I have a complicated relationship with religion.
Growing up I thought of God much like I did Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I was basically taught that some guy lived in the sky and as long as you were a decent human being you’d go to heaven once you died. It felt good to believe in this as a child. It felt safe and reassuring. I attended church off and on with my grandparents, enjoying the songs and the connection with what I assumed were like-minded people.
An Inkling of Faith
When I was 13, I was regularly attending services at our local United Church with my maternal grandparents. The minister at that time was a man, probably in his 60’s, who had long flowing white hair, wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle. This dude was so cool. I took confirmation classes under his leadership where I started to get glimpses into faith being something I could call my own.
Division in the Church
Shortly after my confirmation our church started to lose its members and eventually we stopped going every Sunday. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out the reason for the dwindling congregation. The United Church of Canada at that time was becoming affirming. I never knew why we stopped going to church but I do remember families leaving who seemed to be long-standing members. I remember there being more and more empty pews and then we eventually stopped going every Sunday.
My First Taste of Homophobia
My next experience with church wasn’t until I was in my 20’s. I started going to a Lutheran church with my then best friend. Every Sunday we had so much fun dressing our small children up in cute little outfits and taking them to Sunday school. Just like when I was 13, I enjoyed the music and the fellowship each week but it was going to be short lived. My friend who was a member of this church was called into a meeting with the leadership. It had come to their attention that my friend and I were too close and the church did not approve. At the time I was clueless, I didn’t yet know that my friend and I were about to realize that we were in fact falling for one another. I share about this experience in my coming out story.
Giving Church Another Go
One would think by this point I’d have an understanding of the church’s standpoint in regards to homosexuality. And yet at 26 years old, as a newly out gay person, I decided to give church another go. This time I choose an evangelical church, Christian Brethren was its denomination.
My Experience with Conversion Therapy
About 6 months after going to church, I met some people who attended another church, one of whom worked with my mother. I knew this woman had heard that I was gay and by this point I had finally come to understand how the church felt about homosexuality. (I’ve never considered myself a slow learner but this one took me forever lol). This woman offered me a way to get “healing” from this “issue” that I had. My pastor at the time had also been counselling me on the hardships of “choosing a lifestyle” that went against God’s plan for his children. Since being gay had started to feel like it was causing more harm than good in my life, I decided to give this woman’s idea a try!
The night of my deliverance, where I was going to be “healed” from homosexuality, I honestly don’t remember what I was feeling. Hopefulness perhaps? I do know that when I left and returned home, I believed 100% that I had in fact been healed, and I was no longer gay.
Obviously praying the gay away didn’t work after all and this brings my story to the present day where I sometimes catch myself praying to a God I’m no longer supposed to believe in and a faith with nowhere to place it.
And now the Contradictions…
If you haven’t already done so, you can read my post about what it means to be an ally where I talk about my friends Chris and Melissa. This couple is the epitome of what I think Christian love should entail. My partner grew up Mennonite and her parents and siblings show our family love and kindness. I also have two aunts, who are Christian, who choose to love me and my family. At the same time, our family suffers the consequences of those who use religion as an excuse to hate us.
So I ask, why is it that some see their faith in God as a call to love while others use the exact same bible to excuse their homophobic and transphobic behaviour?