Curious Queer

Musings by gay author Sulayman X

Why does my church hate me?

ImageDerek Penwell wrote an interesting column the other day for the Huffington Post on what it would be like for gay kids if they had a friendly church to go to. The headline was to the point: “What if gay kids had a church that loved them?”

Extremely good question.

I can’t speak to what such a church would be like.

I can, however, speak to what it was like as a youngster to know that my church thought I was a perverted abomination. The official line of the Catholic Church is that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered,” a polite way of saying gay people are abnormal, weird, unnatural, disordered like alcoholics or crack addicts or serial killers.

When I was 14, I looked up the word “homosexual” in the dictionary (since I didn’t dare ask anyone around me for more information on the topic). The dictionary categorized homosexuality as a sexual perversion “akin to pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia, which see.” I looked up pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia and was horrified to learn that I was no better than someone who wanted to have sex with a dead horse.

There were no words to express the disgust I felt with my sexuality, the absolute rejection of it, the fear of it, the shame of being so helplessly “disordered” in God’s eyes. Every time I  turned around, I was being tempted by the homosexual demon, whom I could not escape. Girls did nothing for me in the slightest, only boys. But try as I might, I could not stop myself from thinking of them, and wondering what it would be like … 

The Catholic Church also taught me that hell was very real, and that homosexuals go to hell, no questions asked. This was based on the quote from St. Paul about how the “effeminate” will not go to heaven. I knew, somehow, that “effeminate” meant gay. Gay like me.

I believed in hell. I was terrified of hell. The thought of utter, complete eternal, a never-ending life of misery and anguished suffering that would never end, God’s complete abhorrence and rejection of me — such thoughts left me completely neurotic. 

Like many good Catholics, I did my best to deny the truth, to pretend that homosexuality was just a temptation that I had to resist, that the church was right to condemn me, that there was indeed something wrong with me. I believed the church when it said these temptations would go away if I only prayed hard enough, or believed enough, or trusted God enough. I even got married and had a child. 

Yet … it never went away.

What DID go away was me. I left the church. How could I do otherwise? Why would I continue to go to a church that despised me?

As I grew older and learned that homosexuality is not a temptation, but a sexual orientation that is quite natural and occurs in a steady percentage of any given population, I realized that the Catholic Church was completely wrong. And if it could be wrong on such a fundamental question, what else was it wrong about? How could I possibly believe that this church was infallible and could never err in matters of faith or morals?

The Catholic Church’s official position is that it’s not “wrong” to be homosexual, but to act on homosexual tendencies is sinful. The church tells its pastors to be “compassionate” with their homosexual members. The question I always had was this: How could it be wrong to love someone? I could understand that promiscuity was sinful, but how could a committed relationship with another gay person be dismissed out of hand? Why wasn’t I allowed to love someone? Why was I being told that I had to go through life lonely and alone with no hope of ever meeting a special someone? What sort of message is that? Whose needs are being served? Certainly not mine. 

The effect of the church’s teaching has been to render itself irrelevant to my life. It has nothing to offer me. I do not consult church doctrine when I need to make a moral decision because I know, from experience, that the church can be wrong. I have formed my own conscience and made my own decisions, which I will quite happily defend on the day of judgement, if need be. 

Had the church not rejected me and attempted to shame me into silence, I would still be Catholic. I would participate. I would attend mass weekly and put my donations in the box. By not believing in me, the church left me no choice but to not believe in it. It has not only lost my support but driven me away altogether. 

The choice it offers is not a genuine choice. You cannot ask certain members of the congregation to not love another person in a way that’s natural to them. You cannot ask them to forgo love and affection. You cannot tell them they have to go through life alone, bravely battling the homosexual demon on the off-chance that it might indeed be displeasing to God. The only needs being served by this are the needs of homophobic clergymen afraid of sex and sexuality, starting with St. Paul. Any gay people that would willingly endure this torment is to be pitied, not commended. God does not ask us to hate ourselves. 

Perhaps churches will learn from my experience, and the experience of so many others. By rejecting gay kids, they are simply making themselves irrelevant. They are denying such kids a safe place to learn about loving, committed relationships. They are denying them a place to learn about matters of the heart and the soul. They are denying them a place in the community. And they are doing this, not because it’s right or because it’s what God wants, but only to satisfy the homophobes and bigots among them who are terrified of sex and sexuality. 

Someday churches will understand gay kids are just like all the other kids, with the same needs and desires and hopes for the future. 


Why I hate “Christians”

ImageSomeone asked me recently why I hate Christians.

I replied that real “Christians” are rather rare and I don’t know that many. I do, however, know a great many people who call themselves Christians, but who are anything but Christ-like.

These folks are a dime a dozen. They wrap themselves in religion and use it as an excuse to hate, or judge, or condemn, or exclude. They glory in their chosen-ness, their blessedness, casting a sad eye on those of us who are unwashed and unsaved. They are morally superior and want their morality legislated onto those of us who are apparently incapable of genuine morality.

I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, though. The “Christians” I hate are the ones who are the most strident, the most vociferous, the ones leading the charge in the culture wars, the shiny-faced folks on TV with their hands out who fear-monger about abortion and homosexuality to gin up donations. The “Christians” I’m talking about are the last to turn the other cheek, the last to be meek, mild, humble, the last to leave judgement to God, where it belongs. 

On the one side are real, genuine Christians who are Christ-like, who understand what the Gospels were about, the ones who know that when they pray they should go to their room and shut the door and not stand on the street corner and proclaim their righteousness for the world to see. On the other hand, there are shiny charlatans with $3,000 suits who use Christianity as a weapon to suit their own agenda. Between these two poles are the mass of souls in between.

It is not those souls in between that I hate. It is not Christ-like people that I hate. It’s the hypocrites, the users, the abusers, the vampires who suck on the body of Christ to sustain their own lives. Those are the “Christians” that I hate. 

And for good reason.

Jesus hated them too. 

If you read the Gospels attentively, you will notice that Jesus didn’t get mad that often. But when he did, it was invariably with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, those self-righteous hair-splitters who were forever rabble-rousing and stirring up trouble, who thought of themselves as the apples of God’s eyes, who rejoiced in their salvation even as they sneered down at sinners and the outcast who could never measure up. 

Jesus hated those bastards. Don’t believe me? Read what he said about them. On one occasion he calls them children of their father, the Devil. 

I think it’s important to understand who he was talking to. The Pharisees and Sadducees were prominent, scholarly Jews. They knew the law inside and out. They were the pillars of the community, the leading lights. They had the prime seats at table and in the temple. They were respected, prominent, important. They called the shots. They were the priests, pastors and popes of their day.

Imagine how it must have appeared to them for someone like Jesus to come along and publicly revile them, over and over, even going so far as to tell them that they were children of the Devil, their mouths like “white-washed sepulchers.” It’s no wonder these folks schemed to find a way to have Jesus silenced. And it’s no wonder they eventually succeeded. 

Let us consider the matter further:

  • What is the response of a Christian to injury or harm? Jesus was plain:Turn the other cheek. Do good to those that hate you, that revile you, that do all manner of evil to you. Love your enemies. Bless them. Wish them well. So, when was the last time you saw a Christian turn the other cheek? When was the last time you saw Sarah Palin, or Michelle Bachmann, or Ann Coulter, or Mike Huckabee, or Pat Robertson, “do good” to those that hate them? You won’t find much cheek-turning these days. You will find, though, a lot of heated rhetoric about how Christians have to stand their ground, step up, be counted, make their voices heard so that we’re not steamrolled by the homosexuals or the abortionists or the atheists or the Muslims. Lock and load, to use Palin’s terminology.
  • Judge not, lest you be judged.” How much plainer or simpler could it be? But the Christians I’m referring to are the first to judge, to condemn, to exclude, to vilify, to actively promote policies that hurt and harm and drive away souls they don’t like. But notice something very curious: While they pick on the gays constantly (and, it seems, rather gleefully), they do not pick on adulterers. Or drunkards. Or murderers. Or child abusers. Or men who slap their wives around. Or fornicators. Or business people who cheat their employees out of a just wage. No. Their self-righteous ire is very carefully channeled into a safe outlet: Pick on the gays. Curious, isn’t it? To their way of thinking, gays are destroying the family. Not fornicators or straight couples who live together. Not men having affairs. Not men cruising the Internet for porn. But gay people. While there is a website, there is no site called, or Curious how judgement is carried out against a safe target (“the gays”), and not in a way that might hit too close to home. 
  • Furthermore, what is Christianity today if not one giant exercise in judging? Christians are constantly judging everyone and everything: Society, law, other religions, other religious believers, lifestyle choices. It’s all but impossible to imagine Christianity without all the relentless judging that goes with it. Jesus never once said you had to go to church on Sunday. He did say, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” How do we account for this? Christians are like the Jews who caught the woman in adultery and wanted to stone her to death. What was the response of Jesus? “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” Today’s Christians would gladly stone the gays, and the women who have had abortions, and the Muslims, and all the other people they can’t stand. They would do it without a second thought, and they would feel justified in doing so. 
  • “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” In Christianity, the social order is inverted. Jesus invited the riffraff trash of society to his table, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers, the morally compromised. Time and again, he made it clear that the “first” shall be last in the Kingdom of Heaven. You would be hard pressed to find any evidence of this teaching among today’s American Christians. Just the opposite, in fact. The Mike Huckabees of this world will always be seated at the head of the table. 
  • See those Christians, how they love another!” To which I can only say: Ha ha ha! Where is the Christian who “loves” those around him? Who loves the stranger? The immigrant? The homosexual? The morally compromised? The other? The enemy? Where is the Christian who loves his Muslim neighbors? American Christianity has become almost synonymous with hate. If you ask Google the leading question of “Why are Christians so ..?” the answers that pop up (based on previous searches) are “Why are so Christians so mean?” and “Why are Christians so angy?” It does not ask “Why are Christians so loving?” When you think of Christians, you do not think of loving, gentle people. 

I admire Jesus a great deal. He was an extraordinary man. It’s been more than 2,000 years and we’re still talking about him, about what he did, about what it meant. No other person in the history of this world has had a greater impact. 

I admire Jesus. I love Jesus. I love what he stood for, what he taught, what he meant. 

But I would not be the first to say that his followers have messed it up, over and over, time and again, to such an extent that it’s hard to believe they think of themselves as “Christ-like.”

Christ was not a bully. Christ did not have a “my way or the highway” mentality. Christ did not come to condemn the world, but save it.

Part of my anger at “Christians” has to do with my love for Jesus, and my sadness at the way he has been treated by his followers, at the great many souls they have scandalized and driven away by their unChrist-like behaviors and beliefs. Surely it would be better for these people to have a millstone tied around their neck and for them to be thrown into the river than to have so scandalized so many people. Truly, he has cast his pearls before swine. 

Harsh words? I suspect that when these “Christians” stand before God for their judgement, they will hear much worse. They might be reminded that St. Paul told them that without love, they are just tinkling brass.

All of this is in contrast to a genuine Christian, a soul who has taken Christ as his savior, mentor, friend, spiritual guide.

What does Jesus tell this soul?

  • Turn the other cheek. 
  • Be patient, kind, loving, humble. 
  • Don’t put yourself first. 
  • When you pray, go into your bedroom and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. 
  • Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. 
  • Don’t be anxious for tomorrow. 
  • Become like a little child. 
  • Love your enemies. 
  • Do good to those that hate you and persecute you and do all manner of evil against you. 
  • If someone asks for your coat, give them your cloak too. If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. 
  • It is better to give than to receive.

These people are not much interested in the politics of the day. They don’t wear their religion on their sleeve. They pray in private. They love. They forgive. They ask for forgiveness. They demonstrate, by their actions, that Christ means something to them. They give the glory to God, not to the man on the TV in the shiny suit. They do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. They do not lord it over others. They do not seek a special status. 

Where are these people? They may indeed be sitting in the pew next to you. A few of them may even be in the pulpit. But most of these people understand that it is God who judges, God who sees, not man. They are concerned with what God think of them, not man. They cast their cares and trust upon God and do not worry about the ‘morrow. 
When you meet a person like that, you’ve met a Christian. They don’t have to tell you. You just know. The rest are nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

In the early 1990s, long before the “war on terror,” and long before the average American knew what a Muslim was, I became one after reading the Qur’an and experiencing a sort of spiritual awakening. I lived in Kansas City at the time and made my shahadda (profession of faith) at a local mosque. When asked what Muslim […]

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From the blurb:

Longing to find others like himself, Zurkin sets out from his family’s small farm and journeys to Mountain Home, a school for Contrary youth and the seat of the powerful Brotherhood of Contrary warriors. Along the way, he rescues a Feyborn Brother, Lord Tai, from a wicked Grimmord. But that isn’t the last Zurkin will see of the monstrous Grimmord race.

At Mountain Home, Zurkin trains under the masters, including the strong and handsome Brother Yenoh, who teaches him hand-to-hand combat—and the meaning of love. But while he trains, the Grimmords in the north prepare to invade. Only the Brotherhood stands in the way. If they cannot stop the Grimmords, the creatures will sweep through the Five Kingdoms, leaving destruction in their wake.

Zurkin discovers he is a sorcerer in the wild—an untrained mage with unimaginable power—and he struggles desperately to harness this strange gift. But with the dreaded Grimmord Emperor and his savage army advancing, Zurkin is running out of time. Worse, this strange gift may destroy the ones he loves, especially Brother Yenoh, the one he loves the most.

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