May 15, 2006

Claim The Power Of Your Self-Truth

A gay male colleague of mine once told me that while self-discovery at fourteen was a wonderful thing, what he hated the most was “the loneliness of self-truth”. If you are gay and must survive in a fundamentalist Christian environment, or any other that condemns you, then you know exactly how this feels. Fables like, “The Emperors New Clothes” or real history like the medieval persecution of people like Galileo, bare a special relevance to you. For now, it is you, all alone shouting your truth from the rooftops while people turn a blind eye. “I did not choose to be this way!” you scream, ‘Surely I would know if I did!” you insist. They shake their heads and insist otherwise. “Therapy, prayer and repentance does not change my sexual orientation it only makes me feel wretched and self-defeated!” you cry out and it bounces off an obstinate wall of ignorance. Like the child who can clearly see the Emperor naked while others, blinded by mob gullibility and fear choose falsehood, you are often drowned out by the noisy pretense. Your truth forces you to face the only choice a gay person has- denial of self-truth for group acceptance or acceptance of self-truth and having your human rights denied.

How ironic it is for a great many of us who were brought up in the Christian faith to be punished for living in truth. The promise of freedom the bible offers to those who seek truth eludes so many of us. “The truth shall set you free” the scripture says. “Yeah right!” we often reply. Free from respect from others perhaps. Free from family support, equal rights and often times free from what was once the comfort and brotherhood of spiritual fellowship. And what is it about our very existence and acceptance of our self-truth that unnerves those clinging to certain fundamentalist dogmas so much that they must condemn our refusal to pretend? Well quite simply, gay people who have been raised in a fundamentalist Christian tradition are in a unique position to test the validity of their religious faith and that of those closest to them. It is this test of faith that literally scares the bejeezus out of your Christian brothers and sisters. You have the privilege of seeing for yourself if all the sermons are true. Can a God who is supposed to be almighty and supportive only of traditional values like the religious throng say, really change you from gay to straight? If that God as you have come to know Him, cannot do it, then what does that mean?

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine and you were taught God is a fear inspiring kind of deity who takes special interest in what we do with our genitalia. Worse yet He sends gay men and lesbian women to a fiery hell, and wants you to be straight. No doubt in the early stages of accepting your self-truth your motivation to change your sexual orientation was very strong. You sincerely wanted to do what God wills for you and so you repented and prayed according to God’s will, confident that all you have to do is. “Ask and it will be given to you” like the bible says. So you fervently, heart wrenchingly asked to God to make you straight. The catch? Not only does it not happen but, your homosexual orientation becomes more and more defined and your sexuality more insistent on being expressed and fulfilled, as you get older. Suddenly you are faced with a decision and the biggest paradigm shift of your life. For you have encountered a self-truth that challenges your religious upbringing and the spiritual comfort zone of everyone around you. You find yourself asking, “Does God really exist? If so, why doesn’t he answer my prayer? Especially since it is in accordance with what I was taught is HIS will for me?” or perhaps, “I wonder if what I was taught about God is really true?”

Not surprisingly after deep soul searching and intense commune with their Creator, in addition to therapy, spiritual counseling to address their sexuality and inflicting emotional and mental scars upon themselves through these efforts, when gay people find they cannot change they simply arrive at an ultimatum. They can either accept, “This is God’s will for me.” and stop beating up themselves, get stronger and more flexible in their faith or they can arrive at the conclusion, ‘There is no God or the bible is bull-crap” and be happy and fulfilled as an atheist or non-Christian. It’s the true test of Christian faith and beliefs. Something most straight Christians never have to confront and are scared of doing so. They want to continue to take for granted that everything they learned can never be challenged. This is why your head on spiritual confrontation threatens their well-appointed seat on a cushy comfort zone. Your existence, your unwavering sexuality combined with all of your beautiful attributes confuses and bewilder. They are forced to ask, “Why would a God of love make my son gay only to later punish him?” and “My colleague is a lesbian but I know in my heart of hearts she is not evil, in fact she is the most wonderful person I know. Why would God send her to hell?” These questions are just as lethal to their contented bible literalist fundamentalism as, “How did Noah fit the over five million species of animals, many requiring very specific climate and space considerations into an ark smaller than the QE2?”

People who fear religious questions must take steps to demonize you because it is the only way they can rationalize your existence in the scheme of things. The truth is, to any fair-minded, good-hearted human the idea of hellfire is repulsive to their sensibilities. Envisioning you or anyone else being tormented in a place a trillion times more barbaric than a Nazi concentration camp and worshipping a God who would allow that to happen can only be accepted by the conscience if they can somehow convince themselves that you deserve it. So they ease their mind by saying, “You earned hell for being an evil sinner!” Just as the Christian fundamentalists attach sinister ulterior motives to an atheist or non-Christian’s objection, inability or lack of desire to internalize Christian dogma as absolute truth, so too they misrepresent gay people. This is done by quoting scriptures like Romans 1 out of context and attaching false attributes to your orientation that turn you into some kind of amoral, depraved, animalistic monster. Remember that unyielding wall I mentioned earlier, the one you pound and scream your self-truth at? Well this is how it starts going up. It is not just a wall against your self-truth but one to shield their hearts against compassion, empathy and love, which always undermine extremism. The religions that refuse to harden the hearts of their members and create an Us vs. Them universe always lean moderate to liberal and embrace gay people. Why? Because when it comes to choosing a religious dogma vs. choosing justice and love for humanity, fair-minded people always pick the latter without hesitation. They choose their gay children over biblical bureaucracy and church acceptance. Their faith is not a fragile thing held together with threads of fear but an evolving and all embracing force in their lives. Our self-truth makes them dig deeper into their beliefs and discover the core principles that help them include and not exclude. They fully trust that their God has it all in hand and so their only one true obligation is not the judging of human hearts but the loving of human souls, no matter their race, class, culture or sexual orientation.

Now you may ask why it is so important for you to know that your self-truth uncovers the fears and inadequacies of fundamentalists. Well they know their religious attack on us is still our Achilles heel. For many, when the haters whip out the bible in condemnation of our lives we still feel that cringe deep down in our gut. It still hurts. It still stings and for many the guilt leads them right back into the arms of the bigots. What is this power they have over us still? I want to assure you that the power is just an illusion. It stems from the zeal, dogged determination and bold convictions of people who project religious, moral and spiritual superiority. But my friends it is merely a projection and it is dependent as much on their suppression of their human kindness as it is our internalized feeling of spiritual powerlessness. Isn’t it time we shatter once and for all the so-called power of these hateful fundamentalists? Isn’t it time we take back our spiritual power?

Ever ask yourself, “If these anti-gay religious zealots are so powerful with an Almighty God on their side, why are they so threatened by us?” Of all the problems facing mankind, they preoccupy themselves with what we do, what we say, where we go, who we love. Why? One, it’s so much easier to condemn others than follow all the rules yourself. Two, if you are focused on condemning gays you don’t have to worry about working on your own problems. Think about it or even better yet, sit down and talk with one of them and you will discover their faith is a held by many weak and fearful threads. Their impression of God mirrors their own weakness. They serve a God whose feelings are easily hurt. This deity of theirs has a fragile ego and gets jealous at the drop of a hat and needs constant defending. So of course they could never trust such a God to be the final judge of anything. This is why they feel the need to help Him out with his job and met out judgment and punishment right now! Their way of doling out God’s vengeance is by directly opposing any legal recognition or public acceptance of our human rights. When I talk to religious haters of homosexuals, I often get this subtle undertone of fear emanating from them. When they call down hellfire on our heads it is more of a personal reassurance to them. They need to keep convincing themselves we will be punished because the truth is they know they cannot say for a certainty what will happen, they are just as afraid of death as anyone else. This is why they want instant gratification and triumph over their enemies in this life. Their faith is weak, their religious life span short. Indeed how can they be true to anyone when they are not even true to themselves? For when you dig deeper you always unmask their skeletons and hypocrisies that according to their own strict biblical interpretation would land them in hell as well.

This is a big deal. Why? Well it changes the landscape of our march to equality. We should not the ones motivated by fear. Let’s save that for the fundamentalist bigots. We are not the ones suppressing our humanity for the sake of an ideology, they are. We are not hiding behind a hypocritical fa├žade (something I will write more about later on) and we are morally justified in our cause. This means we have the high ground my friends. It is time we stop acting like beggars at the doors and confidently stroll in as honored guests. While our anger and screaming at the wall of intolerance is often justified, especially when injustice comes our way; we must also embody the dignity and pride of not only being RIGHT but also being TRUE. We should act less like wronged children and more like wise adults on the high road in order to use it to our advantage. Let us meet the conviction of the religious haters with the mature, patient and calmly eloquent Gandhi-like qualities of an parent who with a mixture of understanding and pity firmly stands their ground against a tantrum throwing, ignorant, homophobic brat.

This is even more imperative now because after a well-orchestrated makeover that homophobic brat has taken the form of “compassionate Christian conservative” who only wants to “help” us “misguided and disturbed” gay people. The truth is very little separates them from their former incarnation. They may no longer bear their hate-encrusted heart on their sleeve but scratch beneath the PR and professions of Christian love and you will discover the same old insulting condescension, stubborn ignorance, self-righteous indignation, suspicion, pity and scorn. When we take the moral high road we will expose the rabid gay bashers in wholesome Sunday best clothing for who they really are- hypocrites living in fear of a world and new generation that is moving towards tolerance. We will make it shameful for any political party to be affiliated with any organisation funded by such virulent haters of humanity. We will rally supporters from every faith, class and creed to our side when they see our noble cause reflected in the wise life choices we make and spiritually empowering words we use. If we let our self-truth empower us and rise above the religious abuse of the past, it can set not only ourselves but also the whole world free of the burden of hate disguised as piety.