4/09/2012 | Share this article:By Hatuey ~
There comes a time when a person needs to make his/her own voice heard in order to make a difference in one’s life. Unfortunately for me, I only feel safe doing that through the veil of anonymity that the internet offers me. I’m too afraid to tell any of my loved ones about what I think and how I feel because I know exactly how they are going to react. It is with this prologue that I start my story but before I go any further I would like to apologize for any grammatical or orthographic errors that you may find as English is not my first language.
I was born in Puerto Rico to a mother that wasn’t religious and a father that used to lead a Pentecostal youth group when he was younger but left after he got married to my mother. My father stopped going regularly to church altogether ever since. He still visits one whenever he gets invited though. My mother on the other hand, along with my grandmother and aunt, decided that it was high time that they should join a church. My guess for this sudden interest in going to church was probably due to my birth as many new parents don’t know how to instill in their children good and moral values without the use of religion. Which most likely only got reinforced after my two siblings where born. They all joined a Baptist church but after a few years of being there I noticed that the church had a lot of things that seemed Pentecostal in their theology.
My father was 19 and my mother 23 when they got married after three years of being together. The relationship was rocky from the start. They constantly argued over every minute detail. Needless to say, to the point that this type of story has been repeated to near cliché levels, my father started seeing another woman. This drove my mother wild with jealousy and anger. The arguments only got even more intense and after a few years of my father having the affair they finally settled it with a divorce. Later, my father married the woman he was having the affair with.
This whole thing of course left me completely devastated. During this whole time I was constantly pleading to God to save my parent’s marriage, but to no avail. I was just left with accepting that this whole event was somehow God working his “mysterious ways” as I was told in church. I of course naively accepted it, but I wasn’t happy with it. The whole thing made me spiral into a deep depression that took me over a decade to get over. Because of that depression I became recluse in my thoughts, a loner who would rather stay at home all day than to go out and have fun and to this day I can honestly say that I have never had a real friend. I’m not a very trusting person basically.
After filing the divorce my mother got custody of me and my two younger siblings. My dad went on to live with his new wife and fathered two children. I still got to see him whenever my mother allowed it and after a few years I eventually warmed up to the other woman that was in my father’s life. Forgiving the woman that destroyed my parent’s marriage was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I couldn’t let the grudge that was eating me away continue any further. My mother on the other hand… well lets just say that she needs to learn how to let go. Sometimes I wonder if she ever will.
Because of the divorce my mother, being unable to find someone who would take care of me and my two siblings when she worked, used to drop us of at her mother’s house. Please note that this was the same grandmother I was talking about earlier and that since her conversion has become extremely religious. I remember her constantly telling me how much Jesus loved me all the while saying that if I didn’t believe in him I would suffer everlasting torment in a fiery pit. She would also demonize and dehumanize any person that was not acceptable to her faith: Christians of other denominations, people of other religions, atheists, homosexuals, etc. But my grandmother was nothing compared to her husband. He, a non-practicing Catholic, ruled the house with an iron fist. I couldn’t even get a glass of water without him giving me a hateful glance. The only thing that my two siblings and I were able to do without so much as a peep from him was to watch TV, but even that was sometimes out of the question. Fortunately for me (I guess?), my mother told me how much he had mellowed down. The stories that she told me about the things that he did to her were far worse that anything that he ever did to me. This of course made me even more fearful of him as I then knew what he was capable of doing. The fact that I was living in such a toxic environment, just after the divorce coupled with my depression, made me into a person whose life was constantly filled with fear.
I tried to counter that fear by going to church more and participating in the activities that they offered. The thing I most excelled at was doing pantomimes. I remember all the happy faces I saw and all the compliments that were given to me as they saw a child, later a teenager, following the path of God. But it took me awhile to realize that all the things that I was doing for the church and Jesus were done out of fear and to impress others. I didn’t want it to be this way so I did what I thought was the only solution and accepted Jesus as my savior. I was 16 when I got baptized and just before I got submersed the pastor suddenly went to, of all the people that where present there, me. She told me that God had a BIG plan for me. My family was ecstatic to know that I was singled out like that and I too was at the time. This made believe that I would be entering a new chapter in my life and that this was a signal that showed me that everything that I learned at church was true.
For the first few months after my baptism I saw things with a brand new light. I was finally a soldier of God ready to fight in the spiritual war that every Christian must face. Yet after the first few months I saw that, except for me finally being a true member of the church after accepting Jesus, my life was basically still the same. My family members still argued, I still wasn’t a very trusting person, and my fear of hell was still present at the back in my mind. I accepted Jesus hoping that my fear of hell would go away and that my life would change for the better if I just tried hard enough. Doubts began to pour in, but I just flicked them away, believing that it was nothing more than the work of Satan.
The doubts only got worse after I entered college. There I learned what I always knew to be true but afraid to admit: that to be a person with good morals you don’t have to be a Christian. From there I started to question everything. From the creationism, which wasn’t all that hard since I accepted evolution from an early age due to the fact that the first thing that I wanted to be was a paleontologist (I just love dinosaurs), to the supposed goodness and all-knowingness of God. It was just too much for me to bear. The contradictions and ridiculousness that I was seeing in the supposed infallible holy book were all too apparent. Eventually the thought of people suffering everlasting torment for simply not believing was the final straw. At 18 years of age, after all the stuff that I was told to believe, I placed myself in front of the mirror and uttered the sentence that changed my life: I’m not a Christian anymore.
Ceasing to be a Christian is not the only thing that my family might find scandalous. It’s just that… well… I’m gay. And it doesn’t help that my entire family is homophobic. I knew that I was different from an early age but my religious upbringing made me put those feelings away. The word “Man” brought connotations that I knew were unreachable to me because to be one meant that I would have to lie to myself in order to make everyone else happy. I have managed to keep it hidden though as I’m not flamboyant.Plus, to anyone who thinks that I left the faith because I'm gay, I just want to tell you all that I came to terms with my sexuality only after leaving it.
Saying that I’m scared stiff to come out of the two closets that I’m in would be an understatement. I don’t doubt for a minute that things will get violent. My family has had a history of going so far as trying to kill each other. It amazes me how there hasn’t been a death already. Knowing that they will never accept me for who I am, no matter what I tell them, has made me think of committing suicide. I still have that roaming through my mind. It's a horrible thought, I know. But what can I do? I have no friends to which I can go to for support. My family is all I have. Plus, if I tell them that I don’t believe in Christianity anymore they will probably scream at my face the event that happened at my baptism as proof that God wants me to follow him and that Satan is making me stray from his path. I don’t know how to counter that argument. The baptism scene was a really emotional event for them. I feel that I’m between a rock and a hard place whenever I imagine the scene that would take place when one of them asks me to explain that event. If there’s a logical explanation to what happened to me at my baptism, I haven't thought of one yet.
I’m 19 now and my aunt has taken the liberty to constantly ask me why I haven’t been going to church. The last time I went was during a Father’s Day celebration that my former church had last year. My aunt has recently replaced my grandmother as the gung-ho churchgoer of the family and she has become demanding at times with such questions. How will I be able to pass through those questions without going mad or coming out of the two closets? Or even ending it all so that I could finally seek peace? I only hope that I have the strength for it. I really hope I do.
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