A Fundamental Journey
Marc Adams visits Richmond this Tuesday to share his experiences growing up the son of a Baptist minister and embarking on his own spiritual journey.
Adams has an interesting theory on why some fundamentalist people of faith react adversely when someone comes out to them. Most Christians believe that to follow Christ it is necessary to “deny yourself, pick up the cross and follow Him.” This idea permeates the Bible and is echoed in John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He believes that many Christians, especially fundamentalists, take this belief to the extreme and interpret it as a mandate. “They commit emotional suicide every day. Most of those people put their humanity to death thinking it pleases God but it actually makes them unable to love other people. They follow religious beliefs to the point where they are incapable of responding in any human way to any outside information.”
This outside information includes an admission of homosexuality.
Adams grew up in a strict fundamentalist home in which Jerry Falwell was viewed as a liberal left wing preacher. He left home to attend Falwell’s Liberty University and was shunned by his fundamentalist community when, a few years later, he came out to them.
He attended Liberty University because he was seeking a strict religious structure within which to kill his homosexuality. Once there, he realized quickly that he couldn’t seek help from anyone at LU because he would inevitably be kicked out. Marc spent his college years secretly utilizing an ex-gay ministry’s correspondence course to try to overcome his gayness.
His experience at LU became the catalyst he needed to embark on a journey of self-acceptance.
As he journeyed out of fundamentalism, Adams beliefs shifted.
“Fundamentalist Christianity is awful,” he said. “It’s full of racism, sexism, homophobia…all the worst parts of humanity are parts of fundamentalism. That’s where it’s all bred. I realized I was part of a cult.”
When he finally reached a point of self-acceptance, he looked back and wondered why no one had been there to help him realize this earlier.
That was the birth of Heartstrong, founded to offer hope & help for LGBT students from religious educational institutions.
Heartstrong offers 15 outreach and educational programs to GLBT students attending religious universities. Using whatever means possible, Marc and his staff of volunteers distribute information aimed at alerting LGBT students that help is available to escape the self-condemnation and self-loathing promoted towards homosexuals at many religious institutions.
Founded in 1996, Heartstrong has reached over 1000 students on religious campuses across the US by first assuring them that they are not alone.
“Separate the idea that being gay has anything to do with religion,” Adams says. “Religion is a choice. Being gay is not.”
How’s that for flipping fundamentalist rhetoric on its head?
Heartstrong challenges students to identify when they first felt different and the point at which they first felt ashamed.
Adams says he first realized he was different as a young boy. He didn’t feel ashamed until age 14 when his youth pastor explained that he would “grow up to be a child molester and die of AIDs. [Shame] never happens naturally,” Adams explained, “Someone always plants that seed in their heads.”
Heartstrong informs students that they don’t have to believe the things they’ve been taught about themselves and others. That, in fact, others have been making them feel ashamed and guilty. Heartstrong asserts that it’s within each student’s control to not allow anyone to make them feel that way again.
After all, Adams says: “[Religious] people who can’t love others can’t love themselves. There’s no reason for these people to give up their hope for eternity because someone comes out to them. Their inability to communicate has nothing to do with [someone] coming out but with their inability to love themselves. “
In other words, LGBT students—it’s not about you. Take comfort in that.
Apryl Prentiss is a right wing dropout. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and heavily involved in the evangelical Christian community for her entire life. She lives in Richmond, VA with her partner, Adrian, and enjoys trying to dialogue with those in the evangelical community about sexuality.
Suzanne Swan with President Obama at a White House ceremony on Friday (left). Jeanne Manford in a 1993 photo, holding a photo of her son, Morty Manford. Photo of Swan and Obama by Susan Walsh, Associated Press; Manford photo courtesy PFLAG. Satff Reports Jeanne Manford, the pioneering straight ally in the gay rights movement, and the [...]February 18, 2013
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