There was a Time when Jesus Tried to Kill Me

There was a Time when Jesus Tried to Kill Me

December 3, 2009 Commentary Religion 11

Little Ole MeI first started begging for death at 14 years old.  Oddly, the same thing that led me down the path to pleading for death was the very thing that saved my life – religion.  I knew what was considered a “sin” by the church (which in my family amounted to anything other than being miserable): no shorts for men, no haircuts for women, no playing cards, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no sex until marriage, no jewelry other than a wedding ring, no cussing, no taking of one’s own life (or the lives of others) and don’t forget to say your prayers.  It seemed there were so many things I wasn’t allowed to do without being damned for all eternity.  But there was one thing no one told me – homosexuality is a sin.  This oversight was likely due to the fact that sex was never mentioned in church or otherwise.

I knew though, from society, that being a queer or a sissy was bad.  That fact was echoed every time my older brother’s friends decided they wanted to play a game of “Smear the Queer,” which translated into, “Beat the hell out of Jay.”  It’s important to note that I was not taught religion at a church so much as I was taught religion from my family.  On visits to my evangelical family, church was always on the agenda.  I did embrace the Bible (KJV), Jesus, God and even angels.  I had convinced myself that I had a set of guardians (the angelic ones) watching out for me and no matter what happened, no harm would come of me.  I prayed several times a day, faithfully studied Bible text and occasionally put a televangelist on the TV to listen to the gospel [music that is].

That’s how it happened.  I was flipping channels and stopped on a televangelist.  The music was the first thing to catch my attention, then the preacher began to speak, “Man shall not lie with man as he does a woman, the Bible says it, folks.”  His words were followed by a splash screen reading: LEV. 18:22.  I ran to my bedroom and grabbed my blue bound Bible with my name in silver letters embossed on the cover, a gift from my aunt.  It took seconds for me to find Lev. 18:22 and read the text:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

I didn’t bother reading 18:21 or 18:23.  I stood there in shock.  I had been trained that preachers don’t lie, that the Bible was the inerrant word of God and every detail of it should be followed letter by letter.

I spent the next several days tormenting myself over that quote.  Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet and asking someone about it would be like telling them that I’m a queer.  It was better not to speak of these things and pray away the sin.

But it wasn’t working.  I found my thoughts drifting to a day when I would find my knight in shining armor waiting to take me away and live happily ever after, then switching to darker thoughts and debates about to kill myself with pills or by slicing my wrists.  As days turned into months, the thoughts grew more frequent.  Between daydreaming about my future lover and wondering which method of death would be the simplest, there was no room for other adolescent tasks.  I became increasingly withdrawn until finally, I was near anti-social.  I decided at that point that I had to make a firm decision and stick to it.  My options were: (1) live a life of sin; or (2) kill myself.  But suicide, as mentioned above, was a sin. Regardless of which option I chose, I was doomed to an eternity of hell.

Eventually, I was able to rationalize my doom.  If I chose to kill myself, my eternity in hell would start immediately; however, if I choose to live a life of sin, I could buy myself some time on earth and have a little fun in the process.  You would think at this point that morality would become moot.  If I was going to hell, I might as well lie, cheat, steal and even kill.  But that’s not the way it happened.  In spite of being banished from heaven, I’ve yet to commit any of the major no-no’s.

As I questioned religion, God, Jesus, the Bible and all that I’d been taught, I began educating myself on other religions, other cultures and other beliefs.  I had come out of the closet and was no longer afraid to ask questions.  I asked questions like, “What does your religion say about homosexuals?”  I sought out a religion that agreed with my idea of morality, life and harmony – one where cutting your hair, wearing make up or playing cards was perfectly sinless and considered micromanaging.

Finding a religion that matched my beliefs turned out to be impossible.  While the Wiccan principle of “harm none” was perfect, I found the sacred elements and invocations exhausting and a bit to “Dungeons and Dragons” for my taste.  I really liked bacon at this stage in my life, so becoming Jewish wasn’t an option.  I’d been taught that being Catholic was the worst sin possible and I was too upset with Siddhartha Gautama’s abandonment of his pregnant wife to even consider being a Buddhist! Hinduism was far to exotic to be considered and becoming Muslim seemed like way too much prayer time.

Eventually, my quest for the perfect religion ended when I realized that I was simply regurgitating information being provided to me by leaders of varying faiths, rather than actually believing in any of it.  In fact, I never did believe in any of it – I was just taught it, like being taught to speak.

Religion is a lot like language in that respect.  Depending on who teaches you or where you are, you could speak English, Hebrew, Greek, Spanish or any multitude of differing languages and dialects.  I could have a “southern” accent or a mid-western one – it just depends upon how I was taught.  How is that different from being taught religion?  It’s not.  Religion is as created as language and only has the power and meaning assigned to it from teacher to pupil.  I do not believe that religion is untrue or false any more so than I believe language is untrue or false.  Some accents appeal to us, some do not.  Some religions are appealing, some are not.  The good news is that with enough therapy you can change an accent – or your religion.  One thing that I can’t change is my love for the man I’m lucky enough to have in my life who, unlike religion, has never meant me harm.

Many years have now past since that scared and suicidal queer kid was dismissed from my life.  I’ve since realized that although religion may have saved my life, it first tried to kill me.  I can’t imagine forgiving someone who stabbed me multiple times then sewed up the wounds, so why would I forgive religion for the damage it did to me?  Each time I hear the right wing call out that they are protecting “our children,”  I think of myself as a child and what might have been had I only been able to choose between pills and slit wrists.  I will no longer allow your God to be my burden.

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11 Responses

  1. DGL says:

    Wow. You are not alone. There are many of us with similar experiences. Mine was similar but yet different. Suicide never was an option for me. However, I loathed who I was b/c I could not change and God/Christ hated homosexuals. I did everything…prayed, fasted, went to deliverance seminars, even one pastor had me attending sexaholics anonymous b/c I would talk to guys on the phone. Nothing worked. The more I tried to change the more depressed I became. Finally a group of Christians with good intentions began to accept me for who I am. Somehow this gave me enough love and support that I began exploring what it really meant to be me. They never dreamed I would toss them their beliefs and go out on my own, but I did and am now a well adjusted gay adult. The truth of religion lies in what the believer takes away from it. If there indeed is an infinite Other out there, our finite words can never explain or encapsulate the existence of the Divine. And, if this Divinity exisits, I believe He/She/It wants everyone to live to their fullest potential == whether gay, straight, bi, trans, or super-hyper spiritual. But for Heaven's sake, let's not live our lives at the expense of harming others. Life is too short and valuable.

    • jaysays says:

      You are right on DGL. Far too many of us share that similar story.

    • janewishon says:

      " If there indeed is an infinite Other out there, our finite words can never explain or encapsulate the existence of the Divine. And, if this Divinity exisits, I believe He/She/It wants everyone to live to their fullest potential == whether gay, straight, bi, trans, or super-hyper spiritual. But for Heaven's sake, let's not live our lives at the expense of harming others. Life is too short and valuable. "

      Beautifully stated, DGL.

      Jason, I'm deeply moved by your story and I am so very sorry that organizaed religion made you doubt the beauty of your being. Despite being an Elder of my church, I often find myself thinking that I'm not a fan of organized religion – it so often gets in the way of spirituality.


  2. Michelle says:

    I love, love love this! As I think I told you in our early emails, I tried to kill myself a number of times. And I have the multiple institutionalizations to prove it 😉

    I grew up in a Southern baptist, but not regular churchgoer, atmosphere – it wasn't until my mother married a Lutheran and I was literally forced to attend confirmation classes that I got really self-destructive. That Lev. quote? In the Living bible it reads thus: "Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin".

    I read that whole damn book from front to back – well, except that time I passed out from the Quaalude overdose in confirmation class – and like you I searched and searched for a set of beliefs in various religions the rest of my adulthood that fit who I am (I gave up on Judaism because I just wasn't willing to learn Hebrew). Ultimately, I realized all I really have to believe in is me, and love. But I can certainly respect what others believe – without applying their beliefs to my life. That's where I part philosophy. I do agree that many religious sects are very destructive to glbt kids. No question. But I don't hold that against the god they follow. I hold it strictly against the followers who interpret their god that way. I don't think it's religion in general that harms us – it's people who interpret religion in harmful ways. They will not think critically, they are blindsided by their religious "leaders". And yes, I am a proud atheist 🙂

    But I'm an atheist who can respect that not all religious groups are equal, nor do all treat people equally. But some do. I respect the latter.

  3. Damien says:

    this is wonderfully written and expresses your thoughts and feelings well. perhaps my interpretation of it isnt what is meant but it seems as though God is being blamed for the interpretation of the people around you of His word. I am transgender and gay and people around me quote this and that, say and think this and that, but that is their opinion, not mine. i just nod and smile and go on about my life. a lot of transgender people say that they were born into the wrong body. i know that God put me into the exact body necessary for His plan for my journey in this lifetime. yes, it can be a difficult path, but its only made so if i allow those around me to have a say in where my energy goes. God knows my path and i trust Him enough to follow it. I let go of religion, not God. I know what and who i believe in and none of my beliefs match any particular denomination. just a note: God doesnt subscribe to any particular denomination either. I wish you luck and love in your journey.

    • jaysays says:

      Thank you for your thoughts Damien. I can see where this post could easily be interpreted as blaming God, but that is not the intention. As an atheist, it would be improper for me to blame [or thank] God for anything that happens in my life. It is a direct reflection on what I was taught by people who worship God that were in my realm of knowledge at that time. Unfortunately, at that point in my life, I did not separate the worshipers of God from "God." To my child-self, religion was all or nothing. That's the perspective of this post.

  4. Jeff H says:

    This goes right down the line with everything that I went through as well. OK, our experiences are EXACTLY the same, but all those emotions–the despondency, the hatred, the shame–it was all there. I tell people that that finally accepting myself as gay gave me the freedom to question all aspects of myself. It allowed me the freedom to question my religion as well. That is true. However, in order to be completely accurate, I have to say that I don't trust religion nor do I trust spirituality. The second is more accurate. I don't trust spirituality whether is connected to a religious system or not. I don't consider myself an atheist. I guess the closest thing I can come to as a classification is agnostic.

  5. Zach says:

    As a deeply spiritual and possibly religious person, I applaud this article. A lot. My sense of spirituality is important to me, and I am a practicing Quaker. I also have a healthy fear and distrust of organized religions, including my own. When faith mandates charity, good works, peace, love, and acceptance it is and should be seen as a force for good – just as when an atheist's secular morality demands these same things, that is also good. But when any belief system is used to harm, or to discriminate, to promote hatred or excuse violence, it is bad. The power of misused religion – whether in driving young people to despair over their sexual orientation, inspiring all the horrors of the Crusades and the Inquisition, or the perversion of Islam that we see springing up in the world today – is terrifying. Thank you for being a voice against it.

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