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A Change of Faith   email Cindy
None of the prayer, therapy, struggle had changed me. At the end of my summer, I met a missionary woman and fell head over heels in love with Mary. I loved her. I wasn't a cannibal, I was in love.

But I still did nothing about it. I knew that I would not be able to enjoy the full expression of love until I were able to determine if same gender sexual love was in fact sin.


A Change of Faith
by Cindy Beal 
October 15, 1999

My name is Cindy Beal. thank you for letting me share a thumbnail of my journey. Well, more than a thumbnail. 

I was raised a Wesleyan, (Fundamentalist Holiness denomination, two works of grace) and I had a spiritual experience of responding to an altar call at age 12, when our pastor preached about how Jesus would be my friend no matter what. Unfortunately, I was taught that I could lose my salvation, and as I found adolescence difficult, I was constantly having to repent and respond to altar calls. I was raised by an intact two parent family on a small farm in northern New York. I did not fit into my community - I was well read even as a child, we were outsiders in a town full of people who were related to one another (Saranac - pop. 948, more or less) I felt a misfit, and when girls talked about being in love with boys, I didn't really get it. I loved my gym teacher and a sunday school teacher, but didn't think it odd, they were just Wonderful. I would be 17 before I heard the word lesbian - prior to that I thought all the gays were men. 

I appreciated the binary truth/falsehood, 1/0, yes/no, hot/cold world of Christian Fundamentalism, for it gave me a great deal of stability. Although I often questioned if the Bible answered all questions ("if there are people on another planet, do they need their own Jesus, or are we supposed to tell them about the Only Son of God?") for the most part I was able to accept and embrace the idea that God said it, I believed it, and that settled it. 

I spent the summer of my 16th year doing door to door witnessing on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick Canada. I spent the summer between high school and college working at a Salvation Army Camp, and there fell in love with a woman for the first time and recognized it as being In Love. I agonized, rationalized, ignored my feelings and prayed. 

I prayed mightily -- that I could hold her hand and that wouldn't be a sin -- that the longing I felt wasn't a sign that I was a lesbian. I just loved her. I prayed that either I wouldn't have this feeling or that it was ok to have this feeling. 

I prayed that God would make me satisfied with holding her hand and praying on the dock at the waterfront at 6:30 every morning. We would sit there and look up over the still water into the hills and just sit, quietly, meditating and pondering on life and the nature of beauty. 

Sometimes Scott joined us, he loved her too. We prayed, both of us, alone sometimes. Once, when she didn't show up, he quoted a passage from the Bible about laying a fleece before the Lord. A challenge that God Must Answer. I think that morning we both silently demanded the same thing of God, guaranteeing someone's failure. He and I were often miserable together. I never told her how I felt, and now she's married and working with her husband for a Christian campus ministry. 

I went to Eastern College in PA, an American Baptist school. I chose it because Tony Campolo taught there. Campus Life magazine was running an Eastern ad at that time, Tony's face saying, "Eastern College. Where a single voice can still be heard." My misfit feeling self liked that idea. A Christian environment that valued individuality. 

It was there that I was first confronted with academic and intellectual integrity, with a search for truth that includes our faith walk but does not discount science or history that might contribute to or even change our beliefs about absolute truth. It was there that I was first introduced to the academic study of scripture - and to the idea that while God's Word (John 1.1 - Jesus) might be infallible, there were real internal contradictions and historically and culturally constructed bits of history in The Book of a people's search for God. For the first two years I was there I struggled to resist these ideas. God Said It. I Believed It. That Settled It. Egypt's River turned into Blood, I said, it was not a red clay slide. If it was a red clay slide that would mean that God wasn't miraculous. 

I fell in love a few times, but believing that God condemned same sex relationships, I said nothing except to myself, and my God as I prayed for healing. 

I loved Jesus and I loved girls and I had no idea how I was going to live with both of those. 

I was preparing to go overseas as a summer missionary. The woman who was my InterVarsity Christian Fellowship contact for that trip sent me a book, for I had been telling her at that time that I thought it wasn't identity that was sin, but sex. She didn't know how to respond, so she told me that God created me a woman, and sent me the book _The Broken Image_ by Leanne Payne. 

One particular line in The Broken Image caught me and held me so tightly I felt like I couldn't breathe. Her basic premise, that it was lack of attachment to the same sex parent that caused homosexuality, led her to make this statement: 

"Similar to the way cannibals eat others to get their traits, a person may become sexually involved with the same sex in a subconscious attempt to gain or connect with the other,s masculinity or femininity. Unfortunately, this addresses neither the unmet emotional needs nor the original pain. 

I was a cannibal. Almost. Since I,d never actually had sex, I was, I supposed, in love with cannibals, but not one myself yet. 

So I went to a counselor off the main line of Philadelphia who specialized in healing homosexuals or as she liked to say, in leading homosexuals to the healing of the Lord. I told her I wasn't a homosexual, I just loved Miss Smith. She told me it was about the bond I wanted but lacked with my mother. Then she asked me to tell her a story about how my mom disappointed me or failed me, then she would share a scripture, then she would pray with me for the rest of my 25$ a 50 minute hour. Every time I went, I would spend that hour feeling guilty, depressed, hopeless, worthless - I would get no sign from God, no relief from my feelings. And I prayed like no one ever prayed before. 

But I got no relief from my feelings. 

Then I went to the Philippines as a missionary. Outside Ilo-ilo City I preached to a room of 150 women in a squatters camp the literal Word of Jesus Christ. I told them that if they would submit themselves to Christ that he would take care of all their ails their alcoholism, their poverty, their sick children all would be saved. They all rose to their feet in proclaiming Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 

The day after I preached that sermon, the owner of the land they were squatting on sent bulldozers and destroyed the entire village. I learned that day that I could not be uncritical of my faith. I could not believe in a God who separated the spiritual from the physical well being of humanity. In one fell moment, I invented liberation theology. (It was embarrassing over the next year to discover that many many people had already invented and begun systematizing liberation theology) God was a God of a whole humanity, body and spirit were one and could not be separated. 

It was a few years before I realized the central problems with the application of Payne's (and others') developmental theory to my life -- it was based on lack of proper attachment. But I was still an adolescent. The primary developmental task of an adolescent is to separate from their parents. My looking back on things I wished had been different was a natural part of that separation. My attachment to my mother had occurred years earlier, and it was now time for me to separate. A therapeutic connection pathologizing my natural developmental task by connecting it to my sexuality wasn't ok. 

None of the prayer, therapy, struggle had changed me. At the end of my summer, I met a missionary woman and fell head over heels in love with Mary. I loved her. I wasn't a cannibal, I was in love. 

But I still did nothing about it. I knew that I would not be able to enjoy the full expression of love until I were able to determine if same gender sexual love was in fact sin. 

I came out at my college, as a lesbian who was celibate. I experienced the not surprising avoidance by friends. I found my community in two gay men on campus who became my pals. I became politically active around the Central American political issues of the 80's, and reproductive rights. I studied and read and fell in love with a woman who loved me, and refused to be sexual with her. (She had no theological qualms of her own) 

I read and studied and my theology became that of a liberal evangelical. 'Feed my sheep' wasn't a saying that was of lesser importance than 'no man comes to the Father but by me' but two sides of the same coin. Where my theology had previously centered on the personal salvation theology of John, I read Matthew more and paid attention to the miracles that Jesus performed making peoples' Present more livable. Simply shifting which Gospel/Good News was at the center of my understanding of God shifted my perception of God's intent for God's creation. Or perhaps not shifted it, but recognized that there was a scriptural foundation for my experience in the Philippines. My girlfriend went back to her own college, and while I was single I came to the understanding that scripture opposed certain sexual activities - sex for money - sex without consent - sex with another man's property (incest and married women) - sex with minors - but became comfortable that I could be a whole person of integrity and be fully involved with a long term partner. 

Unfortunately, I did most of this alone. And I did not understand how the fundamentalist theology of my youth was inextricably bound up with fundamentalist ideology. I was changing my theology but as I did my footing became shakier and shakier. My world view had been based on the same binary structure. The world was good/bad, 1/0, yes/no. The shades of gray I was experiencing (for instance, the socialist government in central america more Christ-like than capitalist democracy of US) had nowhere to go in my head and I became a bit koo-koo. Different than culture shock, I experienced Ideology Crash. My expectations of the world were completely different than my experience of the world. 

And I got better. My friend Ava plunked me on her couch and told stories. Her experience as a black lesbian mother artist activist veteran teacher Christian was a personal history of [in]justice in the united states. I was able to relearn what the world was like - leaving my nearly perfect white bread rural image of God's nation of justice and peace for all behind in my history, relegating it to a belief system that worked for me when I was a nearly perfect white bread farmer woman born again Christian for whom America worked. It had been easy to believe in America as God's special country while I was experiencing citizenship of that country as a great life of freedom. 

I was, by now, a radical gay activist who was also a Christian. 

I became active in the Metropolitan Community Church for a short period, where I met my partner of 3 years. Unfortunately, when I went to New York to attend Union Theological Seminary, we weren't mature enough, or experienced enough in relationship building to deal with the distance between us, or financially secure enough to close that distance with frequent visits, and our relationship ended. 

The education I received at Union was incredible. The old joke about going to Seminary and losing your faith wasn't quite accurate, for I went to Seminary and changed my faith. As I learned more critical thinking skills, as I met loving committed Christians of different doctrine and belief, as I more and more immersed myself in justice seeking for this world, I left behind my self definition of liberal evangelical and recognized that my faith was more akin to that of liberation theology - feminist theology - black theology. I recognized that I was a liberal Christian - a follower of Jesus the teacher - a Jesus who may or may not be the Hebrew people's promised Messiah - and I knew my fundamentalist and most of my evangelical friends would not consider me Christian. I no longer used the phrase born-again, and more crucially, I no longer believed that Christian scriptures were the only spiritual access to Truth or God or Higher Power. 

As a self defined gay and lesbian activist, woman's rights activist, AIDS activist, child rights activist, and educator, I found that many of my peers had skewed ideas about conservative Christians. Ideas based on the PTL Club and Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robertson. Ideas that merged religious ideas and political ideas in incorrect ways. (as opposed to the ways religion and politics were actually merging) I began to recognize my unique position (tho' not the only person) as someone who had paid close attention to theology all along my journey. Someone who left conservative Christianity behind, not because of a personal investment in sexuality, but because of a social justice issue related to me as oppressor, not oppressed. (rich US citizen who benefits from the capitalist manipulation of the Philippine economy [during Marcos] vs. lesbian who has been yelled at, harassed, hit, fired, and not accepted to a seminary because of her sexuality) 

I began studying, learning, teaching. 

I now do business as Justice and Peace Consulting, educating people about political movements that oppose justice and peace for many citizens, and about creative and peaceful conflict avoidance and resolution. 

We do this by educating groups about the undermining of our constitutional freedoms that many conservative religious and political activists are carrying out in our national landscape today and coalition building with conservative religious groups who are socially progressive; by educating groups and individuals about justice and peacemaking in their towns, about protecting the rights of children to live free from fear in their schools and communities and have access to a full and complete academic curricula; by training groups in peaceful and positive problem solving and communication; and by educating parents and youth about subjects that may be the source of unnecessary conflict in the home, and by teaching concrete skills that assist parents in creating a peaceful and safe home life. 

After 7 years as student affairs staff and faculty/staff associate at Hampshire College, I am now a full time trainer for a private human services agency. I train staff who work with adults and children with mental retardation, and am the human rights officer for 114 individuals served by the program for which I work. I also am a Master Trainer for the Department of Social Services, training foster parents and social workers to train their standard foster parent training series. 

I am godmother to a beautiful 8 year old boy, and part time grown-up in the lives of two incredible girls. I have been a foster parent, although am not currently. 

Until 2 months ago I had been single since my long term relationship ended in 1990. I am now dating a wonderful social worker who is incredible. We'll see. 

I have a great life, and I am happy. I am happy to share with Journeys. 

My free time is sporadic (investing in a new relationship and all) and so please understand that my participation on this list will be sporadic as well. However, I am committed to reading every post. 


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text © 1999 Cindy Beal

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