Growing up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist household certainly doesn’t allow a child’s mind to wander too far. By the time I was 14 years old, I had already been homeschooled for 5 years and become an actual preacher boy.
I spent my weekends passing out Biblical tracts door to door and preaching on the streets of Downtown San Antonio. When I say preaching, I mean screaming at strangers that they must be saved or burn for all eternity in the Lake of Fire. Especially, those who prayed to Mary.
By the time I was 17 years old, I had read dozens of Biblical commentaries, knew all the “Dispensations” (thanks to Clarence Larkin) and memorized more Scripture than my actual Pastor. But throughout all this, something was lurking in my heart and mind that was not compatible with my belief system.
I had come to the realization through much turmoil and struggle, that I was a young gay man. Dealing with such a realization for any young gay teen is hard enough, but when dealing with this as an actual Baptist preacher boy who was called a child prodigy, the struggles become much more painful.
When I finally accepted who I was and decided to come out of the closet to family and friends and church, my world as I knew it completely changed. Each week more and more Baptist Pastors and Deacons visited my home to pray over me. I was no longer welcome as a Preacher until I “got right with God”.
Anger took over my young soul at this point and I did everything you could imagine to rebel. I became the super atheist kid who wrote curses against God on my folders, wrote essays on why God was like Santa Claus, and for a brief period wore nothing but Goth/Punk clothing.
Thankfully, I had worked in the High School’s library and was able to browse the internet whenever I wanted. I was able to learn so many things about other world religions, philosophy, atheism, and science. It was then that I stumbled upon “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine.
This book started me down the path of Enlightenment. After more research, I found the Unitarian Universalist Religion. I read their values and principles and immediately felt, “This is me!”. I missed Church, I missed the community and social gathering. I had to learn more about UU!
I found that there were two UU churches in San Antonio at the time when I was 18. Community Unitarian Universalist & First Unitarian Universalist. I attended the Community one as it was closer to where I lived. I met some amazing people there, some of who I still remember their names.
They eventually had a Youth Lock-In which is like a huge sleepover inside the Church. It was there that I fell in love with the people and the values they shared. I honestly can’t remember exactly how I stopped attending all those years ago, but I do remember moving to San Francisco some time later.
In San Francisco, I had saw that the local UU Church was hiring an Assistant Director for their Religious Education program. I had to apply being the nerd I was and I actually got hired. It was an amazing experience all over again. It was a secondary job though to my actual full time tech job in SF, so I eventually was too overwhelmed and had to quit.
Fast forward about 10 years later, I am now living back in my hometown of San Antonio and again my heart seems called to the local UU Church. I had learned that the Community Unitarian Church was fully merged into the bigger First Unitarian Universalist Church so I decided to try it out.
It was last Sunday that I attended the First UU church and I did so all alone. I was proud of myself for gaining the courage to go even though I am extremely introverted in most situations. I had the most amazing time and even attended the Visitors meeting after service. And as before, I met some really friendly people who shared my values and ideas.
I do not know where this journey will lead me, but I am most certain that I am going to continue attending the UU church and become an official member this time. I am still a gay non-believer when it comes to Christianity, but I know that having the sense of community is extremely important, especially when the values and principles that each other share are for the betterment of the Universe.