Tuesday, March 13, 2007


On a recent visit "home," I went to hang out with a friend who is a pastor and an all-around health nut, which I strive not to hold against him. He asked, in the inquiring way he has, whether I had found a church yet. And I found I had to say a couple of things which surprised me.

First, that I could see that the lack of a church community was part of my problem -- I was trying to do on my own what you can really only do with the support of friends. Then, I realized why I was having so much trouble even thinking about finding a church: it would mean admitting that I was no longer a part of my home church, and that goes a lot deeper than the fact that my wife happens to be a leader of it -- both of my parents joined as young people, and all four of their parents were members. Cutting that tie is something that I really can barely contemplate. And yet, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that I will ever be able to go back... as I had to admit when my friend suddenly adopted a serious and pressing tone to make sure that I DID know that. Didn't I? Yes, I do. I just can't bear, at the moment, to make the decision to sever a connection that has twenty years of connection riding on it along with the meaning for my own past.

That was brought home to me again by my Daylight Savings visit to the church here in town: the new members being admitted were in exactly the position I would be in -- giving up membership in some other body to join this one, though one of them was maintaining her membership in her childhood church because she could not bear to sever the connection. I knew at once that that was my story as well.

I just can't do it.

For all the years I spent fuming and bitching about what was wrong with that congregation, my connection to it goes back as far as my earliest memories. And there's just no solace to be found in cutting yourself off from your earliest memories, not when so many other deaths have come thick and fast in the last year or so.

Enough is enough.

From my response to Edward Saïd's comments on exile:

I wrestled for the better part of a year with the moral issues around the long-delayed but suddenly burning necessity to come out as a gay man, and have been wrestling for the last seven or eight months with the fall-out from that decision, which included the end of my marriage and, in almost every respect, life as I knew it.

Most of the people I knew “before” and many of the people I have met “since” view the issue as an either/or situation and admit only two possibilities:

either I loved my wife and should stay despite everything else
[which in fact I longed to do],

or I had been lying for over twenty-five years and should get out,
the sooner the better.

Neither option even vaguely represents the truth of the matter, for in fact I have loved only one person in my life, and leaving her has been the bitterest experience of that life. She is the “home” I mourn. While I have to say that I have in general met with nothing but kindness in the “gay community” — “whatever that may be,” as Saïd would say — it was fairly bitter to find pretty much the same views of my “options” there, and as a result I have wrestled long and hard with the feeling that I no longer fit in anywhere.

It was only on [reading Saïd] that I was given a name for what had overwhelmed me, and a framework for understanding it... “exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience… no sooner does one get accustomed to it than its unsettling force erupts anew.”

This not only literally describes my life in the last six months, but allows me to grasp a process that had in fact been going on for several years, beginning with my slow “banishment” from the business in which I had made a living for almost thirty years. I have been slowly pushed out of one refuge after another, and so I resonate deeply to the fate of the peoples Saïd describes as having been repeatedly exiled by the events of History with a capital “H”. It rings just as true for history with the smallest possible “h”.

Perhaps Saïd’s most profound statement is that the experience of the modern exile is compounded by “living with the many reminders… that your home is not in fact so far away, and that the normal traffic of everyday contemporary life keeps you in constant but tantalizing and unfulfilled touch with the old place.

AMEN to that.

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