Monday, February 11, 2013

Existentialist Post-Modern Gay Christian Agnostic

Last month I wrote a post about what it means to be a Christian Agnostic. Since then I've expanded the label a bit further. Why? Let me explain by defining each word.

I consider myself an existentialist in the sense that I choose my own path and my own meaning. Whether or not the choice is actually mine to make; whether or not my choices are pre-ordained or being controlled by a outside entity; whether or not the atoms and molecules that comprise my being and the environment around me produce a definite and unchangeable path: I cannot say and will not argue. (Another reason for choosing the agnostic label.) For me, being an existentialist means taking responsibility for my own choices, and taking ownership of what I want my life to mean.

I started with existentialist because not only do I take ownership of my life’s meaning, I take ownership of any labels and how they are applied. Post-modern can mean different things to different people. For me, it means questioning (not necessarily rejecting) everything about God that I learned as a child. It means deconstructing what it means to be a Christian, and whether or not the word Christian even applies. It also means deconstructing any words or concepts that I once accepted at face value. (See here and here for my posts on the word compromise, which is an example of taking a word and redefining it to mean something better than it has come to mean. You could even say it is an attempt to “redeem” the word.)

My sexual orientation is a sexual attraction to men, but it also goes a bit deeper than that. Because of the intense shame associated with this part of my identity, it became a huge shadow. As part of my journey, as a major life task, I’ve had to integrate this part of my identity into my whole self. Being gay also has provided me with two incredible gifts: (1) being gay gives me the privilege and responsibility of being a member of a community which is striving to be integrated into society at large and (2) being gay has provided a glimpse of how I’ve been born into privilege in every OTHER way. I am a white, male American without any worries for my physical needs. My only point of experiential empathy for those who have been oppressed is being a part of the LGBT community.

Being a Christian was the most comprehensive part of my identity from birth until deep into my 20s. Every member of my family identifies as an evangelical Christian. I went to church, attended a K-12 Christian school, went to Christian college, worked for Christian employers, and later, saw Christian psychologists and went to a Christian-based ex-gay group. I attempted to reject God and Christianity, but I eventually found that I could not. It was too much a part of my identity. Therefore, I’ve chosen to integrate it into my worldview. My journey is all about living out what it means to be a true Christian, a true follower of Christ, as opposed to being a Christianist. I choose to relate to God and the world through Jesus and his teachings. It’s who I strive to be.

Perhaps this is a cop-out, but I include this term in order to be intellectually honest. I don’t know who or what God is or even if God exists. If God does exist, I have chosen to relate to God through Jesus. This act is my “leap of faith.” The term also refers to my own attempt at intellectual humility and openness. I don’t want to be so closed-minded that I’m not able to change when new evidence comes to light.

I consider this blog an expression of what I am and who I am becoming. No doubt it is all a bit self-indulgent! I share all these stories and details, however, so that I can reach out in honesty. My hope is that these thoughts inspire you to think critically about your own labels, your own beliefs, and how you define your own meaning of life.


Rob Davis said...

This is great!

I used to call myself an existentialist, but while I still resonate with a lot of existentialist writing, I've also found that it can become a sort of machoism (Caputo talks about this). I read a really good book awhile back called "How To Be An Existentialist" and I thought I would write a followup at some point called "How To Be An Existentialist...Without Being An Asshole."

Kevin said...

Thx for reading Rob. LOL I would love to read that follow-up! I think, as a gay person, the existentialist part was necessary for me to "take control" and break free from the traditional Christian view of homosexuality.

paul said...

Great stuff Kevin.
Being gay and being born into a fundamentalist Christian family reminds me of the movie "The Jerk." It is kind of a gauche gift, but I get and appreciate where you are coming from. Being gay was my salvation from fundamentalism and has also grown a heart in me that might never have developed without some experience of living in the margins.

Kevin said...

Paul - thanks. I agree wholeheartedly about having "a heart that might never have developed." Also, hoping The Jerk is on Netflix cuz that's going on the instant queue! Haven't seen that in ages.

belongfellow said...

Enjoyed the post. Each definition is well-articulated.