During my Cass Tech High freshman year I was active in the Voice of Christian Youth, a nationwide evangelical outreach that held rallies “on the Devil’s Saturday night” at Detroit’s Masonic Temple.
Witnessing for Jesus I carried my fundamentalist Scofield Bible to class, passed out gospel tracts, and – decades before the Intelligent Design controversy – spoke out in social studies for Genesis Adam-and-Eve creation a mere 5,000 years ago.
I teamed up with another Cass Tech VCYer, Jerry Curneal, and a friend of his, a church pianist Brian Jones. We formed a gospel team, with myself as a self-styled evangelist/preacher.
I left the women-run Missionary Workers Tabernacle, and joined Jerry and Brian at their home church, Gilead Baptist, a Southern Baptist affiliate, with a congregation of about 1500 and popular TV outreach. I was gladly re-baptized.
I enjoyed the fellowship, the singing, my clean-cut friends. I had a sense of belonging, even though it was understood that the world was made up of millions and millions of unsaved souls. We were the lucky ones. God’s elect waiting for Jesus’s Second Coming, when Russia – “the biblical Magog” – so preached pastor Bob Parr – would usher in the total Armageddon blitzkrieg in Israel.
There were secret sins. Onanism, the spilling of one’s seed; and a growing awareness of my undeniable gayness. I recall after an emotionally moving VCY rally, Jerry and I, over coffee, mutually confessed to masturbation. He admitted his sin in tears. (I was relieved to find someone who shared my own moral shortcoming.)
Southern Baptists are steeped in the Puritan work ethic and a pleasure-denying morality. As a born-againer I felt called apart – “in the world but not of it.” I didn’t smoke, drink, dance, play cards, or go to movies. But … yea verily! …… homosexual “abomination” – in contrast to today’s cultural-war topic A – was rarely mentioned, discussed, thought of. It was just too shocking, too unthinkable. At 17 my gay episodes – maybe three a year with neighborhood peer partners – were my closeted and damning secret.
Psychiatrists called it “experimentation,” a phase most teenagers pass through on the road to heterosexuality.
I prayed often. Asked God to change me “according to His will’; but yielded too easily to temptation. Try as I might I just was not interested in girls or dating. (I had only one teenage date: the high school prom. I behaved awkwardly, danced the Huckle Buck in box-toe loafers like a dolt. Tux and wrist corsage set me back plenty. I was glad when the evening came to a lackluster close.)
There was something about the opposite sex that just didn’t register. But I found that handsome movie stars, youthful looking gospel TV personalities, held my attention. I felt an undefinable “something,” an emotional longing that demanded a yet unrealized acceptance.
By age 18 I knew. I also realized full well that for that “sin” I was an outcast from my strict, Southern Baptist convictions. I had a choice. Remain a born-again believer. Or be an explorer of my gay potential. I chose acceptance over on-going religion-induced guilt. Truth won out 57 years ago.