Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hell Is For Real

Yesterday, I saw the very sweet film “Heaven Is For Real;” a movie about what happens when a precious, innocent, and untouched little boy has a near-death experience. I could immediately relate, as I too had a close brush with death. Only, when it happened to me – I was far from innocent. It was 1999, I had spent the last decade as a very sexually promiscuous gay man and would-be porn star. At that point, my life had really spiraled out of control. For, on that very night, I willingly took part in an extremely sick pornographic scene which included everything from extreme physical cruelties to desecration. Then, I don’t think I could have fallen any lower. Everything I touched was filled with darkness; the day was like a perpetual night. In my eyes, the sun was always in total eclipse. I had been falling down this pit for years, and now – it seemed as if I were reaching the bottom.
Later that night, I started to endlessly vomit enormous quantities of blood. I didn’t understand where it was all coming from. Suddenly, I got worried. This was an odd feeling for me as I had been beat up, been infected with STDs, and had knifes put to my throat – yet, all those times before, I never once gave anything a second thought. But, on this occasion, it was different. Anxious, I went to my parent’s home and told my mother what was going on with me. Right away, she rushed me to the hospital. I waited for only a brief few minutes as I was spewing blood all over the neat, shiny, and white hospital lobby area. Inside, I was given several large clear plastic bags which I immediately filled with bright red blood. For those few minutes, my entire body was being turned inside out. My head was spinning and I couldn’t retch any longer. There was nothing left inside me.
With all my strength gone, I collapsed backwards onto the hard hospital gurney and stared at the ceiling. Some male nurses rushed over to me and hooked my chest up to an EKG machine. I knew things were not going well; but I really didn’t care anymore. Next, everything in my perception seemed to flatten out, become a little blurry, and all sound faded gradually into the background. In my mind, I thought: This is what it must feel like when you die. I wasn’t scared at all. I just resolved to it, and said to myself: Okay; let’s simply go with it. Because, for the past few years, I had been longing for death. I thought about suicide, but never summoned up enough gumption to pull the trigger. Then I decided I would go out in a glamorous flash of gay sleaze: by becoming infected with HIV, being chocked to death by an overzealous partner, or being murder by an insane gay park pick-up. To my great disappointment, I had come close, but an endless promise of sleep always evaded me.
This night, I thought: finally, it will end. At last, the struggle, the suffering, and the unceasing quest for a little micro-second of peace will be over. Then, when I knew I was dying, I started to sense that I was being pulled from my body: head first – almost like a tube of tooth-paste. I looked out over the room and could tell that my eyes were now flouting just slightly over my face. I could see everything. Little by little, my shoulders began to be pulled out from the barely living shell underneath. Again, I was not afraid: for, it was curiously pain-free and soothingly trance-like. Then, from the corner of my eye, I could see my mother sitting on a stool at the foot of my bed. I looked at her, and I could scarcely make-out that she was praying. Then, hot anger rushed over me. I thought in my disembodied brain: How dare she pray for me. Because, I knew she was praying to Jesus; and, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him. I cursed. If it was out loud, I do not know. Afterwards, everything changed. The narcotic effect of death forever left me.
Quickly, I became acutely aware. The languorous wash of nullity that previously swept over me was gone. Oddly, I could make out little beings jumping about all over the room. They defied any outline of shape or form, but were more like a ripple of movement upon the air. I didn’t know why, but they startled me and I could somehow make-out that they were there to harm me. At first, I noticed them looking into every curtained cubicle around the entire emergency room. They would peer in at each patient and then move on. When I rampaged against God, they immediately noticed me and took a keen interest. On each side of the bed, they huddled about. I hated them, as they were taking some horrible glee in my sudden anguish and discomfort. At the same time, my being was continuing its slide out from my body. Now, about mid-chest and up was flittering above everyone; at the near center of the bed. For, I was high enough to see the top of each nurse’s head.
Right away, the room changed: it got darker, the wall behind my headboard disappeared and an enormous mouth seemed to take its place. The orifice opened wide and breathed a hot, moist, and stinking vapor upon the back of my neck. I struggled, and I could see the nurses rushing back and forth. Next, I felt a large metal hook pierce my shoulder; just to the right of my spinal cord. With that, the pulling on my consciousness became even stronger. I was being suspended over my body; it was as if I were a butchered piece of meat hanging in a slaughterhouse locker. I had been killed, drained of blood, and this was the time for disemboweling. And, the pain was excruciating. It was as if every cruel and sadistic sexual bondage scene I had ever taken part in was instantaneously replaying: I was being pierced, tattooed, whipped, beaten, and dog-collared all over again. However, this time, there was no rush of endorphins, no climactic release, or ecstatic blast of sexual pleasure.
Although I had lived through all those various tortures in my real life – they had never shocked me. But, here, right away, I was petrified and I thought: I don’t want to die like this. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. And, I fought against it; only, I knew I was losing. Out of the gloominess and desperation, a strange thought overcame me: Jesus! Could I call out to Jesus? I abandoned Him long ago; He will not help me now. Anyway, I really don’ think He exists. It all happened in a matter of ticking moments, and I called out to Him: Jesus, Please help me! In a flash, the darkness left, the demons disappeared, and I dropped back into my body. I looked around, and I knew that I was alive. But, I didn’t know who I was, or where I had been, or what had just happened. Everything seemed new and strange. I couldn’t move a finger, but my eyes endlessly darted from side to side, trying to take it all in.
I knew I had narrowly escaped hell, but everything else that had transpired over the previous years seemed a distant memory; for a while, I didn’t even believe it was me who had done all those things. I vaguely understood that Jesus saved me, but I only called out to Him in a frantic outburst of terror. In my dilapidated state: He was just slightly less frightening that the devil. Over the next few months, I whimpered, cowered, and crawled around a little image of Jesus that existed in my mind. Gently, He scooped up the bits of left-over denuded flesh, that was me, and rebuilt a human person. Through it all, I distrusted, rebelled, and complained. But God was patient. Then, slowly, I feared Him less, and Loved Him more. And, I knew that He Loved me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Musing on The Pet Shop Boys and the Gay Glamour of Destruction

...from the video "It's a Sin."
Holidays such as Christmas and Easter are always somewhat bitter sweet. I adore the religious celebrations, but I am oftentimes left with a feeling of sadness. I am never sure if this is a result of misplaced and prideful revelry or the genuine apathy that remains for all those whom I have lost. This Easter, I could help not help but a cry a little for several friends, who kept returning to my consciousness; all of which are dead: one from suicide, the other two from HIV, and drugs. I recall their lives, and then feel guilty about still being here. In particular, I had an exceptionally intense recollection of attending the 1991 concert “Performance” of The Pet Shop Boys. At the time, my friends and I adored them. I had a distinct admiration for lead singer Neil Tennant who, like myself, was raised Roman Catholic, but later, discovering his homosexuality, abandoned the Faith of his youth, acquiesced to the gay orientation, and then heavily criticized Catholicism as utterly oppressive. Yet, beyond the rhetoric, I always found a very strong strain of ambivalence in everything The Pet Shop Boys would create; starting with that night in 1991. This came rushing upon me during their sets that included a disco version of “Always On My Mind.” Although I was dancing fervently, the tone felt unavoidably sad, as if we were partying to a death dirge. This was solidified with their songs “It’s a Sin,” and “What Have I Done to Deserve This.” From these numbers, and their later remake of the iconic Village People gay anthem “Go West,”  I got the distinct impression that The Pet Shop Boys really didn’t believe what they were selling; for, like my generation, they were living under the shadow of the red-stained sickle of death that marked the rise of AIDS - ending forever the false dream of carefree gay sexual liberation. The happiness was all thinly masking a dire sense of fear and desperation. At the time, I couldn’t begin to understand it; I had to come to the edge of destruction in order to comprehend the situation I placed myself. For the others, I guess they never had that chance. Now, I sometimes hate myself for being so deluded, and for being hopelessly useless. Because, people died. And, for the most part, I stood by and watched it happen. Now, that awareness is part of my purgatory. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christ on the Cross Embraces All: Gays, Fornicators, and Porn Addicts Too!

I think this is a remarkable painting for several reasons: first of all, Christ seems to be truly embracing the Cross; but, its more intense than a simple embrace, it is a sort of cherishing and muscular hold; a grip of sheer Love and fortitude; He is holding on to the Cross, not as an instrument of death, but as the Incarnation of His life; as if His existence depended upon that grasp. Secondly, the face of Jesus is completely serene, but also steely determined; He is resolute and formidable. Lastly, He looks at the viewer, but also looks behind Himself – all at the same time. He stares at us, the sinner; and He glances backwards towards our past – taking upon His back all the sins of our stupidity, insolence, and greed for pleasure. For, Christ knows all: then and now. And, He wants us all – not just the good, but those who truly add burden to His suffering. Because, that is the reason He deemed to undergo so much. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

How The Way of the Cross Helped to Save the Life of an Ex-Gay Porn Star

Good Friday -2014.
When the Lord Jesus Christ saved me from the pits of hell, I knew the rest of my life would be totally different, but I really didn’t know where to go or what to do. After I was fit enough to travel, I did make my first trip to Confession in well over a decade. But, afterwards, I longed for more; to be closer yet to God. Through the darkened shadows of my past, I recalled visiting a little monastery near my home town. It was somewhat secluded, quiet, and peaceful. Desperate, I decided to return there. When I got to the place, I noticed a series of outdoor stone plaques that led up the road to a chapel. Each plaque was an image from The Stations of the Cross. From my childhood in Catholic schools, I had a very vague recollection of attending a Way of the Cross prayer service during Lent. Throughout those strange little half-hours, I never felt close to Christ. The lessons on each Station were all about kindness, sharing, and general schoolyard deportment. They switched the focus - from the suffering of Jesus to us. What He did, those so many years ago, seemed distant and irrelevant. At its worst, His death felt trivial. As if He died simply for effect; to merely prove some minor social point. Did He actually die for me? So that I may live?
Later, somewhere and somehow, I found a small “The Way of the Cross” book by St. Alphonsus Liguori. I had never seen anything like it before. With this, I thought, I would make sense of Jesus’ death and what it all meant. With great anticipation, I took the tiny book and headed back to the monastery. Like a child just learning to walk, I followed along with the readings, meditations, and prayers, and scampered from each image of Christ’s Passion to the next. At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing and it didn’t make much sense. Then, as I tried to concentrate on the words I was saying, I realized that I was being led along the actual path to Calvary. My aspirations, disappointments, and sufferings were being linked with Christ. I knew that He was truly dying for me, because of my sins. He wasn’t teaching some trite lesson about fellowship or manners, but actually shedding real blood so that we may someday join Him in heaven. A great stillness washed over me, and I knew that all which had come before was over. That a future without depravity was possible. And, over the next few years, I would return to that happy place over and over again. “Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me what You will.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

With Sexual Addictions - The Greatest Virtue Is Humility

In the battle for chastity, strength and courage are often mentioned as powerful weapons. Yet, I believe that humility is the greatest virtue of all. It’s the ability to break down our walls, barriers, and shields in front of Christ – and to allow Him to enter our lives. It’s loving and Trusting the Lord enough so that He can work miracles within our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Here, I always keep in front of me the image of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. I pray, not so much to be like Christ in this scene, but, to be like Peter. To simply sit still and allow the Lord to care for me; to show me His tender love; and to be willing to accept it. For, oftentimes, when we have been spinning within the grimy pits of addiction, it’s always difficult to let someone else into our shameful world of darkness. But, the only way out – is by welcoming the cleansing waters of Jesus Christ. 

When You Want to Look at Porn or Masturbate – Look for the Cross

“Besides vocal prayer, mental prayer, commonly called meditation, cannot but prove helpful in the practice of chastity. For the Holy Ghost tells us in Holy Write: ‘In all thy works remember the last end and thou shalt never sin’ (Ecclus. 7:40). It would be impossible to mediate on death, judgment, hell, eternity, and still wish to commit sin. And the thought that the pleasure derived from sin is momentary and that punishment will last for ever, should have a restraining influence. Then the Christian soul that meditates on the passion and death of the Redeemer must derive great help to remain pure and chaste. It would seem impossible that those who love Jesus and reflect on His sufferings, sufferings which were caused by our sins, should ever date to crucify ‘again to themselves the Son of God and make Him a mockery.’ (Heb. 6:6).” ~ Taken from: “Discourses on St. Joseph” by Fr. Nicholas O’Rafferty (1951).

For this precise reason, I always keep a crucifix on my desk - right next to the computer. I never remove it, place it in a drawer, or put papers on top of it; it’s always in open sight. And, I do this for a reason, because, oftentimes, when I am working on the computer, especially while researching something on the internet, I may come across something that immediately elicits an erotic response. At this point, two things can happen: the impulse is dealt with and the temptations abated, or the sexual thought and physical reaction is heightened by a continuation of viewing and or dwelling upon impure images or thoughts. By keeping our eyes on the Cross, as if we were actually there – seeing the pain on Christ’s face as the blood drops out of His body, our thoughts will be immersed in a very different set of emotional triggers; then, the pleasurable sensations will cease and we will be joined with the suffering Lord. The cross on the desk, it is a reminder to do just that. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gays, Porn Addicts, and Porn Stars at Jacob’s Well

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There cometh a woman of Samaria, to draw water. Jesus saith to her: Give me to drink. For his disciples were gone into the city to buy meats. Then that Samaritan woman saith to him: How dost thou, being a Jew, ask of me to drink, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans. Jesus answered, and said to her: If thou didst know the gift of God, and who he is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith to him: Sir, thou hast nothing wherein to draw, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever: But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.

In The Bible, men and women often met at the well: the servant of Abraham (looking for a wife for Isaac) finds Rebecca there, as did Jacob and Rachel, and Moses and Sephora. It was a place of social interaction, first encounters, and the initial steps leading to courtship. Therefore, the significance of Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman is not overlooked by the startled Apostles; nor by the Samaritan woman. Because, in a very real sense, by specifically pointing out the past and present sexual indiscretions of this very worldly woman, Christ is offering Himself as a new bridegroom. Here, the well serves as a metaphor for the pit of sexual dysfunction and constant erotic longings. Yet, the water from the well of homosexuality, porn, and perversity never satisfy the spirit. As someone, like the Samaritan woman, who spent years and years constantly returning to the same old supply, I found that my restless dryness could never be alleviated; until, one day, Christ was waiting for me. When everyone else had counted me out for damned, regarded me as untouchable, and unworthy of help, the Lord talked to me – offered another source of satisfaction – and gave me the choice. Because, as for the Samaritan woman, and for all of us, Christ wants to be the new well from which we draw from: a font of everlasting happiness and peace.

Author’s note: Like the woman at the well, I was caught off guard by the sudden appearance of Christ upon the scene; for, I thought I was just going about my daily business. Yet, Christ saw the fatality and desperation of my heedless ways. He pitied me; therefore, He spoke to me. That is why I was saved; because Christ pitied me.