When Rembert Truluck gave up his temptation to be God, he found an abundance of blessings waiting for him. The biggest blessing was the gift of time. Time enough to finish a book that had been in the works since 1988, and time enough to compile and publish one of the most comprehensive web pages for gay and lesbian Christians on the web.
“I have a real problem of learning to let go and let other people have their legitimate or illegitimate input,” he tells Whosoever in a recent interview. “But just recognize you can’t control much in this world, and you can’t control what other people do.”
Not everyone who visits his website, Steps to Recovery From Bible Abuse, would agree. They still want to control Truluck the kind of material he puts on his site. In response to his assurances to gays and lesbians that God loves them no matter what their sexual orientation, he receives hate mail.
“I answer obvious hate mail by saying ‘I’m grateful you sent this mail to me because it encourages me to keep my website on the internet to equip gay and lesbian people to deal with ignorance and biblical abuse by people like you. Thank you very much for writing.’ Most don’t write back,” he chuckles softly.
It’s taken Truluck some time to reach a point where he can so eloquently, and calmly answer his critics. Truluck is a former Southern Baptist minister and Professor of Religion at Baptist College of Charleston, South Carolina, until his sexual orientation forced his ouster from the domination in 1981. He landed where most outcasts from mainstream religion go for comfort and support, the Metropolitan Community Church. He pastored in Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco.
He began a personal downward spiral while in Atlanta, spending a few years viewing life from the bottom of a bottle. In 1989 he took a “white chip” at an AA meeting and began his long road to recovery.
He has taken that theme of recovery into his ministry today… translating his success into a program to help gays and lesbians recover from the abuse they have suffered at the hands of religion, and organizations formed to support the mainstream incarnation of Christianity.
He realizes recovery from Bible abuse will take time for gays and lesbians and has designed his site and his new book “Steps to Recovery From Bible Abuse” to address that.
“It takes time to unlearn things that are wrong,” he emphasizes. “It takes time to recover and change the way you see things. Most gay people don’t give themselves time to do this, instead it’s slogans and mottos. The problem is you don’t go into what’s really there.”
He hopes people will take the time, at least a year, to study his new book, and the website and really begin the steps to get into what’s really there and to truly being thier recovery from abusive religion. The steps are similar to AA’s system of overcoming addiction, including admitting you’ve been hurt by religion, turning to God for guidance during recovery, dealing with anger, learning all about the scriptures used against gays and lesbians, and finally turning recovery outward and becoming what Truluck calls a “freedom missionary.”
“Telling other people about your own experience of finding freedom from abusive religion and your joy and happiness in feeling good about yourself will help you to grow stronger in your own faith. As you encourage other people, you also will be encouraged to continue to grow, heal, learn, and recover,” his web page advises.
The underlying message of Truluck’s website and his book is one of control … learning how to handle what you can control … and how to let go of what you can’t. Letting go of legalistic and abusive religion, he says, is what Paul advises us to do in Philippians 3:13-14.
“When Paul said ‘forgetting that which is behind and reaching forth to that which is before, I press toward the prize toward the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus,’ what he was giving up was religion, not drinking, smoking, carousing or lying and stealing, it was religion, he was letting go of legalism.”
Legalism, in Truluck’s opinion, is the worst thing a religion can be … and it’s the reason gays and lesbians suffer at the hands of people who call themselves Christians. Instead of legalism, supported by misinterpreted Bible passages, Truluck emphasizes experience of God … that first hand knowledge that comes with true spirituality.
“You don’t have to have the Bible to be a Christian. The early Christians didn’t have it. Bible in the form we have it didn’t develop until about 300 years after Christ,” he says. “You have to experience Jesus directly in a spiritual experience that fits you as an individual.”
Truluck realizes this is a double edged sword, since many legalistic Christians also believe in personal spiritual experience. The difference Truluck says is they then believe their personal experience is the only way to experience God. He says this is particularly true of those who say they are “ex-gay.”
“It doesn’t matter if God has transformed you into a groundhog,” he explains. “It doesn’t change the fact that scripture used against gays does not say what fundamentalists say it means. I get long letters from people about how they’ve changed, and I see that they were never gay in the first place or they’re fooling themselves. You can’t convince them of that. No matter what you’ve experienced it doesn’t change the fact that these words are translated wrong.”
And that’s what Truluck is out to expose. He spends a good part of his book explaining why the passages used against gays and lesbians have been interpreted wrong throughout the ages. Instead of condemning gays and lesbians, these words bring hope and joy for those who would read the Bible with gay, or gay-friendly, eyes.
“As soon as you read about Ruth and Naomi and David and Jonathan openly as a gay and lesbian person it jumps out at you!” he exclaims. “That’s one of the main things people like to argue about that it couldn’t possible be so since David was married. Well, so was I!”
His marriage in 1959 produced three children, but did nothing to change his sexual orientation. He hears from men who are in similar situations.
“I get email from middle aged gay men who are married with children and are in fundamentalist churches and totally frustrated and don’t know what to do. I tell them to read my stuff on coming out, but I don’t advise anyone to come out, because you don’t know what the results will be.”
The results of his own coming out were painful enough, he says, costing him his professorship, and sending him into the depths of alcoholism. The key to recovery was again, learning to let go, and hold on, as God took him from the depth of his despair to use him as a beacon for gays and lesbians hurting from abusive religion.
He now sees his role as one of helping his fellow homosexuals learn the truth about the Bible, their sexuality, and how the two can live in harmony. Although he now can safely say he is not God, Truluck still considers his line of work to be similar to the famous carpenter from Galilee.
“Jesus was constantly responding and reacting to what was going on around him in the lives of people. I don’t come at it with an agenda, I want to know what God is saying to me through what’s happening now, because things might be seen differently later on.”
As he listens to God and fights the battle against legalistic Christianity, Truluck’s website has truly become a place of hope and healing for gays and lesbians hurt by religion.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.