Christian Nightmares Too
What hiding the truth from church members cost one Christian man
I didn’t know Kevin that well. The truth is, I didn’t know anyone at my church that well. Church is where I learned to wear a mask, to hide my true thoughts and beliefs. It was a fire and brimstone Baptist church. “Where the Old-Fashioned Gospel Is Preached,” the bulletin boasted each week. The pastor regularly yelled, “God said it, I believe, that settles it!” from the pulpit to a roaring round of Amens. Throughout my childhood, I spent several hours a week there. So did Kevin.
Kevin’s mother sang in the choir, had lots of friends at church, was on committees, and hosted dinners at her house on a regular basis. She was an extreme germaphobe. Houseguests were always required to leave their shoes on her walkway outside before entering—even in the dead of winter. Both children and adults had to wash their hands before coming to the table. And if, say, your dinner roll accidentally slipped from your plate and onto her bleached-white tablecloth, she’d quickly snatch it up and drop it in the trash like a dead rat. She also rarely paid attention to what anyone else was saying and was the queen of nonsequitors. Someone might remark, “So the doctor put me on these new pills for my heart condition.” To which she’d reply, “Did anyone else notice that Ron and Betty Wilson weren’t sitting together at church this past Sunday?” Her husband, Kevin’s father, never said much. He traveled a lot for work, which seemed to be the secret to their marriage. Kevin never uttered much around his mother either, but he always sat close to her and seemed to long for her recognition, which he rarely got. He was always well groomed and would nod earnestly at her remarks. “Finish your meal, Kevin,” she’d say. “You’ve barely touched anything on your plate.”
Kevin had wavy black hair, slightly crooked teeth, and a smile that took up half his face. He was shy but friendly and fairly skilled at post-church parking lot banter. He’d always agree when someone praised pastor Tom’s “powerful” sermon. He’d go out of his way to compliment the new hairstyles of women in the church (“You’re ready for the red carpet!” he’d often say). And he’d always promise to keep people in his prayers whenever there was a request.
He was a few years older than me and I remember missing his presence at church when he went away to Christian college. The parking lot wasn’t the same without him, and the hymns on Sundays didn’t sound as good either. He finally returned four years later and got a job at an accounting firm nearby, but there was something different about him. He was still quick to say hello and chat but he seemed distracted, more guarded, nervous. I had always suspected that Kevin was wearing a mask like me, but his was starting to show cracks—it seemed harder for him to contain whatever it was he was holding back.
Eventually I went off to college myself, and only saw Kevin occasionally, when I was home visiting for a weekend, or on holidays. One Christmas I came home and noticed that Kevin had lost some weight; the result of working out, he told me. But when I visited again that summer, he’d lost even more weight and didn’t look healthy at all. His skin seemed tight around his cheekbones, he had dark circles under his eyes, and even his hair was thinner. I heard through the grapevine that he’d been seeing one of the doctors from the church, but nobody seemed to know what was causing his symptoms.
It was the following summer, a Fourth of July weekend at my parent’s house, when we got the phone call. Apparently, Kevin was supposed to go camping with some of his church friends but had bailed out at the last minute because he wasn’t feeling well. His friends had tried calling him over the weekend to check in on him, but he never answered, and when they returned to town after the trip, he still wasn’t answering their calls. That’s when they drove over to his house and found him lying in a puddle of his own urine and feces, a skeletal version of himself, clutching a half-empty bottle of vodka.
The ambulance came, but Kevin only lasted a few hours at the hospital before being pronounced dead. None of his family or friends from church ever knew he was gay; the last thing they suspected was that he had been dying of AIDS all along. Kevin had probably been seeing the doctor from church just to appease his mother. If he had been seeing another doctor that knew he had AIDS, I don’t know for sure why he wasn’t receiving more rigorous treatment. What I do know is that Kevin heard the same sermons I did, year after year, the ones where the pastor would angrily declare homosexuality a “vile sin” and “an abomination unto God!”
At Kevin’s funeral, which was attended by less than half the members of the church, a friend of mine approached Pastor Tom, who had baptized Kevin as a kid. “Isn’t it terrible about Kevin?” she asked.
“What do you want me to say?” he replied. “Kevin was a homosexual.”
To this day, Kevin’s mother doesn’t know why he really died. Some members of the church had managed to get to the hospital before her and somehow kept the doctor’s reports from her. They decided it was better that she not know the truth about her son’s “lifestyle”—they didn’t think she could handle the humiliation. – by Christian Nightmares
(The names and some minor details were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.)

What hiding the truth from church members cost one Christian man

I didn’t know Kevin that well. The truth is, I didn’t know anyone at my church that well. Church is where I learned to wear a mask, to hide my true thoughts and beliefs. It was a fire and brimstone Baptist church. “Where the Old-Fashioned Gospel Is Preached,” the bulletin boasted each week. The pastor regularly yelled, “God said it, I believe, that settles it!” from the pulpit to a roaring round of Amens. Throughout my childhood, I spent several hours a week there. So did Kevin.

Kevin’s mother sang in the choir, had lots of friends at church, was on committees, and hosted dinners at her house on a regular basis. She was an extreme germaphobe. Houseguests were always required to leave their shoes on her walkway outside before entering—even in the dead of winter. Both children and adults had to wash their hands before coming to the table. And if, say, your dinner roll accidentally slipped from your plate and onto her bleached-white tablecloth, she’d quickly snatch it up and drop it in the trash like a dead rat. She also rarely paid attention to what anyone else was saying and was the queen of nonsequitors. Someone might remark, “So the doctor put me on these new pills for my heart condition.” To which she’d reply, “Did anyone else notice that Ron and Betty Wilson weren’t sitting together at church this past Sunday?” Her husband, Kevin’s father, never said much. He traveled a lot for work, which seemed to be the secret to their marriage. Kevin never uttered much around his mother either, but he always sat close to her and seemed to long for her recognition, which he rarely got. He was always well groomed and would nod earnestly at her remarks. “Finish your meal, Kevin,” she’d say. “You’ve barely touched anything on your plate.”

Kevin had wavy black hair, slightly crooked teeth, and a smile that took up half his face. He was shy but friendly and fairly skilled at post-church parking lot banter. He’d always agree when someone praised pastor Tom’s “powerful” sermon. He’d go out of his way to compliment the new hairstyles of women in the church (“You’re ready for the red carpet!” he’d often say). And he’d always promise to keep people in his prayers whenever there was a request.

He was a few years older than me and I remember missing his presence at church when he went away to Christian college. The parking lot wasn’t the same without him, and the hymns on Sundays didn’t sound as good either. He finally returned four years later and got a job at an accounting firm nearby, but there was something different about him. He was still quick to say hello and chat but he seemed distracted, more guarded, nervous. I had always suspected that Kevin was wearing a mask like me, but his was starting to show cracks—it seemed harder for him to contain whatever it was he was holding back.

Eventually I went off to college myself, and only saw Kevin occasionally, when I was home visiting for a weekend, or on holidays. One Christmas I came home and noticed that Kevin had lost some weight; the result of working out, he told me. But when I visited again that summer, he’d lost even more weight and didn’t look healthy at all. His skin seemed tight around his cheekbones, he had dark circles under his eyes, and even his hair was thinner. I heard through the grapevine that he’d been seeing one of the doctors from the church, but nobody seemed to know what was causing his symptoms.

It was the following summer, a Fourth of July weekend at my parent’s house, when we got the phone call. Apparently, Kevin was supposed to go camping with some of his church friends but had bailed out at the last minute because he wasn’t feeling well. His friends had tried calling him over the weekend to check in on him, but he never answered, and when they returned to town after the trip, he still wasn’t answering their calls. That’s when they drove over to his house and found him lying in a puddle of his own urine and feces, a skeletal version of himself, clutching a half-empty bottle of vodka.

The ambulance came, but Kevin only lasted a few hours at the hospital before being pronounced dead. None of his family or friends from church ever knew he was gay; the last thing they suspected was that he had been dying of AIDS all along. Kevin had probably been seeing the doctor from church just to appease his mother. If he had been seeing another doctor that knew he had AIDS, I don’t know for sure why he wasn’t receiving more rigorous treatment. What I do know is that Kevin heard the same sermons I did, year after year, the ones where the pastor would angrily declare homosexuality a “vile sin” and “an abomination unto God!”

At Kevin’s funeral, which was attended by less than half the members of the church, a friend of mine approached Pastor Tom, who had baptized Kevin as a kid. “Isn’t it terrible about Kevin?” she asked.

“What do you want me to say?” he replied. “Kevin was a homosexual.”

To this day, Kevin’s mother doesn’t know why he really died. Some members of the church had managed to get to the hospital before her and somehow kept the doctor’s reports from her. They decided it was better that she not know the truth about her son’s “lifestyle”—they didn’t think she could handle the humiliation. – by Christian Nightmares

(The names and some minor details were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.)

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