The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 27 Dec 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Looking

It’s that strange twilight period between Christmas and New Year when a mind suddenly not fixed on festivities turns in on itself in introspection and so it proves for me. And I’m thinking about why I got involved with the evangelical church and, just as presciently, why I left.

The answer is that I was looking for something which the evangelicals are very good at providing, but like all transactions, it’s something that rewards you just as it takes something away. What I got, as a friend of mine pointed out, is love and acceptance. For the duration of the time that I was there, I got those things in rich abundance.

I had people to listen to me talk about mental illness, who empathised with my struggle and were prepared to meet me where I was. In time, I was allowed to speak at church services, articulate the nature of my problems and put the theological perspective on them. The reward was praise, many friends and a real feeling of warmth.

But there were also some weighty figures in the debit column. For a start, there was the idea that you had to accept the Bible, in its entirety, as wholly inerrant. Every single word was to be regarded as if it was hewn from granite, even though we were reading from a translation and even though, in a long working life of working with text, I know that the chance of an idea making it from the writer’s mind onto the printed page and out into publication, wholly unchanged, is remote in the extreme.

Equally, you were supposed to assume that to be gay was a terrible and largely insurmountable burden. You could choose to be celibate, live what seems like a rather desperate life by claiming to be cured and marry some luckless unfortunate or, it seems, go flagrantly mad in a world of denial. The church seemed to cope with this by choosing not to talk about it, even though this was one of its core beliefs.

I remember once, when we went out for a curry, seeing noses wrinkled in revulsion that I’d been to see Liberace the movie and being told that the Holy Spirit had ‘cured’ people. This is fatuous nonsense, of course, and I’m able to see it for the hateful nonsense it is and laugh, but what if I was gay? What feelings would I have come away from the evening with?

What seemed then, as it seems now, is that this intolerance was manifested by friends who had bright, shining faces and eyes that suggested they had seen the bright lights of heaven on the horizon and want to run towards it with hearts ablaze with certainty. It’s seductive and there are people who allow themselves to be seduced by it for their whole lives.

Not me, I’m afraid. If you’re an evangelical, you’d say that this is because I don’t love Jesus enough, which may be true, but in the same way that I don’t the Bible is inerrant, I don’t think that homosexuality is any kind of sin. The problems encountered by gay people seem to be ones that straight society has stuck in their way to try and coerce them into silence or tell them that their narratives don’t matter.

I’ve seen any one of a number of commentaries by supposed Christians who claim that being gay is a form of mental illness. Well, if society had told me my sexuality was aberrant or wrong and should not be talked about in polite society, I’m fairly sure I’d be mentally ill as well, so that’s perhaps not a surprise and it’s also perfectly possible to be gay and to not have known a day’s mental illness in your life. Confirmation bias suggests that you’ll find evidence of what you’re looking for, and that is certainly the case with people who want all gays to be suffering some form of mental problem.

The thing with walking away from a place where you receive love and affection is that it hurts. A lot. You closed the door on all those emotions and chose to walk away. Well, I did, because I decided that the price I was paying in accepting Biblical inerrancy was and the wrongness of gayness was just too high. And the end, when it came, was quick. I walked away, sent an email and disengaged.

You could argue that the fact I found another church suggests that I was still looking and I think that’s true to some extent but, and here comes as slippery a piece of intellectual dishonesty as you’ll ever see, the reward isn’t so flagrantly offered in this church. It has to be mined for, searched out and can only be glimpsed through thick trees. And I’m fine with that. I don’t need to have my senses assailed each and every Sunday by a worship band and people exhorting me to ever greater praise. It’s intrusive, coercive and it feels like I’m being spiritually prostituted.

Perhaps I’ll develop these themes some other time, because it seems that there’s some merit in the idea of spiritual prostitution, but for now it’s enough to say that I’m happy with my reasons for leaving. More than happy. I’d rather be on a rocky, uncertain path than one that was bright, shining and paved with false truths.

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