Toronto
4 min

Who’s your daddy?

'The Milli Vanilli of the holy world'

ETHEREAL AIRMILES. I wanted to find value in a spiritual community; it didn't quite work. Credit: Mia Hansen

I’m all for queer marriage, but you’ll never catch me at the altar. Church and me don’t mix.



Three years ago, I tried to shed my heathen ways. I hadn’t been to church since I was 10, but a mid-life crisis made me do it. I was 27, had the winter blahs, was getting no sex (well, some bad sex) and my pot dealer stopped returning my calls. Who wouldn’t turn to God? I figured God was the next best thing to having a life.



I chose to begin my spiritual journey at the Metropolitan Community Church Of Toronto, for no better reason than it was the most famous queer-positive holy house in town. Hell, I felt like I already knew at least one of the players: short of being on kiddie lunch-boxes across the nation, Rev Brent Hawkes was a damn-near celebrity.



My journey lasted exactly four weeks. On my first Sunday I sat at the back, waiting for the spirit to move me. Or at the very least, entertain me. Cue the show-stopping tunes from the choir and saintly snippets of wisdom from the pulpit. All very uplifting, yes, but I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning and was getting hungry and impatient for them to start passing around the free bread. Bring on the body of Christ, I prayed, and don’t forget the butter.



I was fooling myself. A guy like me doesn’t belong in any church, a fact made painfully clear when it came time for the congregation to sing en masse. Misguided enthusiasm aside, I lip-synched entire psalms. But even forming my mouth around words like “my lord” and “my saviour” made me feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite, as if at any moment a giant spotlight would be thrust on my face, exposing me as the Milli Vanilli of the holy world, right before I slunk out the door in disgrace. After my free bread, of course.



Why would any guy who doesn’t believe in God sing as if he did? Well, it was like when I was a teenage boy, trying to force myself to like girls by singing along to as many bad macho love songs on the radio as I could, figuring if I did it often enough, some of the hetero-masculine hormones would rub off on me.



“I wish that I had Jessie’s girl/Where can I find a woman like that….” Osmosis like that just doesn’t happen. Least of all at church.



I realized just how much I didn’t belong when the collection plate was passed around that first week. The only thing I had in my wallet was a single five-dollar bill, but that was earmarked for something important, like food.



Years ago I had already learned my lesson about giving money to a cause that I didn’t believe in while trying to convince myself I did. It was when I took a girl, Lisa, to the town carnival. I couldn’t bring myself to hold her hand, least of all kiss her, but I figured it’d be very straight of me to win her a stuffed animal. Which I did, a skinny sick-looking elephant which I refused to trade in for something bigger. I had already forked out $25 – my entire weekly pay from my job at McDonald’s – and spent the rest of the evening resenting the money I’d wasted on a girl I wasn’t attracted to. Money that could have been spent on something important like hair gel or a K-Tel cassette.



So I wasn’t willing to blow my entire wad here at church. I almost asked the guy beside me if he could break a five, and I toyed briefly with the idea of taking one of the contribution envelopes, sealing it with nothing, then dunking it in the collection plate as if there were a big fat cheque inside. In the end, I sacrificed the five, and with that hefty investment out of the way, I now had a financial stake in this church.



So I came back the next week.



Besides, I was addicted to its community atmosphere. So many queers in one room, actually being nice to each other and not on E. In fact, I’d never felt so welcome anywhere in my life, thanks to the pair of Guy-Smiley door greeters who could not have seemed more pleased to see me than if I were Christ himself coming back for round two.



But three weeks later, I quit. Queers have suffered centuries of self-righteous judgment, and here I was trying to worship the most judgmental dude in mythology. I respect it all, but I want nothing to do with eternal life. And let’s say I do get into heaven – then what, redecorate? No thanks. Praying for life after death is a bit like sitting in front of your fridge and counting the minutes until the milk expires. As for hell – isn’t one Eaton Centre bad enough?



But holy habits die hard, and it wasn’t long before I returned to the MCCT, this time to volunteer at its Sunday school, where I spent most my time helping teach children to sing and dance to “Jesus Is The Rock On Which I Stand,” an inculcating wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing ditty designed to pound home the message on impressionable youngsters to follow Jesus or die.



On my fifth and final week, one of the older volunteers told the children that “when you do something nice for others, God rewards you by doing something nice for you, too.” Un-fucking-believable. Ethereal AirMiles.



I don’t mean to pick on the MCCT. I really had no business there in the first place. Despite the smiles and community gung-ho, the sense of sameness at church is, to me, overwhelming – and I value too much being a fish out of water. It’s why I like being gay. While organized religion is not my thing, the MCCT is – like most queer-positive churches, I’m sure – probably one of the most inclusive. A lot better than the church my mother used to drag me to as a kid, all white, uptight and never any free bread. To this day, my mother regrets that she ever stopped taking me, as if forcing Jesus and his caboodle of disciplines down my throat would have kept me, in her mind, straight. I can only imagine my life today as a closeted suburban church-goer: taking the daughter to ballet, the son to baseball and begging the wife to hold her damn strap-on still while we unsuccessfully attempt our 40th position of the night. Amen.