Affirmation Calendar 2013
“Although I no longer identify as a LDS, Affirmation is also for people like me”
By Justis Tuia
This is a landmark year for me. September 2012 marked five years since I moved to the capital region to start graduate school. It also marks the fourth year since I came out of the closet, publicly acknowledging before family and friends what I had always known to be true. I was and am gay.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always been keenly aware of the chasm that separates me from most other young men. For many years, I had no idea what to call it, but I knew there was something wrong with me–something that should never be shared with others. Two years prior to moving to Washington, DC, I walked away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unable to reconcile my sexuality with my spirituality, I resolved to never step foot into another church. I was, in many ways, so deeply wounded by a Christian institution and its ambassadors that I became embittered toward organized religion as a whole.
In effect, my faith in an Abrahamic God, a Savior and in organized religion was shattered. How could the “Christian Church” get something so simple so fundamentally wrong? For three years, I maintained my resolve to completely disconnect from organized religion. This outward change was, in many ways, just a small manifestation of the inner turmoil that was raging inside of me. I was furious with my perceived hypocrisy of the Church as I struggled to reconcile the official stance of the Church with my life experience and my personal interaction with everyday members who channeled the love of the Savior in their daily lives.
Looking back, I don’t know exactly how I ended up where I am in my spiritual journey. I only know that a supportive family and Affirmation have provided me with the safe space I needed in order to begin sorting things out. Please be not mistaken: I no longer identify as a Latter-day Saint. I don’t know if I would even identify as a Christian. My spiritual perspective has taken on a much more universalistic flavor. If I were to label my spiritual views today, I would say that I ascribe to a modified ecumenical pantheistic humanism with strong secular undertones.
There are few things that I feel comfortable testifying about any longer; however, I do know that regardless of our various identities, ALL are connected in a much deeper way than the most attuned among us recognize. We are all worthy of love and respect (yes, even our Christian brothers and sisters that fail to afford us this same love), and it is our duty to be grateful for our challenges as they help us to grow, and with this grateful heart set out to heal the world for both ourselves and those less fortunate. For when I pass from this world and there be a just deity (regardless of the form it takes–be it he, she, it, or they), I am confident that I will be rewarded accordingly; if there be an unjust deity, why would I waste precious time and resources in pursuit of a reward that may never come; and, if there be no deity, I can pass from this existence confident that I leave the world a better place than I found it. After all, I am here but for a short period, and each additional day is a precious gift.
There is so much suffering in the world; I refuse to spend time worrying about what may or may not come next. I know what lies before me, and I intend to do something about it. I am confident that it will all work out in the end. Not all people in Affirmation are traveling the same spiritual path as me, and I’m comfortable with affording them the space they need in order to center themselves in the larger world.
Recently, a close friend, Randall Thacker, was elected to serve as President of Affirmation for the 2013 term. This comes as no surprise to me as Randall is an exceptional Spirit, and I am confident he will lead Affirmation with a steady hand and an open heart. I intend to help him accomplish his goals for the organization, while ensuring that enough space remains in the organization for people like me. After all, there’s always enough time, space, resources and love for those who cross our path in Life—regardless of who they are or who they love.