Monday, February 22, 2010

Spiritual Journey II

As a married dad, I felt it important for my kids to have a foundation in a church. My childhood was not exactly centered around the church, but I fell into the convention that exposure to church would instill the all important values of service, respect and humility.


It was ok at first, the small Methodist church in Jefferson City. The pastor happened to be a neighbor in the church owned parsonage so we had an easy welcome. Met some nice people, the kids met some good kids and all was well. A change of pastor brought in a fellow who was a good friend for many years until our paths separated, as happens in this mobile world.

But a nasty and public divorce shattered everything. I suddenly was the evil fag (no one ever called me that to my face, but I know it was said) who was to be avoided. People left because I was still a member and was allowed to participate in the church services. Awkward were the moments when my ex and I had to be together at a church function. I frequently sat alone. But it was my church and I would not budge. I didn't until I finally left town, moving to Kansas City for work.

This was my wake up call that "church" was not what I always thought it was. Where was the "love your neighbor", all the kum ba ya we were told was the plan? I quickly learned to be a part of the church and the family and all that meant conforming to the church hierarchy's view, not what I had read in the Bible. In the Methodist church, their man-made rule book "The Book of Discipline" supplanted the Bible as the guide for living and church views on the world. According to them, Jesus only loved me if I quit being gay and was a nice, conservative, family man. Who cared if most of them drank, beat their kids, cheated, hated. That was not as bad as being gay.... yuk.

Revelation: church is hypocrisy.

It continues to this day, no matter what denomination. The Methodist church continues to spread their hate for gay and lesbians, putting pastors on trial for showing their love. Making rules to squash the expression of support for gays and lesbians, right up there with the Catholics.

Moving to KC, changed things a lot for a long time. Through luck and a friend I had made here, I found a church, a Methodist one at that, where the congregation had taken a stand to say all were welcome, even sinful, nasty, family hating, fags like me. I went a couple times and joined on my 3-4th visit. I stayed for over 12 years, some of the best church time in my life. We worshiped, we worked, we celebrated, mourned, ate, drank, partied and prayed. Gays and lesbians, old and young, rich, poor, transient... it mattered not.

Revelation: church did not have to be hypocritical.

But, as with all things, decay set in.

(to be continued)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Better a millstone be tied around their necks and thrown in the sea...."
Fascinating account, Don, and I'm grateful you're sharing it. Eager to read coming posts. Imagine how women have felt throughout Christian history -- "Shut up, have babies, and then praise all things male in 'our' church, you whore!" For the Christian, all can be forgiven -- cheating, murder, dog-fighting, lying, but not "being" gay. Somehow that one trumps all sins.

The solution is simple: reject homosexuality as sin. It isn't. And what they won't, what they can't fathom is that it NEVER was a sin! It's just as natural as me wanting to kiss a girl. Yet the psycho-emotional structure of the church lays the heaviest mindfuck on being who YOU are.

Few were as spiritual as I was growing up in church; I truly enjoyed the experience. However, my road to atheism began in the 10th grade when I read the Bible cover-to-cover and began comparing it to what was being preached from the pulpit and what was taught in Sunday School. Two years later I reread it cover-to-cover and the myth of it all really settled in: it's a wonderful book of stories, tales told mainly to make the transition from life to death a little easier to swallow. Where the book meets church is the intersection of its corruption. The church and its dogma doesn't really match what's in the Bible. It's always selectively reinterpreted to benefit the powerful (pope, men, priest, state).

By the time I was 20, I was more widely read and studied the problem of evil. No, I still haven't gotten around it. Simply put, if I were god, there wouldn't be deadly tsunamis or earthquakes or cancer or murder or Dick Cheney. And if I'm wrong, I'll proudly explain to god that I want nothing to do with him. Where was God in Noah's flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for "sin." Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock stock and barrel, as punishment for "sin." The modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian's entire religion is founded on an obsession with "sin," with punishment and with atonement. No wonder some god-believers blame Haiti's 300,000 dead on their sin, but wasn't the central purpose of Jesus' incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the "sins: of all humankind, past, present and future, beginning with the "sin" of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed? ("Adam" is a nice myth, but evolution contradicts the tidy story.)

For the past 28 years, I've lived a wonderfully lighter life without the emotional burden of church and god and all the baggage attached to those activities. Whenever I did go to church, I was shunned because I didn't bring a family of kids with me. (I was always shoehorned in with the Seniors in Sunday School because the married couples couldn't talk kids with me and didn't want a guy coming to church without his wife.) Odd that their behavior wasn't welcoming.

Must be the tribe mentality. If you're not like "us" in every transparent way, we'd appreciate it if you left the building quietly and didn't make a scene.