If the Church had accepted me from the beginning, would I be Religious today?

I haven't thought about going to a Sunday service for years.  My gay roommates go every Sunday and are truly involved in their religious community, but it really never crosses my mind to go with them.  Instead, it's time for me to have the house to myself.  It seems the only time I have gone to church since graduating from college in 1996 has been for Christmas while visiting the family back in Old Town, Maine.  What is wrong with me?  Or is there anything wrong with me?

Going to Sunday mass was the routine in my family when growing up and my parents still go every weekend like clockwork.  I personally kept that tradition going during my four years at Colby College.  I enjoyed going to church every week or did I?  Maybe I enjoyed going because of the singing.  As part of the Colby College Newman Choir, it was enjoyable to go and worship and sing each week.  My dedication to the weekly service and the church on campus apparently caught the attention of others, so much that Father John approached me to consider becoming a clergyman.  I quickly shot that down.  Gay + church leader = no.

I knew I was gay back in the third grade, but didn't act on it for about a decade and a half.  Yep, that was me with the girlfriend in junior high and high school, but there was never anything sexual.  I ended that relationship when I went to college where still nothing happened with anyone, male or female.  It wasn't until three years after I left college that I became "interactive."

Reading Eliel Cruz's entry on religionnews.com was very reassuring of what I had gone through.  Even though I am gay and he is bisexual, I found many parallels in the experiences that we as LGBT members experienced.

I have to force myself to go to church.

Saturday mornings, when Seventh-day Adventist like me observe Sabbath, I lay in bed extra-long. Sometimes, I roll over and shut my eyes delaying when i finally rise for church. Other times, I have to physically force myself to get up and prepare both mentally and physically, to go.

It didn’t use to be this way. I remember waking up extra early as a pre-teen when i was excited to go to church. More than likely, I would be singing at both services, either in a choir or in special music. I would stay long hours after the service for evening vespers.

That all changed when I came out as bisexual. I no longer felt welcome at worship. – religionnews.com

I am not sure when I decided not to go back to church anymore.  My first teaching job was in Dexter, Maine.  Fresh from the days at college in the choir and living at home during the summer of 1996 and still going to Sunday Mass with the family, I decided to keep the ball rolling and hunt down the Catholic Church in town, finding it just two blocks from my apartment.  Masses were going well and the songs were still the same so I was enjoying it.  I think the turning point may have been when a colleague from school and a member of the church approached me and asked me very quietly to consider joining the Knights of Columbus.  It was an odd experience for I did not understand why we were whispering about it on the front steps of the church.  As a side note, Dexter, Maine had one of the most active KKK groups in the nation, mainly going against "job stealing" French Canadians and Irish immigrants, both Catholic minorities.  Dexter was also the home town of Owen Brewster, a member of the KKK in the 1920's and later elected as Governor of the state and then as a U.S. Senator.  He was also depicted in the the movie Aviator as the senator that brought Leonardo Dicaprio's character Howard Hughes to trial.  Realizing that Catholics in Dexter were still somewhat in hiding and not desiring to be fully exposed, it made me think of my own situation, of me in hiding about my sexuality.  If the town was still having issues accepting Catholics 60+ years later, how would I be accepted?  I wasn't out yet, but if I became more involved, would that postpone me dealing with my sexuality?

Eliel Cruz added …

It wasn’t that I was explicitly told to stay away. Yes, some individual church members expressed their disappointment in my coming out (as if it were anything that they had to approve or disapprove of). But mostly, it was the small things that clearly signaled I would never be an accepted member of the church.

I don’t think many straight Christians understand that it only takes the one sermon condemning homosexuality for LGBT people to know they’re not wanted.  If the only time you mention the LGBT community is in condemnation, how are we supposed to believe you love us?  It is possible to preach a traditional stance on homosexuality and still come off as welcoming and loving. I’ve seen it happen. It’s just incredibly rare.

More often than not, the sermons preached from pulpits from traditional denominations are condemning. The sermons are preached as if LGBT people don’t exist, as if we’re just theoretical ideas, as if we weren’t sitting in the pews. The sermon will call sex between people of the same gender an abomination and that’ll be the extent of it. – religionnews.com

Eliel mentioned that the anti-LGBT sermons did not happen on a regular basis.  I think this may depend on whom you had as a bishop, father, priest, etc., but I think I left the church in 1996 just before the avalanche of religious hatred fell our way.  I remember waiting for an anti-LGBT sermon to occur when I was home visiting family, but it never happened.  I kind of wanted it to happen so I could have a chance to stand up and walk out in defiance.  Odd, but I really was wanting it to happen.

I do have to agree with Eliel, while waiting for that sermon to occur, what good were any of the other sermons?

It’s hard to listen to a sermon on virtually any other subject after that. A sermon on grace from a pastor who doesn’t show grace to the LGBT community comes off as all talk. I know that sermon on grace isn’t meant for me.  Or if the following week, the pastor preaches about God’s love for everyone, I’ll hear the silent caveat of “except for the LGBT community.” How can I believe that pastor who says if we accept Jesus as our savior we’ll be saved when the week before he said, “the effeminate will not inherit the kingdom of heaven”?  No, those sermons aren’t for me. They’re meant to exalt straight Christians. – religionnews.com

I've felt like a ghost when going to mass at a Catholic church.  A spirit that only is there for my family and not the community.  One that floats overhead and goes through the motions while being empty and void of emotion, love, or commitment.  I go to church when I am home back in Maine just for my parents and I think that is not enough reason to go anymore. 

Should I get up and go with my happily gay and engaged roommates to one of their masses?  I am not sure it's for me.  I am not sure it is possible to gain that ground back spiritually.  Eliel wrote …

I’ve tried to go to churches that support the LGBT community. Almost all of them worship on Sunday. That doesn’t necessarily keep me from going. I enjoy visiting other churches as a way to broaden my interfaith network.  Yet, as a Seventh-day Adventist, I want to be in a church that most closely aligns with my beliefs. Right now, for better or worse, that’s the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  But my denomination, as well as many other traditional denominations, doesn’t want anything to do with me. If it did preachers and followers would do more than condemn. They would find ways to show, tangibly, they loved and cared for us.

The church should be a sanctuary. A place of fellowship. A holy place.  The church should be a place where LGBT people are mentioned not as sex acts but as children of God.  I want to have, again, the sense i had when i was young and excited go to church, and fellowship with fellow believers.  I yearn for that place. – religionnews.com

To be honest, I think once I knew I was gay, back in the third grade, I made up my mind that there was no God, but instead a church that represents a social construct.  Being a student of history and world religions added to my belief that god(s) were created by man in the hopes of establishing order and a better stable society.

Recently, a Facebook post popped up on my newsfeed about one of the many refuted books that wasn't included in the Bible.  One of the main argumentative topics The Book of Barnabus raised was that Jesus Christ was not crucified.  Just days after that post, another story was shared by uk.prweb.com that Jesus Christ was invented by the church. 

I had some pretty religious Facebook friends, mainly ones that I had virtually re-friended from high school.  But after I had posted these two stories as interesting reads, they posted that they would be praying for me for I was misguided.  Needless to say, we are no longer linked. My response to them offering prayers for me was …

All religions are wonderful social constructs that are ideally designed to create a better society for all. I get it. I do. Your prayers are not needed. What is needed is a better comprehension by all as to what already existed before "the good book" or before any of the good books were written. The bible is / was a doctrine that was in development over many hundreds of years and the truth is so many Christian practices, beliefs, teachings, stories come from those pagan religions the Christians desired to assimilate. Taking this out, putting this in. What was kept were stories, fables, etc would people believe and believe in.

I'm wondering, was I wrong to post this?  Were they right?  Is there a God?  Why am I so negative about the idea of a God?  But most of all, where would I be today if the Catholic church had embraced me for being me from the very beginning.  Where would Eliel be if there were no anti-LGBT sermons?  Would we be going to church every Saturday / Sunday and loving the experience?  Has the anti-us approach to who we are led to many being more historical and scientific in regard to religion and if there even is a God?

I'm not looking for the Catholic church or any church to embrace me or us soon or ever.  I'm past that and I feel there's no going back.  You cannot reinstall Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and I am not sure one can reinstall God.

Well, that was a heavy blog to write on a Saturday.  You will know not where to find me tomorrow morning.  What are your thoughts on the topic?


What do you think?