Saturday, May 5, 2012

The end of spiritual violence

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:
You can read more on the membership decline here:


  1. If anyone says that their local congregation can't do anything about the larger denomination, that is indeed BS.

    On the other hand, one congregation can indeed make a difference. The 2.5 million member PCUSA now accepts LGBT members as ministers, elders and deacons. That change is the result of an overture first passed by the 50-members of Northside in Ann Arbor.

    This bullying can stop and it does stop when people get out and do something. But they have to do more than just say, "That's not us."

    For my part, I simply am too stubborn to let the bigots win by leaving the church -- which is exactly what they want. They're not the boss of me.

    Only you guys can decide for yourselves and your family what is right for you. But given the amount of energy you seem to spend on religious issues, it doesn't seem like you've totally left yet either. Something to think about, perhaps.

    As always, much love to you guys and the kids. We miss you.

  2. I have gone down this road before. A person's gotta do what a person's gotta do. Good luck with your decision. May "the force" be with you.

  3. I would imagine that anyone choosing to leave a church community and become an atheist probably wasn't much for the underlying religious beliefs in the first place. From one atheist to (now) another, welcome "out" of that ideological closet! ;-)

    Be sure to keep looking for strong, positive social contexts in which you and the kids can participate, and you'll never want for any church.

    All the best!

  4. May there be healing, indeed.

  5. It's a real pity that a good many christians enjoy using the old testament to be cruel and hateful. Jesus was not a hateful person, his goal was to re-educate and get rid of the hateful teachings of ancient judaism. Unfortunately, after Jesus' death his so called "followers" became obnoxious jerks that decided they'd keep the cruel teachings from ol' hateful judaism and use them in conjunction with the teachings of Jesus. That created a very hypocritical and contradictory religion. Christianity is flawed from the beginning anyway, Jesus never said "Make a religion in my name". Quite frankly i think he'd be appalled by what people have done, supposedly, in his name.

    There's nothing wrong with being an atheist. You can still do all the volunteering activities you used too, only without the church dictating how you should do it or when :) You don't necessarily have to be a full atheist, you can still have faith in a god and Jesus without going to a church :) Buddhism is also a nice alternative to traditional god based religions :) Don't give up on all religion just yet, there are some that aren't evil and bigoted :)