by Tom Taffel
April 24, 2019
The following article was recently rejected for publication from the Christian Science Publishing Society. From the editors: “Publication of your article would definitely look like an endorsement from The Mother Church of homosexual practice. Thus, we cannot publish it.”
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death wasn’t the path I chose; but it was the path directly in front of me as a gay junior high school student in new York City in the late 1960’s.
Although I was popular, athletic, creative and compassionate, I just didn’t seem to be what society said I should be. I didn’t feel the “natural” attractions – professional sports, girls, cars, and so on – to which society said I should be naturally attracted.
But at age twelve, I was brutishly outed and labeled “queer.” My childhood suddenly turned dark and depressing. From the seventh through the ninth grades, I was blackmailed, threatened and bullied – relentlessly. I was ashamed, afraid, and had recurring thoughts of suicide.
The temptation to finally escape my pain, and my inability to find peace and my place in an un-accepting world plagued me night and day. Death appeared to be the easier path. I contemplated that for three long years.
Still, I never lost my consciousness of God’s supporting love, nor my sense of purpose, and that gave me hope. I had an unshakable faith in God’s love for me and that was my protection and the strength of my life. I truly wanted to live a life of purpose and fulfillment.
In those years, homosexuality was a taboo subject at home and not up for discussion. There was no one with whom I could talk, no self-help books or support systems. But I was enrolled in a Christian Science Sunday School. Christian Science made sense to me, and I trustingly read the daily Lesson Sermon in the Christian Science Quarterly – the only source of comfort I had. And then one day, I saw Mrs. Eddy’s statement, (S&H 571:15-19), which gave me hope and kept me from ending my life:
At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.
“Clad in the panoply of Love,” I felt safe. I felt comfortable expressing all of my God-given attributes, masculine and feminine. I inherently knew I was God’s beloved son, and that there was nothing wrong, abnormal or “queer” about me. Even though I was a “gender non-conforming child,” I just couldn’t understand why I needed to suppress the feelings I was feeling so naturally and why I was being punished, rejected, and ostracized for being who I was. The lurking thought of suicide wasn’t a viable option, because I knew my life wasn’t over. I had a lot more to accomplish, and escaping just wasn’t what my life was about. Intuitively, I was aware of my purpose, my mission in life, (to help others), and that I was complete, satisfied and free, just as God had created me. And so, Mrs. Eddy’s words resonated deep within me: “Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness.” (S&H 57:4-5)
As a graduate from The Mother Church Sunday school, I felt I should try to conform to what had been traditionally accepted as the “right” expression of love and family. I met a beautiful and dynamic young woman, (also a student of Christian Science). We were engaged to be married. Tragically my fiancée passed on suddenly. I was devastated. My eventual healing of grief and depression helped release me from the self-imposed demand to conform to the approved-of behavior I had been trying for many years to cultivate. The more natural sense of who I really was, (familiar since my early childhood and drawing me toward same-sex relationships), reaffirmed itself and, for the first time since those difficult early years, felt entirely right for me. I was able to see clearly what Mrs. Eddy meant: “Look long enough, and you see male and female one — sex or gender eliminated; you see the designation man meaning woman as well, and you see the whole universe included in one infinite Mind and reflected in the intelligent compound idea, image or likeness, called man, showing forth the infinite divine Principle, Love, called God, — man wedded to the Lamb, pledged to innocence, purity, perfection.” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 268–269)
Looking back, I don’t know why I was so concerned with what I thought other people were thinking … instead of dwelling on what I knew was true about me. Other people’s intolerance could not touch my true identity as the perfect, complete, beloved child of God. I didn’t see diversity as perversity, but rather, a divine necessity as part of the “panoply of love” and the myriad expressions of Life.
For spiritual regeneration, there isn’t a greater demand to heal homosexuality than there is to heal heterosexuality since, ultimately, neither has a place in the demonstration of our genuine spiritual identity. Whom I loved, and was loved by, wasn’t the problem in need of healing, but rather it was the world’s perception of who I am as the satisfied, perfect and complete idea of God. What matters to me now is the integrity of my day-to-day human experience and the depth of my desire to live up to my highest spiritual sense of Life, Truth and Love. Beliefs about sexuality, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are a “non-issue” to our loving Father-Mother God.
Even at a young age, I could feel God’s love for me and that the kindness, compassion, and honesty I expressed, came directly from Him; and that whomever I loved, of either gender, had no bearing on my ability to express these qualities. I wasn’t a gay teenager expressing Christ-like qualities; no, these were qualities of the Christ expressing themselves as me. Instead of forgiving and forgetting the many injustices and rejection I had endured, I took a different approach: not to forget, but to remember the good things: the snippets of love, acts of kindness, joyous and purposeful moments in my life.
Forgiveness and healing are the inevitable result of letting go of past grievances and fleeting resentments, because they are not real or founded in Truth. I began to see that healing is the natural outcome in which unkind, un-Christ-like thoughts and actions, (both conscious and unconscious), are released and dispelled, just as naturally as darkness gives way to light. Overcoming evil with good brings the realization that nothing real can be threatened because that which is real, good and eternal is protected by God — and that protection extended to me as well.
As I began to minimize the error and maximize the truths which the error was trying to hide, I naturally became aware of my true self, my completeness and conscious worth as my hungering heart became satisfied and self-assured. I was able to take down the mental barriers that I had constructed preventing love’s appearing in my life, enabling my life partner of 47 years – now my spouse under the laws of my state – to walk into my life.
Where God is we can meet, and where God is we can never part.The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, p. 131:20
Being a committed partner in a same-sex relationship is more than sharing intimacy and friendship with someone of the same gender; it’s about home and family, and for some, raising children, and all the other things that life partners desire and work to make possible. It’s about living in the ‘now’ — in this pristine moment, rather than in the gloomy past or the uncertain future. As I fully embrace the present and its possibilities, I am able to be the change I want to see, because society is no longer defining my identity, self-worth, truth or my purpose.
My integrity is living my truth and my honesty allows me to share it with others. But living a lie – “in the closet,” a dual life, a charade – is neither normal nor natural, and certainly not the truth William Shakespeare voiced centuries ago and which Mrs. Eddy quoted, not once but twice:
This above all: To thine own self be true;Retrospection and Introspection, p. 81, “Admonition”
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Miscellaneous Writings, p. 226, “Perfidy and Slander”
As I reflect on my rich rewarding life, I wish I could have known the adolescent me, as the adult I am today, and reassured that frightened little boy who didn’t understand his non-accepting world, that he was valued and loved; that there was a brighter day filled with hope, happiness, tranquility and completeness — just beyond the dark clouds which seemed to be separating him from the light he was so desperately yearning to see and feel.
In Miscellaneous Writings, p. 185, Mrs. Eddy asserts:
Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness. There is no other way under heaven whereby we can be saved, and man clothed with might, majesty, and immortality.” This taught me that God never requires sacrifice of good, but rather the renunciation of self-aggrandizement, self-importance and self-glorification – an act of selflessness that truly does open the “floodgates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being.
Richard Strauss ends his operatic masterpiece with Elektra singing these prophetic words: “My flame extinguishes the world’s darkness.” It is my hope to help extinguish some of the world’s darkness by bringing to light — the array and diversity of God’s perfect creation. I am not a gay man in search of my identity, but rather, I am free – I am the loved son of God — grateful for Life, Truth and Love. Free of fear and doubt…I can hear that glorious “voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17)