It’s seen as a cliché to say that Jesus loves me or Jesus loves you. We do use that phrase much too often. But I would like to point out that Jesus loves us. Even with all the times that we’ve sung “Because the Bible Tells Me So,” it is still worth hearing and talking about.
Less than a month ago, I believed God hated me. Even with years working at a Baptist seminary, my PhD, and a decade of sharing my Christian witness, I had come to a point in my life where I doubted whether God loved me.
I fell on my knees after my wife and children had gone to bed and prayed. It was a night in November, when I knew I was going to be fired from my job and hard times awaited my family. The stress of dealing with a hostile administration had taken a toll on my health, and I had suffered for weeks with a loud, hacking cough that frightened people.
I was hanging on, trying to keep a public face of strength and resolve. Inside I had arrived at the dreaded doubt: was I really saved? How, if a professing Christian institution had come to regard me as so unredeemable and unworthy of respect, could God really love me? Everything had gone against me since I had first come forward with my testimony in 2012, my story of growing up in a gay home and coming out of homosexuality with the help of Jesus Christ.
For this testimony I had given up tenure, 95% of my friends, and all of my family except for one cousin, one sibling, and my father. People drifted away one by one, convinced I was a bigot or insane, or fearful that the backlash against me would affect them. Now the impossible had happened: it seemed I had been struck by lightning twice. My scholarship had now turned into a dead end since I knew publishers would not go near me. And the conservatives who had gestured support were wobbling, many of them intimating that they couldn’t help me and I was on my own.
My children and wife were precious to me. They had been my one pleasure and joy through all of this ordeal. But I wondered whether I could endure the pain of knowing I had failed them and could not provide for them. Seeing them poor and helpless would hurt me more than feeling those things myself.
It seemed that I was living the premonition of Psalm 1: “the
way of the wicked shall never lead to prosperity.”
The cough and illness compounded everything. No matter how many times I read Job or Ecclesiastes, I could not tame the demon in my mind that told me that I had angered God, and He had gone against me.
Somehow that night I did nothing to harm myself. The sound of my son waking up unexpectedly shook me from my thoughts. He wandered across the hall and started pulling on the locked door to see if it would open. At that moment, I thought to myself that even if God had created me for destruction—even if I was going to Hell—I ought to hang in for long enough to care for my children and wife.
I did not sleep at all that night, but awoke the next day and made it to campus to teach my last few classes. Keeping my focus on the material I had to teach, I spoke nothing about my fears of being damned. The next night I prayed again for a sign, and my sickness seemed to get worse. Everything looked ominous and hopeless.
The events of the next few weeks led to a dramatic reversal. After asking the seminary multiple times for written notice about my job status, the termination letter finally came. I had taught my last classes. Now I was free to speak out, if I had to. I hesitated about what to do. Then some students texted me to let me know that the administrators on campus were spreading rumors that I had been fired because I was acting strange and was mysteriously missing from classes and meetings. So it seemed that events were forcing my hand. As much as I had wanted to part ways from the job in a peaceful way, I had to protect my own family’s future by going to the public with the truth about what had happened.
The administrators at the seminary had tried to force me to stop sharing my testimony about overcoming abuse in the gay community and being delivered from homosexuality. They had done so in secret meetings and had put nothing in writing. They had called me in again and again with the same manipulative pressure. I knew that if the public knew this—including my students—it would hurt many people’s confidence in the seminary and might shake their faith. I didn’t want to drag any of this into the public square.
Yet in the gospel of Matthew we are counseled to resolve tensions among Christian brothers in a process I had respected. First, one speaks directly to the person in conflict – I had done that. Then, one brings others’ brothers as witnesses. I had done that in subsequent meetings. Then, if no resolution comes, one brings the issue to the church. If I allowed the seminary to malign me and hide the reasons that had led to my firing, I would be endangering my own ability to care for my family and also failing to be a watchman for the Lord before a corrupted church.
I worked hard with a team of people to come up with a careful public statement explaining, fact by fact, what had led to my termination. Once that was released, I received a flurry of interview requests. The seminary’s backlash was swift but terribly ill-advised. In a harsh statement posted to the seminary’s website and pushed through social media, the administration claimed I had made up the whole story about being told not to discuss homosexuality. They pulled out brand new claims that had never been raised to me before—the curriculum had supposedly changed so I wasn’t needed anymore, and also students had been complaining about me. The statement consisted of unconscionable lies but it circulated rapidly in the Christian community, and now, on December 4, it seemed that the forces arrayed against me were only seconds away from completely destroying me.
Picture, if you will, a lone archer facing an army of thousands. Picture that the archer has only one arrow in his quiver, and he faces an onslaught of projectiles flying at him. With one arrow, the archer will lose—unless God is with that archer. I had one arrow left: I had secretly recorded some of the meetings and kept copies of emails that would easily disprove the seminary’s claims and expose them for defying the gospel message on homosexuality as well as abusing and lying about an innocent employee.
As I sent the files to the team at Enemies within the Church, I had to entrust them with my only arrow left. Like Paris shooting at Achilles’ heel, I had to aim carefully and would not have a second chance. But at last, I let the arrow fly. The recordings and evidence were published in the afternoon on the 6th of December, only a couple of hours before the successful premiere of The Lady and the Girl, a play I had written and directed.
As we acted out The Lady and the Girl, I felt a strange sensation overcome me. I realized that there were too many coincidences and alignments for any of these strange events to be in the control of man. It was obvious to me that God controlled the events.
And it was obvious to me, at last, that God didn’t hate me.
He chose me for a harrowing task. How does one force a devout Baptist community
to face the corruption in one of their most treasured institutions? How does
one expose the corruption and dishonesty among the most powerful people in the
city—men who can summon millions of dollars and crush their opponents with only
one phone call?
If God had not toughened me with those months of hardship, I would not have been prepared for the moment when it came. It seems that once the evidence was published, I have been fully vindicated, but that isn’t really what matters. God loves His church and His people. He does not want them to be told lies. His rage will burn hot against the shepherds if the shepherds betray the flock.
I know I am a sinner and I should never boast in myself. Only in the Lord should I boast. The truth here was that I did something that others would not have done. I stood for God’s truth and waited for His cue, then followed His cue. Some good must come from all this. And then donations came to help me support my family for a time while I launch this website.
God didn’t hate me. I thank God that He didn’t let me abandon Him. Even in the darkest hours He still sent small signs and wonders so I could know that some light awaited me at the end of this tortuous journey.
The last lines of the play I wrote are spoken by Lizzie, the main character: “the Lord is faithful.”
I have launched this media project because the message is the medium and vice versa. I have the means and time to launch this project because of the kindness that overflowed when I had done something dangerous for the Kingdom, exposing corruption in an institution named for Jesus Christ. But also, the message is important.
I know many people who see the gospel losing its footing in the culture worry that we are all under God’s judgment. Even if it is so, God loves the people who abide in Him. I am proof. I will try to get that message out through every genre I can: fiction, commentary, poetry, drama.
And I want to be part of taking back the culture. Let’s begin.