There they were, all of my Christian friends congratulating Maritza and I on our new-found faith and obedience to the commandment that church tradition teaches to be baptized and declare your faith in Jesus Christ publically. It was something that Maritza was really looking forward to for a month leading up to it actually happening. She was all in and was so ready to follow whatever it was that the Lord was asking of her. Did He want her to be subservient and serve my needs as her husband? She was on it, she wanted nothing but complete obedience to everything that God was requiring of her. I have not been much for traditional Christianity myself, although I had been practically born under a church pew. At least I remember falling asleep under my mother’s feet most Sunday nights at our Spanish Pentecostal church. It just never made much sense to me for much of my life but I followed the rules as best as I could because that it was good Christian boys do.
I gotta be honest though, to be completely transparent and real with all of you, I never really understood all of the hype that my brand of Christianity was trying so desperately to instill in me. My dad would tell me that until I understood what it meant to take communion, that I could not take it because I would be punished by God if I took it incorrectly. Water baptism was the same thing, he was always so serious about the rites of the church, serving God was a very serious business. I would say that it is a serious business these days, that is for damn sure. All that condemnation and judgment just did not sit well with me from a very young age. Looking back, my dad never once offered to explain anything spiritual to me. He never sat down and opened the Bible with me to share with me any nugget of spiritual truth. Where did he expect me to learn it from? Oh yeah, they paid a good Christian school to teach me those things.
I was twelve years old when dad finally said that I could take communion and get baptized so that is what I did. I had already gone to a high school church retreat at 9 in which I was introduced to speaking in tongues. To this day, I have no idea if I even speak in tongues but people told me that I did get filled with the Holy Spirit when I uttered a few phrases that I generated in my mind after hearing others doing the same thing around me. Not that I did not want whatever God had for me, oh I did. I always have wanted God to become real in my life because I was born with this insatiable desire to seek out the truth.
So there we were, my spouse and I, about to get plunged under the waters of baptism on that warm Saturday morning in Pompano Beach. Our church had set apart this day to join with other Calvary Chapel affiliated churches in the area to have a massive baptismal service. We woke up early that morning and drove over to the beach and parked our car and made our way to get dunked. We arrived there and they had people speaking every half hour to those that were about to get baptized. We listened to the guy speaking and then made our way to the people who were there to baptize us.
We met these two guys who briefly interviewed us and wanted to find out the genuineness of our convictions and after a few minutes of awkwardness, they baptized me first (because I was the husband, I hate misogyny btw) and then Maritza followed after. No one applauded, although I could swear that everyone else who got baptized that morning did. I did not really feel anything, God didn’t part the sky, no dove descended on Maritza. We were told beforehand that we needed to make sure that the word Jesus was uttered when we were being baptized or else it was not a true baptism. Well, they just said, we baptize you in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Oops, Maritza noticed it and was immediately concerned. I told her not to worry about it, these were just formalities, the important thing was that we were obedient.
Yet there we were, soak and wet from head to toe and feeling like, ok, now what? I think that Maritza felt like God’s spirit was going to enter into her in a more powerful way or something that morning. We made our way to the sidewalk and some nearby benches next to a playground. On our way to dry off, a woman who was working with the church told us congratulations and we said thank you. That morning we made a video and posted it on YouTube. We were excited and happy and every one of our new Christian friends that we had recently made on Facebook and many of my old Christian college friends were also thrilled for us. The thing is that it was not even a day later and we were really wondering what exactly happened that Saturday morning?
It seemed like getting baptized made me even more insistent in looking into the truth of what it meant to really be a Christian. The thing is that the more that we discovered in the next few weeks, the less and less it looked like traditional Christianity was really able to offer any truth, real truth that is. I started to post things challenging the church and many of these same people who had congratulated me on my renouncing of my trans life now were warning me to not point a finger at the church. “Hey, we’re not perfect but we are forgiven. You can find hypocrites everywhere and the church is no different.” Christians seemed to be making excuses for everything that was wrong in the church and the fact that almost 70% of men in church have a porn addiction, was just discarded and not even addressed. Yet my former trans life, my gender-bending ways, my femininity was something that they all felt obliged to tell me to seek victory over. “It’s a real spiritual battle Paul, be strong, okay? Just keep your eyes on Jesus, look to Him.”
When Maritza was getting frustrated with how she needed to go back to looking as feminine as possible, that she needed to stop her male mannerisms, that she needed to basically become like them, this line of thinking was precisely what was causing us to question our recent conversion. I did not like it then when I was in the church and I did not like it now when people chose not to try and empathize and understand the very real facts and circumstances, the challenges and the difficulties that exist in the lives of two former transsexuals. They were glad that people like us were being “saved” because they did not know how to reach out to “those” people. “We are so excited, we just can’t wait to see what God is going to do in your lives to reach out to “these” people. We don’t know what to do, how to talk to them and be a light to them because they just think that we are all judgmental.” Maybe it is because you are church? Many of you live these self-righteous lives claiming to be so redeemed when all that many of you do is live like dormant volcanoes, ready to explode in any second. Covering up your sins by deflecting attention to what other people are dealing with.
Yes, looking back, I am glad that we got baptized last month. For us both, it was symbolic not of being baptized into the family of God, a family that only seems to love their own but rather baptized right out of traditional Christian thought and belief. Don’t get me wrong, I do not negate the relevance of Jesus and His Father but all of that church tradition and formality is definitely not for either of us. There is so much love out there. So much love that our Heavenly Father has given for us to experience. Any religion, faith or belief which would rather base it’s existence on being saved from something evil than to being saved for purposes of love is not anything that I would ever place much stock or importance in. There is simply way too much love for us to manifest to this world. Sending people to hell for eternity to burn forever is NOT the plan of this great Most High. They/it are not even human and they do not enjoy inflicting pain on their own creation. We are a part of who this Great God of All is, we are Their hands and feet on this earth. Why waste time sending people to some imaginary lake of fire?
There is so much to be done on this earth to help humanity than to spend all the time condemning it. I leave you with a post from a friend of mine on Facebook, food for thought:
“We don’t need another store front church, rented out basement church, community center room church, etc. If you want to be effective as a pastor in this hour find you a street corner, pitch you a tent on a field, open up a shelter, open a food pantry and preach out of there, open up Christian schools and preach out of there. If we are going to be effective in this hour we need to get involved in the community, stop the dogmatic preaching, LISTEN to the unbelievers with a loving heart, be kingdom minded in executing our tactics and offer practical alternatives that are founded on right Biblical principles.”
“While we are sitting up here talking negative about and judging these protestors, we actually could learn a thing or two from them. At least they are willing to get out and be passionate about something…what if WE (the body of Christ) got out in the streets by the thousands, on a regular basis, in our major cities on Sundays or any other day and toted signs with loving slogans, passed out food and resources, hugs, prayer, etc and worshipped in the streets. Imagine that.”
Getting baptized was the best thing that we could have done, it opened our eyes to the fact that true religion is best expressed in loving every one not just those who think, walk and act like you do. Love, that is after all, the greatest message that could ever be shared. Love yourselves, love others it is truly quite simple really is it not?