For as long as I can remember I have been interested in church. I am not sure why because my mother wasn’t an avid church goer because apparently she was burnt out from all churchin’ she endured growing up with her grandmother. Therefore, church wasn’t a priority in our household. Yet, I had a desire to be in the house of the Lord. I recall my mom dropping me off by myself at church a few Sundays out of the month. This probably started when I was 9 or 10 years old. After church, I would walk to my grandmother’s house which was down the street and my mom would pick me up. At the time, going to church alone didn’t seem odd to me but now that I look back on it I wonder where that burning desire for God derived from. Attending and being active in church became a huge part of my life throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
While I found myself in the house of the Lord every time the doors were open, I had a love/hate relationship with church. I was apart of the choir, assisted with marketing, worked with the youth, etc. In recent years, my affection for the church wore off of a bit. And when people would ask me why I don’t go to church, I tend to skate around the issue or give a half baked answer because I don’t want to open a can of worms that may offend someone. In reality, it could have been that I could not pin point the actual reasons or admit the reasons to myself without feeling some sort of remorse.
Recently, I had an aha moment during a conversation I was having with someone I was meeting for the first time. He asked me if I attended church. I responded not like the norm but with a sense of clarity. “No, I don’t go to church because I resent it.“ As I spoke, the bitterness rested on my lips.
Then I had to look up the word resentment. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resentment as a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarding as a wrong, insult, or injury. This perfectly described some of my experiences in church. I say some because it wasn’t all bad. I learned valuable lessons many of which I cling to even now. Yet, there were some dark clouds that the church cast upon my life. These endless clouds at times made believe I would never see the light.
The church was a source of much confusion for a gay black boy. In my mind, church was supposed to be a place of refugee, love, fellowship and empowerment. I never expected the church to be a propeller of low-self worth, fear, shame and insecurities. Recipes for disaster. Sunday after Sunday, bible study after bible study, it was preached that being gay was an abomination in the eyes of God and those that reveled in that lifestyle will lift up their eyes in hell. While I wasn’t engaging in sex of any kind with boys or men at this time, those words hit me like a ton of bricks weekly. It was like I could not escape the perpetual ridicule and feelings of guilt for a sin I never asked for. People may say I am over exaggerating but now that I look back at it, I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship with the church.
It was also confusing because I couldn’t understand why I am being hopeless devoted to a God and to churches that I knew hated me. For I knew the destiny of fire and brimstone that awaited me in death. Yet, I kept going back faithfully.
I kept singing.
I kept directing the choir.
I kept miming.
I kept teaching Sunday school.
I kept getting the pastor’s clothes out the cleaners.
I kept fetching water for the man of God during their sermons.
I think part of me was coming back in hopes that this would be the day the Lord would look down on my poor soul, have mercy on me and deliver me from this sin of homosexuality. This would be the day he would hear my cries and take this burden from me. This would the day the man of God would lay hands and instantly I would be free. The gay chains would no longer be binding me!
Saints, that day never came.
And as those days came and went, I begin to lose hope. I begin to question God and his word. Psalms 37:4 says “delight yourself in the Lord and he will you your heart’s desires.” I don’t know how much delight is required but I tried and my heart’s desire was never granted.
It was funny to me (now but not then) that the very thing I was running from in the world was greeting me with open arms in the church. I had more negros coming for me at church than at school or work. My young mind could not fathom dudes trying to flirt with me in the church. I won’t even lie. It frightened me more than anything. I was not trying to entertain their advances because I was seeking deliverance from that thing. I was praying and fasting. Surely, God was on his way to see about me! The dudes kept coming and the temptation enhanced as I got older.
As I grew older, my resentment for church went past God not answering my cries for deliverance, or the loud reminders of how nasty I am for wanting to lie with another ashy man but I begin to see how church was more like a business than a house of worship. Some churches focus so much on growing offerings and marketing themselves to attract members with clout and influence. It’s sad that these types of games have become the focal point of the church. Everybody wants to be a mega-church! Really? That’s your goal. What about saving souls?
We have these so-called Prophets, Pastors, Bishops, Apostles lying and conning their way into the purses and wallets of parishioners in an effort to build their image and wealth. All the while their members sacrifice for the “Word” while driving around in oil leaking cars, living on government assistance and often wrestle with buying groceries for their kids or pay the light bill. I’m certain this not the intention of our God. The body of Christ, in my opinion, has lost sight of the true meaning of ministry and service.
These days I don’t have a church home. I don’t have a “covering.” Honestly, I am fine with that. From what I hear (which could not be true), many of these Pastors are living more foul than people outside the church. That’s a covering I can do without. Now I am not saying I will never join a church and be active in a ministry. I love God, no doubt! I believe he lives and he is still showing up and showing out. I’m not allowing my spirit to be compromised and subjected to the ideology of people caught up in religion. I refuse to be diminished and belittled by people who don’t even know me in all my glory. I refused to feel less than because of who I choose to love. I refuse to apologize for the way God made me. I refuse to give my energy, heart, money and time to a church that only tolerates me but doesn’t accept me.