I was a newbie in the church ~ and had made a few friends of some of its more senior members. I hoped someday I might be as learned and holy, because they really seemed like good kind people to me. And for the most part, they were. But there was a dark underbelly of prejudice and hypocrisy I was inexperienced in.
It was about 1974. I had moved across the country in large part to start over in a place “where I didn’t know anyone and no one knew me.” I had a dream the year before that made it clear to me my life would be one of warming barstools if I didn’t make some sort of clean break. The 2000 miles between me and my old life wasn’t enough space though, as so many other lost kids and young adults made the same trek. Now I was in Denver and the scene I left found me. Another move was not in the offing. There had to be another way to separate myself from the crowd that was reflecting my doom back to me. So I did what any self respecting but lost hippie did. I quit going to Grateful Dead concerts and joined a very specific church in which I saw a way out.
Good people they were for the most part. Very different from the Catholicism of my youth. No statutes, stations of the cross, incense or Latin. All so very plain and unadorned. So one night, after a day of fellowship at a house in the mountains when one of the most respected women of the church asked me to go for a walk, I said sure. As we walked, she shared a story about how she and her husband were swingers, although she didn’t like it. But she continued to “help” her marriage and provide opportunities to witness for Christ before a romp in the hot tub with a stranger. Needless to say, I found this confusing.
Next, I learned that within the church’s most beloved writings there was a belief that black people were more than inferior. In fact, they were an “amalgamation of man and ape.” I kid you not. I learned this when a black family joined the church and were immediately invited to worship “with their own kind” with an inner city congregation. It was now time to leave.
I am telling you this story because it just came back to mind. I was reading this article about another closeted minister caught with a “rent-a-boy” and working my way through his tortured logic regarding his witnessing to the young man. Only like Ted Haggard, this is no run of the mill preacher. No, he is a man with great influence and ties to James Dobson and Focus on the Family. Dr. George Rekers explains how innocent it all is by saying he just hired him to help with baggage for his European vacation, although when caught in the Miami airport, Dr Rekers was pushing his own luggage cart.
Dr. Rekers twisted logic of witnessing to the boy about the dangers of his lifestyle reminded me of the deaconess sharing Jesus with her swapmate of the evening. They both were doing things that made their consciences scream at them, so much so that they had to do something to get caught. This is not unlike saying “Follow me” all the way to the Monkey Business, where you can get a souvenir photo of a lap dance.
The impetus that drove me into a church was not self-loathing. It was fear of the future based on a present that had spun out of control. And while the medication routine I was practicing could certainly be called self-destructive, I didn’t hate myself. What drives these people to such depths of self hate that they either have to destroy other people who live openly what they live secretly, or perhaps silently end their lives? Part of me wants to rail against the Rekers, the Haggards, the Bakers, the Swaggerts of the world. They destroy so many others in their attempts to destroy their own demons. Another part of me feels such deep pity for how they must feel inside their own skins. However, there is at least a corner of my heart that is waiting for the day some barnyard animal comes forward with emails and texts and maybe a perfumed letter or two from Dobson. Is that so very wrong of me?