“I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”
- Pope Francis
More than three years ago, I declared my Catholicism to God during a ceremony known as "Confirmation". As a Catholic, you are baptized into believing in God as a baby through your parents. Growing up, you are taught the Christian belief, learning lessons from Biblical parables that teach us how to act towards one another. When you enter the age of Confirmation, you declare to God and your church that you are choosing his love with your full consciousness (as babies, our parents decide for us).
Growing up, I learned to be kind to everyone I meet. I did my best to treat others as I would like to be treated. I learned lessons from stories about Jesus' life and aspired to grow up spreading his love wherever I go.
But I also grew up to become intolerant.
It was true that I had to share Christ's love with everyone I met, and I did. This was unless you were something else. I grew up believing that unless you believed in God, you would spend your afterlife in hell. I grew up with a vision of a perfect life with my loving children with my beloved wife, whom I would never break a vow with.
I also grew up believing it was wrong to be Gay.
And for so long, I rejected what I am because of how I was taught. My uncle would always tell me that I would be disowned if I grow up to be gay. I was taught to grow up to be this brutish male figure that society would accept. I was taught that lying with someone of the same sex is a sin that Christ would never forgive.
As much as I was taught to love, I was also taught to be hateful.
I always thought to myself that I would do everything I can for God to accept me to his kingdom regardless of my apparent great sin. So I did everything right. I attended church every Sunday with my family. I prayed when I wake up, before every meal, before driving, when I pass a church, and before bed. I volunteered to teach younger kids about the gifts of God. I was involved in everything I could be in that had to do with God, so he would accept me.
But one day, I snapped.
The first time I questioned my beliefs was the first time my mom kicked me out for not reading the Bible with her at night. My mom was always a loving woman. She taught me to be kind to everyone and to spend my life proud of my religion. But I was mercilessly told to leave her household for not reading the Bible for one night. Almost a year later, I became homeless, surviving between my friend's houses and the mercy of their family. I remember praying and asking God, "Why me? I did everything right. Is it because I like boys?"
But no matter how much I went to church and prayed, I was still some mediocre student eating whatever I could from someone else's hand.
In those times, I believed God was cruel as he was loving.
I always believed that it was because of my sexual orientation that I was being punished. My grandmother always taught me that if I even had the slightest thought of liking another man, God would act upon it and punish me. So it was then when I denounced my faith.
So what am I? I am not an Atheist if that's what you're wondering. I never switched religions either, although some Buddhist and Hindu beliefs did spark some thoughts in the past. There were, of course, those fancy religions that I thought were cool, like The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and The National Church of Beyonce.
Let's be real, Christianity has brought so much pain throughout history. In the past, we were told to pay Indulgence to reduce the punishment for our sins, even though we are taught that money had no power in God's kingdom. Spanish Colonialism spread God's love all over the world, but in doing so, they spread brutality and disease to establish a new religious order. We were taught about how women should be stoned for being adulterers, or burned if they showed signs of witchcraft. How many religious wars have we started under the banner of God? How many have we condemned to be unworthy of God's love? How many Quran's have the Westboro Baptist Church burned? How many Jews died in the Holocaust? How many times have we oppressed women as "whores"? How many times have gay people been judged, oppressed, or executed for being what they are?
Today was a sign of tolerance. I hope that Pope Francis' urge for apologies to the LGBT community sparks a change in the Christian belief. While Christianity was always meant to be accepting and loving, there are some who wish to use God's words as weapons of oppression.
So the question remains- what religion am I?
I don't know.
Let it be known that I do not hate Catholicism or Christianity. As much as I felt (and sometimes, continue to feel) a little degraded, my belief and my moral system was based on what I was taught growing up. I just hate how people use God's light to spread darkness unto the world. No other religion resonates with me as much as Christianity does.
And to be honest, I can see a change. I see it in my family's eyes when they see me with my boyfriend, Austin, who also happens to be Christian. They grew to love him, and, love me for who I am. Austin taught me that, one day, if I decide to mend my faith with Christ, he would accept me again. He taught me that the most important lesson God has ever taught us was to forgive. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll come back.
But to the people who use Christianity as a form of oppression, just remember:
THE LEADER OF YOUR RELIGION LITERALLY TOLD YOU TO APOLOGIZE FOR SPREADING HATRED. LISTEN TO HIM.
Because if you don't, wouldn't you be sinning as well?
If you are ever fighting a Christian homophobe who keeps saying that Leviticus line about lying with a man, just remember:
1. Unless they follow every single law in the Old Testament, they have no right to quote Leviticus and condemn you for being gay.
2. Unless all their clothes are made of one fabric, they are sinning.
3. I also hope you don't eat pork, because “And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you,” says Leviticus. 11:7–8 (Oh, hey, Leviticus)
4. Also, shrimp. "Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is an abomination to you. They shall remain an abomination to you; of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall have in abomination. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you.” Leviticus chapter 19, verses 9-12
5. "You, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, you are condemning yourself." Romans 2:1
6. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" James 2:10
More love, less hate. Happy LGBT Pride Month.