While driving one day in Atlanta, my husband blurts out, ‘I want to live the rest of my life as a gay man.’
I nearly ran off the road.
This sudden admission of his homosexuality was a loose string in a ball of deceit. When I pulled that string, my entire life unraveled.
My husband and prominent church pastor, both of 30 years, lied to me and betrayed me, mocked our marriage vows. He brought the affair he was having with another man into our home and my place of business. I contracted chlamydia from him. The revelations tore our family apart. Embarrassingly, I learned that I was the only person in my inner circle unaware of it. I felt foolish. I stood alone with no one on my side.
But, there was more pain to come.
My darling son, then an underclassman in college, came out as gay. Six months later, he was HIV positive. I needed answers to make sense of my life. Drenched in despair, I turned to God. In seminary, in pursuit of theological cognition, I discovered that faith hate and hypocrisy were the culprits.
What created this secrecy and the resulting bombshell? Heterosexism—the practice of imaging God as heterosexual; and teaching and preaching that God hates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning intersex people—is the root of the problem. This toxic theology has several manifestations: because of fear, closeted LGBTQI people advance heterosexism; hate crimes slay thousands of innocent souls every year; discrimination dehumanizes and demoralizes lives, and extreme self-hate transforms the closeted into violent perpetrators that hurt the object of their love.
Secrecy always explodes intimacy and authenticity in human relationships. Hiding one’s truth masks real human identity and sexuality. The primary function of secrecy is to advance the practice of relational and societal infidelity.
My now ex-husband was a member of a ‘secret’ society of prominent gay pastors. When he came out, he was ostracized by his colleagues, other congregations, and even his own congregation. Membership numbers decreased, and church revenue dwindled. We need a truly open society that provides spiritual, emotional and social support to (1) help these pastors live and preach their truth; and (2) assist them in coming out of the closet without losing their economic base.
Imagine the impact on church and society, if the voices of these influential pastors were un-closeted. Barack Obama (a heterosexual) and the June 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling opened the hearts of America to understand the importance of marriage equality to the same-gender loving community. What if prominent LGBTQI people did likewise? I believe that millions of souls would be set free and millions of lives saved.
Church and society’s dehumanizing attacks on LGBTQI people fuels secret societies and creates human beings that self-hate and then hurt others. Acts of violence and scorn against LGBTQI people are reprehensible. Still, like our foremothers and fathers endured severe persecutions for the sake of liberty – again this must become true — because living closeted may fill church offering plates on Sunday morning; but it advances bigotry and discrimination that ultimately kills people.
My book, The Gay Preacher’s Wife: How My Gay Husband Deconstructed My Life & Reconstructed My Faith, blows the whistle on this practice. I understand that whistleblowers don’t get good press. Still, I am not ashamed or afraid. Whistleblowers are necessary for society – otherwise, vandals continue to vandalize, rapists continue to rape, murderers continue to murder– whistleblowers protect and save lives!
The church needs a new kind of ministry – one steeped in the tradition of the ministry launched by Jesus in the first century — free of bias, discrimination, hate, and prejudice –marked by loving God and loving others through social services – this is the key to social transformation.
Faith hate and hypocrisy is the paradox that has arrested my life’s attention.
Historical theologian, Edgar G. Hawkins said, ‘The church is implicated in the sickness of our society because it failed to protect its own values.’
Lifted from politically and economically charged interpretations of the biblical texts are the notions that: God condemns gays to hell; God condemns people of color to a life of slavery/servitude, God condemns women to certain life roles and conditions; and other God proclamations and imaging that grow church coffers. Jesus is celebrated by liberal and conservative Christian theologians as the perfect revelation of God and God’s truth. What a paradox? Oppression and discrimination that thrives in our society are powered and justified by these debated, false notions that are not upheld by the teachings of and life practice of Jesus.
The church exists to ‘be rich’ in good deeds — that mitigate the ills of our society – to shine the light on God and point humankind to God – its founder.
Consequently, the church must begin to live and preach the truth. Ministers and other church leaders must secure and uphold thought and practice that save and transform lives and communities.
My story is written for this purpose – to inspire people to embrace and practice truth. When the faith community rejects the practice of inclusiveness, they function as the anti-Christ. The church (faith community) must practice integration by inviting the LGBTQI community to the faith community to worship and serve God — across all faith traditions. Furthermore, faith leaders should employ experiential learning that teaches love, tolerance, acceptance, sensitivity, and the ability to see humanity in people that are different from you.
We are all part of the Human Family – regardless of race, gender, human sexuality, nationality, or faith tradition. Stop the hypocrisy and practice the inclusiveness of God’s love. We need an earthquake, a faith revolution in America and the world to forward this change! We need activists.
It starts with you and me.
The Gay Preacher’s Wife: How My Gay Husband Deconstructed My Life & Reconstructed My Faith by Lydia Meredith is available through Hunter/Simon and Schuster.