Losing My Religion, and Finding It

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Illustration from Still Stace by Stacey Chomiak

“HOMOSEXUALITY is sin, no doubt about it. And it’s the worst kind of sin because it twists our sexuality and tries to make us believe we could be something we are not. God created man to be with woman. That is black and white. Do not be deceived. Let us pray.”

My blood ran cold.

As I sat there in the wooden church pew next to the girl I had been secretly kissing (and more), it felt as if suddenly everyone knew. I stole a quick look at her, but she evaded my eyes. I felt as though I had forgotten how to breathe.

The pastor’s words were coursing through my veins like a drug my body was rejecting. There was my confirmation. Homosexuality is the worst kind of sin.

I closed my eyes in an attempt to calm myself, but all I saw were flashes of us. Me, lying on top of her, kissing her, and then a lightning bolt coming down from the heavens, careening us into a fiery pit. Was I destined for hell?

How could my body betray me like this, becoming so weak at the touch of another girl? How could my Jesus-loving heart allow such sinful desires to consume it?

I had heard shocked whispers about homosexuality in our church hallways, but never before in my youth group. Not until today.

How did I get here?

I loved being an Evangelical Christian. At my public school, I was pretty sure they called me “Christian Stace.” I was convinced that wearing overtly Christian-themed T-shirts and a cross necklace was going to bring my “secular” friends to Jesus.

But that was before Joanna’s soft lips pressed against mine for the first time, and my entire being buzzed with pleasure. Nothing seemed to matter after that—except more kissing.

When my lips were apart from Joanna’s and trying to pray instead, I was filled with equal parts shame and guilt. They were getting heavier by the minute. I felt so heavy after that sermon that I feared I might crash through the pew and onto the soft purple carpet.

I carried that foul burden for the next thirteen years. I had no tools, no support, and no understanding of what being gay meant. I had only ever known this straight, heteronormative Christian world, and my feelings were coming from an entirely different universe.

In my desperate attempts to free myself of this sin, I learned all about ex-gay ministries and about people who had apparently “prayed away the gay.” Christians in the ex-gay ministries spoke of “same-sex attraction” as a disease that spread rapidly.

I was definitely infected. I hated myself. I prayed, I kissed her, I prayed, I enjoyed sex with her, I prayed… It was an endless cycle of giving in to lust and lamenting that I was paying for it with my soul. But my prayers were futile. How could I live a life God would be proud of if I couldn’t cure this disease?

Looking back, I have a lot of compassion for my younger self. I was just trying to “fight the good fight.” Except it wasn’t good at all. I know God was grieving as I bullied and hated and tried to erase this beautifully creative and sweet part of myself.

My church had taught me that this sort of sin was too large, too ugly, too damaging to be forgiven. God despised  homosexuality, so logically God must despise me.

This is not what I believe today. Today, I have a wife and two kids, and I stand fiercely proud and wholly beloved by God in this gorgeously gay body of mine. Today, I do a little preaching of my own: queer preaching. My sexuality used to be a thorn in my side that needed to be removed. Now I know that my sexuality enriches my faith.

Since coming out as a gay Christian in 2010, I have chosen to be visible: to speak up, to share, to challenge, to take up space in this world as I am, and not to exist quietly.

I never had someone to look up to, and I vowed that one day I would try to be the person that I needed when I was young. For gay Christians like me, being visible might save someone’s life. I loved my church community, but they were not able to love me back. It almost broke me. And it has broken too many other people.

So many harmful messages that the church has sent out are still ringing loudly in the ears of LGBT people. We have a lot of work to do to rebuild, reframe, and reclaim these messages as the beautifully beloved people that we are.

 

Stacey Chomiak illustrates & writes kids books. Her young adult illustrated memoir, “Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming-of-Age Story”, was recently published in October 2021 by Beaming Books. She lives happily nestled with her wife and two kids in Vancouver, Canada. Stacey identifies as a gay Christian and loves to have conversations around faith and sexuality.

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