Jesus Did Not Die For Your Sins But You Will

WRITTEN BY: JUSTIN BLACKBURN

The Sunday School Class sings, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world!” I love singing. I love Jesus. Jesus loves us all no matter what.

Big church time. I sit with my family as adults scream, beg for Jesus to heal them. They throw themselves at the altar. The preacher puts his hands on their heads. They flail, flap, and fall over. They scare me. I don’t want to be like them when I grow up. I want to be like Jesus. “Jesus is beautiful,” I say to my father as we walk to the car.

“No, he’s not!” His face solidifies with horror. “Jesus is Lord! He’s feared and respected. Women are beautiful son… not men.”

“But the feelings I feel when I look at women are like when I see Jesus.” He flings me over his shoulder, carries me to the basement of County Line Baptist Church. He takes off his belt. He throws me over his knee. He whips me. I am screaming, begging, crying. I’m six.

How do you make peace with the past?

School day. Mrs. Perkinson yells at Marcus to go to the time out chair. Marcus insists he wasn’t talking. He wasn’t. It was Alison. Marcus is the only black kid in class. Mrs. Perkinson blames him for everything. Marcus walks to the corner. He puts his head down. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. I walk to the corner. I hug his shoulders. I kiss the top of his head. Zack screams, “Look, Brian’s a faggot!” The class laughs loud. Mrs. Perkinson takes me to the principal’s office. My father shows up steaming. He carries me to his car. He beats me with his belt. Jesus loves the little children… all the children of the world?

My father drives me to a camp called “God’s Choice.” During the day my white khaki counselor informs me God punishes all gays with AIDS and hell. He shows me pictures of men with AIDS dying. He acts out men burning for eternity. He leads me to an empty room. He ties me to a chair. He plays films of men touching, raping. He tasers me until I refuse to close my eyes. At night, he takes me to the woods, touc…no, no, no…can’t go back there. I’m nine.

Bullies say if I don’t drown the hamster in the fish tank they’re calling my father to tell him I suck dick. The hamster is my only friend. But I can’t stand up for myself. I take a scalpel to the bathroom. I slit my wrists. I’m twelve.

Finally, a human friend. He’s not the nicest at school, but after school we chill. Don’t tell anyone, but last night he kissed me, we did things. He wants me to meet him in the woods. We may be together. I wait, excited. Here he com…that’s not him… it’s his older brother? Older brother’s friends? They chase me, catch me. I’m beaten, buried, fifteen.

Seventeen, crying in my room. My father opens the door, says I can either stop being a queer, go to his alma mater, join his fraternity, or be disowned to the streets.

I’m eighteen, blindfolded in the woods. I hate college, hate living a lie. My frat brother steps on my Adam’s apple while pouring beer down my throat. I choke. Is this acceptance?

I’m twenty, not attending frat parties much. I wake with the sun, yoga, meditate. I’m reading everything I can about who Jesus truly is. I feel better than ever. I know I must be honest with my parents. I drive down a highway. I knock on a door. In the living room my father is choking me. He takes my keys, says if I come back he’ll kill me.

I am twenty five, locked in a mental institution, freaking. These memories are magnets attracting the same shit to me over and over and over and over and over and over again.

How do you make peace with the past when it is present still?