Daniel Rodriguez Schlorff
A proud pansexual pastor (formerly Nazarene) considers similarities between Y2K hysteria and wanting gays to go to hell.
It’s December 31, 1999, and all the Valparaiso Nazarene youth group alumni are gathered around a bonfire. Everyone except me. I was actually sitting at my computer to watch the Y2K catastrophe occur while my friends who went off-region to attend places like Mount Vernon and SNU were back in town. So, it’s odd that I wasn’t at this bonfire. But I was preoccupied. You see, my college girlfriend had just broken up with me a week prior, and all I could think about was Ryan back at Olivet. But it can’t be. I mean, the Bible clearly says bad things about gays in the Bible, right? My longing for Ryan, who barely knew I existed, felt as natural as anything else I knew to be natural. So, naturally, I wondered whether Paul was right when he said that men having desire for other men is unnatural. I was a 19-year-old virgin trying to take every thought captive, yet I couldn’t stop it. The thoughts just kept coming. Granted, I was a Nazarene, so these thoughts were rated PG, but they were juxtaposed by the teachings of hellfire and damnation for those who dwell on sin. Finally, right before midnight, I worked up the nerve to ask God the thing I hadn’t wanted to know: “God, am I gay?” As I sat next to my computer, I pleaded with God not to let me be gay, because I didn’t want to go to hell. Twenty-three years later, I still feel the weight of that moment of realization when God laid on my heart that he would not take this cup from me.
As it turned out, Y2K was a non-event. We can all laugh about that now, but when Visa and MasterCard were worried that their computers would erase all the debt from their books simply because their computers simply weren’t advanced enough to account for a minor coding issue, then it became everyone’s problem. People were backing up their computers on an endless stream of floppy disks, only to be told that the files on those floppy disks probably could not be retrieved by computers since they were all going to crash, anyway. Some predicted Y2K would surely usher in wars and pestilence and the great tribulation and the second coming. While others simply went to bonfires.
When the modern reader thinks back to Y2K and all the misguided warnings about Armageddon, I cannot help but draw a comparison to those who read the Bible in English paraphrase. They actually believe they have a supernatural source of authority that gives them license to castigate others—based solely on their own flawed theology, based on their flawed English paraphrase Bibles. But I was one of them. As a Nazarene, I was a religious zealot. Have you seen those “Jesus is the reason for the season” bumper stickers? I turned up the dial. As a high school student, I had a poster on my locker that had written on it, “Burn, Santa, burn! Burn, bunny, burn!” And, to my shame, I was a holy terror on the National Day of Silence, while some high school peers bravely lived their truth. I must have made their coming out hell.
Hell can be pretty brutal. I know, I lived it when I first came out. Even though I had many friends at Olivet, and I traveled on a ministry team called The Olivetians, I somehow got unfriended by most of my Nazarene friends on MySpace and on Facebook following graduation. My three college roommates were best men at each other’s weddings, and I wasn’t even invited. I was feeling true loneliness. Perhaps it was the same loneliness I made others feel in high school. I considered how evil (“moral”) I had been in the name of God (my own will).
I was realizing the true meaning of “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” It was not about using the name of God as a curse word, though that’s a common misinterpretation. It has more to do with putting your own agenda forward as if it is for God. People who say “God damn it” are not in violation of this commandment. Rather, the crusades and the inquisition are clear violations of this commandment. In the same way, when I was tormenting fellow high school students on the National Day of Silence, I was subverting God’s will for my own. I mistook my own cause for the cause of the Lord. And, not unlike Saul of Tarsus, scales fell from my eyes.
As it turns out, the six clobber passages (that is, the six passages of the Bible that are often cited as proof-text to support anti-gay political views) don’t mean what fundamentalists say it means. And, to superimpose fundamentalist interpretation over and above the teachings of Jesus is tantamount to taking the name of the Lord in vain. And the irony is, it’s all like running software on pre-Y2K computer systems. Like Plato’s allegory of the shadow figures in the cave, basing theology and social teachings on flawed biblical interpretation will have one take on deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs that, in actuality, have nothing to do with God at all. They are but shadows.
In closing, I’d like to plug biblical scholarship. Tools like historical and cultural criticism of the Bible would go a long way in helping people understand the complexities of the six clobber passages. In 1980, John Boswell became the first scholar that I’m aware of that took a look at the clobber passages and applied all manner of hermeneutical tools to them. Without his book, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, I might not be here today. In my darkest hours, when I could not see past the loneliness and pain of coming out, John Boswell’s scholarship helped me truly understand how I was made in the image and likeness of God—not “even though” I’m pansexual but “because of” my sexuality.
I’m glad I didn’t go to that bonfire. If I had, I might not have properly dealt with my interest in Ryan, the guy I wished would notice me. Pleading with God not to go to hell was perhaps the only way this Nazarene zealot could have scales fall from his eyes. Upgrading pre-Y2K computers, so to speak, is the only way other Nazarene zealots have any chance of awakening to the beauty of God’s creation. We need to witness and celebrate, not just affirm or accept, the fact that God made me, a pansexual pastor, in his image and likeness.
The Reverend Dr. Daniel Rodriguez Schlorff, a former Nazarene minister, now serves Third Congregational Church in Middletown, CT as Senior Minister. After Olivet, he then studied at the University of Chicago Divinity School through Meadville/Lombard, earned a second master’s degree at Hartford Seminary, and later completed the Doctor of Ministry and Certificate of Sexuality and Religion at Pacific School of Religion.