I would be what Christians call a ‘backslider’. I am considered the worst kind since there is no turning back for me (“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, … and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” Hebrews 6:4-6*). Each Christian has a story called a testimony – it is the story of how he or she became a Christian. This is my ex-testimony, how I overcame being a Christian.
Adolescence awoken both my spiritual and sexual awareness. However, I chose to obey one and deny the other. I denied my sexuality because I was scared of it and used my spirituality to try to overcome it. Almost from the first day I entered the church, I had told the church counsellor why I was there – I wanted to change the object of my sexual desire from men to women. Still, I was not ‘faking’ church. I approached my time there with fervent devotion because I thought the more committed I am, the greater the possibility for change. I had a genuine sense of wonder and I believed in something bigger than myself and my problems. Eventually, I became totally engrossed with church activity (singing in the choir, attending Bible study groups, serving on committees like the youth group). Finally, I took the step of being baptized to seal my commitment to the Christian faith. Throughout this, I prayed, fasted, and sought counselling (from pastors and even from the head of the seminary school that I attended for one year) for my homosexual desires. But nothing worked. Nothing helped to ease the suffering or helped me to understand my ‘thorn in my flesh’. My growing involvement with the church and my own shame and guilt over my sexual feelings started to distance me from my family.
Eventually, I was invited to join an ex-gay group called Living Waters that was being run at a different church. Ironically, this was the first time I had knowingly met gay men and women. For almost the course of a year, we prayed together, received teaching, and had group and individual counselling. The group had provided some answers to why we may have same-sex attractions. A lot of it was interesting, some even vaguely scientific. But when we began to ask, ‘Can we really change?’ or ‘Do the desires really go away?’ the answers were vague but even I understood that the answer was No. When the year ended, I was more frustrated than when I began. If God cannot or will not change us not matter what we do, then what is the point of all this suffering?
In the end, I had tried everything except actually experience what my body so desperately craved, and my soul desired. One day, I was emboldened by a quote from T.S. Eliot “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” It gave me permission to start exploring my sexuality. I bought a new journal and wrote this quote as my first entry and promised myself that when the pages were done, my exploration would be done.
It has been almost 20 years and that journal is still half empty and packed in a box with other journals. Coming out was not easy, especially coming out as an Asian male in North America when almost all of gay culture at that time was (and still is) predominantly white. But that would be the subject of another blog.
What does Jesus say about homosexuality? Nothing. He said more against the rich and religious of his day than he did about its sinners. Yes, there are specific condemnations of homosexual behaviour in the old testament and the new. I even took a course after coming out on “Homosexuality and the Bible”. The bottom line for me is that, the Bible condemns homosexual acts. In my Christian career the next steps would have been obvious – to stop and sin no more. But with some exploration under my belt, I realized for the first time that my experiences were valid and were more real than the verses in the Bible I took on faith – I felt healing and I felt joy in my experiences. Because I could not reconcile my new truths with my old ones, the Bible has become less relevant to me over time.
I still believe in God. I pray to the same God that I did when I considered myself a Christian. But my understanding of God has deepened. I realize that he is unknowable. I realize that God is in all things.
Sometimes I wish I had taken a different road when I was confronted with my two growing awarenesses. Still I don’t regret the path my life has taken because each decision was deliberate and the choice was my own. I guess the cliché is that my experiences have made me who I am. But I think it might be more accurate to say that who I am had determined my experiences. My spiritual and sexual awakening has not ended. I am still exploring.
* All quotes are from the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible.