My grandfather was a minister. Not a hard-liner – more of what I always called a middle of the road Christian, part of the “Disciples of Christ” church.
When I came out to him, he told me a story about a woman who wanted all the gays thrown out of church, and how he turned it around on her and asked how she would feel if she was the only straight person there.
Growing up, I attended the Methodist Church, and again, it was fairly gay friendly. My mom took me to a sex ed class there, and they gave us a very frank book about sexuality that said that homosexuality was a normal thing, which was a big deal to me at the time. This was in the mid eighties, and I was a teenager who hadn’t yet gathered the courage to come out.
Once I left home to explore the wide world, religion and I parted ways. I came out at twenty three, and from then on I began to really see the anti gay parts of organized religion, and how it was used as a weapon against people like me. I decided I had no need of it if it had no need of me, and we went off on our separate trajectories.
The whole arrangement suited me just fine for a couple decades. But now… the world has changed.
Where once almost all the religious figures involved in the debate over homosexuality and marriage equality were against it, new voices have come forward to embrace us. There are many churches now, and indeed entire denominations, that support both the queer community and marriage equality. And every pride march features pastors in rainbow sashes.
In my personal life, my husband Mark expressed a desire last year to start going back to church. I was caught off guard. After all, churches were the places that most conspired against us, weren’t they? Places where “Jesus” and “God” were code words for “we hate the gays.” And yeah, I knew that wasn’t true of all churches, or even most. But the old sting was still there.
So it took me a while to come around to the whole idea. In the end, the thought that he would become involved with a whole new community while I stayed behind decided me.
And so… I am now a church goer again. I’m still on the fence about the whole God thing, and I expressed this clearly to one of the co-pastors, who still welcomed me to the Church. I’m not sure if I’m an atheist or an agnostic or just uncommitted. I believe there is something bigger and better than us in the universe. I just haven’t tried to label it.
But it has also opened up a new theme in my writing. Instead of writing people of faith as right wing bigots, I’ve started to play around with religion a little in my stories. In “The Great North”, it’s the idea of cleansing a mean and bastardized version of the Christian faith.
In the forthcoming sci fi book “The Stark Divide,” it’s a little more subtle, and positive. One of the main characters is a devout Christian, and it colors the way he sees the evolution of technology, and ultimately will affect the world itself.
So I’m curious. For my writer friends out there, what’s your perception of organized religion? Has it changed over time? Do you use it in your works, and how?