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.
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.
When people would ask me, I would flat out say,
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.
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.
Bio: 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