Sam Deetz: the Wrath of God, Community Rejection, and Sam’s Lingering Anger

The wrath of God! I grew up afraid of it.

Sam Deetz

My father was the pastor. As I grew from a little boy into a young man, we moved every few years, from one pastorate to another. I listened to the sermons week after week. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday prayer meetings and Bible studies, 10-day revival services each spring and fall, camp meetings and tent meetings in the summer time, youth meetings, conventions, conferences.

The Terrible Wrath of God

The terrible wrath of God would surely doom you to a fiery Hell for many different things, like dancing, going to movies, or even watching TV, wearing shorts, or jewelry (including wedding bands), and if you were a woman, for wearing makeup, or for cutting your hair! But most sex acts (carnal sins) were seldom even spoken of, except breifly from the pulpit, in dictionary language, or behind closed doors, when only adults were present. However, we were warned that the other sins listed above (just a few of many) were a mere minor infraction in comparison to adultery to fornication, or even masturbation, and unfathomable wrath and punishment was reserved for homosexuality – the sin against nature!

No More Living a Lie

So, after praying for God to remove my homosexual desires for years, I felt at it was not his will, and possibly, I had been selected to be doomed by some sort of predestination, so I may as well give up and at least be honest with myself and others by not living a lie!

When I came out publicly in March 1976, after facilitating a Gay Lobby Day for our Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian activists to demonstrate (Bi and Trans was not added until years later), and attempt to talk with our state Senators and Legislators at our Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, I fully expected my family and “friends” to have absolutely nothing more to do with me. That was my expectation, what I had grown up witnessing, what I was taught to accept at that time, without even a second thought!

Shunned and Ostracized

After the Daily Item ran the story on the front page, my former classmates would pass me when they happened to see me, with their noses straight up in the air, and family members would call my phone and hang up when I answered. Former classmates admitted to tearing up my Christmas greetings because of my perceived sins. Some of my relatives moved out of state. (Later they admitted that my public outing was a factor in their decision, and that they had been embarrassed when asked by acquaintances if they were related to me.)

Painful Family Events

For many years later I was not contacted by some family members and relatives, and when we were forced to be together due to a family happening, they never broached the subject of my relationship with my partner! They built a solid wall, and I permitted them to do it for a long, long, time because I didn’t want to have further conflict, and hoped that given time, things would come back around to normal! Also, it was what I grew up (in the church) fully EXPECTING!

At family weddings, when I attended, I was publicly goaded (screamed at) to join the group of bachelors waiting and scrambling to catch the brides garter when it was time for that little heterosexual ritual to occur. When AIDS took a grip on our population, my partner and I would go to family reunions with our covered dishes for all to share, and would always bring them back nearly full. I was told along the way that some of my family would find out what we brought, and then spread the word not to eat that dish because it was ours and therefore it might spread AIDS! Neither of us had AIDS. Thankfully, we were spared that terrible “gay plague” — “God’s judgement” — perhaps because we were partnered before AIDS was even known.

I felt so much distate for the church, especially Conservative Holiness, Wesleyan, Armenian groups and most others, that I would have nothing to do with them, although my partner and I did everything in our means to facilitate family harmony and restore communications. We we were eventually looked to as the planners for most family events, and we happily complied, thinking we were making inroads. But, still the wall remained. Reunions, weddings, funerals, illnesses, birthdays and anniversaries came and went!

Recent Return to Bible Reading

Recently, I have been studying the Bible again, and it has dawned on me that love, forgiveness, sharing, kindness, charity, faith, hope, are emphasized in the Bible, especially by CHRIST, the name “Christians” use as their own, but these traits were never a factor in my treatment!

Is God Raising Up LGBT “Dry Bones” as a Prophetic Witness?

I am very angry, and I wish it were not true, and that I will eventually be able to let it go, but I think of Jonah and Ninevah. I think this group of churches must face a judgement for their un-Christian attitudes and behavior. I also think of the Valley of Dry Bones in the prophet Ezekial’s story, and cannot help wondering, is God trying to make the dry bones (LGBT) rise up and preach the truth to the so-called “chosen of God”?

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Click here for more LGBT Testiimonies.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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9 Responses to Sam Deetz: the Wrath of God, Community Rejection, and Sam’s Lingering Anger

  1. Sam, every time we extend to others what we wish they would extend to us, we become the face of God’s love. My background is very similar to yours. I have handled this (and no, this is not the only way to handle it, nor was I born knowing how to do this) by continuing to engage with my family and also trying to promote conversation at the level THEY wish to discuss.

    For instance, I began standing up for myself not by trying to get people to change their minds about my homosexuality, but by simply saying, “I love you. I love you more than you can imagine, but when you say {insert latest offensive phrase here}, it hurts me deeply. It makes me think you hate me and don’t want my love.” After a year of that, the “witnessing” stopped…in BOTH directions. I realized that I was just as guilty of putting up a barrier of stated principle as my parents were. I realized that I was making my parents feel as if I didn’t want their love. When I changed my tone, THEY changed their tone. My anger began to subside and I was finally able to begin sharing my life (perhaps not in full detail) with my family.

    Of course, you may have already done this and seen different results. But keep trying.

    My father passed away this year. He died believing that he would never see me again, but I took that concern and his tears as a mark of his love, not a rejection. Dad also died knowing that I loved him, that I was his advocate with the doctors, that his well being was my total concern, that I was by his side. My gay associate made Dad’s last meal. Dad loved it and was so grateful for Stewart’s gift of love. My partner was with Dad earlier when he had a terrible accident and was blinded. The rest of the family was traveling, but Richard stayed with Dad in the hospital, holding his hand, proudly calling himself Dad’s son. He kept my father alive and hopeful even as the emergency medical staff kept Dad alive. Dad never forgot Richard’s kindness and love. He came to love us both as his sons. He also never gave up his religious beliefs. But the bridge of God’s love is greater than our own selves and our own limited understanding.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      James, your dad was obviously blessed to have the two of you with him in the final season of his life. Your persistent love, guided at every step by your best lights at the time, far exceeds the care I have shown my own mother. Thanks for setting such a wonderful example.

      I need to make a phone call today.


    • thayes9217 says:

      ‘I began standing up for myself not by trying to get people to change their minds about my homosexuality, but by simply saying, “I love you. I love you more than you can imagine, but when you say {insert latest offensive phrase here}, it hurts me deeply. It makes me think you hate me and don’t want my love.” After a year of that, the “witnessing” stopped…in BOTH directions.’

      James, I love it! Thanks for sharing that.


  2. I am so very (very) sorry for your treatment at the hands of your family and your church. I am so very sorry for all the pain you have had to endure by the very people who should be your “shelter from the storms.” I don’t know if this helps- and I sincerely do not wish in ANY way demean your experience- but screwed-up families pick someone (ANYONE!) to be the scapegoat for their family system. And they always tell the selected scapegoat that it was THEIR fault and they deserve what they get. Speaking as the scapegoat for my family, I can tell you that while it was a horrible childhood, I found I had gained so many unexpected gifts AFTER I was able to process through all the pain. And although I loathe the word “forgiveness”, I did finally reach a place of compassion for those who worked so hard to destroy me when I most vulnerable.

    Please know that God made you perfectly in His image and that you are Divinely Loved EXACTLY how you are. Although there is still a portion of our society that discriminates against the LGBT community, the tide has turned and in another generation people will look back and wonder how such hatred was even possible. (My theory is this is why marriage rights and women’s issues have become such a flash point in this election. It’s the last dying gasp of an archaic power structure trying desperately to cling to power. Sorry guys. Your ideas have run their course.)


  3. Sarah says:

    This story saddens me. But it is right that the bible teaches love, kindness, etc… that Christ’s teachings are not what are being taught in most church’s today. The act of these self-proclaimed Christians is not a reason to turn away from God who loves us all!!!


  4. Denise Smith says:

    Sam, first let me share with you my thanks for your honesty and sharing your experience of life with others!!

    Next, I’d like to say that it is wonderful that you have returned to reading the bible for yourself and seeing what it is that Jesus said and that those that love Him are to do and how they are to live,, and what the basis for being called a Christian was all about. It wasn\’t ever a ”self profession” .. it was the result of others seeing someone doing as Christ did and living as Christ is recorded to have said that those that love him were to live. So on those points you are surely seeing the truth as well.

    The next point I’d like to share with you and others that will read your blog is that from the beginning, from the opening pages of the book of Genesis we find God speaking to each of the elements of creation, including man, giving man instructions as to what was to be done or not to be done Himself, as well as blessing man. From the beginning, man was not reading writings, was not hearing from other people… or being told by others what it was that God would have man to do or not to do… nor the consequences of man\’s actions should he not obey or do what it was that he knew God said for him to do or not to do.

    What we also find is that the first commandment with ”promise” from God to man was NOT to partake of the knowledge of good and evil from any other source other than God. We also can see that the reason that the man’s relationship with God was changed, and man’s experiencing being ashamed and afraid was the direct result of letting someone/something else tell him what God knows, what God would have him to do and what would result with God when man did so. The ”hearkening to the voice of another” in matters pertaining to God, what God knows, what God would have man to do or not to do….. is the source of the issue… it was what God commanded man not to do from man’s beginning according to the bible…. and yet isn’t that where most of all the things that causes so many people so many issues in their own lives simply not the result of what someone else who is not God has said about God???

    The bible has been telling all its readers for a very long time now… that man will bring upon himself a lot of misery and issues within himself when he allows anyone to convince him or speak to him or about himself and his relationship with God … who is not God.

    So when people stop following the ”similitude of Adam”… ”hearkening to the voice of another” about God, about our relationships with God, about what God knows or would have us to do …. from anyone other than God… the rest will take care of itself.

    Be thankful you know the truth…… of not only what the bible states as the words of Jesus… but also that the bible has been telling all of its readers for a very long time, that those that claim to know Jesus Christ, and are themselves not keeping His commandments …. that they do not know Him and the truth is not in them. Its not a judgement against them… its the very measure by which the bible gives us to know who it is that does know Him and love Him … that are His own… and those that are not.

    Also remember as well, that many, despite us having the bible available and the ability to read it have had the same \”source\” as you did for so much about God and Jesus Christ … the words and teachings of those that are not God… nor His Christ…and despite them telling us and us able to read, that the issues between man and God began when man \”hearkened to the voice of another\” who was not God!! ♥♥


  5. Sam Deetz says:

    One of my most embarassing moments happened in 1981. I am telling this little story because it illustrates a key point in my letter about my life experience as told in the short article above.
    I was emphasizing my expectations of how things would be for me after I came out to my Christian family and community. I thought…rather knew…it would be horrible and I would get a whole lot of nasty feedback…and I got exactly what I had expected from most (but not all). So, my expectations were right on the mark, I was not really surprised, and although it was real tough, I lived through it and never gave it too much thought. I never thought I would be praised for my honesty, befriended in any way, or ever thought of as a Christian brother after that! I was absolutly correct. So, what? Expectaions were reality!

    Here is my embarrassing story:

    My partner and I had invited a small group of close friends to our home on a Sunday afternoon for an evening of refreshments. We were also celebrating the birthday of one of our friends with a gift and some libations. We had a birthday gift ready and were looking forward to this small celebration. Our friend, Geoff had recently moved in with his new partner and they had just returned home from a Hawaiian vacation. This was his birthday we were honoring. My partner and I both were very happy for Geoff and Will, and having known Geoff for quite some time were thrilled for him! Will was just about the nicest and one of the most pleasant guys around, plus he was very good-looking and modest about it!

    Since we were giving Geoff a gift, I somehow got the crazy idea that it would be fun and entertaining to also give Will a small gift to open. I didn’t have time to shop, so I looked around for something, just anything to wrap up for Will, and planned on presenting it to him after we gave Geoff his gift. My mind must have left me, or maybe it was temporarily disconnected, because what I did was absolutely horrible when I carried through with my little “fun surprise” a couple of hours later.

    Geoff opened his gift and seemed to be delighted with it. I then handed Will a little box that I had gift-wrapped to look just as pretty as the one we gave Geoff. When I handed it to him, he looked surprised and very pleased to be getting a gift. He didn’t know us for much more than a few months and I imagine he was thinking how thoughtful it was of Geoff’s close friends to be thinking well enough of him to be giving a gift to welcome him and show our best intents. At that moment, the blood rushed to my face in shame and panic, and I wished I could put this entire little plan in reverse and go back to the moment before I got my brain storm! No one else was aware of what I was doing. I had kept me little surprise all to myself. I wanted to cry and say, “Don’t open this is all a big mistake” But I was so paniced I was tounge tied and wanted to run away. Will opened the pretty package and lifted the tissue paper to uncover a fake snake that was made of carved segments tied together loosely, so that it wiggled when moved.

    Somehow we all kind of laughed and got on with our little party, and apparently Will was not terribly offended…..or at least he didn’t show it. But, I couldn’t think of anything else but how horrible I felt about my ignorant, unfunny gag gift and how inappropriate it was, and what a fool I had made of myself. The next day I wrote Will a letter of apology and attempted to explain how my intended joke got so misguided and ended up causing embarassment to both he and I, and to some extent, the rest of our little group of friends.

    Back to my original topic. I came out as Gay, expecting the worst, and that is pretty much what I got. But, for some reason, never-the-less, I felt badly about the way I was treated! What gives? For many years, I could not get the connection. Why did I feel so badly about something that I went into, fully expecting it to turn out to be very unpleasant?

    Arriving at nearly retirement age, going through some major life events, the past six or eight months I suddenly felt that I made a connection that might just answer my own question. The answer is that I should have had greater expectations! Thinking about what I really knew all along about what the Bible teaches… that there should have been love and compassion where there was distrust and misunderstanding, and there should have been an attempt to work on education and understanding, and an effort to go back to the important messages that Jesus taught, rather than allow a wall of distrust to be firmly placed around me. I am willing to concede that perhaps I should have thought about this sooner and made some better attempt to remove the wall, but I didn’t even think this was possible. Why did I have this expectation and why was I so right about it? This is my point, and is where I fault the church as well!

    I want the Church to get this message “Loud and Clear”. Not so much so that they attempt to make it right to appease me. I want them to make sure they do not continue to repeat this grave error over and over again and continue to cause others similar distress! “Church, stop gift-wrapping gag gifts for your young people, whether they contain toy snakes or whatever other tricks. The church that continues this practice may be in for a much greater judgement than any judge from any earthly jurisdiction can assign!


  6. Annette says:

    Sam, thank you for being and remaining honest and ‘out there’. I don’t understand how families can condemn people for being gay, transgender etc., when clearly so many feel ashamed about it, and have problems accepting their own sexuality. If I was your side of the pond, I’d come round and give you a big hug!

    My brother was gay. he rarely spoke about it, and we never asked him, but we accepted him. He struggled with depression and addiction for most of his life, but was also funny and compassionate. he died in 2009, dear man, shortly after his best friend (perhaps a lover? he never said) died of a stroke.

    The most important thing is that you Love, and that is all you need to do! Be blessed, continue reaching out and being yourself and go up to your family with a smile. I hope that one day they will see the uselessness of condemning and judging. Blessings…


  7. Denise Smith says:

    Yes, Sam, I think many of us want to see the “church” return to a focus on the teachings of Jesus Christ and return to the definition of “Christian” meaning one who follows the teachings and example of Jesus Christ… rather than have so much of what is known today as “Christian” or “Christianity” or the “Church”, actually being exhibitions against everything that Jesus Christ said and taught that those that love Him and know Him would do!!


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