

Did you notice I still didn't get to my topic?  Yeah, this is gonna have to have a part two.


*"Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people." (New Living Translation)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Power Play

So, have you seen the kerfluffle about the 11-year-old girl who's been playing football since she was 5?  She goes to a Catholic school, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia suddenly realized she was playing and decided she shouldn't anymore because they "don't want her to get hurt".  Of course.  They're only trying to help.

I like this kid and her disingenuous replies. 
"I was mad," Caroline said after learning she wasn't allowed to play, "just really mad that we don't get the same opportunity as boys just because we're not a boy.
"Not only am I not going to be able to play, but girls all over aren't going to be able to sign up," she said. "And I don't think that's fair."
When asked whether she's gotten hurt, the crowd erupted when she quipped with a made-for-TV smile, "I've never really gotten hurt, but I have hurt people."
She's not being disrespectful when she says the archbishop's claim that he's just trying to protect her doesn't ring true. "I was just really surprised that we're not allowed to play because we're girls," Caroline said. "They say it's a safety issue, but I don't get that because it's not just a safety issue for us; it's a safety issue for anybody that goes on to the field."
Of course she doesn't understand.  This is neither about logic nor fairness.  It's about control.  For as much as Fundamentalists rail about the evils of Catholicism, they share the exact same entrenched misogyny and power issues*.

I feel for her. I said similar disingenuous things when I was in Fundamentalism because I didn't understand it was about power and not letting (especially) women have too much.  The following quote from the Archbishop gave me PTSD flashbacks:
"I admire your love of the game, Caroline, and I'm impressed by your zeal in pursuing the opportunity to play it," he wrote. "At the same time, it's important to understand that pressure is not a good way of showing respect for dedicated people who are simply fulfilling their duty to protect young people in sports."
In other words, "Sit down, shut up, and you'll be sorry you talked."  Been there, heard that.

It gets better.  In a followup article in Forbes Magazine, one of the main reasons for their decision was made clear: they are concerned about "inappropriate touching" (cue the late-night TV jokes) between male and female students. 

Despite the diocese announcing that it would be a panel consisting of "priests, parents, coaches, and medical experts would be formed to review their football policy", there was "no one qualified to talk" about law or human physiology at the panel convened to discuss the case.  The only dialogue involved "personal opinion, tradition and Vatican law". Ignore the law, ignore anyone with actual experience in the question at hand, and just talk about tradition and personal opinion. 

How familiar does that sound?  Fundamentalist University just did the same thing last November.  Never mind the number of abuse victims they have themselves miserably failed - several of whom I know personally - now they're going to tell you how to do it right, from the mouths of those who personally did the failing.

No clothes.  No clothes at all, on either emperor.  

 *I'm talking the Catholic heirarchy here, not the average individual parishioner or church.