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Why It Was So Hard to Leave the Church

Why It Was So Hard to Leave the Church

Guest blog by David Hayward
(The Lasting Supper)

David (aka The Naked Pastor) is a wonderful LGBT ally and fellow traveller in the journey of deconstructing religion. I found this article helpful in articulating the reasons why we enjoy church and the difficulties we face when we leave. His work through The Lasting Supper is amazing and bridges that gap for people who need a safe space to assess what the heck they really believe and the damage religion can cause


I’ve left the church. Many times. The last time I left was 8 years ago. It was painful every time. Here’s just a few of the reasons why it was so difficult to leave.

1. Fear: When I left the church, a profound cloud of fear enveloped me: “What have I done?” No matter how much you rationalize your decision, the years and years of indoctrination collect to shout out jeers and threats for your selfishness, stupidity, sinfulness, and short-sightedness. You have just willingly divorced yourself from God and his people, taken your first step closer to Hell, thrown yourself into the arms of the Devil, and destined yourself to an endless road of Perdition. You have officially branded yourself a Heretic. Lost! Of course this isn’t true, but try telling yourself that! Over and over and over again.

2. Friends: The first time I left the church I imagined I would keep many of the friends I had there. I learned quickly that it never seems to work out. Even the last time I left the church, that fantasy was still burning in my mind. Again, it didn’t work out. You lose friends. Maybe not all, but most of them. Period. You have to learn how to make new ones while you’re grieving the loss of your old ones. Not easy.

3. Inspiration: There is something very inspiring about gathering together with others on pretty much the same page, in agreement, learning together and singing together and supporting each other. I love hearing or delivering a good sermon. Honestly! Most often I walked away refreshed and refuelled for the next week. Learning how to do that by yourself is not simple.

4. Music: I was always involved with the music and worship. The last worship band I had rocked! I loved playing and singing with them. We had some great times and even made a CD together that’s pretty good. I haven’t picked up my guitar since I left, but that’s my fault. I don’t listen to worship music much anymore either unless it’s renaissance church music or Russian Orthodox choirs. There’s too much “ick” associated with worship music for me now.

5. Support: When I and my family went through difficult times, we always always had people around us who cared and actually did something about it. We’ve been given food, money, babysitting, cars, rides, help moving, prayers, company, words, vacations… you name it. The church also made it easy for us to be generous and give. Now we’re on our own, and the difference is noticeable. We are learning to be self-sufficient and generous independently.

6. Destiny: The last denomination I was involved with was the Vineyard. Prophetic words, words of wisdom, dreams and visions are a huge part of that culture. My life had meaning and a sense of purpose. I woke up every morning pretty much knowing what I had to do and where my life was heading. I had a destiny! Even though I now believe most of that was hype, I did enjoy living in that matrix of illusion. Then I took the red pill. Oh my!

7. Validation: When you are in the church, you get a very strong sense that you are on the gospel train. You are doing the right thing being counted among the people of God. You are a member, and that gives you a sense of assurance that you are indeed saved, that God has his eye on you and that you are on the right track. When you get off that train, you have to build your own sense of assurance that you are okay, and that is an arduous but necessary task.

8. Boredom: I have so much more time on my hands since I left the church. I remember my first Sunday morning not going. I went for a walk around the time when cars where driving by on their way to church. Did I ever feel strange! It was hard not feeling like a delinquent. A sinner. I’ve gotten used to it to the point now where I relish my Sunday mornings. But that’s not all. When you involve yourself with the church, it can become like a family with its 24/7 demands. Now I have to be self-directed. But I’m learning.

9. Children: Even though Lisa and I are learning our new way of life, we always worry about our children. They are amazing young adults now. But they have been exposed to all the crap that’s been dealt out to us, and their impression of church is not rosy. We never slam the church in front of them, but they aren’t stupid. They catch on. We don’t want them erroneously believing that this means we are enemies of religion, the church, faith, or spirituality. They each have their own brilliant expressions of spirituality, but it’s been forged by fire. Sometimes ours.

10. Inclusion: I fight hard for the church. Some people mistake it for me fighting hard against it. When pressed, I still say my family of origin is Christianity and that I love the church. I totally believe in the right of people to gather together volitionally, but in a healthy manner… which is rare. I am also for spiritual independence. It saddens me when people assume that because I’ve left the church I am no longer in the game. When I was in the church, my voice was criticized as biting the hand that fed me. Now it is criticized as not deserving to critique something I’m not a part of. Can’t win.

Please understand that even though most of these are really good reasons to stay in the church, most often they come at a price. Like the rabbits of Watership Down who were well fed by the farmer. But the deal was the farmer could occasionally harvest some of them for food and fur. In this case, none of the good the church offers is worth it for me.

Do these reasons apply to you? Or, do you have other reasons?

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 0 comments
Gays and G0ys

Gays and G0ys

A couple of years ago I stumbled across www.g0ys.org (that’s gay with a zero – G0Y). It was interesting, but I didn’t give it much thought at the time other than thinking it was just a bunch of gay guys who hated effeminate gays and anal sex trying to justify themselves.

Recently though I’ve seen them mentioned around the traps and have given them another look. What I’ve found is fascinating, to say the least.

Basically, their tenet is built around the idea that more than 50% of guys are really on the bi-sexual spectrum and we should accept and embrace that. They also condemn anal sex and posit that being gay is mostly defined by effeminate, anal sex loving queers and it’s time we normalised “bromance”.

I actually applaud them for bravely addressing a very large issue – almost the elephant in the room in some ways! I’m not sure of the veracity of all their stats but I do believe they are right in that many guys would engage in more romantic and intimate relationships with their “mates” if it was normalised.

They also address the biblical issues around homosexuality reasonably well, although the way they approach it suggests a strong religious bias mixed up in it all.

What I find disturbing though is the strong underlying contempt for effeminate gay men. They hardly even attempt to disguise this either, which I guess is good to know before you venture too deep into their literature.

Their entire appeal is built around “we hate that effeminate crap and anal sex is evil”. They then present a lot of great information about normalising same-sex relationships between men – something that definitely should be promoted! But the huge problem is to do with their motivation and underlying attitudes, which, as I said, aren’t even thinly disguised.

There is a lot of mocking the “visible” gay community – the effeminates, the type that dress up and go to Pride parades and want to flaunt their sexuality. I can understand the mentality in terms of a knee-jerk reaction (I’m not effeminate myself and just want to be a “normal” guy who happens to be only attracted to men) but it’s actually incredibly damaging! The last thing we need is another level of bigotry and intolerance masquerading as a superior option for gay men!

The real issue is tolerance and mutual respect. We must learn that we are all unique and wonderful as we are. There is no right or wrong way of being gay. I absolutely agree that the taboo boundaries of sexual attraction should be exposed and normalised, but not at the expense of all the other expression of sexuality.

So for me, these guys, while expressing a genuine issue that needs urgent attention, have created something that is not only unhelpful but actually destructive!

It’s the wrong solution to the wrong problem guys!

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 0 comments
Exposing Conversion Therapy in New Zealand

Exposing Conversion Therapy in New Zealand

I’ve just had the incredible privilege of working with TVNZ (our national Television network) on a current affairs feature about “gay conversion therapy” (aka reparative therapy or “pray the gay away”).

So many people have expressed shock that it’s so prevalent. It’s not (or ever has been) the exclusive realm of cultish organisations – most of the big ones have closed down as they realised it doesn’t work anyway! However, it’s even more active “underground”, meaning thousands of churches have anything from a pastor who will happily pray with people to “cure” them, through to teams of “prayer warriors”, spiritual counsellors, and support groups that continue the destructive work in even more insidious ways.

It’s time this was exposed and the toll it’s taken on countless lives revealed. There simply is no place for this life threatening practice – and I use the term “life threatening” without hesitation simply because the largest demographic for suicide is amongst LGBT people in religion, and especially those who have experienced this so called therapy.

Sadly, so many of these “counsellors” are genuinely caring and loving, convinced they are helping. I was one of them! But that doesn’t excuse them from the deep level of abuse they are ignorantly inflicting on these people. Although I respect their desire to help people who struggle, I will do all in my power to stop them.

So here are the links to the feature on the Sunday current affairs show and the follow-up the next morning on the TVNZ Breakfast show.
They are Facebook links so they don’t have country restrictions and can be viewed internationally.
I hope to have direct links to the videos soon so we can bypass Facebook and stream direct from here. (They won’t open in a new browser/tab window so you’ll need to click the back button to get back to this page)

 

Posted by silentgays in Blog, Conversion Therapy, Mental Health, 0 comments

My Legacy

Many people think that I’m now “out and proud”, and that my days of living in hidden trauma, depression and self loathing are long gone.

I guess I do give that impression because I’m a passionate advocate for helping people untangle the mess of religion, especially for LGBT people. I speak about how amazing life is now that I’m free from the bondage and abuse from that belief system.
But there’s a hidden legacy that I live with – that most who have been through this sort of stuff live with.
Let me explain…
On one level I’ve never felt more at peace to be free from religion and dogma and how that affected me as a gay man. I understand love in ways I never thought possible. Life is infinitely better!
But I lived a nightmare for most of my life. I lived a life of shame and guilt – of being a failure, a “freak”, faulty, rejected and deeply tormented for being something I couldn’t change, which culminated in a breakdown after my wife died.
It’s been a slow journey out of that mess, and the legacy of that life is deep and lingering. I was on antidepressants for 6 years and still have bouts of depression and anxiety. I have ADHD that became far worse after the breakdown. I can’t absorb complex technical information any more (which sucks because I used to be a Technical Writer and Instructional Designer). My brain runs full tilt all the time, dancing from one thing to another without a word of warning. I get confused easily. I’m impulsive. I lose track of what I’m doing. It’s not just old age, lol, although I’m sure that doesn’t help!
I struggle every day. It took me 2 years to write It’s Life Jim… not only because of the time it took to untangle so much of the mess, but also because my mind doesn’t operate in linear coherent ways any more (not that it was ever that good at it anyway). Some days I get up with the best of intentions and clarity only to find it turns to vapour the moment I start to be “productive”. I practice mindfulness and go for long walks. I take time as best I can, to slow down. I like my wine and beer, and the odd bit of wacky weed to help slow down the endless barrage of chatter in my head.
I struggle with how most of my life was a complete waste, never finding peace or integrity, self worth and living a complete lie, damaging those closest to me, as well as myself. Sure, there’s all the platitudes about my life’s journey and nothing is a waste etc… I get that, really I do. But that doesn’t help the deep scars left by the endless years of crap.
Daily, “normal” life is not something I do well. I’m one of the walking wounded, with a pronounced limp that I’m slowly realising may never go away. And yet, the paradox is I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A deep happiness and peace – so much better than my previous life.
One thing I can give, without hesitation, is my integrity and honesty about who I am, what I’ve done and where I’m at. I can “share my journey” with as much honesty as I’m capable of mustering, because that is the only thing any of us can do in the end. Sure I “preach” about the things that have set me free, and I’m passionate about everyone growing into real life and love without fear or dogma. But I’m just me, still discovering my own biases and how I affect others.
My favourite tag line is “Live loved”. I’m still learning how powerful and profound those simple words are. Some days are better than others, but it’s always a step forward.
The legacy of christianity, for me, is deep. I’ve seen the utter failing of it’s core doctrines. I’m not as bitter as I used to be, and have always recognised that many beautiful, loving people have found a belief system that works for them. They are the ones who have shaped their beliefs around their own inherent beauty, rather than the doctrines of the belief system itself, but that’s a whole other story, lol.
So I guess I’m saying that if I (or anyone) give the impression that I’m suddenly free and perfect after a lifetime of abuse, then sorry, it doesn’t work like that.
Now, where’s that beer?…
Posted by silentgays in Blog, Mental Health, 0 comments

The Hero’s Journey

I’d like to present a guest post by David Gormong.
This is very profound and an excellent allegory.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Fran%C3%A7ois_Lemoyne_-_The_Apotheosis_of_Hercules_-_WGA12654.jpg

François Lemoyne – The Apotheosis of Hercules

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

The heroes of myth and legend have so much to teach us gay men. We too are called to the hero’s journey.

Consider the story of Hercules, for instance. The ancient Greeks loved the tale of Hercules, or Heracles, as they called him. And well they should have. His is a tale of intrigue, adventure, agony, and triumph. It is a classic example of the monomyth, the hero’s journey, made famous by Joseph Campbell.

The heart of the story, the Twelve Labors, begins with Hercules enjoying life with his wife and children. But all is not well. Hera, the wife of Zeus, is dripping with spite for Hercules because he is the son of her husband and a human woman. She means to do him in, and spares nothing to torment and kill this half-breed. She drives him mad. In his derangement, Hercules murders his children, and in some tellings, his wife.

When he regains his wits, he exiles himself to recover his decency. He puts himself at the mercy of the Oracle of Delphi, the great Pythia, priestess of Apollo. Hera whispers in the Pythia’s ear: Send him to King Eurystheus of Mycenea, she says, for whom Hercules must accomplish ten impossible feats. The punishment is particularly humiliating because Mycenea should have been Hercules’ kingdom, had not Hera intervened to install her little bully on the throne.

One by one Hercules accomplishes the ten feats to the fearful astonishment of Eurystheus. The king refuses to count two of them, however. So he requires Hercules to accomplish twelve labors in all. The twelfth mission sends Hercules to Hades to capture the three-headed monster Cerberus. Descending to the realm of the dead, Hercules wrestles the malformed creature with his bare hands, and ultimately prevails. He brings it back to Eurystheus, who tremulously begs him please to take it back. Having accomplished this final feat, Hercules is at long last released from his humiliation, and allowed to return home.

I tell the story here not because I suspect Hercules of being gay. Far from it. He was surely as straight as a loon’s leg. I tell it as a way of understanding my journey as a gay man.

Guilty of filicide, Hercules somehow knows in his gut that redemption lies in exiling himself. Of his own will, he walks outside the walls of his hometown and begins his hero’s journey. As gay men, we are given no such choice. We are cast outside the gates of straight society from our birth, maybe even from our conception. We are transgressive, not because of anything we have done, but for who we are.

Like Hercules, our transgression is the doing of the gods. We have no conscious choice in the matter. We are different from the start, boys who bear the mark of some goddess who has imprinted herself on our psyches. We are feminine of soul, and therein lies our sin against the collective.

We begin our exile not as full-grown men, having once enjoyed the comforts of being at home among kinsmen. No, we come as aliens into a straight world. As children, not yet skilled with sword or club, we begin our exile. We become keenly aware of it just as we are feeling the adolescent compulsion to fit in. It’s a lot for a boy to bear.

Having not yet consented to a sexual act, we are nonetheless guilty of what Michel Foucault called “the arrogance of sex,” what Jamake Highwater so poignantly described in The Mythology of Transgression. We have transgressed — etymologically, gone across — across the threshold of straight society, out into the wilderness where bane and beast await.

How we long to be taken back inside the gates. Oh how I longed. This longing held me fast till I was forty-nine. Seven times seven years. There must be some mythical meaning to that number. I twisted myself into a straightjacket of heterosexual marriage. I became a pastor in a conservative denomination, of all things. I refused to read pro-gay theology, fearing it might actually be convincing. I could pass as straight. More’s the pity.

“Often in actual life,” writes Joseph Campbell, “and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered.” The result is that one’s life becomes “a wasteland of dry bones… life feels meaningless” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces). I know that feeling. As I passed beyond middle age, I was slowly dying. My life was rotting from the inside out.

I resisted the call for all the right reasons. I loved my wife. I loved my family. I loved my church. I loved my God. But I did not love myself. I was living someone else’s life. I was scared. I was like Frodo Baggins, another classic hero, who did not wish to bear the ring. His aversion was well-meaning. He did not want to succumb to its power, to become possessed by it like his Uncle Bilbo. No matter. All of Middle Earth would have fallen into shadow had he not borne it into the fire of Mount Doom. We refuse the call not to our own peril alone, but also to that of our friends and family. They need the balance of masculine and feminine that we carry within us.

Blessedly, the gods will not relent. In another Greek myth, Apollo pursues the fleeing Daphne, “I who pursue you am no enemy,” he cries after her. “You know not whom you flee.” When we gay men hide from our calling, we are not fleeing an enemy. We are refusing the gift of our own lives. We are refusing the very gift we have to give the world. We can offer no other service than the giving of our selves.

A long-delayed coming out is not the only way we refuse the hero’s journey. The push for gay rights is about many things. It is about justice. It is about owning our identity. It is about affirming our humanity. As brightly as those ideals shine, they also cast a shadow. The gay rights movement is also, dare we admit it, about denying our difference. “One love,” we sing. “Same same,” we say. It is only half the truth. And the fundamentalists of all faiths are only too ready to remind us of the other half.

Jungian psychologist Mitch Walker has long warned that gay rights cannot be our ultimate aim. Sometimes he has sounded shrill. In 1976 he wrote, “The Homophile Movement for Equality is a dead thing: dead to the vision, anti-magickal [sic], counter-revolutionary. Its spokespeople and theorists shun the roots (the radical, [which is the] source of nurturance and understanding) in favor of surface values: the social norm, success, integration, acceptance, assimilation. Its shallow reality suffocates the vision in us, co-opting gay people and vitiating the creativity and potential of the Gay Movement” (Visionary Love). Was that too strong? Of course. But he had a point.

Today he writes more temperately. “Reconciling to one’s same-sex-loving orientation and forging a ‘healthy gay identity’ which is socially successful,” he writes, is not enough. Yes, they are “absolutely pivotal steps in appropriate self-empowerment.” But they do not heal all the damage of “growing up alone in a hateful, alien world.” Nor do they heal the constant abrasion of having to prove our worth to “a social universe which is still vastly inhumanely biased against” our homosexuality (Gay Liberation at a Psychological Crossroads). We gays can get caught up in pursuit of money, fame, and power just to prove that we matter. But the real value we bring to society is not that. It is something far richer and deeper.

In other words, guys, we’ve got work to do. Psychological work. Spiritual work. We have labors we are called to complete. We must go down deep into the psyche. We have to get in there with our bare hands and our bare hearts and our bare guts. We need to wrestle malformed monsters, the monsters of our personal histories, the monsters of our social collective. We must wrestle till we can rescue all the parts of ourselves that we and our society have consigned to Hades.

Being exiled is not our choice. Taking the hero’s journey is.

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 0 comments

“Nice” Christians

It’s always bugged me. Even when I was a pentecostal bible basher.

“Nice” Christians. 

You know the type…
Always smiling, always have an encouraging “word” for you, and ignoring everything “bad” in the world and only trying to think “good” thoughts.
Plastic, is one word that comes to mind, or shallow. They are out there in their millions.

Most live happy lives and I guess that’s OK. But it’s not OK when you interact with them on anything other than how lovely the pastors wife looks, or discussing how your latest sponsor child in Africa is going.

I had a run-in online with an old acquaintance from my pente church in the 80s. She was commenting on the upcoming vote in Australia on gay marriage and was posting articles as to why we should vote no. I was quick to jump on them and point out the many flaws in the facts and research they stated. They were highly inaccurate and offensive for those who actually know what they are talking about.

The comments were all “oh, dear, how terrible, yes we must vote no!”. But I had the guts to point out the flaws. It didn’t go down well. But here’s the rub. You see, she’s a “nice” christian, so wouldn’t dream of confronting me with her real feelings, so proceeded with patronising comments that had that “I’m being firm but loving” attitude, and it was wrong of me to confront her and make assumptions about her views etc, and then finished off with “God bless”, and the unfriended me.

I’m inclined to think these types are far worse than the Westbro psychopaths. At least with Westbro you know exactly where you stand – there’s no fake mask, no pretence, what you see is what you get. (Yes, I’m generalising)

But the “nice” ones are insidious. They hide in their little isolated worlds and even when they “go out into the world”, it’s to do good deeds and help those poor 3rd world people and the “underpriveliged” (a very apt word). Of course, they may bring practical help but it’s always with an agenda of getting them saved and making them into “nice” acceptable western Christians, just like them.

In daily life, they avoid conflict, and if it arises, they default to bible verses, spoken in love of course. If that doesn’t work they may gently rebuke you with a smile and claim they still love you, but not your actions. They think that being “nice” is all they have to do to be “Christlike”.

The truth is, they are just like the Pharisees. Pretending they are wise and caring. Pretending they know best and we should just all be nice like them and get along. We must follow their doctrines and only allow questions that are within the constraints of their bible study guidelines. They are gutless, controlling, patronising, arrogant and everything Jesus stood against.

If you try to interact with these folks, you’ll come away feeling like you are the one with the problem. They may trigger all your issues of religious abuse, and then quietly, and oh so politely, point out that you are the one who has reacted badly. They may suggest a good Christian counsellor, or if you really get up their noses, they may snub you and remove you from their circle of niceness.

These are the ones I really struggle with, and I now realise it’s ok to call them out on it. It’s ok to challenge them. We don’t have to be “nice”. We have to be loving and compassionate but also real, honest, exposing bigotry and injustice – just like Jesus did!

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 2 comments

Suicide

Over the last few years, as I’ve developed the Silent Gays project, I’ve observed something very disturbing.

People put forward many ideas about why young guys, in particular, commit suicide. This article is powerful and points to one of the major issues concerning young guys inability to talk about themselves and share what’s going on inside.

But there is one problem that is never addressed – how many of these young men were LGBT? https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/lgbtq-youth-suicide-prevention_n_3398035.html

We know for a fact that LGBT teens have the highest demographic for suicide, but this information never makes it to the mainstream awareness surrounding the issue! The question is very rarely asked “were they struggling with sexuality or gender issues?”.

Despite the legal acceptance of LGBT people, and efforts to break the stereotypes, young male culture is still cruel and belittling to anyone outside the typical image of the “tough guy”. As a result, so many guys become very good at successfully hiding their sexuality, and live in constant fear that they could be “outed”. The tragic thing is that when it finally becomes to much, and they take their lives, no one has any idea why. There were no signs of anything wrong – something you hear far too often. As I talk to more and more people, I have found so many who have experienced this and fortunately made it through to tell the story.

We must include this aspect in all our efforts to work through the suicide problem. Suicide prevention programs must directly address this, otherwise we are going to let thousands of young guys tragically end it all for reasons we don’t apparently understand. I now firmly believe it’s a far bigger aspect than we would care to admit, and this is reflected in the lack of material around this in mainstream suicide programs.

We’ve come a long way with addressing the suicide problem, but we have a heck of a long way to go. I’m going to be focussing more on this in the Silent Gays resources, but it’s up to all of us to bring any change.

Please, help raise awareness however you can.

For help – 
New Zealand: www.outline.org.nz
USA: www.glbthotline.org
England: www.switchboard.lgbt
Australia: https://qlife.org.au/
There are many other services available world wide specialising in helping young LGBT people. Just ask Google.

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 2 comments

LGBT suicide and faith

Here’s an excellent article from Anthony Venn-Brown.

I can’t begin to stress how serious this problem is! It’s why I’m here. I fought with suicide ideation constantly my entire life for these exact reasons. I survived. I lost my faith as a result, but I have no regrets about that. For me, I realised that my entire Christian belief system was unnecessary to be a healthy, happy functioning human being who could bring unconditional love to myself and the rest of the world.

Many do find a way to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and gender identity, and Anthony is one who has done this with integrity. Check out his site ABBI.

Read his post here.

Posted by silentgays in Blog, 0 comments