A Preacher’s Kid Who Went Through a Rough Childhood Offers Advice to Pastors September 19, 2013

A Preacher’s Kid Who Went Through a Rough Childhood Offers Advice to Pastors

Troy Fitzgerald, the author of Cults and Closets, grew up as a preacher’s kid whose parents belonged to a cult.

Being gay only made Troy’s relationship with his father worse:

My father was so committed to the church and his role as a pastor that he rarely spent time with me growing up. He and I never had any quantity or quality time until he taught me to play racquetball and golf when I became a teenager, but the alienation that began in my adolescence could not be made up for and I never felt close to him. Even though he told me he loved me. He had a concept of how a boy should behave and compared me to my brother who was two years older who happened to love playing sports and was more athletic. I was more affectionate and artistic and enjoyed playing with my older sister more. Fearful I would not fit the mold of the boy he thought I needed to fit, he labeled me a “sissy” and warned me in my adolescence that I needed to change my behavior and “walk and talk” more like a “man” — be more like my brother. This saddled me with insecurity and I would struggle with self-confidence into adulthood.

Eventually, when the church transformed itself into something resembling a modern-day megachurch with mainstream evangelical beliefs, his father was laid off with no savings and nowhere else to go:

even though my father had been a faithful, dedicated pastor in the church for 35 years and had supported the doctrinal changes, he was laid off with no retirement or savings. Because the church was also focused on “end-time prophecy” and believed Christ was going to return around 1975 or very soon after, my parents never saved for their retirement or their kid’s college. They didn’t think this world would last that long. Nobody in the church did.

Something strange happened in the years to follow, though. His parents let go of the church. They let go of any animosity toward Troy’s sexuality. They embraced him in a way they never did when he was a child.

It’s really a beautiful story of what can happen when religious people finally break that spell.

After sharing that emotional story, Troy offers wonderful advice to other pastors who may be in the position his father once held:

While my parents made many mistakes in my childhood, they have redeemed themselves by setting their pride and ego aside, acknowledging their failures in the past, and just loving their kids unconditionally. Their kids have made mistakes — I have made plenty as an adult — but my parents allow me to live my life and be free. For all the hang-ups I may perceive they saddled me with, there is one hang-up I don’t have to deal with — judgmental parents whose love is saddled with conditions.

For all the talk about how their faith is synonymous with love, Troy has a point: too many Christians offer love only with strings attached. But that could change if more people spoke out against it.

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