It's now Wednesday, ten days before my ninth-grade year begins at Boaz High School. I always meet with my Dad around 5:00 p.m. to just catch up and to discuss any questions I have about my middle school girl’s youth group I teach at 6:30 each Wednesday evening.
We always meet in his study on the second floor of the church's administrative building. As I enter his outer office, "Dad, you here?"
"Waiting on you dear, come on in."
I walk in and see a man I do not know sitting across from Dad in my chair, where I normally sit.
"Honey, I want you to meet Doug Carter, he is with the home office of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville," Dad says.
"Hello Mr. Carter, nice to meet you," I say.
"Honey, Mr. Carter and I were just wrapping up a day we have spent planning our next exercise. I'll tell you about it later. If you will, give us about 10 minutes to finish up and I'll be ready for our meeting."
"Okay Dad, I'll just sit at Linda’s desk." Linda is Dad's personal assistant. She is truly the engine under the deck around here. I sit in her soft leather chair and wait on Dad to get free and can’t help but think about Dad's early life.
Dad grew up in Selma, Alabama. He was born in the late 60s.
Even though he didn't witness the dramatic and violent Selma to Montgomery March led by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965, the happenings concerning this march and desegregation with U.S. Congress passing civil rights and voters rights acts, all affected my Dad in deeply wonderful and troubling ways.
My grandfather was Jacob Brown. My brother was named after him. My grandfather was a deputy sheriff in Dallas County, where Selma was the county seat. The sheriff was a life-long enemy of African Americans and was instrumental in seeding and fostering black-hate in his Department. My grandfather was one of the deputies who used whips, tear gas, and nightsticks against the black marchers to turn them back as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge.
According to Dad, grandfather was a two-sided coin. He was hard as nails and fully believed that blacks were inferior to whites. He was so hard that he praised his ancestors for fighting the Civil War, often saying the South would be better off if blacks were still slaves. Dad grew up under the same roof with a father who was a bigot and proud of it.
But, there was a good side to my grandfather. He loved his family, my Dad, my uncles Simon and Preston, and my aunts Nancy and Bea, and my grandmother Marion. Grandfather worked two jobs for years. His day job was as a deputy sheriff, but several nights a week he was a security guard at Somerdale’s Lumber Mill, the largest employer in Selma. Even though he worked eighty-plus hours per week, grandfather spent quality time with his children. Dad was always big for his age and loved football. He played football, starting with Pee Wee, and continued through high school. Grandfather spent countless hours with Dad just throwing the football. He spent real time with each of his children, no matter their hobby and interests.
Two things stuck with Dad, even to this day. It is wrong to hold it against a man or woman who is born black. Even though his father felt totally different, he encouraged his children to think for themselves-and that is what my Dad did. The second thing that stuck with Dad was the importance of family, the importance of working and supporting your family and giving them a better life than you had growing up. Grandfather taught my Dad that the family was the most important government ever created and that the man, the husband, the head-of-the household, was duty bound to keep his family together.
I jumped up when I heard my Dad asking me if I was daydreaming. I told him that I guessed I was. We walked into his office and sat in our normal spots.
"What is your teaching plan for tonight?" Dad asked.
"We are going to the nursing home after I give a 10-minute talk on the elderly and their continuing value to our community and how important it is to spend time with them, showing them how we appreciate all their efforts in making our community and world a better place."
"I think that is an excellent plan." Dad said. "Is Ryan going with you?"
"Yes." Ryan is a dear friend and is the son of the Associate Pastor here at the Church. Ryan and I have been friends all our lives. Associate Pastor Grantham came to First Baptist Church shortly after my Dad did. Ryan and I were both preschool—even though he is a year older than me. He will be in the tenth grade this year. Ryan asked me a year ago if I would help with the middle school youth group. We usually talk or text every day, mostly about the group but we also share a lot of interests, such as books, words, and the outdoors. I think Ryan likes me for more than just a friend, but he is totally shy. I guess that is a good thing for me.
"Are you getting excited about high school and the ninth grade?" Dad asked.
"I think I am, but I'm also a little nervous. I keep hearing how much harder my classes will be and that I will have to work to keep up, and that making excellent grades is an absolute requirement if I want to go to an Ivy League college."
"Ruthie, you have a great mind and a good work ethic. Just take it one day at the time, faithfully completing your assignments. Also, it is important not to get sidetracked with distractions. Yes, I'm talking about boys here, my dear."
Dad's last comment hit me like a ton of bricks. I haven't thought about my predicament lately and certainly haven't been thinking of how hurt and possibly angry my dad would be if he knew that I felt and believed I was gay. Oh, how I must deal with this issue, and that includes talking to my dad, face to face, and just getting things out in the open. "What were you and Mr. Carter working on?" I asked Dad.
"We are both in total agreement that the Church's next exercise must be about our opposition to homosexuality, and the Supreme Court's ruling that homosexuals have a constitutional right to marry." "That sounds like a very hot topic," I said.
"Honey, I'm sorry, but I have to cut our time a little short. I have a meeting with the Deacons before prayer meeting. I hope you will forgive me my dearest. I'll see you tonight at home. Thanks as always for being such a wonderful daughter and for your work with our youth group."
After Dad left, I stayed in his study for the next hour before meeting with Ryan and our youth group. I stayed in his private library, which is right next to his study. It is wall-to-wall books with a small round table and two chairs in the middle. It has one entrance--a door from Dad's study--and one window, a rather large stained-glass one with a multi-colored Christ coming to earth in the clouds.
I pulled John the Apostle, by Clint Bosworth, from a shelf filled with commentaries. I have loved this book for years now. It seems it encourages a belief, a celestial belief, that God is divine and that all men are just a little lower in importance. It also contends all men are made in His image, with all being unique in individuality, but all being His children, all loved equally, and all with one purpose, that of glorifying Him.
But, I couldn't read, all I wanted to do was continue my thoughts about my dad. My mind couldn't get past the thought of Exercise. This was Dad's word for community involvement. Dad had coined this meaning shortly after he became pastor here at First Baptist Church, some 15 years ago. I believe Granddad had taught Dad something unintentionally. Granddad had inspired Dad to think of those black men and women marching to Selma but in a different vein entirely than Granddad thought. Dad believed blacks had a message for the world and that they were willing to risk their lives to share that message. Dad believed--yes, I know, because I have heard him speak of it so many times--blacks knew they were made in God's image, and that they were entitled to fair and equal treatment. Dad believed blacks on that Selma to Montgomery march were engaged in an exercise--one of putting feet to their prayers. Dad was planning another exercise—one focused on his and the Church's opposition to homosexuality. Dad knew his work was righteous work and that God was behind his efforts 100 percent.
Dad had organized and led many other exercises in his role as pastor. I remember him protesting our City's vote to legalize alcohol. I also remember his stance and demonstrations against teaching evolution in school. This last one had been last year. Dad was a believer, a dogmatic believer, in the absolute truth, without error, of the Bible. Dad could be so reasonable, wanting his children to think for themselves, but he could also be so unreasonable, forbidding his children from disagreeing with the Bible.
Last year Dad had carried a whole bus load of folks to Montgomery to protest the Alabama Department of Education's ruling that evolution be taught in Alabama public schools. Dad is against evolution in most every way, but he is more for Creationism and his entire protest was over making sure public schools also taught the Bible story of creation.
Dad hasn't been too concerned with what has been taught in science class, especially biology class, here in Boaz. Mr. Hickson has been the Biology teacher for 35 years and is a staunch creationist--and a faithful member of First Baptist Church. But, Mr. Hickson retired at the end of last school year and his replacement hasn't been announced. I think Dad is a little worried about this.
I looked at my watch and it said 6:29. I had to leave and hurry down to the Fellowship Hall. Hopefully, Ryan would already be there.
When I arrived, I was thankful for Ryan. He is always early and always leading. He already had our group sitting down at two tables, all eagerly creating their individual thank-you cards for a special nursing home resident. Last week Ryan had assigned an individual resident to each student. He believed in the personal touch. Each of our students would adopt a resident.
"Hi Ruthie, what's up, you’re normally early?" Ryan said.
"I was in Dad's library and just lost track of time. You know how libraries can be. Ha."
"Hey, have you heard about our new Biology teacher?" Ryan asked.
"Emily Ayers from Chicago. The School Board just announced it this afternoon. You know my dad always attends the Board meetings." Ryan said.
"What do you know about her?" I asked.
"Actually, more than you probably care about right now. She moved here this summer with her husband and daughter. Her husband is a big-wheel with Progress Rail and was transferred here by Cat, you know, the big company that makes bulldozers and other big equipment. Her daughter is Ellen and she will be in the ninth grade with you. Oh, one other thing, teacher Ayers is a former professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. She has her PhD in Evolutionary Biology and apparently is widely published in science journals. Dad bored me with all these details when he picked me up after the meeting to come here. Sure, looks like Biology class at Boaz High School just entered the 21st century."
It's Sunday morning on this hot and humid July day and I'm sitting in church waiting for services to begin. My Dad is the pastor of this Southern Baptist Church here in my hometown of Boaz, Alabama— some say it is a quaint southern town, a great place to 'live, work, and play.' There is no doubt it is in the heart of the Bible Belt. Many, mostly Yankee journalists, say that Alabama is the heart of the Bigot Belt.
My name is Ruth, most people call me Ruthie. I am fourteen years old and I will be in the ninth grade when school starts back in a few weeks. After a thirty-minute song service, including “There's Victory in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Love Lifted Me,” my Dad, the humble and gifted Joseph Brown, walks to the pulpit. "Good morning and welcome to all. It is a great day to be in God's house and to be worshiping with each one of you. Today, we want to look at an issue that is changing America and the change isn't good. It's the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. Many of us are aware that this week the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case that found a constitutional right for gay couples to be married. Yes, our Supreme Court found that two men or two women have just as much a right to a lawful marriage—and all the rights that bestows—as a man and a woman have.
We all know that God instituted marriage as between one man and one woman.
The Apostle Paul specifically condemns homosexuality in the book of Romans—look if you want to at Romans Chapter 4. Here Paul, speaking for God, says that a man should not lust after another man, nor shall a woman lust after another woman. Neither shall lie with a member of the same sex. Friends, please carefully note that Paul does not see homosexuality as biological—that one is born with the 'gay gene.' He is clear, homosexuality and its related lifestyle is a choice. There is no other way to reason but to conclude that homosexuality is a sin—and this is why Paul calls homosexuality a sin here in God's word. Friends and brothers, homosexuality is a sin and God will deal with it—He will punish the sin and the sinner.
Of course, this doesn't mean we don't love the homosexual. We do. However, we as a church, as God's body, cannot condone the sin. Sin has consequences—and it is never good for the sinner nor society."
Dad said a lot more during his sermon, including a whole lot about the likely effects of the Supreme Court's decision, such as loss of religious freedom and the ultimate breakdown of the American family and our society. After Dad finished and stood at the front door of the church and shook everyone's hand, we came home: me, Dad, Mom, my older brother, and my younger sister.
After we arrived home I went to my bedroom while Mom prepared lunch. I sat in the middle of my bed pondering the words Dad had so clearly and eloquently delivered to all in attendance this morning at First Baptist Church. One thing I knew he was right about, according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin and a choice. A person is not born a homosexual or with homosexual tendencies.
"Ruthie, lunch is ready," Mom called from the kitchen. I got up and quickly walked to the dining room. My parents had this crazy rule that whoever was at home at meal times always ate together in the dining room.
"Ruthie, it's your turn to say grace," Mom said.
"Lord, thank you for this day, for church, for Dad's sermon, for family, and for this food. Amen." I always was pretty good with prayers. I got right to it and never lingered.
Lunch time was rather quiet today, a little unusual for Sunday's. Dad tried to start a conversation about his sermon but there were no takers, not even Mom, who usually is faithful to follow Dad off a cliff. The most chatter was over the summer Olympics in Germany and ridiculing computer gaming as a legitimate sport. The corn casserole generated its usual remarks from Rachel, Jacob, and myself—none of us kids could hardly stomach it but we all finally agreed that a sale on both creamy and niblet corn justified its purchase. We all were willing to sacrifice for the common good—our family unit had to stick together to be a unifying force in our community and, as Dad always said, "a beacon on a hill."
Youthful attitudes improved greatly with the banana-pudding. I assumed bananas were likewise on sale. It was good and was even better when Mom let us kids take ours with us back to our individual bedrooms.
I sat at my desk thoughtless for a while as I finished my pudding. But, like a lightning bolt, I was suddenly awakened again to homosexuality and the consequences that would surely follow.
For quite a while I, at least subconsciously, had thought I might be gay. I had never talked with anyone about it, especially, not with my Dad. Prior to the sixth grade I knew I was different. I didn't want anything to do with boys. I thought they were gross especially after I learned the difference sexually between boys and girls. The boys were just too much like animals.
As to girls, my whole mind and body changed in the sixth grade. Sarah, Heather, Lisa, and I had a sleep over at Sarah's house. It was during the Christmas holidays. During the night, after her parents were fast asleep, we decided to play a game. Lisa had suggested that we would soon be invited to the Valentine's dance—our first, and that we needed to learn more about kissing. It was a big dare and it took quite a while for everyone to get on board with it. I do remember not being the last one to agree—I guess that should have told me something about my tendencies.
The game started with us sitting in a circle like a clock and starting with Sarah at twelve o’clock, kissing Lisa sitting at the three o’clock position. The first kiss was easy—it was a kiss to the cheek. The second round was a quick kiss to the lips. It got more intense every round. Each round took what seemed like an hour, but of course it didn't. After each kiss, there was much laughter and commentary. Also, after each round, we would rotate positions, so everyone would get practice with everyone.
During the last round, it came my turn to French kiss Heather. I was very hesitant at first, but once she gave me her tongue it seemed like something leaped in my gut, like my sexual clock had been plugged in. I then pulled Heather to me closer and closer and we kept our kissing going for quite a while. Sarah and Lisa finally pulled us apart and Lisa said, "well, we now know who has a thing for girls." Sarah added, "you girls better get a room."
Here is the thing that now blows my mind. Later that night, after we had all settled down and fallen asleep—scattered over their big den— Heather came and lay down beside me. I looked at her, surprised, but didn't say a thing. I was glad she was there. She got in my sleeping bag with me and we started kissing, really kissing, French kissing. This went on for what seemed like an hour and then our hands started to explore each other's body. Before sunrise, Heather kissed me one final and exciting time and went back to her sleeping bag.
I never saw Heather again. Her and her family moved cross country before school started in mid-August. I never heard from her again. And, I never told anyone about our sexual encounter.
It was too pretty to stay in my bedroom until church services tonight. Mom agreed that I could ride my bicycle to the city park. It was only a couple of miles and there would be several church families there picnicking and playing volleyball and just hanging out most of the afternoon. Mom made me promise her I would be back no later than 4:30. I agreed.
It was a nice ride to the park. I saw the Smith's, the Williams', and the Crutcher's and declined an offer from each family to join them. I headed for my favorite spot beside a small stream just down the hill from the volleyball court. This was my favorite thinking spot. I even had my favorite rock that seemed out of place but was big enough for me to be hidden behind it away from the footpath.
My thoughts returned to my Dad. He is a good man, a good father, a good husband to my Mom. But, he is strict when it comes to the Bible, Christianity, and the church's role in society. He is a fair man, but he doesn’t have much patience with those whose worldview is different than his own. He believes the Bible is literally God's word and that it is true no matter the season or the century. He runs his church and his household fairly and firmly, but always in accord with what the Bible says.
Maybe I should go talk to my Dad and tell him how I feel. Even more, tell him that I think I am gay. What would he do? I have a feeling he would condemn me, hopefully gently and lovingly, and pray for me. One thing I know for sure is that he would never accept me as gay. He would always believe that my homosexuality was my choice—my choice to sin. If I told my Dad, I deeply fear that things would never be the same between us.
No, now doesn’t seem to be the right time to reveal any of this to my Dad, or anyone else. I must keep this a secret. Maybe, I am going through a phase. Maybe, I’m not gay. Maybe I am making too much of this. I should recommit to God's Word and His ways. Lord, forgive me. "You have a good time at the park? See anyone you know?" Mom said as I walked in the house from the garage.
“Let’s kill all the lawyers,”
Shakespeare said in his play ‘Henry VI.’
“Let’s kill all the infidels,”
Radical Muslims say in real life.
These Muslims aren’t the only ones who want to kill the infidels.
I say, “Let’s kill all the preachers.
Let’s kill all the Southern Baptist preachers.”
Why didn’t Satan kill God when he had a chance?
Shakespeare referred to corrupt lawyers.
Radical Muslims to pure infidels.
I refer to corrupt and pure Fundamentalists.
I’m the Bible and I approve this message.
Preacher’s kids are the worst. I’ve often heard. I’m one myself, but I’m pretty good unless I’m writing poetry, at least as far as my Dad and Mom know.
I love my Dad. Mom too, maybe more, even though Dad is a radical himself. Of course, to most Americans, he is as normal as they come, just an ordinary Christian. But, to a slim minority of us in our little North Alabama town, he is a fundamentalist pastor, a radical.
Dad would probably die if he read my rather revolting poem. He probably doesn't know that a poem isn't necessarily true, or that it doesn't have to reflect the view of the writer. After he read it he would say, “Ruthie, this is sick. I didn’t know you were so messed up. How have I failed you? I thought you believed in God, loved God, read your Bible, believed your Bible? What happened to you? You better be glad tomorrow is Sunday and you have to go to church.”
I guess I would have to say, “Dad, I do believe as best I know how. But, I am also curious and creative. Reading, poetry, words, these things are my breath, my bed, my ball. It’s a little safer than basketball, football, or hockey. Don’t you think? Can’t a girl have a little fun without a ball or a puck?”
I do like a lot of the stories and passages in the Bible. I really like this one from Chapter 4 of Song of Solomon:
“You’re so beautiful, my darling,
so beautiful, and your dove eyes are veiled
By your hair as it flows and shimmers,
like a flock of goats in the distance
streaming down a hillside in the sunshine.
Your smile is generous and full—
expressive and strong and clean.
Your lips are jewel red,
your mouth elegant and inviting,
your veiled cheeks soft and radiant.
The smooth, lithe lines of your neck
command notice—all heads turn in awe and admiration!
Your breasts are like fawns,
twins of a gazelle, grazing among the first spring flowers.
The sweet, fragrant curves of your body,
the soft, spiced contours of your flesh
Invite me, and I come. I stay
until dawn breathes its light and night slips away. You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.”
I say a soon-to-be ninth grader can not only be revolting and revolutionary, but also romantic. Well, I don’t know much about romance, but my Dad might quickly repeat his three questions if he learned my interpretation and application of this beautiful passage from his inerrant Word.
Yes, I’m curious and creative and know that experience and imagination are about all one needs to write a good poem.
Richard L. Fricks, Author
I became a private fiction scribbler in 1994 while I was in law school. In November 2015, I took the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words towards a book. In May 2016, I published God and Girl. Over the next nine months I wrote over 140,000 words towards another novel. It is now on life support in a desk drawer. Since then, I've written The Boaz Scorekeeper, The Boaz Secrets, The Boaz Stenographer, and The Boaz Schoolteacher. I’m currently working on my first series: The Boaz Sleuth. The first book is called, The Case of the Perfectionist Professor. Thanks for reading my little stories.