Wednesday, August 18, 2004

This is NOT a Test

"If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in His name, He'd never stop throwing up." – Woody Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters

I am not the tortured human being that the Religious Right paints me to be.

The only thing that tortures me is the pair of Fluevog shoes that I bought one size too small last year. The memory of that hasty purchase at an amazing half-price sale still haunts me and my poor, bleeding feet.

I am at peace with myself and my homosexuality. I am also at peace with God--yes, the Christian one, not the one who lives in The House of Dior.

When I was growing up, I often asked God why I was made to be gay. Why was I singled out to suffer this pain? Am I being punished for trying on my mother's lip gloss? It was only because it smelled like strawberries, I promise! Our pastor always said that when you suffer, God is testing you. I prayed for him to test me on Algebra instead.

I suffered in other ways too. One Christmas when I was ten, my godmother gave a single present to my twin and me to share. It was a plastic toy machine gun that lit up and made a loud rat-tat-tat whenever you pulled the trigger.

Oh how I wanted it for myself! Why are people so cheap that they buy twins only one present? Why do I always have to share all my toys with my brother? I prayed to God that he take my brother to heaven so I don't have to share my toys anymore. My brother would be happy singing with the angels, I would be happy shooting down imaginary people with their horrid paisley ties.

So I suffered and suffered.

Until one day in college, in my religion class, the professor who was also a Catholic priest, said (well yelled, really) something really quite amazing. He said:

You are responsible for your life! You are responsible for every good and bad thing that happens to you!

If you have a Chemistry exam on Thursday and you spend Wednesday night playing video games and flunk out, don’t come to God crying, tears rolling down dramatically, "Why? Why?!? Why are you making me suffer? What are you trying to teach me?"

In fact, don’t bother God with your petty suffering. God didn’t make you suffer, you made yourself suffer. And don't pray to him if you lost your house, your life savings or get a venereal disease. You could have paid the mortgage, kiss your boss’ ass or worn a condom, all of which you have control over!

That last sentence woke me up. It made me realize what that curious itching was down there.

It also changed my life, because from then on, I realized God did not make me gay to 'test' me. I am suffering because I let people around me dictate how I should feel about myself. I let them interpret for me God's will.

I left all of that behind. I decided to move to Chicago. I started to live my life as an openly gay man. In taking responsibility for my life, when I stopped assuming that God was punishing me, I found peace very easily. I realized that the suffering I had experienced was at the hands of people, not God.

Now, this is the point where other Christians would probably quote Bible verses to me, about how I got it all wrong. But you know what? I can read the Bible too. God gave me a brain and I have used it. You say po-tah-to, Dan Quayle says potatoe.

When I read the Bible, I see only that God loves me as I am. Where did I find that? The same place that Reverend Fred Phelps says that GodHatesFags. How can one man find hate and another find love in the same holy book? I know the answer to that, but do you? The Bible holds no contradictions for me, absolutely none.

Before I end this post, I want to point out something that somebody a long time ago asked me about born-again Christians: what is it that makes Christianity different from other religions?

The difference, I said, is that Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ--it is not a set of doctrines or beliefs. That is why their faith is unshakeable.

When I heard myself say this, I realized that the stress is on the personal relationship.

Not what other people told me to believe about God. Or their own interpretations of the Bible--but what my own heart believed.

That, for me, was when the torture ended.

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