Forgiving the Church…With a Sledge Hammer

By: James Alexander Langteaux

I am probably the poster child for Post Traumatic Church Syndrome. I was raised in an extremely fundamental Pentecostal church where women were not allowed to wear pants. (Okay, that could be a misleading mental image).

 This church taught me that God hates gays.

My trauma started there: I loved God and I was gay.

 After years of abuse by pastors, family members and TV ministries, I had to escape. I wrote a book Gay Conversations with God – straight talk on fanatics, fags and the God who loves us all that came off the presses swinging.  It struck a chord with my gay brothers and sisters who also suffered with PTCS from being bloodied and beaten with Bibles, but it was also in your face, raw and a little belligerent. 

 After publication I realized I had alienated my brothers and sisters who remained on the pews.  Many had no idea what to do with the whole “gay thing.”  I couldn’t really blame them – it has taken me a lifetime trying to figure out what to do with the gay thing. 

I had an epiphany.  I needed to not only forgive the church, but I needed to go back in and work toward some reconciliation.  God was asking me to serve the very thing that I have wanted to destroy – to lay my life down, to put my ego aside – to release past hurt and trauma and simply serve. And love.

 Because that is what Jesus did.

 While the hammer was swinging and the nails sunk deeply into tender, loving flesh – Jesus did not call down fire from heaven. Instead, he used all his remaining strength to suck in enough breath to utter the words – “Father, forgive them, for they have NO idea what they are doing.”

 They STILL have NO idea what they are doing. But I went back anyway, because forgiveness has to start with me.

 The church I’m attending isn’t sure what to do with me. They are wrestling with scripture, feeling that the Bible is very clear on my “sins”. They also are feeling that faint tug from deep inside that is indicating that love may be more important than the law. But that tug is still faint. (And if you push the point, there is a very real and probable chance that they will faint.)

 And so instead of hammering the point, I chose to forgive them…with a sledge hammer.

 I decided to pick up my hammer and start swinging at some very old walls to help with the church remodel. I did this to serve my brothers and sisters, but more importantly – to prove that although they “cannot put a gay person in any position of leadership” – they also can’t stop me from serving, swinging and sweating – from giving freely from my heart.

 I took up my sledge hammer in a symbolic act:

 It is time that I knock down old walls. The very walls that separate “us” from “them”.

 Those walls are not going to come down through loud, angry voices that are demanding their rights. Those walls will not come down through legislation or lawsuits. Those walls will only come down by serving the ones who have caused irreparable harm.

 Those walls will only fall in the face of love.

 And sometimes love looks like a gay man with PTCS swinging a sledge hammer.

Many thanks for this beautiful post to my friend James Alexander Langteaux, author of Gay Conversations with God: Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags, and the God Who Loves Us All.  James may be reached for comment here.

If you have a PTCS story of 600 words or less that you would like to have considered for a guest post  publication on this blog, please email Rebecca@RebaRiley.com

About Reba Riley

Reba Riley is the author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions (Coming soon from Chalice Press).
Get in touch with Reba at www.facebook.com/RebaRileyAuthor


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