I recently had a fun, engaging, meeting-of-the-minds conversation with former Scientologist Chris Shelton for his Sensibly Speaking show. In our conversation we discussed struggling with atheism, deconstruction of faith, inner truth vs. outer truth, speaking in tongues, yoga, and much more. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.
It is early morning as I write this, and I have just completed praying the Episcopalian Office. As always, it’s left me feeling full, centered, and comforted. I pray the Office every morning and night, and it’s become one a pillar that brings me deep pleasure.
I’ve written a lot about faith and doubt within Christianity over the past year or so. Doubt has been my constant, dark companion. I can understand now why Martin Luther (according to myth) hurled a bottle of ink at a devil that was taunting him. I’ve been hurling my own ink, trying to fend off the monster.
I could easily shrug off the doubt and turn to the warm light of my faith, stuffing all the questions back into the box, but I can’t do that. My understanding of integrity doesn’t let me shrug off genuine questions. I know that I need to value truth, and that truth requires certain proofs to be true. I know that humility, asking questions, and accepting my capacity to be wrong is integral to living a good, upright life.
For the past year or so, I’ve been lurking on a Christian website called Your Other Brothers, which features the daily struggles of men pursuing gay celibacy, or marriages with women.
I’m somewhat infatuated with YOB, because it is such a startling window into the gay celibate world I inhabited in high school and college. It’s been a catalyst for self-reflection, and a good opportunity to sort through that era of my life.
YOB is also an excellent window into a world that many people may not comprehend. I encourage everyone to visit their blog and peruse it – it’s an alien, threatening world to many, but I also know that they are good guys trying to do the best they can with what life has given them. I can speak with confidence on that front – I know some of them, and I admire their integrity. And, just a few years ago, I was one of them.
At the moment when I was the most certain of my traditional beliefs on sexuality I fell, quite by accident, very deeply in love with another man, whom I will call Andrew.
As I’ve told my story of failure and wounding within a commitment to lifelong celibacy – and how I have eventually walked away from it – the most common response from conservative Christians has been withering. The vast majority of them who have responded on social media and the blogosphere have been singing variations of, “so what you are saying is that you cannot live without sex.” When they hear me say that Side B (the traditional view of gay marriage) crushed me, they assume that’s because I can only conceive of intimacy as a sexual act, that I have an idolatrous view of romance, and that I see sex and romance as the most fulfilling experience on earth. They also assume that I have a misplaced understanding of community and friendship.
It’s been a long, painful and perilous journey from a life of suffocating fear and self-loathing toward a life of fearlessness and love. I spent most of my teenage and adult years trapped in the impenetrable coffin of my self-loathing, absolutely convinced that I was unlovable to God. As a young boy growing up in the evangelical world, I somehow absorbed the message that being gay makes a person loathsome and subhuman. When I started to discover that I was gay myself, I became the victim of my own undying disgust and hatred. Like a supernova, my being collapsed upon itself, the object of its own unquenchable disgust.
Once upon a time, there was a fast talking, chain-smoking bisexual Texan pastor named Robert who sat me down and gave me a stern talking to.
“Listen Stephen,” he said. “The world is full of assholes. And if you lose your sanity over them – if you lose your happiness because some asshole out there thinks you shouldn’t get married, or thinks of you as less than human, what then? Have you changed their minds? No. You’ve just lost your own life to them. You’ve let them win. They’re still assholes, and you’ve sacrificed your happiness to them. Why should you give a fuck what they say, man? Live your life.”
I provide everything on this blog as a free service to whoever may enjoy and find refreshment in my work. Over the years of writing I have received numerous emails from people telling me that my work on faith and doubt, homosexuality, and depression have deeply touched them and helped them through dark times.