Hit or Miss

In which Matt goes to hear an ex-gay speaker

My campus has been abuzz for the past week due to the coming of ex-gay Christian speaker, Michael Johnston, who serves as the president of Kerusso Ministries and chair for the National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day project. Michael was part of the “homosexual community” for many years, contracting HIV and AIDS before renouncing his past and reaffirming his Christian faith.

Brought here by the Baptist Student Union, the advertising for the program alone sparked quite a debate on campus. Featuring the quote “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12),” and a synopisis of Michael’s story, the posters were viewed by many (myself include) as a passive form of intolerant education (being gay = getting AIDS = death = not being Christian). I was afraid to oppose the approval of the posters to be hung in my building (worried that people would think it was solely because I am gay), but fortunately wiser heads prevailed and the issue was discussed amongst the residential living staff. There was a worry that the posters could contribute to a environment in which gay students could be made to not feel welcome in our community, so the BSU was asked to submit alternate posters to be hung (which they did).

On the surface, I vaccilated all week as to whether or not I was going to go to the speaker. I stated that I wasn’t sure that I could contain myself and keep from storming out in anger.

In reality, I had been afraid to go, because not so deep down inside I am full of doubt and was worried that I might agree with what he had to say. I knew that I was being drawn to the speaker out of a sense of curiosity and hope (however internally homopobic) that something he said might touch me.

As much as I have tried to cultivate a closer relationship with God over the past year and a half, I ultimately feel that I am no closer than I was when I began. Serving as an alter server, engaging in prayer compacts with friends, and purchasing a cross to wear as a daily reminder of my faith have failed to ignite in me the strength of conviction that I have been searching for. And my fear has been that my homosexuality is the thing keeping me from being able to follow God’s plan for me.

I wish that the speaker Michael had just preached fire and brimstone tonight (like a Fred Phelps), so that I could have easily and summarily dismissed what he had to say. Instead, he delivered a sermon about rejecting moral depravity, which I found myself largely agreeing with. All except for his basic premise, which was that homosexuality is a sin and thus incompatible with a Christian identity. It made me alternately sad, angry, and confused to hear what I consider the be the truth of Christianity be used to reject and condemn a segment of the population.

Michael discussed his former homosexual lifestyle. It was a lifestyle (full of hard partying, recreational drugs, and promiscuous sex) that I personally don’t identify with. But his message of feeling alone even while part of the homosexual community spoke to me. I’ve written about that within the past week even — I don’t feel like I’m part of the gay community here at Truman State University or in the community of Kirksville.

I began to get pretty emotional during the presentation and feeling a certain amount of loathing towards myself. Fortunately, afterwards outside the Uion Building, I ran into some of the gay students I know and talked to them for a while. It was very reassuring to hear them speak about having the same doubts about his speech and to know that I was not alone. In a way, that made me feel a lot better and more like I am actually part of a community here.

I knew that I still had a certain amount of internalized homophobia in myself still to overcome. But I didn’t realize how much of struggle I still have left. It makes me so sad to think of all of the closeted gay Christians on this campus who may have gone tonight and stuggled with the same questions and doubts that I had, but who don’t have the same level of support (that I hadn’t even realized) I have to help them stand strong in their convictions and reject the intolerant message being preached.

It’s late now. There is far too much in my head to process and set down in print. Maybe I’ll return to this topic tomorrow.

1 response so far (Respond)

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Even though I’ve become much more comfortable with the fact of my homosexuality over the course of the last two decades, I know there’s still a part of me that’s anxious about it–the same part that forces me to confront random hets in the Quarter when I hear them make subtle slurs about the gay population; the same part that forces me to scream at telemarketers when they ask to speak to the woman of the house.

In short, I’m painfully aware of my homosexuality, and although I don’t have the sense of shame associated with it that I did 15 years ago, the mere fact of my heightened awareness tells me something’s not quite settled in my psyche. I mean, If I were really, truly comfortable with my passion for kissing boys, it seems like I wouldn’t even notice it; I’d have other, more important things to think about, right?

The reason I can’t just ignore it–the reason I can’t adopt the same nonchalance about my homosexuality as, say, Edward Albee, who once said he was about as proud of being gay as he was of drinking water–is because our society refuses to ignore it. We’re put on the defensive.

So I completely understand your desire to go see Michael Johnston speak–and I applaud your honesty. I don’t know if I would have even been able to let myself go to the event, much less confess it to everyone on the www. We homos are supposed to be here, queer, and proud; in a way you’ve gone against everything that most leading queer organizations (HRC, GLAAD, etc.) stand for. You’ve also done more than any of them are quite willing to do: listen openly to one of the strains of today’s public debate on GLBT issues.

Give yourself a pat on the back. As I see it, you were taking a very brave step back in time, before you’d made a solid decision to come out and were trying to figure out who an

Richard | 29 Oct 2000