I grew up in a faith that was politically, socially, and religiously conservative. We had a relationship, not a religion, I was taught. A product of my Pentecostal upbringing, I entered the ministry at age 15. I was a young, gifted musician who began playing for youth group worship, but by my early 20s was playing for a black gospel choir. However, I was conflicted between my deeply held convictions, and equally ingrained, unwanted, same-sex attractions.
After years of praying and pleading with God to change me, a tryst with a married man in my choir, and one attempt at suicide, I put myself in an “ex-gay,” or “conversion therapy” ministry. That ministry, Love in Action, which was the subject of the feature film, Boy Erased, turned out to be one of the oldest, and most renowned organizations of its kind.
I believed I’d found my answer. I believed I had finally changed. Following my time in Love in Action’s one-year residential program, I went on staff and, for the next six years, traveled around the country with the message, “Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” Love in Action staff appeared on radio and television shows including, Oprah Winfrey, ABC’s World News Tonight, and Good Morning America. I married a beautiful woman and together we had two beautiful daughters. But all of that came crashing down when she filed for divorce. It would take six more years before I could finally accept my own reality.
My journey from an unshakable conservative Christian to a progressive social justice writer has been long and arduous. I’ve been accused of “just giving in so you could have gay sex,” and I’ve waded through countless Bible verse grenades. Still do. My journey has been measured and thoughtful. It required me to rethink everything I believed to be true and take apart the foundations of my beliefs brick by brick.
Conversion therapy, the attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, is a small part of a much larger and destructive religious ideology found in fundamentalist Christianity. The effects of this version of Christianity – and there are many other versions – are far reaching. In American Evangelical Christianity, many individuals and families suffer silently, trying to make their lives fit into the narrow doctrines and dogmas of this unique brand of religion.
My goal is to open a dialogue about the beliefs and ideologies that affect our lives, whether they are personal, political, or religious. My aim is to give voice to the dissonant questions that reside in all of us. This is a place for discussion and discovery about who we are as diverse human beings, how to make peace with ourselves, and how to make the world a better place. If this is you, I invite you to join our online, private, and closed Rethinking Everything Facebook group.
I’ve written dozens of articles and blogs as a contributor to The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. I write mostly on the confluence of religion, politics, sexuality, and belief and I’m the co-host of the Recovering from Religion Podcast. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to write a good story about life as a dad. I earned a Master’s degree in education from Colorado State University where I focused my research on cognition, beliefs, and transformative learning. I’m a proud member of the American Psychological Association.
My spouse, Abel, and his off-handed, witty comments are featured frequently in my books. Abel is a teacher at our local school district where he works with the visually impaired. His gigantic sense of humor is only matched by his enormous heart. My youngest daughter is a senior in high school and my oldest daughter is an anthropology major in college.