Souls in Pain and Why It Matters To Me
by Steve Schalchlin
|Date: Sat, 4 Apr 1998
To: Journeys and Faith lists
From: Steve Schalchlin
Subject: SteveS answers Gary
Gary: Steve, I told you I could somehow relate to what it feels like to be estranged by religious beliefs. Now, if you wish, could you please explain again how this bothers you so much.
SteveS: Gary, I hear you trying to understand me as much as I'm trying to understand you. I appreciate this. Perhaps I can put it this way -- and again, this is only MY journey....
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998
Sandi: SteveS is preaching that *all* ex-gay ministries are evil and that allowing a young person to hear *any* interpretation of the Bible that says same-gender behavior is wrong is evil. Hearing SteveS' interpretation of the Bible is then the only correct one! This is what Maggie calls "the mirror image."
SteveS: I do not believe exgay ministries are evil -- a "thing" is not evil. I believe the people in them are misguided and wrong both in their interpretation of scripture and how it should be applied.
Sandi: Steve, I think there is middle ground!
SteveS: Sandi, I do too. The fundamentalist mind does not. That's not a criticism. It's a fact. When I left the world of fundamentalist literalism, I actually was not aware that there was a choice besides all or nothing in regards to "literal" interpretation of the Bible -- which is not literal at all, by the way.
Sandi: Finally, a personal note. I had never met Tom Cole until I went to the GLSEN conference last weekend. [...] *Not once* did he pull me aside and say, "Ya know, I can tell you are a Christian, but your life will never be right until you repent of homosexuality."
SteveS: I believe you. I'm afraid that my strong thoughts here have also misled people into thinking that I am the type who would treat sideB people (in person) any way except with the most courteous respect and love. I know the pain they have faced and still face. I hear in their words a desire to do good and to help others and to heal. I do not deny this.
But, I believe that salvation is evidenced not through words or even belief, but through action. A child of God is known by what he does and how he treats others. There are those who have "accepted the Lord" according to the cC rules but who have no trace of salvation in their souls -- Fred Phelps' group is the best example offhand. They prove that they are not Christians through their words and deeds. But I guarantee you they've "accepted Jesus as their personal savior." So how come they're not "saved?"
Perhaps it's more than that. Perhaps it's less. My parents are cC. They are the most loving people I know. And they've never treated anyone with anything less than love and dignity. To me, that's Christianity.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998
.... I am listening. I speak loudly and carry a large hearing aid. Long ago I made the statement that unless we were moving in the direction of making policies that would open the gates of equality for gay people, then this whole conversation was a complete waste of time.
Maggie has somewhat implied that the exgays are changing their perspective from one of antagonism of happily gays to something else. If one goes to the websites of the cC and CC exgays, there is not a trace of this happening, SteveC's notwithstanding. But then bigotry and hate do not heal overnight.
At this point in time, I consider exgay ministries to be aberrant and ultimately ridiculous -- except for the hurt souls that populate them who are trying desperately to find peace and security in their lives. Having been filled with pain and hurt myself, I bleed for them and want to caress them with loving acceptance for their journey.
At the very least, they remind all of us how painful it is to grow up gay in this Victorian CC subculture bubble we call the USA. That they are throwing themselves into the arms of this demonic theology to heal the wounds CAUSED by that theology is even more painful to me.
|Part I: "Trusting Souls in
by Steve Schalchlin
I grew up wanting nothing more than to please God. To my mind, there could be no higher aspiration for a child or an adult. My belief in God was simple, clear, honest and dedicated. As an adolescent when I played adolescent sex games with my pals in the neighborhood (and they with me) I had never heard the word "homosexual" or "gay." I assumed that, because we were being surreptitious about our play, that EVERYONE was like me.
When I got into Junior High, though, I quickly realized that my playmates were quite different -- and I suffered some ridicule in gym, etc. This scared me to death but my family moved (unrelated) and I had a chance to start over with new kids who didn't know my dreadful secret. I just kept my feelings to myself and dated girls, but it was empty and hollow trying to be a heterosexual.
Along about college -- I went to a Baptist College -- I was finally exposed to evangelists who preached about the "evils" of homosexuality. Baptist salvation theology does not hinge upon sexual orientation, but BECAUSE I WAS TAUGHT THAT IT WAS A SIN, I kept thinking that I could not be saved. After all, if Jesus washed us white as snow, then it followed that He would have washed "the sin of homosexuality" from my soul.
It should be noted here that I was not having sex with anyone. So it was sga, not sgb. But my hormones were raging and I was burning with desire. I also felt dirty, sinful, separated from God and wondering why Jesus would so abandon me, an honest kid praying an honest searching prayer.
Every night, every day, every moment I begged Jesus to change me into "normal." To change my passions and make me whole in His site.
After college, my simple belief began to turn cynical. How much torture was a person supposed to endure? I began to ask myself. Additionally, I had a girlfriend who loved me and who I loved. But "it" wasn't there. I could have married her, but at my core gut, there was this abiding emptiness that ripped my soul to shreds.
Finally, in my little home town, I met a guy my age who -- upon first glance, changed everything. I knew without a word being spoken that he was gay. And I fell immediately and irreversibly in love. When we finally came together physically, I felt all the things I had been missing. It was like God finally spoke to me and gave me a completeness I had never known.
That and couple of other things convinced me that perhaps this "literal" reading of the Bible wasn't all it was cracked up to be. And I grew to greatly resent these preachers and others who had kept me separated from true love, honest love. My natural passions.
Well, that was a long story. But my point, Gary, is that even if sga is wrong for you or for SteveC or Gene or any of the good men and women here -- I DON'T DOUBT YOUR PAIN or even your inclinations to become something other than what you started out to be...
...but to insist that it is GOD who is behind this feeling -- and to insist that GOD is the one who wants us all to put these things behind us -- is to make life hell for all the kids like me for whom this feeling does not apply.
How I wished someone had told me early on that God does not judge my sga. Yes, I knew God loved me, but because the issue was framed as "sin," it meant to me that I was separated from God. I wasn't good enough or I didn't pray hard enough. I was doomed to hurt myself and some beautiful trusting woman in some terrible attempt to live "inside His design."
So, my point is this. You want me to respect that being gay is not for you? I'm there. Totally. You want to insist that being gay is a thing that GOD HIMSELF is against? Then all I can see is myself, torn and hurt, filled with pain, wondering why Jesus deserted me when I was honestly asking him for change...
And I will spend the rest of my life refuting this theology and giving comfort and Truth (as I understand it) to any youth who comes my way. He is not outside God's design when he falls in love with another boy. He is not outside God's design when he experiences the sexual attractions that are natural and normal for him.
And I will never again trust anyone who claims to speak for God. Ever.
Part II: " Why It Matters To Me"
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998 06:47:41 -0800
Folks, for those of you who don't know me, I'm really a very nice guy -- raised by good folks, the preacher and the nurse. Because I come from a small town fundamentalist family and church, I know that they are really good people. (I find myself constantly trying to convince my lefty show biz crowd that small town Christians are nice folks -- misrepresented by the Christian Coalition.)
So, I dream of reaching the hometown type people *I* knew, letting them know that they are betrayed by this so-called Christian leadership -- that they are political animals, not religious.
One focus of my life has come from young -- and not so young -- people who have written to me because of my website and a musical for which I wrote the words and the music.
One in particular was a gay teen living in a tiny town in Texas (where I'm from). He was sitting there with his dad's gun. He was in despair because he had surreptitiously met with another boy and now wondered if he had AIDS -- highly doubtful, by the way. He said he can't get tested because he has no car, he's afraid of what his pastor would think and his parents believe gay people will go to hell.
He told me since Jesus hates him anyway, why should he stay alive? What was the point? he asked me. The whole incident took me blindside and I had a tough time finding a way to help him. (And it's also why I am so turned off by anti-gay fundamentalist theology -- even the kind that doesn't say gay people will automatically go to hell).
Since then I've made myself available to anyone who writes me. I answer honestly and I don't (believe it or not) preach to them. As I wrote early in the days of B-A, if younger teens are questioning their sexuality, I do not push them into being gay. I tell them to assume nothing, but be sure to not turn into a homophobe, whichever way they think their sexuality is leaning.
I've even, I confess, have sent one or two to "exgay" people if I found I was unable to relieve their immediate fear and pain -- and cannot convince them that they're suffering from a misinterpretation of the Bible.
So, I just want everyone to understand that I bear no ill will to SteveC or the others. I pretty much believe you are trying to do good things. I really do. But it doesn't mean I have to like what you do or approve it. And I find the term exgay wildly offensive, but I don't make an issue of it because I'm tired of getting wrapped up in semantics wars. Since it is what you believe you are, what can I say?
I think I am not a good bridger, and I've probably scared off a few folks. (Sorry.) But one thing really good has come of B-A for me. I've met some INCREDIBLE sideA people who I think will become lifetime friends. I've met some nice sideB people, too, but we dance a very cautious dance in our exchanges.
My main focus, apart from writing songs and performing, is fighting for the rights of gay people to live equally under the law. I am of the opinion that "everything is politics." So part of my inability to "accept" the exgay "reality" is that they become a potent weapon used by the horrific Gary Bauers of this world. (And how lovely that he keynoted the PFOX meeting -- and how ridiculous that there is a PFOX, which was set up by him solely to counteract the great work of PFLAG).
The bridge across the divide is love, as Justin points out. But the pillars that keep the bridge strong are equality and respect (that's how you get justice, SteveC). At b-a, respect is demanded from both sides. And that's my struggle. I don't respect the theology or even the idea of "exgay." So, I have some work to do before I'm a good bridger.
But, if you can stand me, I'm here. Or, as Vicki says to buddy in THE LAST SESSION, "Why don't you try to convert me? You'll find I'm very open."
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