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Parting Glances: Pages from a book (Pt. 5)

By |2006-02-23T09:00:00-05:00February 23rd, 2006|Opinions|

During my freshman year at Cass Technical High School I was active in the Voice of Christian Youth, an evangelical outreach that held rallies “on the Devil’s Saturday night” at the Masonic Temple.
Witnessing for Jesus, I carried my Scofield Bible to class, passed out gospel tracts, and — decades before the Intelligent Design controversy — spoke out in my Social Studies class for the Genesis account of creation. (I also checked out the guys in my swim class — but that’s another story.)
“My Bible says that God created man in His image,” I protested evolution, amid classmate groans and instructor Wardell Guyeftsky’s where-did-you-come-from looks.
While at Cass I teamed up with another VCYer, Jerry Curneal and a friend of his, church pianist Brian Jones. We formed a gospel team, with myself as a self-styled “evangelist/preacher.” (I suppose I was OK. I never got any complaints from the sinners I scripturally harangued.)
Soon I found myself leaving the Missionary Workers Tabernacle, and joining Jerry and Brian at their home church, Gilead Baptist, a Southern Baptist affiliate, with a congregation of about 1500 and a local TV outreach. I was baptized for a second time, which I suppose did no one any real lasting harm.
Looking back, 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 mostly made up of unsaved souls. We were the lucky ones. God’s elect waiting for Jesus’s Second Coming (when Russia — “the biblical Magog” would usher in the final blitzkrieg of Armageddon in Israel.)
There were secret sins. Onanism, the spilling of one’s seed — and the growing awareness of my undeniable gayness. I recall one Saturday, after a VCY rally, Jerry and I, over coffee and donuts, mutually confessed to masturbation. He admitted his sin with 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 born-againers they feel called apart — “in the world but not of it”. It’s accepted that “saved” Christians don’t smoke, drink, dance, play cards, or go to movies. But the homosexual “abomination”, in contrast to today’s cultural-war topic A, was rarely mentioned, discussed, or even thought of. It was just too shocking, too unmentionable.
At 17 my gay episodes — maybe three a year with neighborhood peer partners — were my closeted secret (psychiatrists called it “experimentation”, a phase 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 temptations anyway.
Try as I might I just was not interested in girls or dating. (I’ve had only one teenage date: the high school prom. I behaved awkwardly and danced the Huckle Buck 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 male movie and TV stars — youthful gospel personalities — held my attention. I felt an undefinable “something,” an emotional longing that demanded a yet unrealized response.
By the time I turned 18 I knew I was gay. I also knew for that “sin” I was an outcast (whether others knew it or not) from my strict, narrow religious convictions. I had a choice: to remain a born-againer or be an explorer of my gay inner self. The Truth won out.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander