sent in by Chris
Twenty years ago, when I was 15 years old, I was struggling terribly with my sexuality. I realized that I was gay about three years earlier, and I totally freaked out. I was depressed and suicidal. At about that time, I had the misfortune of seeing Jimmy Swaggart on television. I ordered his religious magazine, The Evengelist. When it arrived, I read an article in which he said, "All a homosexual needs to do is accept Jesus Christ as his savior and he will no longer be a homosexual."
I was a gullible, naive 15-year old, so I was thrilled to find the antidote to my unwanted sexuality. Remember, this was in 1985. It seems so recent, but things were much different then than they are today. Today, at least people talk about sexuality. But 20 years ago, people rarely spoke about these things at all. Telling someone that you were gay could be an admission greeted with shock, anger or even a fist to the nose.
I desperately wanted to change my sexuality. This man of God, Jimmy Swaggart, said that all I needed to do was accept Jesus as my Savior and I would be instantly transformed into a guy who wanted a girl instead of another guy. I accepted Christ without a thought. Of course, my sexuality didn’t change instantly, but I kept trying, always trying to live up to the image of perfection that this hypocrite preached about over television.
That began years of addiction to Pentecostalism and the hope that I could pray away my sexuality. I started to regularly attend an Assembly of God church in my area. My Catholic parents were very bothered by this and rightly didn’t consider it a healthy development.
I attended that church for a couple of years until, one Sunday, I was asked to come to the pastor’s office after service. When I did, the pastor and two elders told me that they knew I was gay. I argued briefly with them, but the pastor looked me right in the eye and simply said, “We don’t want you to come here”.
Remember, I was young and naïve. I didn’t know that there were churches in existence that actually told people they weren’t welcome. I was so vulnerable at the time and the rejection devastated me. It felt like a spiritual rape. Even twenty years later, I remember that pastor’s name. Pastor David Welle of the Wyckoff Assembly of God in Wyckoff, New Jersey. I will remember that man’s name until the day I die. Anyone who has had the misfortune of undergoing any kind of trauma at someone else’s hands knows exactly what I mean.
I actually got on an airplane and visited Jimmy Swaggart Ministries five times. Yep, five times. I met the Swaggart family personally and shook their hands on more than one occassion. During one visit, a sermon was preached in which they referred to people as queers. What a jolt that was. I can still remember the feeling of numbness and shock.
Of course, I no longer follow that spiritual pervert now, but for years, I was damaged emotionally and spiritually by his attacks on gay people. In my 20s, I came across some free thought literature. When I read it, my faith fell away almost instantly. I am a logical person by nature, and when I see logic, I know it. Christianity is not logical. In fact, upon even the most casual examination, Christianity completely falls apart. The religion is just a joke.
I looked up to Jimmy Swaggart. But when I matured, I realized that I was such a fool to believe that I would be tortured for all eternity if I accepted who I was. People like Swaggart claim to have the truth, but they wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and hit them in the eye.
Fanatical religion is incredibly dangerous, especially for people who are in a vulnerable state of mind. Jimmy Swaggarts attacks hurt a lot of good people, especially because of the fact that they are done in the name of God. That shameful family has hurt and devastated an incredible number of people, gay and straight alike. Many lost their faith because of the way they were treated. Now, I am 35 years old. And guess what? I love who I am! I am a good person who has great friends and a profitable business. I am a freethinker and associate with like-minded people.
I am also a New Yorker. Over the weekend, I visited the American Museum of Natural History. They are currently running a Darwin exhibit. As I stood in that exhibit, I was deeply moved as I realized that, finally, once and for all, I am done with the superstition and ignorance that tainted so many of my years. I am free, and I am happy!
Joined: 15 years old
Left: 25 years old
Was: Assembly of God
Converted because: I wanted to become heterosexual
De-converted because: I found free-thought literature and realized that they were right.
email: chrislamparello at aol dot com