The LGBT community grows every year during National Coming Out Day. During this day of courage, "hidden" members of the LGBT community have a chance to reveal their true selves to society and be proud of their sexual orientation. Mostly, this revelation is aimed at family and friends, with the hope of not being judged by the people they care for the most. This action can provide a sense of weight being lifted from their shoulders.
The older I become, the more I realize "coming out" isn't exclusive to our LGBT brothers and sisters but can stretch to many sects of the population. One could use this logic to reveal that he or she identifies with a different political party or religious affiliation. Most people hold religion close to their chests and don't question it, displaying blind loyalty to that practice until death.
That has never been my "style," however. I, to the chagrin of the "powers" that be, always question authority. Religion has been no exception. Why am I a Christian? Are we to still take the Bible literally? What about texts that are clearly outdated? What religion were my ancestors practicing before they were forcibly shipped from West Africa to the United States? Why do most religions, including Christianity, have tyranny and oppression attached to its name?
One may think of me as cantankerous, but that notion is far from the truth. Throughout my 30 years, I've managed to answer questions on my own. Religion is a beautiful concept. Religion has birthed a great amount of charitable deeds. However, the actions of men practicing said religions are deeply flawed.
After much internal reflection, I decided to have my "coming out" moment in this very column. I can no longer identify myself as a Christian in the traditional sense. As I come to grips with this proclamation, I must ask myself, "Well, what the hell are you?" If I had to categorize my belief, I would say I am an agnostic deist, refusing to place God in one "box." A "deist" believes in a single deity that created the universe but doesn't interfere, thus allowing the laws of nature and physics run their course. However, the agnostic part of me admits that there isn't enough evidence to be sure about my belief.
I am well aware of how bizarre this may sound to some, including myself at one point in my life. However, I found comfort in my beliefs because I am also aware of what led to this enlightenment. I am a big proponent of science. Science and religion can be a marriage at times; however, science has also refuted religious dogma throughout the centuries. Religion once stated that the Earth was the center of the universe, flat and 6,000 years old. All of these notions, which Christian traditions conceptualized, science has proven factually inaccurate.
So, after establishing organized religion's habit to sometimes "make stuff up," I opened a Pandora's Box of questions. Questions such as: What is a "blessing," and why are some able to "receive" it while others aren't. If I were to a miss a flight that crashed and killed everyone on board, is this a blessing? And if so, what about the others who didn't suffer massive hangovers and responsibly made their flight on time? What is faith? If Jesus preached the idea of faith, which essentially means believing in the unknown, then why must he perform magic tricks (walking on water) in order to prove he is the son of God?
I know, I know—I tend to go deep down the rabbit hole as it relates to religious traditions. However, my actions are not based on a nefarious motive to disprove religious beliefs. It is simply to ask questions that many of you have.
I saw an article recently that detailed the astronomical rise of "non-Christians" in this country, in large part due to generational changes. Millennials, such as myself, are not bound to tradition like the generations before us. We are non-traditional and proud of breaking away from whatever people tell us is right.
Dissenters may contend that millennials are stubborn with no sense of tradition. I would counter by stating that we are championing a new era of enlightenment. And by me sharing my story, I hope that my enlightenment serves as a motivation for your own "coming out" narrative. Trust me, it's worth it.
Leslie B. McLemore II is a Jackson native, now in Washington, D.C. He is a proud graduate of Jackson State University, North Carolina Central University School of Law (J.D.) and American University Washington College of Law (LL.M.).