In the 20 or so years I have been in Jackson, I have worked with the Aware Shelter on many occasions. For those not in the know, it is a shelter for abused women and children. I have had my home on tour twice and have donated my time and talents to support this organization. For me, one of the most chilling aspects of this involvement is hearing the survivor’s stories. Most survivors, at some point in their talk, will utter the words, “I kept thinking it would get better, and the violence would stop.” For many, the violence escalated and they died. For others, they finally had enough and fled to safety.
While I am not in a violent relationship, I was at one point in my life; I attended church as a gay man.
For years I kept thinking that if I found the right church they would treat me for who I am as a person and wouldn’t pummel my soul with edicts of eternal damnation and hellfire for being gay. While there are no physical signs of spiritual violence, the hurt runs deep into your soul.
We thought that it might get better when we joined the United Methodist church next to us. We knew right on that it was a welcoming church for us a congregation, but we also knew that the UMC as a whole was not as welcoming. Even though they used “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” as their motto, there was an asterisk over the minds regarding LGBT members. But we were told that it was going to get better and that in 2008 change would surely come. At the international conference in 2008, the hateful and bigoted language in the UMC book of discipline was reconfirmed. According to the book, homosexuals are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Just this past week, the UMC met again and once again confirmed this hateful language. To the denomination’s defense, there were many who protested this issue and had hoped to bring about change. It wasn’t enough however. There is an ironic and delicious side note to go along with this information. The UMC has seen a sharp drop in membership over the past few years. While I would hate to have another empty building in our neighborhood, part of me says “Good riddance!”
So I am done waiting for my relationship with the church to get better. I am tired of being smacked around and treated like a second class citizen. I have fled to safety in the bliss of atheism. From this day forward my family and I will have nothing to do with organized religion, for I never want my children to feel the sting and pain of this kind of oppression because of whom you are and who you love. This spiritual violence is couched with the coos of “it’s not THIS church that hates you, it’s the BIG church, and we don’t have control over that.”
I am done being Tina to the Ike of the church. The loving Jesus Christopher Brown will never punch my spiritual Rihanna again.
We’re done and the healing has begun.
You can read the book of discipline here: http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1723
You can read more on the membership decline here: http://www.ucmpage.org/articles/rwall.html