In 1993 my family moved to Ohio! We got settled at a church called First Baptist Church of Kettering, and that’s where I remained a member until I finally left the flock for good.
My FBK was bigger than ULBC, and maybe more importantly to me, it had a good music ministry. I played trombone there every Sunday morning for almost 15 years. Playing in the band there became a pretty big part of my life.
The problem is, my life mostly stalled out while I was in Ohio. It took me seven years to graduate college because I was working full time. I got stuck in a job that was easy, but paid me just enough to pay my bills, so I had little reason to move on.
Looking back at my time at FBK, there’s two things I remember that really pushed me away from the church.
The first is an annual thing called “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” I’d pull up to the church in my car, only to see the front yard of the church decorated like a graveyard. The message that week would always be about abortion, and the pastor would always be full of fire over it. Towards the end of my time in the church I start reflecting on the message that was preached that day, and how it was so dehumanizing to women. If I’d been in the congregation that day, and had had an abortion at some point in the past, I’d have walked out. I’m still haunted by the graveyard and the completely inhuman message that was always preached that week.
The second was in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on September 11th.
For many weeks in a row the pastor preached on how LGBT folks caused 9/11. The logic went like this: God is angry at the US for allowing LGBT folks to have rights, so he’s taken his “hand of protection” off the country and allowed 9/11 to happen. (There is a second, far more sinister, version of this story that I thankfully never heard, which is that God caused 9/11 to happen because of LGBT folks.)
I was deeply in the closet during this time. I had been experimenting with things around the house (I even grew my hair out for a while, before being overrun with guilt for doing so!), but told no one what was going on. Having the pastor preach that folks like me caused 9/11 was… awful.