Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tyranny of a Closed Loop

Late last month, a conference promoting techniques for homosexuality cure was held in London by the Anglican Mainstream Organization with special focus on how religious professionals’ and relatives or friends of gays can respond biblically and pastorally to those struggling with unwanted so-called SSA, or Same Sex Attraction.

This stuff rends at my insides. I once lived the evangelical life. I was a born-again Christian. My week consisted of at least one church service and Sunday School on Sunday morning. Sunday evening included a bit of Choir practice, another service, and MYF, the youth group for a lighter hearted version of Sunday School. Wednesday evening gave up more choir practice. Any festivals involved more midweek worship. And summers involved Vacation Church School at least at the Methodist Church, and sometimes at the Spanish speaking Presbyterian church (maternal grandparents and family), the English speaking Presbyterian church (maternal side cousins), Lutheran and Episcopal churches. Once in a while there were things to do with my father’s side of the family at one among several Catholic parishes. And, there were occasional missions into Mexico to rebuild homes or churches, clothe people and generally make thing better.

I’m related to these people, and am well acquainted with many others. Well meaning people whom I’ve known my whole life. I tried my first twenty-two years to assimilate, to fit in and become one among the many. I tried to pray myself into a state of grace, to deny the hated self within. 

I remember one day puzzling my mother with, “If I were somebody else who knew me, I wouldn’t like me.” She couldn’t understand why, and I couldn’t tell her it was because I had this black secret that I’m getting no help for, that nothing I’ve been told should work is making a difference. It was ruining me from being pure, from being whole, from being complete

Had I told her, had I been able to, she would surely have sprung into action and deepened the effects of the Stockholm syndrome of which I was already ensconced. I was a captive in a cult of archaic metrics of right and wrong, good and bad, pure and debased. My sin of being was compounded by my insidious silence. True to the doctrine of original sin, I was indelibly blemished beyond redemption. I could repent, but the offense of abomination would never disappear, never go away, never recede. I could never measure up. No amount of prayer washed away this sin of Same Sex Attraction. It was ruining me from being pure, whole, or complete. I truly believed I was at fault; somehow it was my doing that I had these feelings. All I had to do was figure out how to control them. Prayer. Girls. If I practiced enough, it didn’t seem like I was forcing it anymore.

Until the day I added up all the little inconsistencies, even before I began investigating the merits of these scriptures that had so dominated my life. The scales fell from my eyes. First there was the change in the church discipline, the official “this is what we believe” document that mysteriously (for a pre-pubescent) changed from one set of talking points to a discreet different set of beliefs one June Sunday at midnight. It was the merger with the Evangelical United Brethren formed the United Methodist Church.

Then, there was the church membership meeting which discussed the admission of a reformed prostitute into our congregation. One prominent member had objections toward protecting the innocence of his precious little Anna. That day I realized our holy, blessed communion under God had turned and our congregation, when he prevailed and the woman was barred admission to membership, became no more than a social club of which I was born into the lucky I’ve-got-mine crowd.

Then, I studied trigonometry, chemistry, biology and physics in high school. For the first time I was exposed to logic oriented thinking.

It wasn’t a sudden, psychotic-episode-on-the-road-to-Damascus that cleared my focus. Rather, it was a step-by-step process slowly building toward the pivotal, age old question: How could such an inconsistent, capricious, perniciously hateful set of stories and so-called guidelines capture, invert and stunt the imaginations of so many well meaning people? I could understand young children being taken in, but even I was able to think for myself after a while. And I came to significantly different conclusions. 

And I think on the self esteem of these people who submit to Same Sex Attraction cleansing techniques. It rather reminds me of the story of Monctezuma, the Aztec king who peacfully greeted the invading Spanish Conquistadores. He’s seen their arrival in a dream and in that dream they were unstoppable. So, he surrendered to them, gave up all his people, his land and his riches without a fight. His acquiescence bought his murder and brought the Old World its first middle class. Within a few short years, the entire Aztec culture was wiped out, and hundreds of thousands of Aztec Indians dead from hard labor and disease. Thus was the cost of being saved.

Likewise, the Indians along the California coast, tamed and subdued by Junipero Serra who established the chain of twenty-one missions from Baja California to San Francisco. In his fourteen year crusade he counted just over 5,300, mostly Indian ‘neophyte,’ confirmations. Nobody has counted how many non-baptized, non-converted natives died under confinement and hard labor pending their seeing the light. Among the 5,000, how many were products of the Stockholm Syndrome? 

How many faithful sufferers of unwanted Same Sex Attraction similarly turn to homosexuality cures because of the Stockholm syndrome? There, but for the grace of God, go I.

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