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.

 

A Cyber-Sabbatical… The Freedom to Heal

When I first started For Gail So Loved the World, I was searching for community.

I was searching for my voice, as a writer, as a spiritual sojourner and as an activist.

I was searching… for healing through the written and spoken word.

I was actually, searching for Jesus, believe it or not.

When I look back over the 100+ posts and dozens of vlogs on YouTube, in the last two years, I realize that I have lived my life inside out.

Exposed.

Naked.

Open.

And I’ve somehow managed to remain respected as a professional in my “day job.” 😉

We get raw sometimes and have no place to take these feelings.

We get lost sometimes and have no idea where we can admit it.

We get real sometimes and feel like no one else is trying it.

My Facebook pages and these posts have been my external process, in hopes that the boundless love that I have for the world could bloom into a community of readers and folks who share light with one another.

And that community has certainly come into fruition in many ways!

Specifically, in the last year, my online community has shared endless memories with me and I have walked with them through many life changes as well.

For me, here are a few highlights of just 2013:

121014_003* I accepted a major promotion at my non-profit.

* I said goodbye to my fur baby, Dre, of 12 years.

* I traveled to LA in order to appear on Our America, face the leader of a deceptive organization by representing survivors of reparative therapy and Christian Fundamentalism.

* My family nursed my mom through a life-changing surgery.

* I published my second book, Enlightened-ish, which discusses the awakening that came through trauma in 2011-2012. (Only to later temporarily pull it from publication until AuthorSolutions could resolve their questionable approach regarding distribution and copyright.)

And now, in only the last few months, I’ve launched a new business in order to support self-published written and spoken word artists, prepared to see my mom relocate out of the area for the betterment of her health and walked a painful path with my body that is leading to at least one surgery…

We have shared… so much.

And the truth is that my vision for my life a few years ago was that I am nothing but a “conduit” for Light and Love. I trusted that no matter how much I was putting “out” there for the world, I would always have an endless supply of creativity, hope and encouragement for others.

Love would flow through me…

Light could move through me…

And as beautiful as this vision has been, I realize now…

I deserve to contain it sometimes, not simply facilitate it.

I am human and in all of my freedoms, what I rarely do is mindfully create some space for me to heal and just ‘be’ for more than a few days.

Now, the funny part is that even in taking a cyber-sabbatical, I will still be working on Teaching Memoirs and I will also be working hard at my non-profit, which fuels my soul in dozens of ways. I will be writing and connecting with anyone who comes across my path and yet, the silence on my blog (aside from events/happenings) will feel so strange. The silence on my Facebook page, even more foreign.

But, like I said in Enlightened-ish (which will be available again soon), self-love is a key ingredient in awakening. I have loved and cared for myself and my own life, but this year has brought me to an awareness of my limits.

And I believe now, that limitations teach us what truly matters.

I am more than a conduit for light and good things – I must also receive, contain and experience fully, in my own body and mind, the pleasure that comes from Love.

pain_body_1I don’t believe we create our dis-ease… but I do believe we must be response-able to it and not simply approach all illness as a mechanical/chemical and ultimately purely physical malfunction in an otherwise healthy existence. In short, I am not responsIBLE for the way my body has processed itself in light of years of good and “bad” stress, but I am response-ABLE to ensure that my limitations are honored.

It’s time I find the Freedom to Heal.

It’s interesting then, isn’t it, that when I first started blogging, I was in search of Jesus….

Why?

Why was I searching for a martyr? A savior-figure? A Healer?

Maybe what I was really searching for, was someone who could love, be loved and still… be human.

Perhaps that is the closet description of any savior figure who has any value at all…

1234469_666161776728688_80315677_nSo instead of Jesus, I found a thirty-something curly-haired, open-hearted activist/pre-school director who tread as gently as possible in the lives of those who engaged in her writings and poetry through an online forum until…

She looked at her cross and said, “Meh, that story is tired.”

And for a few months, she put down her burdens…

And picking up the pace on pleasure.

I will see you again, soon-ish. 😉

Until then, play Cups, listen to this… and know, you are loved, just as you are, without exception.

Namaste, yo

P.S. When you’re ready to Awaken Your Best-Teller and bring your lessons to the world… you can find me here. I’ll be taking a limited number of clients in 2014…

The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.

I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.

I know what they label us.

They call us the “de-churched.”

It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

church_FireBut some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).

I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.

Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.

Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)

Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.

Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.

Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.

Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.

It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.

So, let us be.

Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.

Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.

Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.

Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.

Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.

Tell us we matter.

And then walk with us…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like Jesus would.

And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…

Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…

So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…

Walk with the non-church goer.

Our stories are legitimate.

Our faith is real.

Our lives are whole.

We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.

And you aren’t whole because it works for you…

We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.

4 Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today… Yes, Really

It’s pretty clear that none of us are getting out of here alive, so while we have this limited amount of time to consider what kind of impressions we hope to leave in this world, perhaps a little dose of silly with our sacred will light the path this week.

Four Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today

Epitaph_Funny1. Life, as we know it, will end in death. – Yes, it’s true for every one of us, that we all die in the end and staying connected to that grave reality (of course pun intended) is one of the reasons I was able to produce and publish Enlightened-ish this year. In 2011, I saw firsthand how death affects the living, first in March when I witnessed a suicide and the second time, in September, when my father passed away. I’ll tell ya, nothing makes traffic jams, gossip, relationship trauma, church hypocrisies, and self-imposed drama look more like a waste of time than having the crushing reality of one’s mortality thrown in your face. In the end, there is an end. So why not give some thought now, to how it’s going to sound to those who are still here after you’re gone? Legacy. Think about it.

2. Life, as we know it, is sometimes very dark. – Yes, it’s true that we are all building great castles in the sky, with our dreams, books, blogs and highest intentions, but we also are equally aware of the “darker” side of the human experience. Writing your own epitaph gives you that moment to consider the “ick” and perhaps even the “negative” parts of the human condition. Indulge in it just a little bit… it won’t kill you, will it? (Damn the puns are too easy.)Epitaph_Poignant

3. Life, as we know it, requires insights. – Good heavens, we are missing the mark when we fail to reflect on our own lives. Of course, there is a balance to this and we need not become narcissistic in our self-evolution, but imagine how much easier your life would be if you could access your internal hindsight wisdom before it becomes hindsight! Reflection is good for the soul… it may not be like this “on the other side,” but as far as being human goes, the more aware we are of our own motives and obstacles to peace and self-accountability, the better!

epitaph_mg4. Life, as we know it, is meant to be lived. – Epitaphs represent the silly, the complicated, the direct and the meaningful experiences in the human condition. Ultimately, they represent that a person’s life was in fact, lived, and hopefully, with abundance and with every ounce of passion, determination and vulnerability that we can muster. So… writing your epitaph is a way of creating a mantra that can anchor you personally, in all that is going on around you so you remember what you’re all about when it’s all said and done.

Having said that… I took a stab at writing my own epitaph… and here’s what I came up with:

Gail Dickert: 1978 – ?: “She loved like her life depended on it… until it killed her.”

Namaste, lovelies 😉

P.S. (If you’re a Bible-friendly person, you will recognize my epitaph as it relates to I Peter 4:8. It’s been a personal mantra since I first read it, at age 12. I expect to go out making sure people wonder how this Bible College Grad became a hippie, lesbian Turtle Whisperin’ homospiritual 😉 )

By the way, speaking of legacies, I have the honor of sharing a review of my first book Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams, here. It’s really powerful for me, to know that my coming out memoir would make my tombstone proud 😉

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics

Okay, look… the whole intention of the words “I’m sorry” is not to make you feel better about your awful decisions, intentional deception or guilt complex. As a survivor of Christian Fundamentalism and the “ex-gay” lie, few things bother me more than when a former leader or current leader starts blabbering about how sorry they are that their chosen beliefs and denial of human rights are something about which they are “sorry.”

So when Andrew Marin says he is “sorry” and runs around in his underwear claiming he understands the gay community because he has binders full of gays (hires gays, like Romney hired women. Samsies, yo), I finally decided to post an open letter clarifying that not all of us are buying it because he also embodies an epic fail to take a public stand on civil liberties for the LGBTQ person of faith.

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When Alan Chambers, of the “former” Exodus International, issued an apology, which I was in the room to witness, I compared him to the Grace Monster – Bride of Franken-Christ even… and now, only a month later he is asking for donations, at Exodus’s site, in order to launch a “new and improved” version of social genocide. I guess they plan on making the Kool-Aid a little sweeter this time and are looking for a new recipe. It’s hard to say. I mean, if your belief is that the gay person is bad, wrong, less than, not equal, doing something that makes Jesus wag his finger at you… what are they offering – A dating platform so you can meet and marry an equally complicated headcase or sexually dysfunctional companion? Or are they offering a support group for celibate people who stand by some unnatural interpretation of scripture and ignore basic psychological wisdom about the harms of suppression or orientation change? (Harm? Yes. We talk about that at Beyond Ex Gay.)

See, I don’t really know what these guys are up to… in the end, I think it has to do with someone not being loved as child, but I’m not sure.

But now Randy Thomas, another leader, tosses his apology into the ring, from the comfort of his blog. (I mention the comfort of his blog because he was second in command when Alan issued his apology to a room full of survivors in April 2013. Not really sure why Randy wasn’t sorry a few months ago and couldn’t attend but is sorry now. Just sayin’). Randy, a celibate man who apparently “struggles with same-sex attraction” has stood in opposition to human rights and denied the psychological evidence of the harm of “ex-gay” therapy. Now, he issues his mea culpa and that puts this survivor over the edge.

What’s with all this whoring out of apologies and sexual ethics while asking for donations to an ambiguously gay cause? (You’re welcome for this video). [youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_7UnNDJ4bA”%5D

They have, ironically, made whores out of a lot of sacred things – celibacy, abstinence, grace and apologies, to name a few. These aren’t catch-phrases or political positions… Donating to organizations who make sure people get paid not to have sex is just as damaging as the alternative. I mean, is this some kind of reverse prostitution? I had to wonder this all along, when I met of one of the movement’s “fringe leaders,” Julie Rodgers, who currently states that she is celibate for Jesus, but at least speaks no half-truths about her process. When I asked if Alan would let her speak at an “Exodus-related” event if she was all cozied up with a cute lesbian, living her Jesus-light in same sex love, I felt he scoffed at the suggestion. It’s clear to me she has to be celibate to maintain ties to that area of the apologetic neighborhood. (Speaking of actual apologies, I recently took to that stage to apologize for wanting to put more than my words in her mouth or my beliefs in her heart. No, no, bad Gail. Don’t try to influence lesbians who reject their sexuality. Duh! Oh, by the way… “Why was my apology public?” you ask. Because when leaders actually own their processes, it supports others in doing the same. Vulnerability and changing our ways is what serves as proof of actual apology, ya dig? Keep reading… we will end on that…)

What these organizations/leaders have in common is how they have all cheapened these very sacred concepts! Admitting to wrong-doing or allowing the Sacred to present somehow, in our sexual/sensual relationships… how can one just blog about it but take no official action that supports full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith?

im sorry tshirt

In short, I don’t know ultimately, what their intentions are – I mean, getting paid not to have sex seems a little creepy. Apologizing but not standing up for equality seems suspect. It’s just… getting a little weird when the lack of social and emotional intelligence urges these “leaders” to co-create an environment where what is in the heart no longer matters, but what is on the blog is Gospel. (An irony made more apparent when the Christ spoke to the issues of the heart being more important than all else.)

In light of all these slutty-sorries, I figured I would offer 5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics, just in case we needed it spelled out.

real sorry1. It’s annoying. No really…  it is. Survivors and their actual allies are tired of it and when there are organizations that truly support the LGBTQ person of faith, who cares if you are sorry? (Believe Out Loud, to name one actual ally)

2. It’s inauthentic. Unless… you have a plan for making sure that your life doesn’t revolve around continuing to take advantage of those you hurt, then, we aren’t buying it.

3. It’s unbecoming. People are watching, ya know? Children… impressionable youth… and all you can exemplify is that you are a person of words but are afraid to stand for equality? Let us know how it feels to be on the wrong side of history, ok?

4. It’s triggering. If you actually cared about the people you harmed, you might realize that when we hear shallow apologies, it actually re-traumatizes some survivors. This goes for any apology. Feel free to apply it to real world matters, like friendships and family. (Or, you know, the ex that calls and says he’s sorry for being a jerk? No, that doesn’t make you feel better, does it? Ick, thanks for the reminder, now go away. Gross.)

5. It’s not your business. Truly. To be the change we want to see in the world, perhaps we should just be our truth, rather than blog it only, right? I mean… sexuality is a personal concern. Why should anyone make money following your example on something so personal? Moreover, why should you make a living on apologies you don’t even mean?

So, with having said all that, I’ll close by highlighting one apology that has mattered since 2007 and continues to… that of my friend and cohort in survivor advocacy, Michael Bussee.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDiYeJ_bsQo”%5D

The former leaders involved in the Beyond Ex Gay event have turned the tide for many survivors and the survivor movement thanks them… apology accepted.

The rest of these so-called apologies and projections about sexual ethic… and bridge-building… ?

Meh, call Michael Busse and ask him how it’s done. Otherwise… thanks, but no thanks.

P.S. While you were busy feasting on your piety, gnashing your guilty teeth for having taken a bite out of the gay community, or feeling good about a life of suppression and rigidity…

thinkprogress-homeless-lgbt

How does your sorry sound to them?

I don’t know… because they don’t read our blogs and when I meet them, the last thing I do is mention all this nonsense. Just sayin’. Maybe it’s time to get real…

~~

Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

A Survivor’s Last Stand: The Freedom to Say, “Enough”

In Enlightened-ish, I wrote about the Freedom to Say, ‘Enough,’ which many readers have claimed is the climactic chapter of the book. The focus of the stories I tell in the chapter is that when we come to acknowledge that we have done all we can to heal, support, process, endure or survive a situation, a powerful awakening occurs. Saying, “Enough” sets us up for establishing firmer boundaries, learning healthier outlets for our natural frustrations with life’s temporary (or permanent) disappointments and welcoming exciting opportunities for us to grow. It’s damn near the most powerful word in our vocabulary and while this freedom was pretty solidified through everything I grieved in order to even write Enlightened-ish, it is a freedom that I realize I have to exercise in another scenario this month: My advocacy work with survivors of toxic religion and ex-gay therapy.

Recovering from any wound takes time. It takes time to tell your story to yourself and it takes even more time to learn how to tell your story to someone else. Worse yet, if the limelight finds you, your ability to tell your story becomes infected by a concern about how others will perceive it, what it will mean for your personal legacy and how your life path can be defined by said limelight. (No one has a good side, in limelight). So the wounds, however fresh or well-healed, somehow remain visible and viewed as a part of our lives, if we continue to advocate for an end to the abuses. (As this post heats up, enjoy some background music that seems to match my mood when this was crafted.)

Yet a survivor as an advocate is much more powerful than an “ally” because of one simple reason: Trust. We can trust a survivor much easier than a bystander or compassionate activist because more often than not, a survivor is re-processing and sometimes re-traumatizing himself in order to tell the truth. Who would do that to themselves if they didn’t truly care and have a story worth hearing? (We can answer that but masochism is a topic for later in this post). An ally, on the other hand, is merely relating and tragically, may have an alternate agenda. (Cue gasp).

This topic comes up a lot in June, for LGBTQ people, if we attend Pride events. Often times, the inauthentic Christian leaders and wolves in sheep clothing come out in droves to “show support” for the LGBTQ community but their intent is actually evangelism. Evangelism, which is not at all what is proven to draw people into spirituality, is also not likely to be a desired connection a pride-goer is hoping to make, gay or straight! (We are there for the chaps, the eye candy and maybe some cool home-made jewelry… oh and it’s a social celebration of how far we’ve come, no thanks to the church in most cities, thanks.)

The problem, however, is that often times, there are legitimate allies who are working towards equality, full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith in the church and the state. These allies are worth our time, but even pausing to distinguish a true ally from a smiling jesus hatconniving poser can be a trigger for someone who is recovering from toxic spirituality. The baby, the bathwater – it’s all the same if the point is to be “recruited” to do anything that I’m not already doing. (Bottom line, if I were looking for a church community, I’m pretty sure I can google your website, but thanks for the rainbow flag with a smiling Jesus on it. Nice touch.)

For me, working to discern the “Christian allies” from the “Christian posers” has left me exhausted. I consider the teachings of Jesus to serve me well enough directly and don’t require an intercessor in my connection to those teachings. That may, in some circles, actually make me more of a Christian than anyone who goes to churches, affirming or non-affirming. Labels aside though, what is bothersome for a survivor is that we have already spent a significant time of our lives recovering from being a pawn in the church’s political war. Nobody wants to be a pawn, even if they like the people playing chess.

All this to say, I’m reflecting on all the energy I have spent the last two years, advocating for survivor voices to be heard and leaders of toxic spiritual teaching to be awakened and I think…

I’ve done…

Enough.

As a portion of my story is shared in an upcoming piece of Our America with Lisa Ling, I can wonder how the limelight will turn my way or how it could just be another passing story that leaves no impact. I could wonder if it was a mistake or if it was what I’ve been waiting to do for 12 years, since leaving toxic teachings behind in my early 20’s. I could wonder a lot of things, but I’ve decided that I have too much going on that involves moving on and thus, the episode, with Our America is, in fact, this survivor’s last stand.[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbJC3CxoKtk”%5D

It is the last you will hear about my trying to kick against the goads that the modern-day Pharisees have laid out for the church at large. They are now working with organizations like the Marin Foundation, LoveBoldly (gag me and deceive me boldly) and other prophets of false hope in order to keep the homosexual trapped in his/her own body, as they take an unapologetic stand against civil liberties and even preach celibacy as if it is the new cure to this “sinful” state of gay…

It’s sick… and they should be ashamed of themselves, masquerading as bridge-builders when their bridges are clearly to nowhere. (And some of them should be sued for malpractice and false advertising but I digress).

I could watch it all unfold and see if my having shared has any impact or…

I can let it be enough that I have spoken up for survivors the last 2 years without stopping. And when I was called upon to participate in what we hope is the final “exodus” of this sick theology, I took time off work, paid my way out to LA from DC, (got $250 back from the production company which was a welcomed gesture) and I FACED THE DEMON that is this anti-gay, civil rights obstacle known as Exodus International and the toxic spirituality it represents.

I have done my part. It is enough.

So now what happens?

Well, because of results that you see below, from our work at Beyond Ex Gay, I will remain connected as a volunteer to survivors, as they seek online resources for addressing their healing.

Q10Chart_Harm_Info

It doesn’t drain me to speak to and connect with survivors because I trust it and I trust their intentions. It’s easy. They aren’t making a dime on their own healing. (Most of them, I hope!) However, when it comes to sharing my story publicly or connecting with leaders in order to see if they have a shred of social and emotional intelligence… I simply have to move on…

The ex-gay cult and restrictive spirituality are parts of an identity crisis that I’ve healed.

So I share within this post, links for new readers or old readers alike… to all the places you can access my story and perspective. If you can’t find my opinion, perspective or recommendations in my coming out book, spoken word pieces or blogs, then it does not exist.

I’ve said all I care to say on the matter…

Those who choose a religion of martyring themselves, have, in my opinion, created a wading pool of sludge where those who lack social and emotional intelligence drink or drown and call it healing. It is a masochistic and somewhat sadistic way to live. Whether they were born into it or they choose it, I send them love… light… and I release it to collapse on itself, as it will when we all awaken to a life of connection, life-affirming spirituality and gentle surrender to all that is… enough.

Namaste, to the tenacious survivors, their families, and to all who walk a path towards love, light and general badassery.

*** Updated after taping aired.*** If you want to see how I handled Alan’s apology, this is the only verbal footage that OWN used of my response. [youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0SZC3Azsqw”%5D

Ex-Gay Survivor Translates Exodus Cult Speak

Many of you know that Exodus International continues to operate an annual conferencelight_trees and while the attendance has dwindled over the last few years, as a survivor of these shaming, inaccurate and harmful messages, I often feel the need to speak the truth about what goes on behind closed doors. A few of my colleagues at Beyond Ex Gay and other survivors in various online communities also find themselves reading about conferences, blogs from current leaders and other affiliates and smacking their heads. We know from experience that what they are selling is still a storyline that involves suppressing sexual behaviors in order to “please” a heterosexually-obsessed god-figure and manipulative church leadership. In an effort to debunk the myth that these conferences/teachings offer the LGBTQ person a healthy or safe atmosphere for coming to terms with sexuality and faith, I offer this year’s Exodus Conference listing along with a translation, from a survivor’s perspective.

This note goes out to all survivors, of any fundamentalist teaching that draws you to divorce yourself from the body and creates inequities in your faith experience and communities. Namaste, my friends. Let the light shine…

2013 Workshop Listings:

“From Rejected to Accepted” – Survivor Translation: Co-dependency is cooler than you think. Try it. We will make sure you like it.

“Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places” – Survivor Translation: Your broken heart is a direct result of being gay, duh.

“If We Had to Do it Over” – Survivor Translation: Sugar-coating 101: How Exodus Got Away with Lies about Change Orientation

“The Power in the Telling” – Survivor Translation: You Can’t Pray Away the Gay, but you too can talk about it endlessly because misery and company are the match we believe is made in heaven.

“Pursuing Sexual Purity” – Survivor Translation: Have sex only if it is work. Natural sexuality isn’t pure. Ever. Sorry.

“Let’s Talk: Masculinity” – Survivor Translation: Gurl, you look great in those pants. I mean, dude, nice top. I mean… Be a Breadwinner. Done and Done.

“The Facts vs The Truth” – Survivor Translation: No, not facts about sexuality, gender or psychologically-sound facts. That’s just the Gay Agenda. We will give you the truth according to the Gospel of Exodus. Please avoid all psychological resources prior to this workshop. The only pre-reads required are books by our Savior, Paul the Apostle.

“Let’s Talk: Femininity” – Survivor Translation: Dude, let’s grab a beer. I mean, brother, I think you’re cute… I mean… I’ll have your babies. Done and Done.

“The Bible, Gender, and Personal Identity” – Survivor Translation: @$(@)&%)&!!!

“A Well- Connected Woman” – Survivor Translation: ??? lol

“Why I Don’t Give Up” – Survivor Translation: Those activists are a real pain. Don’t be a quitter. It’s bad for business

“Celibacy and The Christian Life” – Survivor Translation: Safe sex means making out with Jesus. Got it? Unless you’re male. You should make out with Mother Mary. Wait a minute…

“Making Your Marriage Work” – Survivor Translation: Five reasons to have sex even when it doesn’t feel good.

“What I Wished My Parents Would Have Done For Me” – Survivor Translation: We still blame parents. Sorry if that totally isolates you from them but hey, more time for cult activity and isolation. Perfect.

“Help…Someone In My Church is Gay” – Survivor Translation: I have a crush on a girl in the pew next to me and she smells good. HELP! 

“So, What’s Our Story” – Survivor Translation: After almost four decades of these lies, we still don’t really know and we don’t expect you to know either. Thanks for paying the conference fee. ‘Preciate it.

“Life After Your Son or Daughter Says “I’m Gay”” – Survivor Translation: Life after death? Yes that’s what it feels like as a child tells you they are gay. So sorry they did this to you after everything you did for them. Try not to mention hell though cuz that will throw them on to your scent. P.S. They may go to heaven, but here’s 3 Steps to Making their Life Hell on Earth.

“How Should the Church Respond?: A Christ-like Response” – Survivor Translation: Because the Golden Rule is too complicated.

“Improving the Relationship with Your Gay Child” – Survivor Translation: !@$(@%!
Alternate Translation: We can’t reconcile ourselves to our own sexual orientation and relationships with our friends and families but we are an excellent source for educating you on how to do it. Go figure.

“Discovering Our True Identity” – Survivor Translation: Cuz those gay couples out there are totally not real. False identities. It’s like they don’t even exist. In fact, they aren’t happy either. Don’t fall for it.

~~

 I dedicate this post also, to Michael Bussee, an original founder of Exodus International, whose commitment to seeing it disbanded inspires many survivors on their healing journey. In response to this current list of workshop titles, Michael said, “his could easily have been a list of workshops from 10 or 20 years ago.  The same focus on homosexuality as some sort of addiction to overcome, a “false identity” to be denied… And Exodus claims to be changing?”

Looks like same ingredients, different label, if you ask this survivor.

Cheers, Exodus. Survivors raise their glasses to what we expect will be your last conference. Your reign of social genocide ends in 2013.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IM0CtA2OFI”%5D

An Easter Meditation from Turtle Whisperer

“I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the status quo and challenged the religious leaders of his day.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the temptations to compromise his integrity.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the fears his own followers projected upon him.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above the betrayal of a friend.

I will rise, like Jesus did, when he rose above his grief and faced his calling.

To the Christian who rises like this, I believe you follow your Christ.

To the Christian who expects death to be the highest form of resurrection, I beg you to consider rising like him in your life, rather than dying like him in your death.

This master teacher deserves our attention and emulation in creativity, civility, courage and leadership. 

Rise, today… in deed. 

Indeed, the rest is entirely out of our hands and surpasses our understanding.

Aho!”

~

snapping turtle in color

A word from the Turtle Whisperer, Gail Dickert. These are my words.

To learn more about Gail’s upcoming book, “Enlightened-ish,” follow her on YouTube and Facebook

Homospiritual Meditation of the Week – Week of March 24, 2013

A Meditation for your week…

“How we balance our ability to create with our ability to surrender is the direct manifestation of being like a Creator. The existence of one cannot be proven without a doubt or denied entirely so either way, it is up to us to live out what we would believe a Creator would do, if one exists. I say, if I were a Creator, I would have a rush of power, knowing that I can control so much within me and yet a resolve of surrender, knowing that, as a fair Creator, I ought not control all that is around me. In our efforts to know this balance, our inner goddess and god comes to life. That is Divine and that, my friends, is where the bad-assery truly begins. These are my words.”

~ Gail Dickert, author of Enlightened-ish, a Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening, release date pending

Namaste, yo.

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A Call to Compassion

“No heart was ever warmed by pontification and sarcasm. What is the goal then, again? To be right or to be in relationship? The moon does not determine whether it will shine… it is the sun. And while we can change the tides, we can never change the Source of the Light. So then, let us become guilty of following the warmth and innocent to waters that ebb and flow.”

Gail Dickert, author, activist and poet