Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Dreams I Have: My Coming Out Speech

I dreamed a dream last night. A vivid dream. I woke in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, went potty, and came back to bed to cuddle up to my bride, happy that it was only a dream.

Enjoy my mind.
The room was dark and dusty. The heat of my computer monitor was pushing against my face. I could feel my lips drying out as I typed a comment on my brother Ted's Facebook status. I have no idea what the status was, but my comment has something to do with being the master of my domain, seriously offending his wife in the process.

My brother contacted the religious authorities who sent a woman to apprehend me and drag me to a church service at my old church, Normandale Baptist in Bloomington, Minnesota.  I put up a fight, which I am known to never do - and lost. She stopped my right hook with an open palm grab of my fist and lightly pushed my arm back, nearly dislocating my bum shoulder. Beaten at what was not my game, I willingly followed her.

Entering the large auditorium of the church, I was met with the smell of candle wax mixed with the salty sweat of the worship service. The woman who had brought me disappeared and I walked up the center aisle. People began to notice me, recognized who I was, and started to whisper, elbowing their kids and friends to get their attention. The volume of muttering into ears coalesced into a singular message:
Joe is back!
My chest swelled inside of me as I began to feel like a sort of celebrity. I knew that they viewed me with seething hatred. I was everything that was wrong with the world - an atheist. Someone who, in their view, hated their god, and wanted them to die a slow, horrible death. 

I sat down beside Ted, at the end of the pew and saw his wife and her extended family frown and begin to talk amongst each other. Then, the sanctuary became silent and a voice, unknown to me, began to speak about the forgiveness of God. 

He spoke of how God would forgive you if you confessed your sin to the congregation. Confessing to God in secret, while good, was not as effective at bringing about repentance, as telling everyone within earshot what a filthy, vile, rotten sinner you were, quickening the pace of peer-pressured assimilation.

Then, the gentleman asked if someone wanted to confess a sin. I couldn't make out his face, but his words were directed toward me.

I stood. Ted rose with me in unison. Laying my hand on his shoulder and giving him a light push down, I whispered, "Sit down, buddy. I got this."

Then, I said the worst words a sinner could ever say in a large church auditorium, seething with rage at his very presence:
I am not a Christian and I'm very happy.
Those nine words lit a fuse in that room. A collective gasp went through the crowd like lightning. Women screamed out. Men shielded the faces of their small children. I turned slowly around in a circle, gazing across the people that I had just affected, seeing the anger, the hurt pride, the sadness, the weeping, the pity. In the entire crowd, I saw only one person looking straight at me, a smile splitting his face from ear to ear - Pastor Chuck Raichert.

I continued. I began to tell the crowd about my journey. How I took my faith very seriously, then walked out of it, just as seriously, all the time, weaving a thread of humor through my life. Yes, I was very serious, thoughtful, and careful in my beliefs, and yet I had a lot of fun. I never settled for the status quo. My worst offense against me was that I didn't question enough. And now, my worst offense is that maybe, just maybe, I question too much. But, as I told them, I was much healthier and happier.

As I spoke, everyone got up. They began to leave the church en masse. Some were running, tripping over each other. Heads would turn, looking over their shoulders, sprinting for the door, their faces plastered with a fear that I had only felt once in my life. These people were legitimately afraid of me. I was death incarnate to them. The devil in sheep's clothing. A false angel of light.

At last, the auditorium was empty and my words continued spilling from my lips, echoing into the furthest reaches of the triple balconies. Everyone was gone. Everyone, save one man.

Pastor Chuck Raichert, now slouched comfortably in his pew, three rows behind me, across the aisle - still smiling. I stopped speaking as he opened his mouth.
Welcome home, Joe.


  1. Oh my. Very vivid dream. Lots of details there. Before you left the church, did you think you would lose all your friends? did you lose them? Did you seek the approval of this Pastor when you were there? It also seems significant that it looks like your brother doesn't approve of your change of heart?

    1. "Did you think you were going to lose all your friends?"

      Yes. Maybe. No. I didn't really have any close friends. Everyone knew me or knew about me, but, I knew, if I left, I wouldn't have people working overtime to come see me. Of course, that doesn't mean that I didn't want to be liked by everyone after I left - which I invariably did. But that, in itself, was unhealthy. It stunted my growth in finding who I was after.

      So, yes. I lost most of my friends. I did some activities, like softball, that kept me around a bit, but it was awkward.

      "Did you seek the approval of this Pastor when you were there?"

      I sought the approval of everyone. I knew how to play the game. I was always good at the game. And this pastor seemed like he loved my humor. One day, I sat on the other side of his desk and got him laughing. He finished and then looked me straight in the eye and said, "Joe, one thing I love about you, is that you can look back and laugh at your life. And, above all, you still love Jesus."

      I remember that to this day like he's sitting right across from me. So yeah, I know I would be a disappointment to him. But I'm very happy and actually don't care about that so much.

      "It also seems significant that it looks like your brother doesn't approve of your change of heart?"

      My siblings do and they don't. It's all very complicated. But I don't talk negatively about them in private or in public, unless they deserve it, of course. :P

  2. I had a lot of vivid dreams (and still do) wrestling with losing faith. I just disappeared from my church, though, like a coward. Did you officially tell anyone when you left?

    1. And you're not a coward. Human beings do the right thing for themselves, to survive. Obviously, telling those that could potentially hurt you wasn't a good choice. Taking the easy road is, many times, the right decision.

  3. I left too?? Wow! I probably had something in my dreams that night to which I had to attend.

    1. Although, I don't know why I would have been there. We don't attend there anymore.

      And, the auditorium in which you ended was probably Edison High School - at least that's how I imagine it.

    2. Actually, the auditorium was more like the one in Fletch Lives.

    3. As you know, dreams aren't necessarily anchored in present reality, rather grabbing many memories from your past, and mushing them up to make a sweet narrative about....nothing.