My Ex-Gay Experience: Revolutionary Love
Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of articles about writer Apryl Prentiss’s experience in an ex-gay ministry. Read the previous article here.
The summer after I taught at the ex-gay program, I went on the mission field with a friend of mine to teach English and God in Slovakia and Serbia. I arrived in Europe excited about the ministry but feeling lost. Unsure of who I was and upset by the life I had in front of me, I tried to bargain with myself to find a way to be “okay” as a homo living as a hetero Christian. Gradually, I began to question why a God that loved me so much would make me gay then tell me to live my life as if I wasn’t. It felt contrived to me, even torturous. Something had begun to feel really, really wrong with the church, my perception of God, with religion. Is this really who God is?
On the fields of Serbia amidst the authentic and vivacious people, I had a radical revolutionary experience with God — it changed everything for me. The existence of God’s love outside of the boundaries I’d been taught and the “in the box”, Puritanical interpretation of the West announced itself into my life. My entire worldview shook and cracked against the God who had revealed his love to me in a tangible way.
I operated in a state of shock and reverence for my remaining weeks in Europe. I didn’t think about my sexuality because this revelation was about much more than that. I found the contrast of what westernized Christianity has morphed into with the beautiful truth I had just experienced to be sickening.
After almost two months of living abroad, I returned to America. 25 years of doctrine, of myopic view and treatment of those who believed differently, and of religiously fueled arrogance to those who the church defined as “others” began to tear at my heart. It was as if I had awoken one day and stepped outside of being the “us” whereby Christian community and beliefs are galvanized and stepped into the shoes of the “others.” It was bizarre and unsettling.
Eventually the question of my sexuality popped up and I began to wrestle with it. This time I could hear the message of love and acceptance clearer in my heart. I realized that these past years of my life full of anguish and fighting an integral part of myself had been a function of religion and not of God. I was born this way—wholly. I was loved—fully. I was accepted by God—entirely. I felt at peace with myself (ALL of me) for the first time in years.
I needed that peace because as I reunited with the woman I loved and we began to build a life together, we both began to come out to those we loved. I refused to live in deceit as I had for so many years. I felt more whole in my life and my spirituality than ever before and I wanted to complete the process by being known by those who loved me for who I really was.
The feeling of being an “other” rather than an “us” quickly intensified with my coming out—all of a sudden I was not only an outsider but I was UNACCEPTABLE as a member of the Christian community that I loved so much.
I was called everything from a heretic to a pervert to an abomination. I was told by a family member that he still loved me “but only as the church loves the sinner and nothing more.” People wept and begged me to reconsider, confess my sin, and return to a life of wholeness in Christ rather than living a life full of debauchery and disgust. When I told them that I WAS whole…and God was the one who showed me that—many cut contact with me stating that I was professing false prophecies. Those who had taught me to love others and serve God; who had I had served alongside; who I had looked up to simply walked away completely or could barely stand to be present in my life. It was brutal.
I was shocked by the entitlement of the Christian community to condescend to, dismiss the humanity of, and all around reject me and others like me. The part of me that believed in Christian community and Christian “unconditional” love slowly died. I began to question whether the very basic tenets of the Christian faith even existed in the church anymore.
That was six years ago.
When rejected by the church community, I became defined (in their eyes) by the sexual act of homosexuality alone. Dehumanized. I often wonder why the fundamentalist church believes that standing in a pulpit and spitting out rejection, even hate, reflects the heart of God at all.
Just as I wonder what they tell themselves to make it ok to discard a son or daughter in their time of need. Then I remember that I know what they say to themselves because I used to say it. I know why they think it’s ok to reject—because I used to reject others alongside them. Those thoughts, those internal words handed down by generations of Christians almost drove me to my grave at the worst part of me fighting my sexuality.
Am I saved?
Yes, I am. I’m saved from the church. From its condemnation. Saved from the self-hatred. I am able to love others well (the true mission of Christ) because I am whole in God’s eyes. I’ve learned through my journey that His eyes (and mine) are the only ones that matter.
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.
Good people come in all sorts of packages and associations. We must reach out to all.April 4, 2016
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