Like many LGBTs that grew up in the church, when I became a teenager I was faced with a dilemma. EVERY time a cute boy would stand up to read a bible verse or play an acoustic version of "Our God is an Awesome God" my hormones would start to rage. After hitting puberty, I had to accept that decisions needed to be made. I just couldn't take it anymore.
I've never been good at keeping secrets so staying in the closet was never an option. I was confident enough in my support systems so the fear of alienation wasn't strong. Like a lot of gay kids, the drama club at school provided me with a social safety-net. Since their divorce neither of my parents maintained very good attendance at church so I wasn't too worried about them. My extended family were devoted to their faith, but kind, so I knew they'd have my back.
God was my concern. I loved church and I loved God. Since I was a little boy something drew me towards religion or spirituality or whatever you want to call it. I remember being very young, lying on the grass, looking at the sky, and just feeling connected to everything God made. I would read the bible at night and pray. God was my guy.
The problem was I couldn't pretend that East Renton Baptist Church was okay with the whole "gay-thing". I knew that homosexuality was a sin and God was not going to have it. I knew that inevitably the time would come when I was going to have to choose between keeping a relationship with God or being true to myself.
I decided to break-up with God. My teenage hormones made the decision easy. I packed up my bible, Christian-themed t-shirts and memorabilia, and turned my back on my faith. I thought about praying to God, but the anger of being put in this situation I didn't choose, stopped me from reaching out. I figured he'd get the drift. Besides, if God couldn't accept me for who I am then I didn't have anymore time for him.
My Godless life began at fourteen. It would be years before we were reintroduced.
Let's flash forward to today. I'm a licensed minister and the director of Inspire Spiritual Community, a non-profit which I co-founded in 2010. The initial idea of the organization was to host spiritual services every Sunday in a gay bar smack in the heart of West Hollywood. We wanted to offer a different possibility for what could happen in a gay bar. It took some time but four years later it's caught on and we have our own center.
A lot of people who attend services at Inspire share a similar story with me. The idea that we had to divorce God in order to accept ourselves is a common theme with LGBTs. It's been a healing process for many of us to investigate the possibility of re-establishing a personal relationship with a higher power; a God that's all-Loving and non-judgmental. We're letting go of the resentment towards this Santa Claus archetype that rewards us when we're good and punishes us when we're not. In essence, we're simply learning to Love ourselves.
I'm so grateful that technology has evolved enough to where LGBT youth can discover support systems online that provide a palpable "Plan B" to some of the hateful and absurd messages being offered at the pulpit. I believe that when the beautiful principles laid out in the world's largest religious doctrines are accurately interpreted and demonstrated then we will see a major decline in the God-divorce rate in the LGBT community and beyond.
Until then, in honor of the little boy who would spend hours lying on the grass and gazing up at the sky, feeling connected to the beauty in God's world, I'll continue to send my prayers and support to all of my brothers and sisters, who at some point, felt like they had to break-up with God.