Brad Stevens : Austin, TX

My Spiritual Path
... A Journey of a Lifetime.

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It has taken years of counseling and reflection to understand the full impact that the CRC has had on my life. I now understand that my parents did the best they could with my upbringing. Unfortunately, they did not choose to self-educate. Nor were they open to other thoughts or possibilities. As a result, they were simply carrying forward the impact of their own upbringings.
Even though I have reconciled my experience as a child within my family life, I still to this day sometimes experience the sacrosanct thinking that is so prevalent within the CRC. That said, I've come a long way to shedding the impact of the fear-based religion.

Today, I cannot understand how someone could go to church and be willing to subject themselves to the vitriolic hate that is spewed forth from the CRC's pulpits. How someone could be amenable to the idea of being taught that they are superior to others and, thus, able to condemn someone to hell for not having the same beliefs is simply beyond my understanding.
Members of the CRC have been taught a standard response to such accusations. They will very quickly respond that they are only "hating the sin but loving the sinner". That particular phrase is used quite often in the CRC, as well as many other organized religions that are fear-based. The phrase conveniently creates the ability for their members to justify not only their words, but their actions as well. It really just boils down to a justification to treat others the way they deem necessary. Nothing more ... nothing less.

Of course, they view my sexual orientation as a sin. I think that members of the CRC would rather the word 'gay' and 'bisexual' be stricken from the English vocabulary. Most CRC families simply try to ignore the fact that someone may be something other than a heterosexual ... kinda the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" type of philosophy. Indeed, it's one of those 'not so minor' sins that seems to make the CRC'ers feel as if they can treat others other than Jesus would have loved.

They may choose to believe what they wish, for it is certainly their right to do so. However, I draw the line when my partner, myself or our relationship is disrespected. My sisters and brother do not invite my partner to family events ... and, even told me such in no uncertain terms. Years ago, my sister Terri had told me that she did not want me ever mentioning my relationship or my sexuality to her kids. I had respected her wishes. After all, she had the right to raise her kids the way she desired. However, the negative impact that statement had on me was profound ... something that completely escapes her. Years later, my nieces asked me about my relationship. I chose not to lie to them. I told the truth. It's a decision that I am glad I made for a variety of reasons.

Of course, the phrase "love the sinner but hate the sin" is used to justify my siblings actions in these matters. This continues to intrigue me. The Bible teaches that Jesus Himself broke bread with sinners. So, if they view us as living in sin, why do they not mirror the teachings of Christ and live by example? One reason .... fear. Love the sinner all right. Neither my partner nor I are remotely close to feeling the love that they speak of.

As the years went by, my father had taken what he had learned from God's word and applied it to his life. His love for me was not contingent on me being heterosexual or believing in any one specific thing. His love was truly unconditional. I was always welcome in his home along with anyone I wished to bring along with me. I remember the day that I told him of my sexual orientation. The news didn't faze him in the least. He just looked at me and said ... "You're my son and I love you". Case closed.

A few years ago, my father passed away after bearing the disease of Alzheimerís for nearly 20 years. Just prior to his passing, he was transferred to a hospital with Pneumonia. I traveled to Grand Rapids from our home in Austin, TX and was able to spend a week with him prior to his passing. During this time, our family developed tentative plans for his funeral arrangements knowing his passing would happen soon. Even though I had not been on good terms with my siblings, we were able to put differences aside and lend support to each other as well as speak to each other with respect.

Shortly after returning to Austin, I received a call that my father had passed. I fielded the call at midnight and by 11:30AM I was back in Grand Rapids. Upon landing, a cell phone call to my mother found the family in a meeting with the funeral director. I was able to drive from the airport to the funeral home to make the last half hour of the meeting.

Since my career at the time was in event management, I naturally took on the responsibilities of organizing the funeral. Iím glad that I did Ö it kept me quite busy and ended up keeping my mind off from the nasty things to come.

A day later, I looked at the obituary in the Grand Rapids Press and found that it did not contain my partnerís name, as was agreed prior to my fatherís passing (it was supposed to read: ďsurvived by son Brad and his partner John,Ē etc). I asked my mother about the omission. She informed me that prior to my arrival at the funeral home, my siblings said they did not want my partnerís name included in the obituary. My mother apparently conceded. Of course, once I arrived on scene, nothing was said to me about this incident.

What burns my britches is not that my brother and sisters had an issue with my partnerís name appearing in the obituary, but that they didnít have the balls to stand up and say so. Again, itís that ďjust brush it under the rugĒ and maybe itíll go away type of syndrome.

It left me stunned and devastated Ö once again. But, I had learned these type of situations are par for the course when dealing with religious zealots.

After hearing that news, I called each one of my siblings to let them know my partner John would be arriving that very evening. I conveyed the fact that John would be at the viewing as well as the funeral to lend his support. I told them that I didnít call to discuss the issue; I simply called to let them know of this fact and told them that I hoped we could put differences aside for the next few days. The calls went relatively well. I heard a couple quotes from the Bible ... and, none of them welcomed the fact that someone I cared about was going to be there to support me. But, none of them went off the deep end either.

I didnít know what to expect from my siblings over the course of the next couple days. I knew of their zealot nature Ö but thought that, perhaps, in a situation like this, they may offer *some* semblance of empathy. I thought that they may choose to be kind.
My hopes diminished quickly.

They decided to ignore my partner John Ö like he wasnít even there. Only when my partner caught their eye and/or caught them off guard, did they acknowledge his existence. My brother nodded at him once. Woo-hoo! My sister Terri and her husband (who seems to have a lot of emotional issues on the subject ... hmmmm) totally ignored him. And, my sister Vicky conversed very briefly. [NEXT - TO PAGE 3]

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Copyright © 2000 BRAD STEVENS all rights reserved worldwide
Austin, Texas