5 Reasons to Lose Christianity… but Find Jesus

It was with great trepidation that I prepared this post, but now, as I share it, there is a sigh of relief in my soul…

After years of trying to identify as a “Gay Christian” or a “church-affirming” person of faith, it seems that the logical side of my brain has had deep conversations with the part of my soul that is tired of drama. Together, they have agreed that the most effective form of spiritual abuse prevention is to avoid triggers.

And Christianity triggers me at the core of who I am – an emotionally awakened, self-regulating, gay woman with an altruistic mind.

First, let me offer an important backdrop for this discussion before I offend most of you with my experience.

We’ve all seen it in social media and even personally witnessed it in some local congregations:

Christianity has been undergoing a very powerful re-branding effort.

At first, this seems to be a good idea, as it is not a faith that has been known for love or kindness to… well, anyone who isn’t white, male and straight. I truly want to get behind the “progressives” who talk about not being “that kind of Christian,” as they follow Jesus’ teachings and attempt to paint a nicer, softer version of this politicized religion on the stained canvas of spirituality.

However, as a Bible College Graduate and a woman who thinks about this topic more than any healthy person should, I recognize that the reason that there is so much conflict over Christianity is the simple fact that its “holy” book is laden with highly disturbing passages, analogies, stories and directives in the name of a God-figure.

Moreover, being progressive right now means big bucks. It means more blog hits, increased interviews, acolades of “bravery” from those who have been wounded by the church, and a false sense of pride in a “new” movement in the faith. (As if the United Church of Christ folk haven’t been teaching this progressive stuff long before it was made cool… I digress).

What we know about the Christian Church is that it is losing popularity… why? Because it should. It’s archaic, draped in a toxic history, shrouded in conflict… and basically the idea of finding community in our modern age is no longer tied to religious beliefs. More folks are happier to stitch and bitch at the local Panera, rather than tithe and survive at dogma-soaked congregational settings. Community, while always difficult to establish, is easier to access and try out, be it through Meet-Ups or the fact that, oh I dunno… we have cars and public transportation, so we don’t need the same local presence that we used to need in order to feel connected. We find out about common interests and we value them much more than our belief systems. Oh yeah, and this social media thing seems to do a good job of helping people feel more connected (perhaps at the expensive of emotional connection at times, but again, another post).

We also know that Christianity is losing popularity because it has this set of beliefs about LGBTQ people, women and overall concepts of social justice that don’t fly with the younger generations. (Did the Biblical writers bother to speak out against slavery? Nope. Sure didn’t. On the contrary, it kinda said, “That’s okay. Slavery happens.” Young people (and yes, some older folks too) do not want to be told what to do based on a book written by men in a time in history that is barely relevant to their own. More and more people are interesting in conversations, not sermons… and giving to the actual community, where it’s tangible and they feel the immediate effects, rather than investing in a pastor’s salary or a building fund. (Your local non-profit… where real church happens?)

However, what the Church is doing, in its well-designed re-branding effort is to make itself hip. Doing as the Romans, they have their loud music, powerpoint screens, even social justice projects, and giving illusions of “cool” when behind it all, the fact remains that there is an extrinsic authority that regulates the Church – the Bible.

Various interpretations and various texts to argue about – but in the end… it’s their holy book – Their script, their point of reference and their reason for the season of known as “Christian.”

But without the Bible, tell me this: Would there be a Christian Church?

I wager there would not be.

Without a book claiming to have authority…

Without a building claiming to be sacred…

Without a leader claiming to be anointed…

Where would the Church be?

It would be in the people.

And thus, we would possibly see that the teachings of Jesus would have some room to grow… once they are no longer confined by books, buildings and budgets. (Oh and egos, but that’s another thought altogether).

So this leads me to a very direct and poignant call to support a great exodus from Christianity. Hanging on to Jesus’ teachings may be the hard part and it is optional, in my opinion because some of his teachings are socially and emotionally under-developed. But without any further ado, I offer you something that will upset many of you. For others though, it may put the nail in the church coffin. You have been waiting to hear that it is safe to walk away. It is safe to lose Christianity… here are 5 reasons why…

1. Lose Christianity because… their holy book is profane.

Unlike most spiritual texts, Christianity’s “holy” book is grossly tied to violence, inequality, 1947957_278200805670461_1195406355_ncrimes against humanity, injustices towards women and minorities and frankly, a key plot twist that never sounds appealing – child sacrifice. The older I get, the more I realize that killing your son has got to be the least creative option for achieving justice. I would like to say, “Hey God, I hear you made hummingbirds, dinosaurs and the ocean, but when it came to retribution, your creativity leveled out at killing your kid? Epic creative fail.”

1782130_278199992337209_142745578_nOne of the most obscene Biblical passages regarding God’s need for justice/righteousness is when he turns two bears on a group of 42 bratty kids for making fun of one of his prophets, Elisha. Yeesh. I want God to get my back, but what’s with all the child-murder? I work with children… In fact, I work with about 42 every day and if they say mean things at times, it’s because they are kids. Doesn’t God know they are just testing out hurtful words vs. helpful words? A book that tells this story about that God should be banned, at least for anyone under the age of 18!

 

2. Lose Christianity because… you don’t need to be the house negro to make a point.

Ouch. Did she just say that? Actually, I’m anonymously quoting a friend who made that statement in regards to LGBTQ Christians. We can make our points about spirituality without subjecting ourselves to the system that keeps the white folk empowered (straight?) and the colored (gay?) scrubbing windows and able to come in from the rain at night. We all know that Jesus is not the same as “the Church.” Do you really think that if he was hanging out among any of this today, he would recognize these “churches” as what he meant when he said to gather and share? The Church is a system and in the end, the return on investment is low for its inhabitants, as its owner (pastors and politicians) reap either financially or psychologically. (Oh, there’s the ego conversation again…) There is a safer way to find spiritual community than surrendering your identity to the system.

3. Lose Christianity because… they can’t seem to reel in their rogue right-wing.

1602068_275828789240996_643552855_oOften times I hear progressives and conservatives isolate themselves from one another. “Fundies” are viewed as the enemy while I hear “liberals” are just as much a problem for those who believe in “Biblcally-based” things like marriages, families and 401k’s. For a religion that they are trying to brand as one of love, there is a schism deep within itself that is undeniable. If these two groups could figure themselves out, I may take the whole lot more seriously, but when you tune in and really listen to what’s going on, you can see this: One side of the coin despises the other side and claims they have different values. They are on the same piece of silver, no matter if you flip it 40 times and apparently Jesus isn’t even enough to bring them together! If the progressives are so grand, rather than recruiting the de-churched or those who happily walked away, why not take all that liberal “Jesus is love” stuff and lavish it on the brothers and sisters of the faith? In short, even Jesus said, “Get your backyard in order before taking over the neighborhood.” (Or some shit like that… a plank eye comes to mind, but thankfully, Bible College was a long time ago 😉 )

4. Lose Christianity because… their God is kind of unstable.

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Be it the Old Testament or New Testament, the holy book has a way of making the Creator sound like a petty father who can’t determine whether to smite or smother. It’s a simple fact that the religion is based on God “loving” the World that he SENT HIS SON TO DIE. Meanwhile, there are rules and regulations that differ based on interpretation and no routines are established for what “really” pleases God. (Do justly, walk humbly and seek mercy rings a bell but apparently even that is too vague).

AZ_Refuse_ServiceWorse yet, is when Christians ignore the absurd nature of the God’s supposed decrees. When I saw this sign to the left, I didn’t think, “Yeah, you tell ’em.” After I thought, “Don’t you know how to spell virgin?” I thought… “Why am I the only person who thinks that it’s ridiculous to make so many excuses for this strange holy book? It’s full of nonsense at times!

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Even more emotionally unpredictable and illogical are the belief systems themselves. For example, prayer has a complication in that it is entirely unreliable, yet it is a key ingredient of the faith. Exactly what part of the brain is working to monitor something so circular and illogical as prayer? If prayer works, does that mean that I have influence over God? If I do have influence, what does that say of this egomaniac God who only blesses those who know how to talk to him/her/it properly? As a person who teaches social and emotional intelligence, I have to say, this god could use some lessons on being assertive vs. aggressive, as well as learning the power of choice in order to maintain healthy relationships.

5. Lose Christianity because… you have the Freedom to Be and Leave.

I wrote about this in Enlightened-ish and am sharing an excerpt below because I think it’s time that the bigger picture of our core beliefs be considered. Sometimes we stay attached to Christianity because it’s our cultural reminder of family memories. Sometimes we stay out of obligation because “they aren’t all bad” or because we like the community and we’re too busy to find it elsewhere. Sometimes we stay because of actual convictions related to the cherry-picking of verses that matter to us. (Cherry, or cotton, I don’t know. Ouch). But in the end, beliefs are in fact chosen… and if Christianity is too violent, dramatic, unstable or just plain illogical for you… the Freedom to “Be” and Leave means you have options. I can’t promise that other religions are any better (as most are male-driven and seem to reflect a lack of social intelligence) but perhaps a fresh start will feel good after all of the lost friendships, church-hopping, blog-bantering and arguments in your faith journey.

From Enlightened-ish: A Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening:

“For as disillusioned as I felt about the church prior to my father’s death, I never intended to write about anything specific related to my time in a progressive church… Leaving the Christian Church became a key breakthrough for my spiritual awakening. 

“I cannot have my spiritual journey tied up in the success or failure of an organization. It sounds like high-risk behavior for a spiritual person to place all his or her eggs in the collection basket so for me, I cannot support a place where my investments are not diversified. The ROI for the Christian Church would make my spiritual portfolio plummet.

“Many members of the community had hoped I would stay connected, in spite of how this place contradicted my core beliefs (core beliefs discussed in depth, in Enlightened-ish). I didn’t trust any of the leaders to understand where I was coming from in separating from the community. The gossip and lack of emotional intelligence had become toxic. I cut ties altogether with some subgroups of the church. Once the standard operating procedure for conflict management became, ‘Efficiently shuffle things under the rug and psychoanalyze one another,’ I knew my time was up… I gave myself the freedom to “be” and “leave.”

In the end, religious leaders benefit from having followers because those followers surrender their most valuable resource: The ability to self-regulate. If the Bible, a pastor, or even God regulates you, you are not on a path of becoming a self-actualized person

And I know this, because I was once a person who falsely believed that surrendering “my” plan for “God’s plan” was a part of being a loyal, obedient and even wise follower of Christ.

This manifesto, coming from me, is pretty bizarre really – a woman who dedicated her life to Jesus at a crucial age, attended years of church camps, graduated with honors from Bible College, served several churches in youth and pastoral leadership positions and even continued to engage in “bridge-building” with people on the progressive side of this conflicting issue.

But it’s time.

Because the truth is… the Church is not an ally to itself, let alone an ally to the rest of the world. (Um, exactly what teaching is behind hate/discrimination bills? Church teaching, that’s what.) For every minute we spent trying to criticize it or rebuild it, we lose time that could be spent focusing on the person of Jesus, our relationships with our neighbors and the ability to self-regulate during conflict in order to reach peaceful, mindful communication.

So, what about finding Jesus? (Yikes, can it even be done? Well if you are still reading, let me sum this up already so we can all move on!)

Jesus was probably the most misunderstood and messed up figure to ever try to be a spiritual teacher and healer. Imagine that, without social media and the written word, I died today, but 70 years later, less than twelve of you tried to write up some thoughts about my life. Good grief, I hate to think of how you would portray me, even if you loved me 😉

And so it goes… we can go on a search for Jesus, if we feel that he matters… that may be valuable to some of us…

But what the Christian Church has shown us is that it is time to let it go of their business.

Because for many, it is nothing more of a reminder of a broken culture, a crucified faith and a burden to our collective ability to Love One Another. And if it weren’t for the Bible, we would probably be church and no one would have authority over how we live it out.

Walk gently through these explosive thoughts… and know that even if you stay involved with the organized church, this isn’t a judgment against you… but having been there, what I know is that a part of you wonders why you’re doing it. If you ever get tired of the drama, it is in fact, safe to walk away (even if just for a season).

No matter what, I wish us all the ability to breathe deeply as we seek to reconcile ourselves to… ourselves.

~~

This post goes out to three “influences” in my cyber communities. The first is a blog post from a Facebook friend. Please check this out and know that the content is well-prepared by a former Christian leader. It is honest, raw and will probably make you re-think your position on homosexuality and the Bible.

The second influence is a Facebook Page called, “Holy Shit.” I do not know the admins (yet), but I stumbled upon their page and found myself feeling at home, revived and encouraged by the satire, the honesty and the community. I know I can’t please ’em all, but as I lose readers with this post, I know there are ten-fold to gain. Knowing we are not alone – What a valuable influence for us all, no matter what we choose.

To the folks at CTofBM, this doesn’t mean I love you any less either. You remain supported in your chosen frontline duties of the Christianity Branding War… but if you ever fold up shop and call it quits, no judgment here 😉

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

The Truth about Proponents of Conversion Therapy

This essay comes after my involvement with the House of Representatives Subcommittee in Virginia on Thursday, January 30th, where I, along with other survivors, represented the truth of conversion therapy. (Audio links to the entire event at end of this post. You’re welcome) APV_Survivor_PhotoAfter the party-line vote of 4-1, to “gently table” a bill that speaks up for those who cannot represent themselves, I opted to speak to Christopher Doyle, a supposed beneficiary of and proponent for conversion therapy. I figured, if I can face Alan Chambers, what could this guy say that would surprise me?

When I walked up to Christopher Doyle, I thought, “Okay, what’s this guy’s real story?” What I said to him, verbatim in that moment was, “So, you guys trying to be the new Exodus International or what? I mean, we saw how well that turned out…” We half-laughed at my statement and he went on to say how little he cares for Chambers because he (Chambers), isn’t an educated man. So, refreshing as the moment was, to agree on Chambers’ lack of education on sexuality, religion or psychology, what was more disturbing than Chambers’ misguided heart was in fact, Doyle’s larger-than-life ego. We spoke for no more than 7-10 minutes, as I probed him (not in the way he would have liked, don’t be dirty), about topics related to psychology, adolescent development and the differences between actual abuse survivors and those who are in fact, homosexual without disease or disorder for being so! He didn’t seem to want to bend on his position that there are those who can change their sexual orientation but what became most interesting was how he spoke about “unwanted same-sex attraction.” Unwanted SSA, as they call it, can be likened to what you call a straight or bisexual person who would really like to have some support in making their choices regarding sexual identity. It’s a person with mommy/daddy issues who unfortunately, sexualizes those issues. Anyway, let’s get back to this ego thing because it was a bizarre encounter and folks who know me will understand why this was so entertaining, yet disturbing.

We spoke about his ethical duty as a licensed psychologist to treat anyone who came through his doors… and so I, out of some sick curiosity said, “Well, would you treat survivors of conversion therapy? Would you treat, me, perhaps?

Would you believe the guy said, emphatically, “Yes!” Furthermore he stated that he could “first start by helping me deal with my anger.”

Awe… my silly, silly anger… anger, for being told that my father must have molested me and made me gay.

My silly, silly anger, for standing up for other survivors who have experienced suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, depression and isolation because of their exposure to conversion therapy.

My silly, silly anger, for how the church and state have joined together in an effort to annihilate a population, causing an underground Nazi-ish phenomenon.

He is willing to help me with that.

How lovely.

So, reminder – a good psychologist will not look at your anger and see a problem. In fact, a good psychologist may see how your anger fuels you, inspires others and serves you in truly healing yourself, as you learn to express rather than suppress.

And… I digress again… dammit.

So, here we have me and Doyle and my very sick stomach and his hairless face and spineless psychology…

And up walks Delegate Krupricka, the only Democrat on the committee willing to stand on the right side of history during this vote. He interrupts my private challenging with Doyle, shakes my hand and thanks me for my testimony…

And I snap out of it.

What the hell am I hoping to accomplish in talking to Doyle anyway?

Well, Mr. Doyle hands me his card and I see it all come together… is he willing to help survivors, does he bill himself first as a psychologist, a helper of the people, a voice for the voiceless? Do I get a card which says something about the voiceless and how he represents them?

Nope.

I get…

This…

 doyle

And so the clarity hits me about the whole circus in which my truth is currently being manipulated.

Politics, Gail. This is politics.

I think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (cue old movie buffs) and I picture myself collapsing under the weight of the political machine so I decide it’s time to end this conversation. I say, “Okay, Chris… it looks like I may see you again. Maybe we will talk sometime…

But honestly, after it was all said and done and a few days later, when I finished an additional and unsuspected interview for Sky News, it occurred to me that we probably won’t talk again.

I’ve said so much. And just like the last time I spoke before a camera and investigators who were hoping to represent the truth of my story, I can say, “This is enough… for now.

Standing firm with other survivors, I will continue to write and connect with allies and victims as they come out of that cult-like environment, but for now, the cameras are off…

Unless of course, Anderson Cooper calls. 😉 My gay male friends would never forgive me for refusing to interview with him lol

What I learned from my day on the small political stage was that magic tricks aren’t just for the professionally trained, but also the politically diabolical. I also learned… that some supposed proponents of conversion therapy are really, simply put, political consultants who operate from hatred for those not like them.

role_physical_painNow – here’s your “coming to Gail” moment – For me, every time I engage in open/public conversations about my exposure to and recovery from Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), I literally encounter an increase in physical pain. This started after the Our America taping in April 2013. (Not an increase in books sales, speaking gigs or new clients… because I have never used my survivor story or my volunteer work at Beyond Ex Gay as a platform through which I promote myself or my career.)

Just pain. A chronic pain that seems to come and go at various levels of awful without much cause otherwise. It is my “biofeedback mechanism” that says, “Take care of you” and it’s also my body’s way of saying, “Stay away from that!” It has many messages actually… and that is the book I am writing right now, which I’m expecting will reach an audience that has never heard pain discussed quite so openly.

But I don’t need any more “book fodder” when it comes to this pain and so… when my life goes on temporary “pause” every time I choose to bring my story forward for public consumption, I have to take it all in stride, ya know? Unlike the proponents of conversion therapy, I have a real job, supporting positive work in the world and I don’t make money on manipulating anyone to believe what I believe…

I get physically sick after being in the presence of those who twist survivor stories or misrepresent their own in order to suppress the truth of what goes on behind closed doors. When I talk to a legitimate therapist afterwards, about these public encounters, it becomes clear why I get so sick…

How frustrating it is, for example, to know that “Touch Therapy” becomes a way for would-be molesters to feed their need for power over the vulnerable.

How frustrating it is, also, to know that sometimes false allegations of abuse are made and healthy relationships with parents are threatened.

How frustrating that folks with mommy/daddy issues are claiming to be gay in the first place, let alone discussing change orientation? They weren’t gay… they sexualized their relationships with their parents for whatever reason and yes, should be in therapy… but no, that has nothing to do with being gay!

It’s similar to how a person with an eating disorder goes through the world… with a negative perception of food, nourishment and body image. That’s all these proponents of conversion therapy are – sexually starved or sexually overfed, hurting people with some unhealthy views on nourishment.

So, when a small and very strange group of extremists within my culture opt to redefine “gay” in a way that makes it look unhealthy for those of us who are just fine with who we are, I’m going to get sick, find it painful, and get angry…

Because the public deserves better out of people who calls themselves ministers or psychologists.

These conversion therapy believers do need therapy… and now because of their twisted ideas about sexuality, so did I!

So this week, I asked my therapist why survivors work with other victims. I asked, “Why does a rape survivor work in victim recovery and rape prevention?”

I can’t quote what she said, but I can come back to what I said in the question… and that was the word prevention.

That is why we do what we do…

Not because we like talking about the trauma and not because it’s easy. We aren’t “removed” from it and it’s not like it happened in another lifetime…

We just know that this stat matters…

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And we hope to be a voice that ends a type of manipulative therapy which undermines a child’s ability to trust, talk to and grow with… her parent.

P.S. To the 4 republican delegates who sat in front of our stories, I wish you nothing but awareness of the shameful failure to protect our young people. Your party line and your religious beliefs will be responsible for another teen suicide today and every day, until you send a message to our young people that they are not pawns in a political game. You have your codes of ethics. I strongly consider taking a red pen to the section known as integrity.

To the 6 or 7 unnamed people who came up to me after my testimony and thanked me for sharing, I just want you to know that in that moment, you were the angels that were absent when I was 12 years old. Your kind words sustained me at that very second you thanked me for my courage. Thank you.

To Delegate Krupika and Delegate Hope – thank you for the kindness in your eyes… and to be perfectly honest, Chairman Peace… thank you, for the genuine confusion and curiosity in your eyes. May your children, Camden and Harry, always be protected from anyone who would seek to undermine your relationships with them, in the name of religion or psychology.

For more information about the bill that was “gently tabled” and the work of Alliance for Progressive Values, click here.

For more information about survivor stories, check out our survey results and testimonies at Beyond Ex Gay.

For more information not related to any of this political/religious nonsense, stay tuned to my blog. I didn’t come back from a sabbatical just to talk only about this stuff 😉 Love and light, my friends.

As promised… the links to the hearing, in several parts. (FYI you will need headphones to hear. Quality on upload was not the best)

Delegate Hope

APV Organizer

Gail Dickert

Survivor #2

Opposition #1

Opposition #2/Doyle

Vote