“What?” I remember Zeke Bradbury shouting at me when
I told him specifics about my current struggle. At first when I told him
that I had an issue with lust, he was cool about it, because after all,
males are born with that struggle aren’t they? The loud question came after
I told him that it was hard for me to concentrate on what he was saying at
our bible study sometimes when he wore his minuscule running shorts and
cut-off mesh t-shirt.
“How can you get turned on by this?” he shot off,
stretching his arms out to his side to display his sweat-shined muscles to
me, as if he thought they were ugly. I shut my eyes to avoid looking at him.
He must have gotten the message, because he suddenly looked self-conscious
of his appearance and hunched forward a little.
“Sorry, Alex. I mean I know there are guys out there like
that, it’s just that I didn’t expect one to show up at my campus ministry.
Are you sure you’re a Christian? I mean, you did pray the prayer, right?”
I was starting to feel really bad. After feeling guilty for
what had happened in the coffee shop with Phoenix, I had thought that maybe
Zeke could help us both with some tips for staying on the “straight and
narrow.” His reaction to finding out I had a thing for guys sent a chill up
my arms – like maybe there was no hope for me after all. I started to turn
away, but then Zeke caught himself and grabbed my shoulder.
“Look Alex, I shouldn’t have reacted like that. There’s a
part in one of the Apostle Paul’s letters that lists a bunch of sins that
people used to do back then, and…” he looked around to see if anyone was
within earshot. “…and that’s one of them. I guess when I read that next part
of that verse, where it says ‘and some of you were just like that,’ I
just figured that once a person becomes a Christian, that all goes away. I
never really considered that it might be like regular lust, and you have to
keep dealing with it.”
I thought. What the heck is that about?
“Look” I started back at him, rather annoyed at his
insinuation that what I was struggling with wasn’t normal, “I wouldn’t have
brought it up, but it’s not just me. There’s another Christian guy I know,
and he told me that he still struggles with it too, so I know I’m not the
I could see the wheels turning in Zeke’s brain, and was
afraid of what was coming next.
“First off, Alex, you gotta know that God calls
homosexuality an abomination – that’s like the worst kind of sin, so it’s
not normal for someone to have to deal with that.”
I didn’t know a lot about the bible, but I had checked out
all those scriptures that Christians quote against homosexuality, and Zeke
using that particular scripture lit my fuse.
“You know,” I started at him before he could continue,
“That chapter in Leviticus lists a whole lot more than homosexuality being
abominations. It says that even having sex with your wife when she’s
on the rag is abominable to God. So don’t go preaching to me like being gay
is the greatest sin on the planet.”
Zeke tried to argue with me, but I dug my bible out of my
backpack and showed him the thirtieth verse of chapter eighteen, which says
clearly that the Israelites weren’t to “practice any of these abominable
I had never seen Zeke back down from a challenge to his
bible knowledge, but I think he saw the fire in my eyes, so he just stood
there and looked steamed.
“Look, you said there was another Christian guy who felt
the same as you. What’s his name? Maybe I should talk to him about this.”
“No, you look,” I told him. “We didn’t do anything wrong.
We were just wanting some help in knowing what to do to keep it that way.”
“Just don’t do it,” was all he could come up with on his
“Don’t do what?” I asked him, not following his train of
“Just don’t lust in your heart after him. If you don’t lust
after him, you won’t end up doing something that God hates.”
Even I could hear the exasperation in my voice as I pleaded
“You don’t understand do you?”
“Look, I gotta talk to my ministry supervisor tomorrow.
I’ll ask him if he has any advice about it, okay?” With that he left me
standing there feeling like God was the only one who could possibly
understand me, and at that particular moment, I wasn’t too sure that he did.
I sure didn’t expect that kind of reaction from another Christian. And I’m
sure glad I hadn’t told him that Phoenix and I had held hands yesterday, let
alone that we had kissed each other on the lips.
Wednesday before our bible study, Zeke told me that he
needed to talk with me afterwards. I dreaded to think what he and his
ministry supervisor came up with as a plan for my life.
To avoid implicating Phoenix as “the other Christian guy I
knew who struggled,” I told him to wait for me outside the building, and
dragged myself to the front of the room where Zeke was waiting for me. His
mood, while confident as he led the study, was now noticeably subdued.
“Alex, I talked with Mr. Wren, my supervisor, yesterday
about what we discussed on Sunday. I guess I was really surprised that he
didn’t see it as a big deal. He told me I was like way over-reacting – that
sin is sin, and Jesus died to take every one of them away, no matter what
they were. He asked me to spend some time thinking about my own life, to see
if there was anything that others might consider to be sinful, and that I
hadn’t conquered yet.
“I guess what he was trying to tell me was that we all have
the ability to let our desires get us into trouble some times. So it’s
important for us all to know what triggers our weakness, and do our best to
avoid those situations. He basically told me that he had two words of advice
for me to give to you and that other guy you know.
“First, he said to tell you to never let yourselves get
into a situation where you’d be alone together. By staying with other people
in public, you never have the opportunity to do the wrong things.
“Second, he asked if you went to church.” Zeke looked into
my eyes and asked, “You do go to church, don’t you?”
“I did over break when I was at home.”
“Yeah, but do you go to church here in Los Angeles? ‘cause
that’s the second thing Mr. Wren told me to say. When you’re connected with
other believers who know who you are, and you’re busy helping other people,
then it sort of keeps your mind focused away from trouble.”
That seemed to make a lot of sense to me, so when Phoenix
wanted me to come over to his dorm room to talk about things, I told him
what Zeke had just told me, and we went to the campus coffee shop instead.
I spent the rest of the week thinking about where to go to
church. I mean, besides going with Phil over the holiday break, I had hardly
ever even set foot inside of one. Zeke went to a large church in L.A., and
invited me to come along with him, but I was afraid going to a large church
would defeat the purpose that he told me for going there. Being an introvert
by nature, in a large crowd of people, it would be too easy for me to get
lost in the crowd of people every week.
I checked the religion section in the LA Times for “Houses
of Worship,” and picked out three that were nearby, and whose services
started at a different time from each other. I figured that way, if I got to
one church and didn’t like it for some reason, I could just move on to the
next one on the list. The first church on the list looked to be about the
size church I had been thinking would be a good size – not too big, not too
small, and when I got there, I saw other young people going in, so I decided
to try it out.
I was really surprised when I was met at the door by a
middle aged man, who introduced himself as Bill Henderson, and who then
proceeded to show me around the facility like he was assuming that I was
planning to be a regular there. I was impressed with the friendliness of the
people who sat near me in the worship service, too.
There was only one negative to the whole morning worship
experience. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the kid who was playing the drums in
the worship band. He couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen, but
he had the body of a prime eighteen year old. I saw him look straight at me
once while I was staring, so after that I just kept my eyes closed, even
though I didn’t know the words to the songs. I don’t know where the words in
my head came from, but every time I let my mind drift back to the image of
that kid wailing away on the drum kit, the words “jail bait” screamed into
After the service, Mr. Henderson invited me home for lunch.
He said he and his wife always looked forward to having new attendees over
for a meal so they could get to know them better. I graciously accepted his
invitation. That was before I found out the drummer was their thirteen year
old son, Dalton. Dalton was very cordial as he climbed into the car beside
me, but as soon as the car pulled out of the parking lot, I saw him majorly
checking me out. What’s worse, twice when I caught him doing it, he looked
at me without a hint of shame, like he was trying to seduce me with his
eyes. I just kept thinking to myself “jail bait,” and that kept me from even
playing along with his game.
“So Alex, you looking for a place to get involved?” Bill
asked me as we ate lunch. “We could sure use some help with the youth group
on Tuesday nights.”
So that’s how it all started. By Tuesday of the next week,
I had filled out the necessary insurance affidavits, and pending the outcome
of a brief interview with the Youth Director, was approved for helping with
the Youth ministry.
Keeping my eyes off of Dalton Henderson wasn’t too much of
a problem for me on Tuesday evenings. I was helping with the Senior High
group, and he was still in Middle School. Besides that, we were always in
public, where lots of people would notice if I was staring at him.
April twenty-seventh, two weeks before finals is when it
happened. That’s when I noticed two police officers standing by my classroom
door as Youth Group was about to begin. I saw Dalton’s dad talking with
them, and so I had an idea what was coming. Just before I was going to get
everyone’s attention, Mr. Henderson opened the door and politely asked me to
step into the hallway – that the officers wanted to talk with me. I knew I
was going for a ride when Mr. Henderson started taking over the class before
I even got to the door. I was hoping that I was wrong, but I figured that
this had something to do with my seeing Dalton Henderson and another boy,
sneaking into the janitor’s closet a week ago. I didn’t know exactly what
they were up to, so I had waited outside the closet for ten minutes until
they finally opened the door to exit it.
The evidence was circumstantial, I know, but there’s no
mistaking that scent – especially when it’s accompanied by lusty eyes,
clothing that’s out of place, and a suspicious wet spot on your shirt tail.
I ran my finger across the stain and held it to my nose the
way my own mom had done with me after my fist real date. They begged me not
to tell anyone. They swore it was the only time they had ever done something
like that, and that they would never do it again.
Sunday, still unsure of whether it would help, or hurt the
boy’s if I told their parents about what I had seen, I found the note inside
the cover of my bible.
I know u r gay, alex.
Don’t try to deny it, cause I seen u staring at me when I’m on stage. If u
tell my rents about me n David, u r gonna regret it.
I found Dalton after church, because I knew that’s who had
written the letter. He asked if I had ratted him out, and when I didn’t
answer right away, he must have assumed that I had. I had wanted to help him
avoid some of the things that I went through as a teen, but I wasn’t sure
that going to the boys’ parents was the right way to do it. I still wasn’t
sure where to go with this.
I thought I was being smart by following Zeke’s advice and
staying where others could see us, but I guess I wasn’t smart enough to
figure out how resourceful Dalton was, nor how desperate he was to ruin my
credibility. I was just standing there thinking what to do, when Dalton
suddenly jumped onto me, wrapping his legs around my waist, and started
beating me on the back with flailing fists.
“Let go of me faggot,” he screamed at the top of his
lungs. “Oh my god, stop trying to kiss me,” he shouted as his hand
caught my jaw and spun my head around. “Let me go!”
As soon as he had drawn enough attention, he dropped to the
floor, and fled.
After what seemed like an eternity, one of the church
elders had finally walked over to me and asked what had happened. I got no
read from his face as to whose side he was on as I explained the entire
chain of events to him, and even gave him the note that I had found in my
bible, hoping that it would prove that I was innocent of wrong doing.
When I wasn’t told not to lead the meeting as planned that
Tuesday, I figured that they had believed me. As it turned out, it was just
a trap to make sure they knew where they could find me.
“Alex Daniel Harper?” the officer asked.
“You have the right to remain silent…”