“A Zombie Stumbling Through My Own Life”

Chris Stedman, author of the forthcoming memoir Faitheist and a proponent of atheist-interfaith engagement, reflects on coming to terms with his sexuality while attending a conservative, Protestant church:

Since I didn’t really want to be gay, I decided I was going to change my sexual orientation. I got the idea from my Christian church, who said that homosexuality was solvable, changeable. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for fear of being ostracized, but I got the impression based on ideas promoted within the church that being gay was a spiritual affliction—one that could be overcome through dutifulness to tradition. So if I prayed and I fasted and I studied Scripture and was just this model Christian, my ‘burden’ would be lifted. I came to see my same-sex attractions as a test, or a punishment—one I could overcome. So I worked very hard to do just that, but became despondent as years passed by and I didn’t see any progress. The irony is that I had become a part of this community because I was looking for a way to make sense of suffering and because the communal aspect of Christianity was very appealing—but when I became increasingly serious about my quest to change my sexual orientation for them, I ended up retreating further and further into myself, and suffering more and more. Eventually I was just a zombie stumbling through my own life, completely unengaged with the world around me; focused solely on this one thing.