Of Caged Birds, The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death & Oz

I was reading a poem online by the 19th century American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar.  The last stanza of the poem, titled, Sympathy, is the inspiration for the title of Maya Angelou's masterpiece, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

When I have the chance to reflect, I often wonder why I--and so many of my GLBTQI brothers & sisters--still remain people of faith in such unfriendly environs.  Why do we continue to identify ourselves as Christians when it seems that most of those who claim their allegiance to Christ the loudest, are also those who work the hardest to make it known that we cannot share their God with them?  Why, as caged birds of a sort, do we still insist on singing?  

It may qualify for the understatement of the year, but I know that keeping the faith isn't always easy, no matter who you are; no matter what your faith.  You can consider the following mostly as rhetorical questions, but is it too much to ask that somewhere along the way--every now and again--that we be allowed to live our faith, not IN SPITE OF our family in Christ, but WITH them?  Isn't that the meaning of fellowship?

I know that, where my Christianity is concerned, I often see things from a simplistic point of view.  I admit that I am not a Biblical scholar. The truth is that, for most of my life, I haven't felt comfortable enough with the very book used so successfully for so long as a blunt object against my heart and my soul to examine it much closer.  I am fully aware that I cannot match those proud, beyond-sure Christian soldiers verse-for-verse, chapter-for-chapter as they dutifully demonstrate absolutely no hesitancy at all in proclaiming not just how the way I "choose to" love is fatally-flawed, but that--on the issue of homosexuality--they possess a perfect understanding of the Father's heart.

I can only speak as a person who tried for most of his life to deny who he is, and who tried to hide his heart to make everyone else happy, and who was partly successful:  I DID succeed at making the world happy (or, at least I believed I did), but I also very nearly forfeited my life for "their" happiness.  It was only after I dropped the last pretense I had that I could keep up this pointless fight that I asked God to help me, and to lead me through my own personal Valley of the Shadow of Death into the light of truth.  I made my leap of faith into those Everlasting Arms nearly a decade and a half ago, and though my life hasn't been sunshine & roses 24/7, it is paradise in comparison to the closet that very nearly became my tomb.

In the battle over Religious Philosophy, I have only my story and my life to stand as my testimony. I KNOW that, only in giving up, did I have any chance of gaining any measure of peace, and living the life God wanted me to live.  I also know that those who own Religion have no interest in understanding that the price they are asking of me to become acceptable to them and to their God--that is, going back into the closet & denying my heart yet again--is one which I  cannot and will not pay.  I will not endure Hell on earth again for their meaningless blessing; for me, death is more preferable. MY God would never ask me to once again hide my light under a bushel & deny THE VERY PERSON HE MADE ME as the cost of the promise of eternity in paradise.

Maybe my words & my sentiments sound as set-in-stone as do those who see me as sin incarnate, and they probably are.  Like the old song goes, When an irresistible force...meets an immovable object...something's gotta give.  

I personally think I've given too much of my life to make "them" happy, in hopes that they'd see me and love me as a brother, and all they gave me in return was the same old ugly, cold party line.

"They" have nothing I want or need anymore...I know now that they never really did. Now that I've come to understand the difference between God & those who claim to speak for God, I know that whatever power "they" had to hurt me & to break me, I gave them, so now, I'm taking it all back. To those so enamored of their ice-cold dogma & so proudly filled with bloodlust for spiritual war-without-end, I simply say, (to paraphrase what Glinda told the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz) Begone! You have no power here!

And, speaking for myself only, THAT'S one reason why this formerly-caged bird continues to sing...

MisterC MisterC
46-50, M
Mar 14, 2010