Recovering Church Boy: The Introduction
Recovering Church Boy/Girl
Use: Proper Noun
Definition: a person from the LGBTQ community who has broken or is currently breaking the chains of religious dogma and oppression and has begun their journey toward spiritual freedom.
Hello, my name is Eric and I am a Recovering Church Boy.
I grew up in the church; the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) to be exact. You know, the church “you can’t just join in, you got to be born in”. We went to church on Sunday for morning and evening worship, Tuesday night for Bible study, Thursday night for choir rehearsal and Young People Willing Workers (YPWW), and Friday night for pastoral teaching. Needless to say, church played a huge part in my life growing up. At the age of 16, I received my call to ministry standing behind the sacred desk of my childhood church while reciting Dr. King’s famous I Have a Dream speech. By this time, I had become very familiar with all of the pomp and circumstance of the Black church. I’d mastered all of the expressions, foot work/shouting, speaking in tongues, gestures, and doctrinal expectations. It later became known to me that these doctrinal expectations were often oppressive as well as psychologically, emotionally and spiritually abusive.
For years I endured religious abuse from people who misused their positions of authority. Their actions were just as devastating as a parent telling a child that he or she is unloved and unwanted. The outcomes of their abusive behavior were almost catastrophic. I often went to church pretending that everything was ok. All the while a battle between my faith and sexuality raged deep within my soul. Being repeatedly called an abomination diminished my self-worth to the point where I felt like my life wasn’t worth living. As a result, I attempted suicide 3 times.
I vividly remember long tarrying sessions at the altar begging and pleading with God to rid me of this “homosexual spirit” as I was instructed to do. Afterwards, I would pick myself up off the ground feeling no different but somehow convinced I was delivered, changed and set free. There was never any follow-up or pastoral care offered. I was left to navigate through the terrains of this new “religiously correct” lifestyle on my own.
One night, I went to church for yet another service and was running late. When I walked into the church there was a guest preacher standing at the pulpit. Since I was late I wasn’t able to sit in my normal section so the usher escorted me to a seat in the middle section of the sanctuary. After I got settled I felt as if the preacher kept looking in my direction and I started to feel uncomfortable. I thought it was all in my head until the preacher started talking about the sin that trumps all sin, homosexuality. Then he did something the blew my mind completely. He pointed right at me and commanded me to stand. I refused. As if I didn’t know who he was talking to, he described what I was wearing before commanding me to stand a second time. Again, I refused. At this point I could tell his ego was taking a hit so he decided to use the fear factor. With disdain in his eyes he lifted the microphone to his mouth and said, “God said, if you continue to be disobedient you will walk out of this church and die!” By this time every eye in the sanctuary was glued on me, anxiously awaiting my response. My eyes immediately began to well up with tears of anger and fury. This time instead of commanding me to stand, he demanded that I come to the altar. I reluctantly stood up and started making my way to the front of the church hoping someone would stop this ridiculous spectacle, much to my chagrin. After being degraded and humiliated at the altar I returned to my pew, picked up my belongings and left. This was a pivotal moment in my journey. That particular moment didn’t start my quest to freedom; however, it did make me question how a God of love could hate me so much for being gay. Such malicious castigation is often internalized by the abused and it crushes their spirit. During this season of my life I retreated from the life I was created to live to follow the script of the oppressor.
Today, I am living the life I was created to live, fully and on purpose. Now that I’ve accepted my freedom I’m committed to helping others find and accept theirs as well. As a result of my commitment Recovering Church Boy (RCB) was born. RCB was created to be the antithesis of oppressive religious rhetoric. RCB serves as a platform to provide positive, encouraging and liberating content for those bound by religious doctrine. My goal is to create a healthy awareness of faith, sexuality and spiritual freedom for those who are struggling to reconcile their faith and sexuality due to religious trauma.
With this platform of shared thoughts, ideas and pieces of my personal journey to freedom, I endeavor to help others “find, take back and keep their righteous mind” (Melvin B. Tolson – The Great Debaters).
Are you ready? One step at a time, let’s journey together.