My secret lover, my erstwhile boyfriend Ron, just called me a sinner, ensnared by the sin of loving him, and that I was going to hell.My "I 'heart' Ron" affection died painfully that day, and I was condemned to being exposed to evil, choosing sin, and damned to hell.I confess that I fit that exact stereotype myself when I led youth groups as a young closeted gay man.
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Aside from his handsome allure he had charisma and charm oozing out of every pore.
As a gay boy whose testosterone was starting to surge in his growing, maturing body, I was smitten.
For years I followed Ron's direction as a young Christian.
When Ron suggested that I go on retreat or go to Young Life's Malibu Club Camp, I went.
I was not the only one drawn to this attractive young man. After years in the Church as a child, a youth, and later in church leadership and teaching in a seminary, I am aware that men and women chosen to be leaders are often physically attractive.
When I taught in a seminary, I poked fun at the "Bachelor Phenomenon", explaining to my Christian education classes that the "ideal" youth leader in a Christian group needed to play three chords on the guitar around camp fires, design creative hats and t-shirts in neon colors, know an encyclopedia of non-violent games, spout memorized Bible verses when one left the Bible at home, and be young and good looking enough to get married and make babies thereby teaching the young women in the youth group to be babysitters.Using a trip to Mc Donald's as a metaphor for how to date girls, Ron explained the rules of the game: you get to first base, a kiss, when you buy a girl a Coke; second base included French kissing and touching her breast with a purchase of a burger; third base, which included fellatio, was buying a Coke, burger, and fries. Intercourse, with Coke, burger, fries, and a milkshake! Not only did he cast the American dating game as hedonistic, raising an argument for abstinence-only sex education, but he also told us all who were "homosexual" we're going to hell.Love Jesus or be gay and go to hell were the choices.After all, I reasoned, Ron was closer to Jesus than I was, and he knew Scripture better than I did. In my imagination, he was the closest thing to a boyfriend I could have in my shadow world of unrequited gay love.My secret love affair with Ron came crashing down with a fanciful description of dating as a Mc Donalds' "Happy Meal." One summer day when Ron was an intern at my home Presbyterian Church he gave a talk on "dating and the Christian life." I sat in the front row, listening to his every word and taking notes.That shadowy, gray, confining space would be my home for the next twenty years.