I fully believe that evangelical Christianity is the underlying reason so many people are in therapy today, as they struggle to deal with years upon years of imposed false guilt that has been heaped upon them. The constant threats of eternal damnation, the reminders that we are doomed from birth to fry in Hell unless we become subservient to a savior. “Lust is a sin”, they said. “Being gay is immoral”, they told me. “You’re going to hell”, they said.
Some of them suggested that I was “possessed by demons of perversion and lust”. I needed to be exorcised, they said. The demons needed to be cast out. “Repeat this prayer after me and you’ll be saved”, they told me. “Those are not your thoughts”, they told me, “It’s the devil putting that into your head”. I let them pray for me, I sang their hymns, I read their Bible, but in the end it meant nothing. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is just a polite way of saying you’re still rejected, you’re still less than, still unacceptable because of who you are. It is hate masquerading as love. Be like us, think like us, believe like us. Repent or perish. I tried their way for a long time. I tried to be celibate, to not think about how attracted I was to other men, both romantically and physically. It didn’t change anything. I still desired them. I was still gay.
It took some years to realize that the only thing I needed to be delivered from were the shackles of Christianity. When I finally threw them off, I experienced true freedom. I realized there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to be saved from anything. I’m not an abomination. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to “repent” or confess my “sins”. I fully embraced my sexuality and stopped denying who I was. I realized what they were telling me was emotionally and psychologically damaging.
It has long been the way of the Church to demonize anything and anyone who does not walk in lockstep with the Bible. What a genius idea, to use the concepts of Sin and Hell as tools to control the masses through fear and intimidation. Wars have been fought, millions of people tortured and killed, countless lives destroyed and ruined, all in the name of Christianity. So many people need something to believe in, something to put their faith in, they can’t seem to function without it. I’m not an atheist, but the gods I believe in are not associated with the Bible. My spirituality is based on direct experiences, not on faith. The experiences I write about really happened to me, and still happen on their own. I do not seek them out, except to understand them better. I don’t know why some people have these experiences and others do not, but my spiritual experiences have nothing to do with Christianity.
But let’s go back a bit…
All those years when I was forced to go to the baptist church as a boy, I can remember being attracted to certain other boys in the church, and not knowing why. I saw how handsome they were. I wanted to sit next to them and hold their hand. I remember how my favorite toys were my Superman and Batman action figures, not because it was Superman and Batman, but because of their rippling muscles, tight uniforms and boots. I would pretend that Superman and Batman were a couple, and put their action figures together in compromising positions. It was their uber-masculine personas that I was really attracted to. Other boys had posters of Farrah Fawcett on their bedroom walls. I had John Travolta. I watched CHiPs on TV because those officers in tight Highway Patrol uniforms somehow turned me on. They still do. I did not yet understand what being gay was, and back then it was something you didn’t talk about. It was a taboo subject. “Gay” was not the universally accepted term that it is today. People like me were called other things back then. Homo. Faggot. Queer. Pervert.
As far back as I can remember, I was always only attracted to men. It was never a decision, never a choice. It was a fact, no matter how much I tried to deny it or pretend otherwise. Some people hear about my upbringing and assume it’s because I didn’t have a real father figure in my life. Lots of men who grew up without fathers did not become homosexual as a result. Likewise, many men who grew up with both a mother and father later realized they were homosexual. It has nothing to do with the absence of a father or having an overprotective mother or anything like that. It just happens and you realize you’re attracted to men more than women. I’m thankful that I was strong enough not to give in to societal expectations of having the obligatory wife, two kids and house with a basketball hoop in the driveway. I never wanted that kind of life. Some men do give in, get married and end up leaving their wives because they just can’t deny themselves anymore. Some men stay married to their wives and have flings with other men on the side. Sometimes the wives know and are okay with it. It’s much more common than people want to believe.
I’ve always preferred the company of artistic, creative outsiders who reject the social norms of the mainstream and live by their own rules. The alternative types, the misfits, the outcasts and those who are “other”. As a gay man, I’ve had a very interesting and colorful life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m very secure with who and what I am. I live my life as an openly gay man. I seek no one’s approval. I’m glad I’m gay, and sex with other men is amazing, really amazing, but it’s not just about that. It’s also about loving who I want to love, spending my life with the person I choose, regardless of gender.
In those years when Christian guilt still had it’s grip on me, I visited a few different churches and tried, really tried, to be what they told me I should be. But my sexuality continued to hang over me like a deep, dark secret. Even during the first five years or so after moving to California, I attended what some call “charismatic” churches. These are the speaking-in-tongues and dancing-in-the-aisles sort of churches. It may surprise some to know that for a short while I was a member of their “worship team”, leading the congregation in contemporary “praise and worship” songs. These were not the dirges from the old Baptist hymnal. To be truthful, I was more interested in the pretty songs than I was about their message. The melodies were quite beautiful, almost trance-inducing.
On a side note, I often wonder why we don’t have more devotional music to the pagan gods. I don’t mean music with pagan themes, or music written by people who just happen to be pagan, but actual songs of love and devotion to specific pagan gods and goddesses. This is sadly lacking in the pagan community. Praise and Worship music should not be the sole domain of the Christian church. Music is a powerful medium. It can draw people closer to their deities, and we need more songs of devotion to the pagan gods.
During that whole time, I hid the fact that I was gay, knowing full well that if they knew this about me, I would be treated differently. I knew they would want to“lay hands” on me and try to “cast the devil” out of me. One pastor who suspected I was gay told me I was not allowed in his church because he was worried that I would seduce the men of his congregation. If only I had known back then the powers I possessed! (Granted, I was younger and hotter in those days). I can joke about it now, but at the time it was quite hurtful. More rejection because of who I was. I was trying to not be gay, trying to stay celibate, because in my mind that was the only option. I was never attracted to women, and never pretended to be. I wasted so much time denying my true self and trying to be something I was not. My experience with Christianity scarred me psychologically and those scars still remain. Even while I was going to church, I was still meditating at home and reading about various metaphysical subjects. Astrology, Tarot, Numerology. I knew the church was against these things, but they didn’t seem foreign or evil to me at all. They had a much stronger pull than the church did, like these things were part of me. I think my involvement in the church was partly due to Bible-imposed self loathing, and partly because I wanted to belong somewhere. I eventually came to my senses and realized that Christianity and the Church was not the place for me, and was not where I belonged at all.
I reject being made to feel like something to be shunned and excluded. I reject the Bible’s claims that people like me are an abomination. I reject being looked down upon or viewed as somehow inferior or less-than because I’m gay. Why would I want to become part of a religion that treats people this way?
I washed my hands of Christianity long ago. I want nothing to do with it.
To be fair, I know that the majority of Christians I encountered would be considered right-wing extremists. Anything that wasn’t exclusively Christian was automatically labeled as Satanic. If you weren’t a Christian you were considered a follower of Satan. No middle ground. You were either a Christian or you were indirectly a Satan-worshipper. You weren’t supposed to watch TV or listen to the radio unless it was Christian programming. You were only to read Bible-related literature and nothing else. It was very much like a cult. In the Baptist church, you were frowned upon if you let your hair grow below your ears. I know that not all Christians are so strict in their thinking. I’ve met a handful of lovely, non-judgmental Christians and Catholics, but the evangelicals and fundamentalists are some of the most hateful and abusive people on earth.
I know that some of the old magical grimoires use bible scriptures in their spells and acknowledge God as the source of magic. I know there are different kinds of Christians, that some are more mystical and don’t take the Bible quite so literally. I know there are some who call themselves “Christian Witches”, which I just cannot wrap my head around at all. I think some people still have that Christian guilt inside them, so they keep one toe in Christianity “just in case”.
The reality for me is this: Due to my past experiences, I have some strong hostility towards Christianity. I am leery and suspicious of most Christians, no matter how friendly or loving they may appear. People are free to choose Christianity as a path for themselves, but it becomes an issue when they’re trying to convert me, or condemning me to hell, or feigning friendship in the hopes that they might one day convert me. I can see through it all. If you invite me to church, I will politely decline. If you quote scripture at me, I will remind you that I have no interest in what the Bible has to say and you’re wasting your time. I’ve heard it all before, and not just from the Christians. I’ve flirted with hot Mormon guys and talked witchcraft with Jehovah’s Witnesses, just to get them off my back. If I see you coming towards me with a Bible in your hand, I’m walking away. If you persist, then a line has been crossed and I will become extremely rude. I’ve already been subjected to countless manipulative trick questions (“you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”) that are intended to inflict fear and guilt upon the gullible and weak-minded. But I am neither. I know all of the tactics, because they have all been tried on me. And all have failed. I don’t believe in your bible. It means nothing to me. I don’t need your prayers. Save them for where they are truly needed. Pray for the homeless. Pray for poverty-stricken countries. Pray for the environment. Pray for peace. Don’t pray for someone because they believe differently than you, or because they don’t live their lives the way you think they should. Trying to influence a person to do something against their will is actually a form of harmful witchcraft. At least eighty-percent of the Christians I encounter are bigoted and hateful, and as soon they learn I’m gay or that I’m pagan, the judgment and condemnation comes spewing like poison from their mouths. They also wrongly assume that I’ve never read the Bible.
I have read it, many times over, from Genesis to Revelation. And I’m still not interested. I will not be part of any religion that views me as an abomination. I don’t need to have people around me who agree with me on every single issue, but there are some things I will not tolerate. I do not have to be friends with people who are openly racist or homophobic, transphobic, misogynist or support harmful ideologies. I am not a friend to everyone, like some people claim to be. We can disagree about things like who makes the best ice cream or what kind of incense to use on the full moon, but not about things like equality and human decency.
If I didn’t have my own experiences with deity and spirit beings, I would probably be an atheist. I have no problem with atheism and I fully understand why people become atheist. How could an all-powerful, loving god allow such atrocities in our world to happen? How are parents supposed to believe God loves them when their three-year-old has cancer? What sort of “lesson” are the parents supposed to learn from that? How horrible and unconscionable to use a child in that manner. The all-powerful God was powerless to prevent the holocaust, two world wars and the September 11 attacks. How could he allow this to happen? It was “The Devil”, they say, that convenient scapegoat, the go-to response. The Christian stance on homosexuality isn’t the only thing I take issue with. Another is the harmful concept of blind forgiveness. “Forgive those who hurt you”. Just pretend like it never happened, that will make it all better. “Forgive so you will be forgiven”. What do I need to be forgiven for? For simply existing? For being in the room? No. I don’t need forgiveness for anything. “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”. Be a punching bag. Be a doormat. Willingly offer yourself up to be abused. “Rejoice in your suffering”. Be happy you’re so miserable and in so much pain. Be happy when your loved ones are dying of cancer or some other terminal illness. This way of thinking is unacceptable and just causes further psychological harm.
One of the worst things you can tell someone who has suffered trauma and abuse is “try to understand why they treated you this way”. Having empathy and understanding why the abuse happened doesn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t matter why it happened. It should not have happened at all. The damage has been done, especially for those who need therapy, or suffer from anxiety, depression or PTSD as a result. Abuse is never okay. It doesn’t matter who did it or why.
I endured some pretty horrific things growing up and I did not come out of it completely unscathed. Even though witchcraft and meditation have brought me a great deal of healing and personal power, I won’t pretend that my life is perfect now. I still struggle at times with anxiety and depression. This is part of my Shadow Self, my own Darkness. As a Pagan, I have extra tools to help me deal with it, but it is not easy. My regular meditation practice helps tremendously, and I still immerse myself in nature on a weekly basis.
If there really are demons of Lust and Lechery, then they’re my two best friends.