“God is a concept by which we measure our pain” – one man’s struggle to reconcile his faith and his sexuality
It is ironic that for someone who is not a fan of the Beatles should quote John Lennon as the title of such a serious topic but it is no more ironic than associating God with pain whereas God is supposed to be about love.
When I first saw that line, (of all places, on the wall of a public toilet), my heart ached in resonance. How it epitomized the guilt I felt over the dark years when I realized that I was at once both a Catholic and a man attracted to other men.
Christians are famous for their guilt though it is due more to the indoctrination of organized Christian administration rather than inherent truth. As a Catholic, I have been taught to chant: “mea culpa, mea culpa”. It is all our fault, “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do .
In particular, gay people are clobbered with 5 passages from the Old Testaments  and 6 passages from the New Testaments  that are conventionally interpreted as God’s words in condemnation of gays and gay’s behaviour/relationship. To be honest, I have never been taught all those passages in details but even just from what I had picked up here and there in the news and discussions amongst the peers was sufficient to bring to bear a heavy weight upon my conscience. It was not until much later after I attended a talk by the liberal retired Episcopalian Bishop Spong before I understood how restricted and errant the conventional interpretations are. It was really uplifting and relieving to hear from a voice coming out of the religious hierarchy to explain the error and apologized on behalf of the Christian churches to all the gay people past and present, even though his was one of the few voices amongst the majority of the main stream Christians.
No matter how much scholarship had gone into the study and interpretation of the Bible, no matter how many scholars and liberal Christians have come out with explanations that those passages were written for a different time, place, culture and people and that some key words were mistranslated, [Conclusions of 3 & 4] the conservative Christians would still maintain that God has repeatedly condemn homosexuals and liberal Christians would disagree. People can and will interpret Bible or any sacred text in any way they want. Truth could not be revealed from reading the Bible if we are dead set in our mind on what we want to read from the Bible or any sacred text. How many wars have been and will continue to be fought in the name of religion? How many have and continue to die in the name of one’s faith?
I think we have to ask ourselves that if it is our fault that we are attracted to men? Is it wrong to love another man with all our heart and soul? Have we forced other men to have sex with us against their will? Have we molested under age children? Finally, do we believe that we are created by God? Then how could we be wrong to follow the heart and mind that is created by God? Ultimately it is to God that we have to account to.
In the past, I had mixed feelings about going to church. On one hand I felt privileged to be at the house of God, to witness and share the miracle of the reincarnation of Christ but on the other hand, I felt totally demoralized as I could not partake in the Holy Communion because of my sexual orientation/practice. Until one Sunday, I happened to go to church with a good friend of mine, when he saw that I did not go for Communion, he touched my shoulder and whispered to me, “there is nothing that keeps you from God, His understanding surpasses all”. Lots of theologians might dispute that statement but to me, at the time, it was as if God had spoken. It was His invitation to me, to join Him once again.
In my long years of struggle, between the times I realized that I was attracted to men and be tormented by it up till the recent years when I feel much more at peace with myself. I had gone through various stages of emotion:
- Anger – why me? Why couldn’t I be a normal straight boy who enjoyed the company of girls? But I had never experienced denial because I knew it was right for me.
- Loneliness – I felt I was alone in my predicament, I was alone even though I was surrounded by crowds of people, no friends, nor folks could penetrate my thoughts, they were in a different world to mine because I felt nobody understood me.
- Sadness – I was filled with this bitter sweetness of being in love but in love with no one in particular for my heart was filled with love for someone who had not yet existed for me.
- Lost – I did not know what to do, where I should go from there
- Excitement & joy – Love found, I wanted to tell everyone about it but was also afraid that other might find out that I was gay
- Guilt – Before, I sinned only in my heart, now I sinned with my acts
- Aggressive/defensive – I am gay, so what? I am what I am, there is nothing I could do to change and I would not change, if you are my friends, take me as I am.
- Rationalization – analyzed myself, analyzed the world around me and tried to understand who I am, tried to understand why and how other people looked at gay people like myself and the way they treated us
- Peace – came to terms with myself, with other people, with reality
- Sharing and support – felt the need to help others who might be going through similar struggle
In the early days I lived my life in a haze, I would write secret journals and poems. I had opened up a good communication channel with God, I felt his presence (not in a dramatic Wagnerian shafts of light sense), more like my best friend. Even in my darkest hour, God had never forsaken me and neither had I of Him. There were times I felt alone. I might have felt “numb” or temporarily blocked in my private channel with God but He was always there for me. When I asked hard enough, long enough, He almost always granted my pleas, the answers or solutions might not have come at the time I wanted, or in the way I wanted but looking back they almost always turned out to be better than I could have devised for myself.
It is difficult enough to be gay and to be gay and Christian could be downright torturous but it is only torturous if we choose to believe that God is a God of wrath, a God that imparts guilt and metes out punishments, the way that the religious organizations want us to believe because it is by submitting us to these oppressive doctrines that we are subjected to their mercy and dictation. If we believe, as each one of us is capable of experiencing that God is a God of love, God is a God of understanding and compassion, then we have the power to refute the destiny that other humans have forced us to believe in, that we have the power to live a life that we choose and if we are worthy, love will find our way.
May you find the strength to stand up for the life that is meant for you and may God be with you, always.
Please use this LINK to see Notes and References