I feel like blogging about my roller coaster ride of faith. That’s what I call it these days. Do I commit to believing in something I cannot see or do I commit to my perception of reality? It seems this is the “to be or not to be” question that’s been running through my mind so often these days.
Before I was nine, I was a little tom-boy girl, running around without shoes and playing in abandoned apartment buildings. Church was where I went with my friends and the name “Jesus” was used in great abundance around my house, although it was more of an expletive then it was an amazement. It’s not that I was totally naive to religion or Christianity. My brother and I knew our Bible stories. We knew what would happen if we were bad. But for the most part, we cared about the immediate pleasure of those Texas summer days and got “the switch” when we got home… and then did it all over again.
But still, church was there. One of my earliest memories of church involved a day of debauchery, if you will. I was six or seven. I had been playing in an abandoned apartment building. I remember I had cut my foot open as I stepped (ahem… fell) through a broken window. We got caught that day. Later I went to church. It was this massive building with screens and projectors and nice clean bathrooms. The lady I was with looked down at me and just about freaked out all of a sudden and bent down and took off my shoe, revealing a completely red and dripping sock. Oops. I guess I wasn’t that good at covering up my day-time activities. I remember sitting on the sink in the bathrooms as she cleaned up my foot. And then it’s sort of like a memory lapse. And the next time I remember going to church it was a much different experience because I had a daddy and a mommy and we were all a family and we went to this small town church, where my mom cleaned the building and we had Vacation Bible School and we worshiped and went to fun little camps. It was GA camp, in fact, where I “accepted Christ” as my savior. I was nine. My mom told me that she didn’t want me to accept Christ as my savior until I really understood what it meant to be a Christian. At camp, I felt I understood, and I did it. It felt great. Having this new understanding and being part of this elite club called Christianity good sense of right and wrong and helped me to be a good girl and do good things.
Though I found myself confused at times and frightened of doing the wrong thing and living in eternal damnation. Before then, I remember once reading Revelations. I called my uncle, who is a Jehovah’s Witness and at the time he was the closest person to God that I knew. I was scared out of my mind. I remember asking him if the world was going to blow up and we’d all die. Looking back at that, I would have liked to be my uncle on the other end of the phone. If I were I would have probably thought that I was super cute. He helped me out with my crisis, as a loving uncle would do in that situation, and explained more about the book of Revelations and it’s symbolism and it’s literal translations and then I hung up the phone less feeling like I was going to vomit but still… quite afraid that I’d just be walking around one day and suddenly plague and devastation.
In fact, I was always scared of this concept of “faith” or things I cannot see. I hated the fact that it was possible that other people/beings/spirits could see me but I could not see them. I was scared they’d be doing mean things or saying things that I wouldn’t be okay with, or even worse, telling on me to God or Jesus to keep me from getting to heaven. So while I had this wonderful understanding of being “saved,” I was always terribly frightened of the concept of angels, demons, other dimensions, etc.
In the initial days when I was first concerned or worried about my sexual orientation, I became even more fearful. I was twelve. Each night I’d lay in bed, and reflect over my day, and then the torment would begin. I’d reflect over the good things and then the things that weren’t so good, and suddenly I’d be praying and crying and praying and begging that God wouldn’t make me gay. As I’d exhaust myself, my fears would turn even wilder and I’d suddenly believe there were aliens outside of my house. So then I’d pray that God would protect my house with a thousand angels. That would help for two seconds and then I realized that God did make me gay, then it would be a bad thing to have the angels around but I’d already asked for them and it’d be rude to ask for them to go away so I would lay there, deliriously tired, even more frightened, and I’d begin to pray for protection from the angels. This was every night for about three years of my life. After that, I was able to mostly ignore my gay feelings and my life as a teenager began.
As a teenager, my faith exploded. I lived in faith all of the time. My closest friends were from the church and they were the only people I felt I could trust. We had plenty of shitty times during that era, but I had my faith in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. I call this the faith umbrella, where as long as I have faith, I am protected from the rain that fell all around me. I was able to disconnect from the reality that was happening while I wore the umbrella. It was beautiful. Life was beautiful.
Then, college. College is interesting, right? For those of you who have ever been to a bonafide christian university and have struggled with things of a more “sinful” nature, I think you can relate with that statement more than others. In college, I was less able to ignore my sinful side because, well, attraction makes itself apparent in the most inopportune times. And apparently I was a raging hormone stick. It was horrible and fascinating all at the same time. Still, I didn’t question my orientation. I just made it more like “Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing…” and then went on with my day. I was more faithful, more holy. I did more good things and was even more of a good girl. Then I started to notice something… many a time I had experiences with people of the same faith as I did that I didn’t like. The experiences were similar to the following: A group of us would be out to eat. We’d meet someone who wasn’t a christian. We’d make sure that they weren’t by asking if they go to church or have accepted Jesus. They’d say no. Instead of being kind and warm and open to them, we’d begin a shunning process or a “making fun of” process when they’d go away. Everything would change from “just out with friends” to a mean process of tearing down others who don’t believe the same thing. I couldn’t handle it. I begin to separate from the church conversation by conversation. In my final year in college, I did what was to become the very first glimpse into sexuality. I wrote a thesis paper supporting homosexuality. I studied all that I could study about homosexuality in the bible. I read through claims from both sides of the argument. I took apart my own faith for this paper to the point where I was able to form an opinion of homosexuality in a nearly completely objective way. I think I got a B on that paper, but the grade doesn’t matter. That was the real beginning of my faith… my faith in me. I wore another umbrella after that. An umbrella that shielded me from both reality and faith in God and Jesus.
Shortly after that I graduated and moved to Los Angeles. I surrounded myself with gay-friendly people (not with intent, but it happened that way) and we all began to talk and I was able to explore a little more about how I felt about my orientation. I didn’t attend church and I became more and more separated from even God. I still listened to Christian music but rarely. Then, I came out and started dating an ultra conservative Calvinist lady. To be honest, her faith, as strong as it was, aided in me pushing myself even further from God. There seemed to be still so much intolerance in the Christian communities that I couldn’t put myself there again.
Fast forward to three years later, during a conversation with a few friends, the question of religion, faith and God came up. I was able to finally, in a secure and non-biased location, explore my feelings about God and Jesus. I was able to put them in a more logical framework (even though in many ways, the concept of God must remain outside of logic) and come to a conclusion all on my own without feeling afraid of retaliation from what others might think. This was the first step in rebuilding my faith. My conclusion that week was that it makes no logical sense that God didn’t, at some point, exist. I couldn’t say whether he still exists or not, but I concluded that he had to of at some point. I came to an even more distinct conclusion later that year when I realized that it doesn’t so much matter whether God does exist or doesn’t because his entire framework is simply that of a moral guidance and compass for people to do good things in the world. Jesus is another story for me, still. I can believe nearly everything about Jesus, even that he was sent on this earth to die for our sins. But I can’t wrap my head around the apparently magical things that he did.
Still, my faith had been mostly theoretical and I was still living under the umbrella of protection from reality and faith. Then, one day last year, I read an article about a Christian music artists whom I had listened to over and over and over again with friends all through my high school and college career. She was the only Christian music artist that I truly connected to on a soul-level. And I read that she was gay. Her name is Jennifer Knapp. Having this realization created a momentum for me to begin a process of re-connection with myself and my faith. I went to church a few times. I began to pray more often. I became more compassionate and accepting of other people’s faith, and most of all, I became more compassionate to my own faith.
They say a child learns through emulation. First, they watch others, then they try doing that thing, and then they experience that thing being done to them. My journey of faith has been a similar experience. I am going through this cycle all of the time, deepening my understanding in myself and in my faith. I am still unclear about Jesus’ wizardry, but the one thing I know is that He serves as an example of good and a solid moral compass for those who don’t wish to distort the message and example. The example of Love. The message of Love. The future of Love. I think I can get on board with that, at least.
So, this is my journey of faith. I am still on that journey and doubt if I’ll ever jump off of that train. So for now I part and hope that I hear from some of my readers about their own journeys or opinions. And… feel free to pray for me. I believe that the most power in prayer lays in consoling the person praying and helping that person sort out their own feelings, as I did night after night when I was a young teenager. So, please, pray a lot. And I will too.
I’d like to be more candid and open about faith and religion in this blog. My adventures in blogging on livejournal.com the old days began with me blogging more about my faith. So I think it’d be great to get back to my roots.
PS. I have a whole blog entry coming soon of my discovering of Jennifer Knapp. So be sure to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you the story once it’s out.