My Gay Church Days is the memoir of a closeted Evangelical pastor who left the faith to pursue the one thing he had been hiding for over a decade: his homosexuality. Born to traditional Middle Eastern parents, George found himself desperate for his parents’ affection as a refuge from the traumatic bullying he faced during middle school. He devoted every aspect of his life to pleasing others, while denying the most important parts of himself. His most shameful trait was his sexual orientation, and he went to extreme measures to eradicatehis homosexual desires. Harassed and tormented, George thought he had found salvation through Evangelical Christianity.
After leaving home for college, George immersed himself in a new life filled with partying and drunkenness. Feeling shame for his behavior, he eventually turned back to Christianity, devoting every aspect of his life to the church that he made his home. His indoctrination started slowly as he worked hard to meet the unattainable standards of his new community. He knew that his homosexuality was the most significant issue to overcome, so after attending a “pray the gay away” conference, he decided to participate in conversion therapy. With the tools he learned at the conference, he sought out conversion therapy specialists and increased his reliance on church leadership for accountability. As he grew in the church, the rules became even more extreme.
After five years at the church, he had enough. He gave up his dream of a four-year degree to go to Bible school and pursue the ministry. He gave up his job to become the outreach pastor. He gave up his friends and family who didn’t know Jesus to find community within the isolation of the church. Eventually, the weight of the rules became too much to bear. He stormed into the senior pastor’s office to lay out his grievances and requested that his last day at the church be the following Sunday.
After moving back to his hometown, he found himself back at the church of his youth. Once again focusing on Bible study and working towards his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, he still felt he was on the wrong path. So after receiving a failing grade on an essay that contradicted his true beliefs, George decided to leave the faith entirely. He switched his major from biblical studies to accounting, moved to Los Angeles—and never looked back.
After multiple failed relationships and a major anxiety attack, George sought the professional advice of a therapist. Through therapy, George learned that he had been looking to others to find a savior throughout his entire life. Little did he know that the savior he had been looking for was within himself all along.
My Gay Church Days is the inspirational story of a wildly insecure gay kid, who grew up and out of the hands of his abusers and learned to embrace his true identity. Along with motivational anecdotes for Christians struggling through the same.
Uncommonly thoughtful and empathetic, My Gay Church Days demonstrates clear-eyed understanding of evangelical life and beliefs as Azar tells the story of zealously working to save the souls of loved ones—essentially impressing them into a tradition of belief that damns his true self. “As I grew deeper in the faith,” Azar writes, “I became more paranoid by the thought of others finding out that I was a fraud.”
Azar adeptly dramatizes the wrenching choice he faced: risk being the person he was born as, or give up the community he depended upon for fellowship and meaning. “I truly believed my oppression was my calling,” he writes. But shame, a sense of isolation, and a lack of freedom—the monitoring of his search history; complaints about his taste for secular pop music—eventually builds to his making a break with Bayside Church. There’s no moment of high drama, just a pained parting, the loss of a support network, and the fear and promise of living on one’s own terms, told with inviting directness and sincerity.
Takeaway: A warm, engaging memoir of a gay evangelical pastor leaving the church and embracing his truth.
Great for fans of: Matthew Vines’s God and the Gay Christian, Gregory Coles’s Single, Gay, Christian.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A