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Where I Go on Sunday Morning (and why I don't like to call it church)

Updated: Jan 9


This is a post that I very well might refer people to over and over in the future. It will be easier that way....


“Never believe anything that requires you to hate people who do not believe it.”

~ Robert Brault


I was raised Southern Baptist. Knowing my mother, I was probably first in a church before I was even two weeks old. I mean, they didn’t know that it’s best to wait “at least six weeks before taking your newborn out in public.” * And since church was the center of her life, why of course she would want me there.

 

From that day forward, until I moved into my own apartment (as we are wanting to do) at eighteen, the only Sundays we missed church was if I was very sick, or we were on vacation (and I remember going to church a time or three even then).

 

I was raised in how to believe in God, and that the only way to heaven was through a belief in Jesus Christ. All other peoples in the world go to hell. ALL of them. No matter if they were Thomas Jefferson or Rosa Parks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Keanu Reeves.** It did not matter. No matter the good they did for others, and the world, they were going to ever-lasting Hell.

 

I accepted this as a kid they way we often do. How many times, when I ask someone how they can possibly believe in something they believe, do they answer with “That’s how I was raised!”

 

Well, that’s how I was raised! But I always had a problem with it, since as far back as I can remember. We had a neighbor who was incredibly kind and loving and really helped us in a few dark times, and she wasn’t a Christian. “You mean, even Mrs XXX is going to hell?” I would ask.

 

And my mom, tears in her eyes, would nod. “Yes, even Mrs XXX.”

 

“But that doesn’t make any sense!”

 

And she would explain to me that it didn’t make sense to US, but it did to God, and God made the Universe, and he could do whatever he wanted and we were not to question it.

 

We were not to question it.

 

That echoed throughout my entire life...and it still does to this very day.

 

I had so many questions.

 


When Cain killed Able, “the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Genesis 4:15) ... Who in the world was going to find him when the only people in the world were Adam and Eve, Cain and the now dead Able? The Bible tells us that Cain “went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden,” (Genesis 4:16) And then he got married “and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.” (Genesis 4:17)

 

How? How did he meet anyone? I was told in Sunday school that Adam and Eve went on to have many more children. “Genesis 5:4 states, “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.” However, the Bible does not provide specific names or details about these other children.” *** But didn’t that mean that the only person Cain could have married was one of his sisters? According to the Bible, wasn’t it against God’s law for a brother and sister to marry?

 

So many things didn’t make sense. And when I would ask my questions, the Sunday School teachers would invariably go to my mother and tell her to tell me to stop asking questions because it was upsetting and disturbing the other kids. Wait! What? My questions were “upsetting and disturbing the other kids?”

 

Imagine what happened to me when I began to suspect that I “might” be gay. It was horrifying. For years and years and years I believed I was going to hell.

 

1 Corinthians 6:9 & 10: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [these last two were explained to me and countless others as meaning homosexual], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

That terrified me.

 

And far, far worse....

 

Jude 1:7 “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

 


I spent years crying myself to sleep wondering why God hated me. Why?

 

It was one more thing that didn’t make sense. I was told that, according to John 14:12-14, that: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

 

Try and guess how many times I BEGGED God to make me straight.

 

He never did.

 

And when I asked why prayers were not answered, I was told that God always answers, it is just sometimes the answer is, “No.”

 

Another thing that didn’t make sense! Because if it was wrong to be gay, and God’s answer to me asking to be made straight was, “No,” then what did that mean?

 

I got lots of answers. And do you know what one of them was? Told me many times?

 

That perhaps this was something that God had done to me in order for me to prove that I loved him. That I would turn away from homosexuality. That this was a challenge that I had been given to prove my love to him.

 

What you’re saying is that God made me gay, and then told me I couldn’t be gay if I loved him?” I asked.

 

Why would God do that? Why would a God that I had been told loved us UNCONDITIONALLY, loved us SO much that he gave his only son to die on the cross, why would that God condemn me for being what he made me?

 

What became clearer and clearer and clearer to me is that what the people believed, that I went to church with all my life, was basically that life was an obstacle course that we had to run in order to prove that we were worthy of God’s love.

 

What I wanted to know what kind of f*cking parent would do that?

 

Because that’s emotional abuse. And God was supposed to be the Father of us all. Well, that’s a pretty hateful thing for God to do.

 

The response? Gasps! Lots of “How dare I’s!” Who was I to judge God?

 

And then came THE moment!

 


I was visiting my parents when my father told me that that morning the pastor had preached that all homosexuals were going to hell. It was common to hear that God “hated the sin but loved the sinner.” Well Pastor had said that wasn’t true. He said that if a person was homosexual, they were going to hell PERIOD.

 

And me?

 

Well, that was it.

 

If figured if I was damned if I didn’t have sex with men, and I was damned if I did have sex with men, then I would rather go to hell for having sex with them, because at least I would have fun until then.

 

You know why I had decided this?

 

Because I had finally lie down ”with a man as with a woman” and I liked it. A lot. In fact, it was the first time I had ever felt right. Felt good. And all that crap about, “Of course it feels good! Sin feels good!”? Well, it was crap.

 

Years later, my heart soared when I heard Barbra Streisand sing these words in the movie, “Yentl...”

 


“And why have eyes that see and arms that reach

Unless you’re meant to know there’s something more

If not to hunger for the meaning of it all

Then tell me what a soul is for? 

Why have the wings unless you’re meant to fly

And tell me please, why have a mind I

f not to question why?” ****

 

WOW!!

 

Now there is a LOT more to be said. A LOT happened to me between moving out on my own and when I discovered and began attending The Center for Spiritual Living in Kansas City. A whole lot. I could go on for at least ten times what I have already said here.

 

But the POINT of this essay was to answer the question, “Where I Go on Sunday Morning (and why I don’t like to call it church).”

 

The Centers for Spiritual Living which is a part of a movement known as Religious Science, part of the greater New Thought movement (it is not Christian Science!). It’s founder, Ernest Holmes, taught that “God is not ... a person, but a Universal Presence ... already in our own soul, already operating through our own consciousness.” Ernest Holms spent his life studying the world's religions and found common beliefs in all of them, that if actually practiced, would make the world a better place. To love each other. To take care of each other. Basic simple laws like not killing each other. Ernest Holmes, and New Thought, reject the idea that God is an Old White Man living up there in the clouds waiting to cast down thunderbolts on the evil.

 


For me, church as almost always been a toxic center that teaches me that I am evil and that I am going to hell. I can break out into a sweat just walking into a church building for a wedding or funeral. It is a place that makes my stomach sink and feel as if I might throw up. When I go with my mom when I visit her, from the minute we pull into the parking lot, a feeling of dread comes over me. Inside my mind is screaming at me, “What are you doing? What are you doing in this place? Get out! Run! Run as fast as you can!”

 

And then the message would start and it would be all about how God loves us all and his love is unconditional...unless.

 

That is what church was to me.

 


One of the first times I ever went to CSL, the speaker, Rev Dr Chris Michaels said, basically, that if you are following a God who expects you to run an obstacle course to prove you love him, then you are following the wrong God.

 

My mouth fell open. He had just said exactly what I had been thinking, all but word for word!

 

New Thought teaches that we cannot be separated from God because God made us out of Itself (“It” because God isn’t male or female, yet is both). New Thought teaches us that we a perfect individuals made by an artist who wanted us and wants us to be who we ARE.

 

New Thought teaches whole new ways to look at things that we are taught in religion. And over and over again, what Rev Michaels would say things that I had thought already. It shocked and thrilled me.

 

Because I would know to the bones that what he, and New Thought was teaching, was right. I knew that I knew that I knew that it was right. For the first time I felt I was learning about a God I could actually believe in, and who truly valued me, and loved me, just as I was, as I am. No judgement. No punishment. No hell.

 

And I knew that I knew that I knew that was right.

 

I was who I was—gay, storyteller, friend, loving person—and I was made that way! I didn’t have to prove anything, because God knew who I was. There was no obstacle course to run. God didn’t want that, do that.

God was not a man, let alone that Old White Man living up there in the clouds waiting to cast down thunderbolts on the evil. God was Spirit. God was everything and everything was God. And that “God” was just fine with whatever we wanted to call God: Jehovah, Allah, Odin, Great Spirit, Brahma, Isis, Ganesha, Innaha, Kāne, Huitzilopochtli, Hina, Thoth, Demeter, Hern, Astarte, Ix Chel, Thor, Diana, Ussen, Chullachaqui, Hecate, Kali, Quetzalcoatl ... It doesn’t matter. God is the entire Universe and all gods are God and all paths lead to God.

 

That is what I believe.

 

And I respect all beliefs, including those that don’t believe in any kind of god at all, agnostics, atheists. I am NOT saying that MY way is right and all others are wrong. And that as long as your belief system somehow incorporates that harming others is “wrong,” then come hang with me. Whatever you believe is fine with me.

 

But please, do NOT come to me telling me that if I would just believe as you do, then I will be saved. I don’t need saving. Lady Gaga said it all when she said....

 

“I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause

God makes no mistakes.

I’m on the right track, baby,

I was born this way

Don’t hide yourself in regret,

Just love yourself, and you’re set

I’m on the right track, baby,

I was born this way”

 


On my Facebook page, I have shared much of this throughout the years, and especially the last year. This is Chapter One on my Spiritual Beliefs.

 

And at this blog, you are safe to be yourself, without judgement.

 

“Whether you’re broke or evergreen

You’re black, white, beige, chola descent

You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient’

Whether life’s disabilities left you outcast, bullied, or teased...

No matter gay, straight, or bi’, lesbian, transgender life” *****

 

What I believe is that you are who you are meant to be, and you are welcome here!

 

Namasté,

BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

Jan 7, 2024, Entry #007


 

* How Long Before Taking Newborn Out In Public: How Long Before Taking Newborn Out In Public - Urban Mamaz


** Per “Unveiling the Truth: Is Keanu Reeves a Devout Christian?”, Keanu Reeves has never publicly identified as a Christian or any other religious affiliation: https://christianeducatorsacademy.com/unveiling-the-truth-is-keanu-reeves-a-devout-christian/#Is_Keanu_Reeves_a_Christian



**** “Where Is It Written,” written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman


***** “Born This Way,” written by Gaga and Jeppe Laursen


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Guest
Jan 08

There’s so much I could say here but won’t. There‘s such a thing as religious and spiritual abuse. I can see why you “fled” to a different belief system. Similarly Jesus fled in his childhood to Egypt to escape the religious and political mandates of Herod who decreed his death. 💀

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I am sorry you went through all that horrible guilt and self hate, Ben. I really am. What people do to one another is terrible and should be called out for what it is: mental abuse.


The 'bible' is a book. That is all. I do not believe in it. I never have because even as a 6 year old, forced to go to Sunday school with some cousins--loved the cousins, intensely disliked their version of 'God'--I knew that version of 'religion' and I could not coexist. I did not believe in a 'God' that hated anyone or called you a sinner.


I was told many times I would go to hell. This was often shouted at me by the…


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Taking the Bible literally, as many people claim you should, results in many contradictions. Not always just small discrepancies, but diametrically opposed stances. Also, many use the King James Version, which surely has translation and editing issues.

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