I have to be honest: I hate going to church. Lately, my sponsor has been encouraging me to pick up church attendance again, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why I hate it so much: why I find it, at best, intolerable and boring, and at worst, painful and overwhelming.
The tide started to turn, perhaps, when my editor was reading a piece for my previous blog, “Sacred Tension”, about being gay and Christian. She looked up at me and said, “Stephen, I can’t let you publish this.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because people would feel attacked, belittled, dehumanized,” she said, “I won’t let you publish this piece, not in its current form.”
It was a year ago when I first came to the 12 Steps. Like so many others who find themselves sitting around that folding table, in cold metal chairs, and drinking bad coffee, I came broken. My life was rapidly spinning out of control, and for the previous 2 years I had kept it just barely – barely – within my grasp. But, by the time I finally stepped through those doors, smelling of cigarette smoke and terrified of what I might find, my interior world had reached a fever pitch of pain.
There are two primary accusations brought against Christians today: hatred and hypocrisy. Over the past year, though, I’ve come to see the apparent hypocrisy and hatred (or bigotry, as many people put it) as occasional symptoms of a much deeper problem, a disease that is rotting out the heart of modern Christianity: codependency.
Last week, a reader sent me an email and wrote a blog post in response to my recent post, The Church Is a Whore, And I Am Her Gay Son. The person in question is named Andrew, and is connected with Courage – the official Roman Catholic ministry to gay people. You can read his full post here.
While I genuinely appreciate Andrew taking the time to reach out to me and respond to my post, I also thought that I would take some time unpacking his statements, because they bring up some ideas that I find particularly frustrating when it comes to the topic of gay people in the church.
“The church is a whore,” wrote Augustine, “But she is my mother.” Too often, I have heard this quote used to say, “yeah, the Church is messed up, but family’s family. I can’t leave, even if I wanted to.”
I’ve often wondered if the people who so willingly fling this quote around have any notion of what It’s like to have an abusive mother.
During my brutal battle with anxiety, depression, and being gay in the church, I struggled deeply with finding relatable, insightful words about how to survive depression. I found a lot of general, obvious advice: exercise more, find a good therapist, and get on meds being the top three. But when it came to real-life, personal advice from other strugglers, I found very little.
Depression has always been a part of my life – it has always been lurking in closets and under beds for me – but 2014 was the year it decided to come out in full force and pin me to the ground. My world – a world once teeming with social connections, creativity, and activity – collapsed in on itself. It was as if the atmosphere of my vibrant little world was sucked out by a passing planet, and I was left fighting for life.
I am a gay Christian, raised in the conservative, Evangelical Christian world. As a teenager and young adult, I grew up in the ex-gay world, where even just the identity of gay was considered sinful. After many years of struggle, I eventually came to an affirming position on homosexuality in 2013 at the age of 24. I also wrote a blog, called Sacred Tension, which engaged in dialogue about faith and homosexuality.
I am at the Abbey of Gethsemeni as I write this: home of Thomas Merton, and one of the great mystical and ecumenical centers of the world. The Abbey has a plain, simple beauty about it, and is transfixed in a perpetual silence – a silence so deep it feels like a physical substance. I am taking this time to rest and reflect, to process the past year and prepare myself for the new, and to open myself up to the presence of God.
I started practicing yoga in college because I was curious, and because I was a voice student, living the typical life of a music major. I was a sensitive soul surviving in a highly competitive and physically demanding field, taking anywhere between 8-12 classes every semester, performing nearly once or twice every week during certain seasons, and getting next to no rest.
I was driven to yoga, desperate for some kind of glue that could hold my fracturing life together. I heard that yoga could help with the stress, so I tried it as a last resort.