JESUS MADE ME HATE MYSELF

JESUS MADE ME HATE MYSELF July 31, 2017

Editor’s Note: After the review of Fernando’s book, it seems logical to feature some of his writing. This essay, which is lightly edited and reprinted with permission, originally appeared on his blog, Gospel of Reason. It’s very poignant. It makes me want to reach out and give him a hug. It also makes me want to give him a high five for managing to get out of his unhealthy situation and arrive at a place where he can truly help others – and I don’t mean with Christian love.

=====================

By Fernando Alcántar

I just finished watching the movie MILK—yeah, for the first time. It came out on Netflix and I added it to my list.

Milk Movie poster08

When the movie first came out in 2008, I was at the peak of my Christian career. I was just leaving my role as Senior Coordinator of North American Partnerships for Azusa Pacific University and becoming Director of Leadership Development for Young People for the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. I was leading hundreds of churches, speaking in front of thousands of believers, and traveling the world as an evangelical missionary, all preaching a gospel I believed could save lives from eternal damnation.

And part of this “true gospel” that would save us from filthy sin included that God was against gay-marriage, that homosexuality was a mental disorder and that it was our duty as servants of The Lord to impose his will on earth—even if people couldn’t understand that yet themselves.

Some people who have read my book have asked me why I didn’t cover my sexuality fully until later in the story. And the answer is very simple: being Mexican and being Christian meant I was ashamed of having thoughts that were considered disgusting and sinful, so I never really let myself consider the possibility that I was gay.
YOung Fernando

When people would ask me, I would flat out say,

“No way!”

And I meant it! Who would want that lifestyle of sexual deviance, godless acts and public ridicule?

From the pulpit, former preacher colleagues and I said that every single gay and lesbian was welcomed into our church. We told them that we loved them and that they were part of our community if they wanted to be there. But away from the pulpit we knew that this message meant:

“Your lifestyle is sinful and we want you to come to our church so God can make you straight.”

Bill O’Reilly thought that MILK would win the Oscar for best movie “because of the gay stuff”—and I echoed his anger at “liberal Hollywood” that was infecting our nation with their secular, demon-possessed ideology. I was part of that so-called “silent majority” who didn’t want to speak up very loudly against homosexuals for fear of being called a homophobe, but would do as much as I could behind the scenes to make the “gay agenda” dead on arrival—all in the name of Jesus.

It wasn’t a secret. We never said it on TV, on the radio or newspapers. But among Christians, we talked about it on a regular basis. We were in the middle of a spiritual war for the soul of America—and gay marriage would define those on the side of righteousness and those on the side of evil.

From time to time I had questions about my sexuality. I’d wander on the computer, very briefly, and later would punish myself by punching myself on the chest, sometimes across the face, repenting for the brutal bestiality Satan had influenced me to consider. Mexicans said it was “disgusting to be used as a woman.” Christians said it was an “abomination” – the reason God punished them with AIDS. I convinced myself that in God’s love there would be redemption; that homosexuality was like any other sin that God could deliver me from. I was so busy with my ministry that homosexual thoughts honestly came very randomly. I didn’t have sex while I was in Christianity. I rarely even kissed a girl. I rarely dated at all. I was focused on finding a girl who would share my missionary values and was willing to sacrifice everything for God’s calling.

Every once on a while, my subconscious would knock on my door. But I didn’t want to be gay.

And you know what the worst part was? That as a Christian leader who was “struggling with homosexuality,” I counseled other youth who were going through the same thing. I said that Jesus could heal them if they kept praying. That prayer and dedication to God would rid sin from their souls, including the disgusting sin of homosexuality.
Fernando Preaching

Outwardly, I used the language of love and acceptance, but inside I felt fear and self-hate.

It was around the release of MILK that Californians voted on Proposition 8—eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry—which voters approved, thus making gay marriage illegal. And guess what? I was a firm supporter of the proposition. I preached about it and convinced many of my followers to do the same. I told them,

“You must fear God and not man.”

“You must do the right thing even if it’s against popular culture.”

How? I mean it, HOW? How do you recover from that?!

It is a paralyzing guilt.

I can’t speak sometimes. I bend over on the ground with my hands forward, simply asking,

“What have I done?”

The only answer I have is this:

“I am so sorry. Jesus made me do it.”

Christianity brainwashed me into believing that my very humanity was unnatural. In the name of love I committed some of the most horrible atrocities an individual could make—always hiding behind the veil of duty to The Lord.

Millions of kids, teenagers, grown men and women are going through the same thing right now. But I tell you, don’t waste your life any longer. You won’t get it back. You don’t need religion to be good. You don’t need religion to be loving. And you don’t need religion to be yourself.

I can’t get my life back, stolen by the cross. But I can help rid you of the veil of confusion.

=================

Fernando-AlcantarBio: Fernando Alcántar is a former leader of the Foursquare (evangelical, Pentecostal) denomination in Mexico and senior coordinator of North American Partnerships at Azusa Pacific University, where he oversaw hundreds of churches in Mexico and helped to mobilize thousands of missionaries a year from all over the United States and Canada. He is now a gay atheist activist, spreading a message of tolerance, introspection and understanding. He lives in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He is a member of The Clergy Project and author of To the Cross and Back: An Immigrant’s Journey from Faith to Reason, with a foreword by Dan Barker.

>>>>>Photo Credits: By Impawards.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19240710  ; By Greg Dart

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  • EH

    I will just say that not all Christian denominations condemn homosexuality. For example, the United Church of Canada performs same-sex ‘commitment ceremonies’ before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada. I’m sure the Pentecostal Church is not very gay-friendly, but other churches are.

    • Raging Bee

      True, but those less-bigoted churches aren’t exactly out front attacking the abomination of bigotry either. The worst bigots are taking over our country (and several others), and all we’re hearing from the more inclusive folks is whimpers and lame protestations of “But WE’RE not that bad!”

      • ElizabetB.

        We just got the wake-up call from President Trump that liberal religion can’t conclude that Obergefell means it can move to the next challenge. Fernando’s gifts and perspective are so needed to raise awareness of all that’s at stake — still!!

      • Matthew Hullinger

        Bravo! I love how some of the more liberal faiths attempt to portray themselves as pro-lgbtq and yet you almost never hear of them actually doing something to stop the spread of anti-gay rhetoric and fight back against the other homophobic dogmas.

      • mason

        The bigots have certainly been enormously emboldened by the tyrant Trump.

    • I hear this answer so many times, and I wonder if any evangelical actually stops and thinks about that answer a little deeper. Has it really just become a cliche, an easy answer to not deal with a bigger issue?

      You are saying that this god, who is all powerful, who communicates intimately with every human being who talks to him, cannot be clear about something that his followers are using to murder and torture countless homosexuals in our very day, even more throughout history?

      If you say that one denomination with the same god has a different view than another denomination with the same god, then you have to consider the possibility that there is no god at all and the whole time you’ve only just been running on a preference of belief.

  • alwayspuzzled

    Why would he blame his homophobia on some guy who lived 2000 years ago and did not have anything to say about homosexuality?

    • Matthew Hullinger

      Maybe the whole, not one jot or tittle of the old law would pass away until the son of man returns bit…meaning Jesus did include the anti-homosexuality in his new faith.

      • ElizabetB.

        Did you run across the Jesus Seminar’s coloring this section “black” [not authentic], because it’s contrary to the love comandment and the repeated conflicts with ritual law reported? [They figure the authentic sayings & stories are the ones that cut across the expected social & religious mores, because that is what would have made Jesus (if he existed) a memorable figure.]

        I (& others) have wondered whether Jesus, if he existed, were gay. Often people who’re gay are the more sensitive ones, and the “Jesus Seminar Jesus” sounds so.

      • Jim Jones

        Wrong. Google (centurion pais)

        And why the hell are you ignoring Jesus on divorce?

        Just making it up as you go?

        • Or usury. They completely the ban on charging interest on loans.

    • mason

      If you mean the mythical Jesus composite character, he had a whole lot to say about homosexuality because he totally endorsed the Jewish laws, to the smallest details, which called for the killing of homosexuals. I wonder why this “did not have anything to say” myth persists on top of the main myth?

      “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” -Jesus character Matthew 5: 17-19

      • alwayspuzzled

        In reality, “mythical composite characters” don’t actually say anything. In reality, it is their creators who do the saying.

        Since “Jesus” is a “mythical composite character”, perhaps your proof-text was in reality included in the “Jesus” story by the power freaks who early on began to take over the “Jesus” movement.

        Assuming that “Jesus” was a “mythical composite character” – an illusion – just reframes the question. It does not answer it.

        Why did Alcantar blame his homophobia on an illusion instead of on the person indulging in the illusion?

        Evidently “Jesus” (illusion or whatever) is a very convenient scapegoat for people on both sides of the atheist/thesis binary.

      • ElizabetB.

        There is no way not to recognize, rebuke, and work to ameliorate the destruction done in the name of this composite character. But I have to say, one thing that struck me growing up was all the trouble the character stayed in because it did not totally endorse the laws down to the smallest details, which (along w/much more) made/makes me feel totally biblically justified in agitating for ordination and marriage for members & citizens who are glbtq. Actually, *required* to agitate.

        The “did not have anything to say” myth comes from no red letters in the New Testament — as opposed to readers whose whole bible is in red : )

        I think Alcantar’s metaphor is powerful. Sure makes you take stock.

      • Jim Jones

        That law was never followed.

        • mason

          There’s no way to prove that. Now the Rabbis teach that Abraham did murder Issac. So lets say the unprovable is true, the “law” and other Bible writing show a despicable genocidal hatred and contempt for homosexuals.

          • Jim Jones

            I’ll trust the Jewish woman who told me this. If anyone can quote an example, I’ll change my mind.

        • Donna Williams

          Are you talking about the law of Moses. Those 600 some odd laws. It was never followed because it was and is impossible for any human to follow it. It was designed to show people they cannot measure up to God’s standard. Meant to show our need for Jesus.

          • Donna Williams

            Oh you mean the murder of gays? As far as I know no mention of that practice in the Bible. There are examples of stoning to death adulterous affairs.

    • That’s a very good question. “Jesus” is not just some guy who lived 2000 years ago–Jesus is an idea, a faith belief, a culture-driver, with a tonnage of writings and theories which surround his persona. Millions of people around the world, across centuries, have used that Jesus-idea to validate their own biases. In this case, if they hated fags, then their god did too. Furthermore, the evangelical church who claims Jesus as their leader, inspiration and goal has taken tremendous steps to impose their belief system on our culture. Among those beliefs, that homosexuals are unnatural and a system which will bring down marriage as we know it, an end to our civilization in many cases. They’ve used the Jesus-idea to validate the murder and torture of countless homosexuals, without question or repercussion, all in the name of this Jesus.

      So when I say “Jesus” made me do it, I am not referring to some dude. Just like when someone says “North Korea hates Americans,” I’m not saying a dude called North Korea is going around slapping Americans in the face. An ideology, belief system, founded on ignorance, bigotry, homophobia, hate, impregnated my identity with shame to the point that I didn’t want to exist anymore.

      My solution, examine the Bible and everything about Jesus just like you would with any other material. Analyze it, test it, what works keep, what doesn’t throw it away and see what you have left. Among those things who are thrown away, I would hope, are those references–small sentences–used to guilt and discriminate against humans with same sex attraction.

      • alwayspuzzled

        Thank you for the clarification.

  • Matthew Hullinger

    Wow, I am so sorry you ever had to go through these feelings of guilt and being “unnatural” while you were a part of the faith. It was really something for me, when i finally broke the spell of faith and began making my own decisions and coming to my own opinions, how quickly my anti-gay and homophobic feelings went out the window. I had been a pentecostal minister and had preached on the evils of homosexuality many times over the years, I now regret those sermons more than almost any other I preached.

    My own cousin, who was a member of my congregation was going through his own sexuality crisis, and some of the things I said behind the pulpit prevented him from coming out until several years later. He is now living a very happy life with his partner, a great guy who obviously loves my cousin very much. I couldn’t be happier for them.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I will definitely be picking up a copy of the book soon!

    • Thank you for your comments. To be honest it is still hard for me to talk about this at times. I have to work through the guilt from the past of being part of this sickness that blamed kids like me for feeling a particular way. It almost cost me my life, and I am lucky to be here in a way that countless other gay teenagers were not.

      I wrote my book for them. So they could slide the book across the table and say, “mom, dad, here is a book that tells you how I feel.” I really don’t know if I’m making a difference by sharing my pain with the readers, but if it helps one heart stay beating, maybe that’s ok.

      I’d love to hear your feedback when you read it. Message me at my website.

  • mason

    “Jesus” has many ways of getting a person, always with the help of a real live delusional human being, to get humans to hate themselves or distort their natural sense of self worth and esteem.

    When I was 4 years old I remember distinctly how my world changed when I was informed by a “sweet” ol’ lady from Child Evangelism that something was very wrong and sinful about me; the wicked witch of Christendom explained how my heart was black and the only way to make it white again was to cover it with zombie Jesus’ blood. I feel the way I felt about myself changing, and not for the good, as our small group of credulous kids were mentally molested by that wicked devil. This kind of mental and emotional abuse is still permitted under existing laws in the US.

    • ElizabetB.

      Wow, Mason…. did she use pictures, or what was it that made such an impression at such a young age?!!

      • mason

        Certainly, … pictures and the witches of Child Evangelism “Good News Clubs” and Sunday School propaganda teacher have used flannel graph boards for a hundred years. It’s even on https://www.amazon.com/Large-Deluxe-Bible-English-Flannelboard/dp/B000TMKE6E complete with Black hearts, Red (blood) hearst, White hearts, the key to destroying a kid’s self esteem and brain wash them with a sense of, “I’m not ok.”

    • ElizabetB.

      ugh. “This kind of mental and emotional abuse is still permitted under existing laws in the US.” — Are there any serious attempts to find legal ways to prevent this kind of abuse? or extra-legal ways?

    • It is such a terrible thing to tell a little kid that there is something wrong with him.

      Chapter 1 Part 2 “A Little Boy’s Prayer” was one of the hardest parts to write:

      “Being the sinful ten-year-old that I was, I understood early on that there was something wrong with me. Why would my life be so miserable then, if not because of the wrong of my doing? I understood clearly that if I prayed, God would come to my rescue. If he didn’t, it was obviously, obviously, because there was too much filth in my life and He wouldn’t care for any soul unless it was all clean and shiny” (page 20).

      I still struggle to read those words.

      “Despite my upbringing and surroundings, I still understood there was good in the world, even if I didn’t see it. I could definitely feel evil and pain. No one had to tell me my situation was bad—I felt it. I felt it with the intensity no child ever should, with nightmares that never left even when the lights came on. I grew up as a skinny, ungroomed child, always teased for his messy hair, his above average height, his low weight, his lack of masculinity— the little boy with those gentle golden-brown yet sad puppy eyes.
      And I prayed, “Why?”” (page 22).

  • Maine_Skeptic

    I don’t think the impact of misogyny and homophobia on Evangelicals and alt-right conservatives can be overstated. It is so tightly interwoven with their philosophies that they would be lost without them. The problem with America? It’s become ‘feminized.’ As if masculinity- in and of itself- was a virtue, and femininity is merely the absence of masculinity. (In the same way weakness is the absence of strength.)

    What does this have to do with gay rights? Gay men are assumed to have rejected masculinity and gay women are assumed to want masculinity they can’t attain. Both are rejected as insufficiently masculine.

    The actual virtues, like strength, courage, honesty, integrity, compassion— all of those are subordinated to this warped view of masculinity that has more to do with appearance and bearing than with actual behavior. The outcome of this bulls*** may yet be the end of our species.

    The stereotype is that masculine = strong, objective, unemotional, reliable, etc. Which nominee in the last US presidential election better represented strengh, objectivity, unemotional reliability, etc? Which candidate was an emotional mess, unable to see the big picture for all the petty backbiting and name-calling? And yet which one did the chest-beating thugs and the Bible-beating Evangelicals vote for?

    • Hi. This is a very well thought-out explanation of what happens in the real world.

      To be honest, I often think of that little Fernando from the picture above. What was he supposed to do? He grew up in Macho Mexico, abandoned by his father, raised by only women, suffered from sexual abuse as a child, and grew confused about his orientation his whole life in a homophobic Catholic culture that was supposed to raise men in only one way. I want to go back in time and hug him and tell him it will all be OK.

      I’ve tried in some ways, through meditation and support… but it’s just not the same. Best I can do is try not to grow sour, dark, and always with a sense of lost. But I do feel I’m catching up the whole time.

      Religious people seem oblivious to the carnage they are leaving behind… many of them gay themselves but adopting what they believe to be the majority’s powerful decision and take it as their own if only to remain part of the in-group.

    • Exactly. The root of homophobia is misogyny. If we want to deal with transphobia and homophobia, then we must deal with misogyny or we’ll be getting nowhere.

  • Raven Gilmartin

    Reading this made me cry, not only for the needless physical, spiritual, and emotional pain that you endured, but for so many others who have also endured this or will endure this.Thank your for your incredible book, and for continuing to reach out to others. There are so many who need to hear your message