When I was about 6 years old, I received my First Communion. When I was about 15 years old, I underwent my Confirmation into the Catholic Church. When I was 18, I went to a private Catholic university in Los Angeles for my Bachelor’s degree (in English, with a minor in Political Science, if you’re wondering). And when I turned 33 last year, I began to have lingering doubts about my faith—or, at least, my faith as it appeared in relation to the Church itself.

You see, it’s not that I don’t believe in God anymore (I do). It’s not that I don’t trust in the wisdom or the mission of Jesus Christ (I do). It’s not that I don’t pray, or that I don’t consider myself both queer and a person of faith (I do all the above). It’s that I don’t see myself within the Church as a whole. And it’s about coming to terms with the fact that, for years, I’ve been carrying around baggage from trying to fit myself into the mold of being a “perfect” disciple for so long. Trying with all my heart to pray the rosary, to attend Mass every Sunday, to bare my soul at Confession, to pass as a cisgender heterosexual man looking forward to a future of holy matrimony and children.

But I can’t do that anymore. Not without denying the truth of myself.

In some cases, what I’ve felt and struggled with was this culture of guilt and shame. This culture of obedience and stringent virtuous effort that had to be maintained daily. You can’t imagine how much of a relief it was to study Buddhism and Taoism in college, to read from wisdom traditions that encouraged me to let go of something, rather than strive toward something. As someone with chronic depression and anxiety for most of my teens and adult life, that latter attitude has done me no favors, but letting go and being mindful of the present moment’s beauty has.

Some of it, I will admit, is rooted in a strong Mexican-American Catholic background. It wasn’t due to any particular episode of malice or neglect or abuse, but a general atmosphere of perfectionism and piety that I had to navigate. There were only good intentions turned toward me, but the overall weight of trying to live up to the Bible and the edicts of the Vatican wasn’t a cross I was prepared to accept on my shoulders.

In the last year, with the strange reality of quarantine during a global pandemic, I’ve had an opportunity to reevaluate my faith. To ask questions. What does God look like to me? What is the heart of my faith in Christ? Do I feel the Spirit around me, or around others? Can I reconcile my sexuality and gender-neutral expression with my religion?

I began reading from David Hayward and his hilarious NakedPastor comics about challenging questions of faith. I read from Morgan Guyton and his book How Jesus Saves the World From Us. I read from St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I delved into the origins of liberation theology. I watched dharma talks by Thich Nhat Hanh on YouTube, studied the poems of Sufi mystic Rabia Basri, listened to Qu’ran recitations, and reread the Tao Te Ching. Suddenly, the language of spirituality was new and exciting for me. I even began keeping a journal to chart my progress, write down new questions and new thoughts, and identify what sources of religious trauma I had to unpack.

By the beginning of this year, I hadn’t been inside of a church for several months. I had read frequently from the Gospels, but I had not received Communion, nor confessed my sins, nor prayed a single Hail Mary. But I didn’t feel empty inside. If anything, I could see a new light growing within me. Not one free of the love of God or the love of others, but redefined and allowed to shine with its own intensity.

I don’t know yet if I ever will go back. Certainly, I’ll attend Mass if I so choose, or if I find a parish where I might fit. And I do consider myself Catholic, albeit one without a parish to call home. But I don’t consider myself “bound” to any one church or denomination. Even the label “Christian” doesn’t fit me, especially with all the toxic issues that the larger body of believers needs to address. I would rather say I’m a disciple of Christ, queer and affirming, with no set gender, open to all that the world has to offer.

So, here is what I currently profess about my beliefs…

I believe in God, who is the Everlasting, the Ultimate Reality, and the Source of Life.

I believe that human beings are complex animals, born into a world with no predestination.

I believe that we have the capacity for good or evil based on our desires and our suffering.

I believe in the wisdom of Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu, Rabia Basri, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I believe in the power of nonviolence, virtue ethics, simple living, and communion with nature.

I believe that every person must find their own path, toward God or not, so long as it is virtuous.

I believe that love, both personal and social, offers the world a way out of injustice and despair.

I believe in the universal community of human beings, beyond borders and races, desiring peace.

I believe in neither heaven nor hell, but in the reunion and reconciliation of all souls with God.


Thank you for reading!