Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jesus and the Precious Rubble

So many people I meet who have had ex-gay experiences consider themselves post-Christians. Perhaps they do not use that term, but many who once had an Evangelical Conservative belief in Jesus now do not belong to any faith community and do not practice any religion. A friend recently mentioned that when she goes to a church service she experiences post traumatic stress.

I know that feeling. Hearing a song we used to sing in a church where I now do not feel welcome anymore, my throat closes up and a muddiness rises in my heart. Even in rainbow-clad friendly churches, I can experience flashbacks to the days when I struggled with God to deliver me from my homosexual sin believing that if I didn't get free, I could not serve Him or enjoy his presence.

I have to say that after years of living as an Evangelical Fundamentalist and sometimes Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian, I struggle with understanding and expressing my current faith and spirituality. I am a Christ-centered Quaker, but I am not sure what that means-at least for me.

This week at Pendle Hill, I sat down with the words of the Quaker Isaac Penington.

From the Pendle Hill Pamphlet 29 The Inward Journey of Isaac Penington:
Therefore take heed of the fleshly wisdom; take heed of thine own understanding; take heed of thy reasoning or disputing; for these are weapons wherewith the witness is slain. That wisdom must be destroyed, and that understanding brought to naught, and thou become a child, and learn as a child if ever thou know the things of God.
These words comfort me right now. He writes about how we have to give up our old ways of thinking about God and become like little children.

I feel like a little child with my faith right now. I don't have vocabulary like I once did. I live with more questions than answers, and my spiritual needs seem basic. Christ be near me, feed me, hold me. I deconstructed much of my belief system and now stand on a pile of rubble--precious rubble--but rubble all the same. Even so, I do not feel ill at ease about where I stand, rather I have a strange peace.

As I sit in the silence of Quaker meeting and my own worship times, I let the Light wash over me, search me, know me, absorb my questions, hear my groans that words cannot express, and communicate with me spirit to spirit bypassing the messy mind, getting to the heart of the matter. Be still; know God.


At 12:23 PM , Blogger grace said...

I love this post. Your expressions and experience resonate with me. Thanks for sharing and being transparent about your spiritual journey.


At 2:32 PM , Blogger Renee said...

Peterson, I love your blog.
Be INCREDIBLY blessed-
In Him,

At 4:56 PM , Blogger Joe G. said...

Hey, Peterson,

As one with a similar past - although I think you far surpassed anything that I accomplished whilst in that particular lifestyle {ahem} - I can say it takes a while to "recover" and heal and re-center. The good news is that it does indeed occur. You's in my thoughts and prayers, especially with the mom situation.

At 7:01 PM , Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

Your post reminded me of a poem I read a long time ago so I thought I would share it with you:

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.

And a whisper will be heard
where the ruined
house once stood.

Yehuda Amichai

At 8:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, you—

this is a beautiful post, and i believe you have coined an important and perfect phrase for me: "precious rubble." know that i am proud to stand by you in any kind of mess, precious or otherwise.

if ever you want to chat more about PTSD and what makes you feel all that constriction and muddiness, lemme know.

see you soon.


At 11:00 PM , Blogger SoulPony said...

Love to you and your family.

At 10:15 AM , Blogger Bob Painter said...

Peterson, it is a fact that transparency begets transparency. (I suppose LiA was right about that one.)

You and I have discussed this issue some in the past. When I led the worship a few months ago for the Evangelicals Concerned conference, I struggled to include songs that were in my memory bank but that didn't hold painful memories for me (and possibly for other participants at the conference).

As I recall those tunes, I even felt shame and anguish when they were originally sung during worship settings, but I pushed those feelings down deep inside me and sang on with the hope that one day I would overcome my homosexuality and feel the freedom others felt when singing the songs.

I had lunch yesterday with a friend from Tupelo. He was shocked when I told him I had not attended church but once since Easter. I want to attend, but I've been partly lazy and partly lost as to where to attend--a gay-affirming conservative church in Memphis (or elsewhere) probably doesn't exist, huh?

Friends try to help. Attend the Episcopalian church. (Uh, I don't like "high" church.) Go to First Congo [United Church of Christ] or Holy Trinity. (Uh, I will never be that far "left," and I don't want my worship to be an expression of political leanings.) Go to a fundamental church and let the homosexual beratement roll off your back. (Uh, thanks, but I've been a doormat too many years.)

So I wait...and ponder...and probably drift from the Jesus I love. I hope not.

Thanks for your candor, my friend...


At 12:27 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks Peterson for expressing my heart so perfectly!

Peace be with you!


At 4:06 PM , Blogger Adriana Cabrera said...

I'm going to Indiana Yearly Meeting with a friend of mine this weekend. If one is in the Quaker loop, one knows that IYM is suicide land for queer folk. My friend belongs to IYM and is straight. She also knows that I'm not, and celebrates my queerness dayly. As a matter of fact, she is pretty non chalant about letting IYM folk know that she likes hanging out with me. I am going to IYM because she invited me. I think she invited me because she wants IYM to start making baby steps into the future. I certainly want to help her do that. This is a great challenge for both of us and I am happy we are both up for the experience.
This whole thing reminds me of a Mexican Quaker friend of my mom's who was diagnosed with a heart condition a few years ago. She really wanted to go visit Peru and the doctor let her do it, but told her not to make big physical efforts, or else she might have a stroke. When she arrived to Peru, she headed straight to Machu Pichu and started climbing the ruins. Someone then reminded her of the doctor's warning and the dangers of her dying. She just smiled and said: "Y si no puedo subir a Machu Pichu, Para que vivo?" (and if I can't go up Machy Pichu, why live?)
She went up and down Machu Pichu and died of a completely unrelated desease several years later, in the peace of her own bed and the company of her beloved family.

At 12:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though I've said it before, you are spectacular, Peterson. And this particular blog is one of your best, I think.

With regards to what you said about having more questions than answers lately about religion, I just want to mention that if there is anything I have learned in the last 4 months of being friends with you it is that it's perfectly alright to question things and do what feels right for you. As you know, I've had to deal with realizing that lately. But knowing that I have friends to support and love me has made all the pain and confusion I've had to endure seem a little clearer and lesser.

Be well, my friend.

At 3:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm glad I found this blog.

I am straight so I can't appreciate personally how you feel, but I am beginning to see for the first time that gay people have spiritual needs that are not being met.

It is a real eye-opener for me.

At 5:13 PM , Blogger CrackerLilo said...

I'm not even ex-gay--though it was that issue that propelled me out of the church--and I almost vomited when I saw a Christian decorating magazine called Lily, complete with suggestions for making an actual Bible-plant garden, this weekend. (That's how I express pain, through my esophagus.)

I'm grateful I had enough time away from the church, as a "slackass Christian", that I was able to run to Paganism instead of away from the AoG.

At 7:07 PM , Blogger brittanicals said...

Hi Peterson,

I am holding you and your family in my heart. Illnesses in one as loved as your mother can cause the base of everything to shake and hurt.

Not being ex-gay, I can still relate to your ex-evangelical experience in some ways. If I walk into a store and hear some of the cheesie-jesusie "prais" music from my church days, my heart turns to stone and I have to leave. How many times did I feel like I was rejecting God when I ran from "worship" sevices, when really I was running from the falsehoods and control and smug all knowingness in the room.

I am with you on the precious rubble, hoping that someday something strong and real and beautiful is built from the ashes.

At 1:22 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

Thanks all for the affirming comments. I appreciate hearing about your own experiences--very validating.

I feel so wonderfully supported by the folks who visit this blog. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers and comments.

At 1:57 PM , Blogger Bob Painter said...

One last comment, Petey: make this post one of your sidebar "favorites." This post never needs to be hidden in an archive, lost to open view...BOB

At 1:57 AM , Blogger bridgeout said...

Wow... I sit and soak this in... it moves me, and reaches me... and resonates with my experience. I am so grateful you share this part of your journey.

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