When you are sure of a thing, absolutely sure of it, what you should do is walk into your bathroom, face the mirror and put your belief into words. Tell yourself the thing you’re sure of. And then tell yourself again. And then again. And, after this exercise, if you still have no doubt that the words you have spoken are absolutely without flaw; that they are beyond all doubt or rebuttal, you should, in that moment of absolute conviction, also entertain the possibility that it is in this very act of conviction that you are mistaken. It is possible that nothing is absolute. Not mass. Not gravity. Not the conservation of energy. Certainly not time. Not abstract ideas like numbers or shapes (unless there exists some absolute and eternal mind in which these ideas can abide forever, and there may be an absolute and eternal mind in which these ideas can abide forever which would only prove that my theory is not absolute).
I was first attracted to the members of Bethel AME because they had something I could, at the time, only dream of having: conviction. It seemed to me, judging by the congregation’s reaction to the first sermon I heard Reverend Dial preach, their shouting of “hallelujah,” and “preach,” and the tears of the woman with the crazy, purple hairstyle during the first choir selection I heard, and the way the reverend hugged me after his sermon and seemed to accept me without reservation as though I were not white and he were not black but as though we were both simply children of God, sinners and wretches as we were, yet loved by God and therefore glowing with purpose and worth, it seemed to me that the people in this church loved God in a way I was unable to love God. And their surety of the existence of God and their love of God was intoxicating to me. It gave me an energy I hadn’t possessed before. I learned that by being in close proximity to those imbued with strong belief, I could be instilled with a feeling that I, too, was sure of God’s love and of my worth in the world.
So, if I were to walk into the bathroom and say the words, “God loves me” three times, what would be the harm? What would such a statement imply? Firstly, it would imply the existence of God. Because if God didn’t exist, the theorem would be fatally flawed. Secondly, it would imply that there is such a thing as love and that I know the definition of the word. Thirdly, it would imply that the One and Only Master and Creator of the Universe does unto me whatever one does unto a person when one “loves” that person. I would be, in other words, the direct object of an undefinable verb acted upon by an undefinable subject. But still, if I were to believe my statement, “God loves me,” absolutely and beyond all doubt and rebuttal, then maybe it would be true for me. And what would the harm be? This strong belief might be the cure for that feeling of meaninglessness and then depression and then contemplation of suicide. And so, what would the harm be?
If Reverend Dial were to walk into his bathroom and faced himself in the mirror, I wonder what he’d say. “Drink is against God’s will.” He might say that. He’s said it before. Or, “Adulterous behavior is against God’s will.” Or, “Murder is against God’s will.” Or, “Homosexuality is against God’s will.”
If God exists and God knows all and God is eternal, then when we speak to God we have no choice but to be naked of deception. We struggle to be truthful for our own sake; not for God’s. We pray for our own understanding; not for Gods’. Before Reverend Dial preaches, he prays that God “. . .decrease the man in me and increase the preacher in me.” He prays, in other words, to be the mouthpiece of the Eternal Truth. Which takes pretty large stones, but if there is to be such a thing as a religion that, at its center, worships one almighty and all-knowing god, then I suppose someone needs step up to the plate and give it a go, because it would do none of us any good to know nothing of our particular almighty and all-knowing god’s will. According to Reverend Dial, in his moments of decreased manhood and increased preacherhood, homosexuality is against the will of God. It says so in the Bible. There can be no doubt about the words. They are inarguable. Beyond all doubt and rebuttal.
A lot of people, if we were to argue this point, will pull out some verse from the Bible to disprove the argument. Another tactic is to pull out one or two obviously errant verses about slavery or dietary restrictions and then to argue that we couldn’t possibly believe, for example, that slavery is a blessed thing or that eating lobster is an evil thing, so how can we believe every word of the Bible? But using the Bible to disprove the Bible is a flawed tactic. It’s like using a poem to disprove the same poem.
But logic, as I can’t help but conclude argument after argument, is a weak tool when turning over anything of importance. Does God exist? What does God want of us? Why are we here? What is death? What is love? What should I do tonight? What movie should I rent? Should I watch it streaming on Netflix, or take a drive to a Red Box? Should I bring home a six pack? If my wife drinks three beers, will she want to sleep with me? What if I bought 16-ouncers? What if I bought two six packs? Would that be too much? What if my wife drinks too much and gets too tired? Maybe I should go with just one six pack. Is it enough? What if I buy two and hide one? Would that be sort of lying? Would it be a sin?
Logic never helps much. I don’t think that my sexual orientation can be determined by logic. I don't think I could convince myself to have a sexual orientation other than the one I have. I don’t think love has anything to do with logic. Nor does sex. Usually. Maybe we use logic to justify love. And hatred. But this justification, I think, happens after the fact. Like the auxiliary mathematical proof of a sudden and profound insight.
I don’t want to hate anyone. It’s hard work to walk around hating someone. I’m sure it would be even harder to walk around hating an entire group of people depending upon their sexual orientation or skin color or religion. Conversely, it makes me feel good to love someone. I think it would make me feel even better if I were able to love everyone. I know it probably isn’t logical. And I’m quite certain that my belief in my desire to love everyone could be easily disproven using a passage from any book of authority you might want to choose. But I don’t give a shit. I want to love everyone. It would be nice if there were a church that had something along that line for a mission statement. “The Church that Wants to Love Everyone.” I’d go to that church. If the sermons were fulfilling. Or even entertaining. Even though I love my pastor and I love every member of Bethel AME, I don’t think I can continue at a church that seems to be absolutely certain that gay people will go to hell. It sort of sucks, I think, for an organization to pretend to be so certain about something like that. And I’m sure it hurts people’s feelings, to be excluded. It hurts my feelings that my church excludes some people. And I wonder: if I continue to attend a church like that while disagreeing with what seems to be in increasingly important doctrine, will that make me a hypocrite? And when I try my best to pray to the God that I believe so fervently in, wisely or unwisely, thanks in part to Reverend Dial and the people at Bethel AME, and I attempt to strip myself naked of all artifice, what will be left for me to say in my defense?