I recently left a comment on a muse’s blog in which I expressed my issue with religion. I'm not sure how this all came about but most SGL men I have met appear to have problems with religion. I initially avoided this topic on my blog but recent events have compelled me to open up.
I was raised in a predominately African-American Baptist church. My maternal grandparents and their daughters attended the church for many decades. I was christened and baptized there and accomplished all the usual church activities including serving as an usher, singing in the choir, attending Sunday school and performing in the annual Easter pageant. Many of our childhood babysitters have been church members and I even had my first crush and met my first and only girlfriend in church. My musical talent emerged by observing the musicians and from 2002 through 2007, I served as keyboardist for the men's choir. Essentially, I am no stranger to the black church environment and I think of the church as an extension of my family.
The two significant difficulties I have with religion is 1) the pastor and 2) my doubts. Now, my issue with the pastor is a love/hate relationship and unfortunately it affects my feelings concerning religion. This particular minister is a womanizer and known to frequent the red light district. Some of his "female" problems have even surfaced during service! Furthermore, he's exceedingly shady pertaining to money and has excluded many long-time members who did not subscribe to his "vision." Trust, I'm not the only bitter person in the congregation. He recently received a Benz fully paid for by the church on top of his excessive salary and house (also paid for by the church). The best part? They host an anniversary for him every year rather than 5 year milestones (and of course that means more money in his pockets).
Some members of the congregation blindly follow the minister and if he said jump off a cliff, roll in dog s*** and drink piss, they'd do it. Supposedly his "cronies" are forward thinking and many of the traditions and rituals that existed have been abolished and replaced with newer trends. I understand change but I occasionally yearn for the old ways. The minister, Reverend Lies, has been attempting to recruit me as the principal musician because I possess a modern, contemporary style in comparison to the current organist/pianists. Personally, I’m offended because I regard the older musicians as inspirations and deeply respect them. Never in a million years could I replace them.
Naturally, these issues indirectly affect me but colored my perception of the leadership. Many deacons left in disgust and his "cronies" stepped in to protect his back. While various members do complain, somehow he's still in charge. Unfortunately, my family was stung by his greediness following my maternal grandmother’s passing and he and my late grandfather had a falling out regarding money. My mother has turned her back on the church and though they preach the "Christian" message of "love thy neighbor," they basically turned their backs on us. Welcome to the Holy Black Mafia (H.B.M.).
I left the church in 1999 for college and my sexual orientation transpired. I learned about diverse religions and philosophies and consequently questioned the existence of God. To this day, I still struggle with doubt. The concept of miracles, life after death, and weekly worship of an "invisible" deity all seem a bit backwards and anti-progressive to me. My parents are somewhat religious and especially so on my father's side. My cousin is a minister and my late paternal grandparents were the strict, old school, Southern types who believed in the Bible and church EVERY Sunday no matter what. I seem to be the odd duck in my family.
I left the men's choir last year in preparation for a return to school. I've enjoyed not going to practice, dealing with the drama (yes, men have as much drama as women!), worrying about performing for special occasions, dressing up nearly every Sunday, etc. I've become increasingly dismayed with the church’s direction and want to dissociate myself. Conversely, I feel as though I'm in a gang for life.
Rev. Lies e-mailed me several days ago to "check up" on me. Sure. Ironic that his deacon, a former choir member, also e-mailed me requesting my assistance with the pastor's 20th anniversary in October. I don't really want to but I still enjoy playing gospel music. I'm quite torn. I want to remain separated and concentrate on my education but there's a nagging feeling that I owe them (i.e. scholarships, my upbringing, my foundation). Furthermore, I’m a hypocrite by pretending to pray and acting humble at church when I'm not as devote as the congregation.
There are a handful of genuine people whom I truly love there but am I willing to wade through the shark infested waters to get to the Isle of Righteous People? And how do you feel regarding religion?