How I Deconverted: My Closest and Seemingly “Holiest” Friend Came Out As Gay

1987-2012: 

From the ages of 9-22, I went through an almost unbroken succession of soul-crushing, unrequited crushes on girls, most of them lasting anywhere from many months to a couple years. My one respite from all the agony inducing rejections was a passionate relationship my junior year with a girl who I, for once, wisely fell in love with only after she already liked me. After college, I would figure out that it was better to replicate that trick than to continue in my natural pattern of finding the woman of my dreams, falling in love with her, and only then trying to ask her out. So ever since college, I have waited for women to show interest in me before I let myself feel any strong feelings towards them.

March 1998:

During college though, I was a perpetually heartbroken mess. And since I was emotionally introspective, hopelessly confessional, and a world class talker by nature, my friends had to regularly hear all about it. So one night, after my long suffering best friend John patiently listened to me pour out my frustrations about the latest woman I had fallen way too hard for relative to her interest in me, I apologized for taking so much advantage of his generous ear. And, trying to be a gracious, mutual conversationalist, I asked him whether there were any girls he was interested in. We always talked about my crushes but he never mentioned any of his own. And he said no. And I asked if he ever had any crushes on girls and he said no. And I marveled. How could that be? What powers of resistance this guy had!

But this was not entirely inexplicable. John was a fairly serious and sober sort. He dressed conservatively and had an air of solemn reserve and discriminating appropriateness about him. He had thick serious eyebrows and a large imposing face. He was a natural storyteller and probing thinker, effervescently articulate in the most eloquent manner. Whereas my end of our philosophical conversations were typically loud, gregariously longwinded, and filled with wild gesticulations, John’s speech was softer, slower, more meditative, more patient, and more poetic. Each word sounded exquisitely chosen and savored and carefully placed by the way he enunciated it. His hand gestures were also more illustrative and controlled than my frantically flailing ones.

And when his eyes would momentarily light up and his voice would gain sudden urgency, and his face would suddenly employ a thousand mechanisms for expressiveness, and his giant toothy grin would flash, these bursts of exuberance were delightfully emphatic punctuations amidst so much placid, unflappable mellifluous build up. The intensity and suddenness of his deviations from his staid baseline were always striking. His normal air of confidence inspiring calmness and control could not have better complemented his bursts of charisma.

He impressed a lot of people. In a school filled with religiously devout students, John’s theologically seriousness and controlled persona made him especially admired and appreciated by many who knew him. If you were to ask any one who knew him which Grove City student would be the most likely to be a monk, with all the monumental self-discipline that required, I imagine invariably they would have said “John” without hesitation.

So, when John told me that he had never been overwhelmed with feelings for a girl before, I took this as just more evidence of John’s remarkable, preternatural holiness and sense of control. But you, who are not a naïve twenty year old sophomore evangelical Christian at a deeply religious school in 1998, have probably already guessed (or at least speculated) about a possibly different reason John had never fallen for a girl before.

A couple days after I prodded him about the history of his romantic feelings he told me he had to talk to me about something important and private. So that night we went to an empty classroom in Caulderwood, where we took the bulk of our philosophy and theology classes and where our philosophy and religion professors had their offices. John could barely look at me as he struggled to spit it out. I don’t remember the exact sequence of things of how he got it all out or the exact words he used but I remember him expressing that he thought he might be gay. And I was utterly shocked and bewildered.

But he wasn’t certain. Apparently a suspecting middle school teacher had pulled him aside and asked him about whether he had same sex attractions. I’m not sure if he even said yes to her but in either case she went on to tell him that it was a normal phase that he would grow out of. So he had spent 7 or 8 years waiting to grow out of these feelings he had. He was now well passed puberty and getting worried. I was the first person he had mustered the trust and courage to ask about this. As a peer, almost the same age, did I have the same feelings? Was I also in a long process of growing out of them. With my amazed eyes wide and my mouth agape I lowered my head and shook it vigorously “no”. I had never had any such feelings and could not even imagine what they must be like.

Curiously–I was completely blocking from memory at the time that I actually did have a brief brush with same sex attractions during middle school. When I was about 12 or 13, I had a friend who one night randomly undressed himself and encouraged me to do the same. And I did. And we just hung out naked together. And for a few minutes I was aroused by this but that abated in a few minutes and we just hung out, there was never any touching or anything of an overtly sexual nature that happened. And we did this several times. Just hung out naked for no apparent reason. But I remember eagerly wanting to do it again and getting a rush out of doing it. This never turned into a sexuality, a pattern of attractions, or an identity. I have never developed either a romantic or sexual interest in guys apart from fairly familiar “man crushes”. My endless series of painful, passionate crushes on girls continues unabated. And the whole incident was so insignificant in my sense of self that it didn’t even come to mind when John confessed his homosexuality. That night I couldn’t even empathetically or sympathetically imagine homosexual attractions or feelings. But of course that also might have been due in part to some homophobia getting protective of my mind and my sexuality.

So I was agape as John worriedly described his homosexual feelings. We both had an unwavering understanding they were a problem. Homosexual behavior was sinful. But I assured him that I would support him and continue to love him through this struggle.

And struggle he did. And I loyally tried to love him.

Your Thoughts?

I have written more about John in the following posts:

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

 

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

 

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

John also gave some of his own version of events in this post:

Meet Bede, My Best Friend in College, Who is Now a Monk

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://www.darwinharmless.com darwinharmless

    Dan, I sure feel for your friend. What an environment to be in while trying to cope with a confused sexual identity. I wish we could all just get over this hangup we have about gay/straight/bi/trans. Once people come out of the closet and admit who and what they are, and we all accept it, there’s really nothing to it. But damn, we sure make it a big deal. I put a lot of the blame for this on Christianity and the other Abrahamic religions. How the perverts managed to take over those religions, back in the day, and inject such poison into attitudes about sex, just baffles me.
    Speaking of which, a while back you started a circumcision thread. I don’t think you ever stated any conclusions you came to from the discussion. But if you believe that doctors should not be doing medically unnecessary surgery on helpless infants, please sign this petition.
    http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Reduce_medical_participation_in_Infant_Male_Circumcision/
    I don’t have a lot of faith in Internet petitions, but I’d like to see the conversation continue and maybe it’s time to hold doctors accountable. This is just getting started, so let’s help it along.

  • Aaron C

    Dan, your love and obvious admiration for your gay friend is so much more Christ-like than the self-loathing, judgmental hallmark of actual institutional Christianity that the disparity is worth noting. I only wish that I had found a friend like you during my own college days at a fundamentalist Christian college. He is so fortunate to have had you in his life (I suspect he knows this) that I’d almost be willing to think there is some divine purpose behind you two having found one another… almost.

  • Pedro Pacheco

    The story of your deconversion is a wonderful one. The events were not happy at all, but you became an atheist out of love for your best friend. I look up to you.

    It’s terrible to see how stagnant moral codes imposed by Christianity can affect people who just weren’t lucky enough to conform to them, specially in part of one’s identity such as sexual preference.

  • smrnda

    I feel so privileged in when I realized I liked other girls/women, nobody took me aside and told me I would grow out of it. I did keep quiet just since it was one less thing I wanted people to give me shit over, but I’d already read enough to feel like “hey, I’m not the only one, and no reason to feel ashamed.” It has to be tough growing up Evangelical since everybody is always probing your inner thoughts and feelings and asking you about these ‘struggles’ – there’s just no respect for privacy.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Yeah, I’m not thrilled in retrospect that as a teenager I was being encouraged to hold myself accountable to my youth minister to not masturbate.

    • smrnda

      From my perspective, I think demanding that someone tell you whether or not they have been masturbating ought to qualify as sex abuse.

      Am I also correct that, within Evangelical and conservative Christian circles, if you don’t do a full disclosure it’s considered sinful?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Well it was warping but it fell well below the line of sex abuse in my experience of it. There weren’t demand or any forms of emotional bullying. It was just this confessional sort of thing where we were to talk about the “sin” in our lives. And like for me that was the only one of any consequence. (And, of course, it really was of no consequence!)

  • Bede Hazlet

    You’re very generous, Dan. From that night in Calderwood Hall I remember the sensation of physically almost choking on the thing I was trying to tell you as vividly as I do the hopelessly uncool bright-green pants I was wearing at the time…

  • smrnda

    I think I was willing to qualify it as sex abuse since an adult asking a minor about whether they masturbate, if you took it out of a Christian youth group, would definitely seem to be wrong. If a teacher took a student aside and asked “so, do you masturbate? How often?” I doubt they would keep their job, and I doubt parents would be comfortable with that.


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