sent in by CurtDude
[This was posted on the old forum as a response to someone else's post. I thought it was time to add my two cents to this forum, so here it is slightly expanded.]
It was May 1984, and the Sunday morning service was just about ready to begin at the Baptist church in the Pacific NW where I had attended all of my life. I had been a John Denver-clone 70s Jesus Freak...I believed in the Gentle Shepherd and loving the world. Totally involved in being fired up for God. As the 80s and The Reagan Years rolled on, I was finding myself more at odds with my youthful idealism.
I was also a young homosexual man who was realizing that there was only one choice for me as a follower of Jesus: a lifetime of celibacy while all of my friends got married. At the same time, my studies at university were giving me exposure to other people, other beliefs: I had begun to exercise my mind, my rational capacity. "Geez, there were other religions out there, along with non-religious people, who were just as convinced as I was in their beliefs." (Duh, maybe there's a next logical step.) I had also participated in a mission trip to India (a construction project - I was always uncomfortable with direct evangelism), where the Hindus seemed perfectly content to remain Hindu. The thought of all those wonderful people who I had met burning in hell forever really brought home what I had rather glossed over for years as “well, the Lord knows best and I really don’t know uh it’s like up to God duh I guess uh blahblahblah”.
In my teens I had put my trust in the changing power of the Holy Spirit. I mentored other students in my church and evangelical high school, truly believing not just in the redemptive power of Christ, but the transformative power of God. I turned to Jesus to fulfill me, thinking that he would be enough. I was a true believer. Anyone who knew me during that period would never accuse me otherwise.
Just writing these sentences bring back all of the old clichés…the old lingo.
The good guy friends who I was close to one by one married. I was, and still am, happy for their happiness. But I realized that this happiness was not for me (meaning their heterosexual God-ordained conjugal bliss). Their experience would not be mine. The promised change of heart (me becoming straight) that I believed that the Bible promised just never came true: why command me to be perfect and not give me the tools to be so? My nature was totally rejected as abnormal and sick; I wanted to change, but it never happened. I had become resigned...and very sad.
So I finally looked around the congregation that spring morning in 1984, got up and left. I went back to church the next week full of contrition (knee-jerk guilt reaction), and even publicly (in front of the congregation) made an apology of falling away from the faith. It had subsequently come out that I was gay, and even though there was no overt hostility (and for those who had known me any length of time, no shocking news), there certainly was a sea-change of attitude. All of these folks seemed fine as long as I stayed on the straight and narrow and was celibate.
But later that night, talking with old friends in the church, I thought to myself, "No. It's over. I don't believe this at all." I remember saying this to a very good friend. I think it was the last time that we spoke at any length.
The hardest part was that most of my relationships with church people pretty much ended. It was pretty mutual: I was an apostate and our friendships really centered on maintaining the faith. We were (and are) still cordial upon seeing each other, but I know they just wanted me to admit that “I’m back in fellowship with the Lord and have forsaken Godlessness.” In my heart I forgave the good hearted but misguided folks (including my family) who steered me the wrong way for so long. And then I moved on with my life, making sure that I never knowingly asked others to make decisions for me, hoping that by some miracle all of my problems would go away. Taking responsibility for my actions and not whining that “the devil was too strong” or “it must be God’s will.” It’s such a relief to be free from all of that BS.
The only creation story to mediate on now is the creation of my own existence.
My life has been good ever since. Not a cake walk mind you, but more fun and exciting than I had been brought up to expect. I look at that Christian period of my life as "hard lessons never to forget." I got on with my life and am currently very happy with a great partner, great job, and even good relations with my God-fearin' family. That old need to "get everything right with the Lord" really took it out of me emotionally. It's so good to just let all of that go, and move on. Life is too good to waste on all that stuff.
City: San Francisco
Became a Christian: 11, at summer camp
Ceased being a Christian: 21
Labels before: Conservative Baptist
Labels now: agnostic
Why I joined: youthful idealism
Why I left: no reason to keep on believing