For the protection of those involved, names of organizations, names of people, and dates have been changed.
The following story and situations are written here from the personal experiences of two individuals – Jeff and Ryan. This exposé is not intended to legitimize or de-legitimize any faith-based systems. Rather, this is solely meant to expose the hypocrisy and corruption within particular evangelical circles. Ryan is well acquainted with many of the cultural shortcomings of the evangelical environment and can intelligently speak on the sub-culture that exists within. For the majority of his life, Ryan was part of the evangelical culture that force fed a mentality of fear, hypocrisy, and shame. As a progressive Christian, Ryan no longer identifies with the same motivational forces as espoused by popular evangelicalism. Jeff has found himself entrenched in the evangelical culture, primarily by chance. Through taking an odd job as a media broker for a small brokerage firm, Jeff’s experience as an outsider has allowed him to examine the evangelical culture through an uncontaminated lens.
Sam’s Radio and Televsion, LLC is a media brokerage firm based out of the basement of a right-wing, conservative, Christian, closeted homosexual named Sam in a major US city. Sam is the product of an ultra-conservative, late Southern Baptist preacher, former head of a well renowned Christian association. Sam was recently victim to a ponzi scheme that forced him to file bankruptcy and liquidate his former media company Previous LLC. At this point in time, Sam attempted to reinvent himself through initiating another media brokerage firm that deals exclusively with Christian ministries and a product based company that sells apocalyptic preparation materials; exclusively linked to end time ministries.
The relationship between Sam and I (Jeff) began when Sam recruited me from a local fine dining establishment where I was his requested server. Sam fancied my appearance and attempted to court me through several casual outings, dinners, winky face texts, movie dates, promised financial support – all while pretending to have a heterosexual, platonic friendship. The issue is not with “here’s a gay man clearly hitting on a heterosexual male that is several years his junior,” or as Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza remind us, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but the fact that his intentions were dishonest – both with himself and I. Sam eventually offered me a job by promising nearly everything under the sun; I was promised a generous salary, company sponsored travel accommodations, extremely flexible work schedule, and virtually no expectation for work performance. It was clear that Sam simply wanted me to find my way to his office every day – hiring me was the easiest way to fulfill this desire. However, I saw this opportunity with a high amount of skepticism, yet, saw it as a lucrative opportunity with a guaranteed salary and extra time to focus on graduate studies. For me, this job was a temporary means to an end. For Sam, this job was also a temporary means to an end.
In my first month of employment, Sam escorted me to Dallas, Texas to meet with the largest LGBT church in the world. My understood role was to accompany Sam on a business meeting to discuss the terms of a potential media sale. However, Sam had a very different agenda. Due to flight complications, I had arrived nearly four hours before Sam. Sam insisted through text that he and I get drunk that night in order to “blow off” steam because of travel complications. After Sam arrived at the airport, he attempted to impress me through renting a sports car and putting us up in one of the premier hotels in downtown Dallas – a business trip costing far more than the long-term value of the sale. Personally, I didn’t believe this basement based office could finance such a lavish business trip. Skepticism peaked when Sam “found out” that only one room had been booked, of which he blamed on the concierge. To divert attention away from the situation, Sam again insisted that he and I hit the hotel bar to “blow off” some steam. Knowing my limits, yet wanting to enjoy myself, I ordered two Dewar’s on the rocks. Sam, however, ordered two Cosmos and a Long Island Iced Tea. Now tell me, is that the drink choice of a straight man trying to unwind? Again, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
After several failed attempts to further intoxicate me, we retired to the one bed suite where Sam did not offer pulling out the couch, bringing in a cot, or having anyone sleep on the floor – he simply left the ball in my court. Fortunately, I discovered the pull-out couch while Sam was relieving himself in some way in the bathroom. The following day was marked with considerable distance. So much so that Sam switched hotels, booked separate rooms, and resigned himself to solitude for the remainder of the trip… with one unintended encounter.
Sam had claimed that he was feeling under the weather on the second night and could not attend the dinner reservation that had been made. After eating my dinner alone and watching some of the World Series at the hotel bar, I returned to my room at a decent hour only to witness Sam’s hidden vice, or at least his self-perceived vice. Upon walking past Sam’s room, I witnessed what appeared to be a much younger Hispanic male escorted from Sam’s room as Sam uttered the simple phrase, “enjoy”. Stunned, I quickly called my roommate Ryan to validate my hunch and to verbally process through what I believed to have seen. During this time Sam quickly sent me a message over social media, claiming that the individual that he had potentially seen was a family friend living in Dallas. Sam gave me the exact name of the individual – an individual that I discovered had no connection to Dallas, lived in Clearwater, Florida, and was not Hispanic. From that point forward, Sam’s attitude towards me grew increasingly hostile, cold, condescending, and hyper critical of my work performance.
For Sam, this part of his identity had been hidden for so long. Few people knew of the lifestyle he dreamed he could openly have but secretly lived. The evangelical culture from which Sam grew and developed out of has its ideology deeply rooted in fear, abstinence, damnation, and shame. Popularized through the loudest evangelical voices of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, as well as many other current evangelical microphones, homosexuality is often viewed as grounds for condemnation, sexual deviance, and the downfall of American culture. See, Sam could only dream of openly living this lifestyle because of the culture from which he arrived and the expectations that had been set up for him by his family. Sam not only represents the gay community at large that has to navigate through the conservative labyrinth of American culture, but he also represents hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians that seek to identify themselves as homosexual but feel as though they are abandoning everything they know.
There is a true fear in being the anomaly in the social group – to be the one that is different – especially when that difference represents eternal condemnation. There is a real and true sense of shame, guilt, depression, and anxiety in the evangelical world that overwhelms a person when he or she tries to express who they truly believe they are. While Sam’s struggle with being himself lied in his gayness, Christians across the entire spectrum feel this power structure impressing upon them with every decision they make. The problem lies in the fact that while Christians may be truly convinced that something is not morally wrong, objectionable, or grounds for condemnation, we still condemn ourselves because of the system we have allowed to infiltrate our worldviews. It is essential for us to break the mold of self-condemnation and self-oppression and allow ourselves to engage in new experiences, hear new perspectives, and open ourselves to who we really are.
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