An Open Letter to Ricky Chelette with Living Hope Ministries
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
From my earliest memories, perhaps even dating back to 3 or 4 years of age, I can remember the realization that I seemed to be different. Though, as a 4 year old, I perhaps did not have the vocabulary to explain it, I saw the dots and began to connect them. It wouldn’t take much longer for me to be able to connect the new dots that I discovered in both myself, and the world around me, to realize my ‘difference’ was that of being attracted to men - and that this was, in some way, problematic.
Indeed, I have very distinct memories, even at the age of 5, in realizing that I was attracted to men. Again, I may not have fully been able to understand it and conceptualize it, but I know, without a shadow of doubt, that those thoughts and feelings were not just present, but that they were very real to me. It is how I was created.
A LIFE LIVED IN THE CLOSET
Along with the realization of my sexuality was a parallel realization that due to certain cues picked up from the world around me, I needed to hide this part of myself from my family, my peers, my community, and the world around me.
I had no choice but to hide.
I would hide in what would turn out to be a closet of self-hatred and shame and would remain in that lonely closet until I decided to step into the light of freedom on July 8, 2019, at the age of 39.
Looking back I can now remember and see the world that I grew up in through a different lens that was simply not available to me while hiding in the shadows.
I can now clearly remember the aids epidemic of the 80’s and seeing the many pictures of hate and shame cast onto the gay community as it was preached by many in the church that this epidemic was the result of God’s punishment for their ‘life-style of sin.'
I can remember hearing news of an uncle of mine dying from aids….because he was gay.
I can remember hearing the priest speak of this on a Sunday morning and referencing a couple of Scriptures that explained why this lifestyle was an abomination to God and worthy of God’s wrath and judgement.
I can remember crying in bed at night, feeling the weight of all of this on my tiny shoulders - quietly praying that God would take whatever this was that was in me - out of me.
As a young child I was alone with this.
I could not talk to anyone about this.
I hated who I was.
I hated who I was created to be.
With every passing year the weight of self-hatred and shame would exponentially increase as I began to fully grasp how both the world and the church saw me and people like me.
People that were 'sexually broken.'
Hours would be spent crying on my bedroom floor or in the shower with the same pleadings that echoed with intensity the prayers of my younger self - that God would take this evilness - this abomination - out of me.
There were moments where I wondered if death would be easier than life.
There were moments where I wondered if death would be easier than life.
There were moments where I wondered if death would be easier than life.
Though I did everything I could to hide who I was, there were those in my life, whether parents, family or peers who must have suspected and made known their hate.
Being called ‘some type of girl’ by my own father.
Being called ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ by peers.
Being pushed into lockers and kicked on the back of chairs by classmates.
I didn't have a friend in the world.
Due to a low feeling of self-worth and a complete lack of confidence, friends were not easily made or kept.
I remained in my closet.
FORTIFYING MY WALLS
In high school, without expecting it, I had a 'born-again' experience with God where the communication opened up and He became quite real to me.
With that, and in an attempt to make my life easier, I found myself adopting a more Evangelical Baptist faith which opened up doors for socializing among a certain group of peers. And though I took my faith, my relationship with God, and the study of Scripture very seriously, I can now see that it also provided me with a convenient wall to hide behind.
As did my politics.
I quickly learned that adopting conservative politics, including strong anti-gay talking points, could prove another convincing wall to hide behind.
Not only did I find it convenient and necessary to hide behind this ‘Evangelical Christian Conservative Republican Anti-gay’ wall - but I also knew that entertaining any challenge or information coming from the other side of the religious and political spectrum could be dangerous territory for me as it might lead to me being ‘outed.’
As a result - my eyes and ears were closed.
I simply had to do everything I could to hide.
And though I felt that I had a handle on how to live my life in this closet of secrecy, I can now see that this was also the time I began to adopt extremely unhealthy practices in order to cope with this battle that was raging inside of me.
All of this while continuing to hear the now Southern Baptist Preachers in my life echo the same words of the priest from my youth - that a part of who I was created to be was a result of sin.
The tears would continue.
The shame would continue.
The expressions of hate would continue.
In October of 1998, as a Junior in high school, upon seeing images in the news upon the murder of Matthew Shepherd and how his very life was being condemned by people who seemed to not, at all, know how to love but only how to hate,
I grieved -
In college, as I began to realize that my plan for a wife and kids was most likely out of the picture (though I would certainly try in the years to come) I discovered another wall that I could hide behind -
my work-ethic and future career.
And still -
The tears continued.
The shame continued.
The self-hatred continued.
But I had to somehow live and make this life, that was handed to me, work.
In the years that followed, as a public school choir director, in addition to hiding behind a Christian wall of conservative values, I learned that I could also earn the respect of my students, their parents, my administrators and colleagues, and the community around me, by simply working hard and putting on great performances that allowed their students to shine brightly on stage.
In my head the more I let their kids shine the less likely they would be able to see me, Mr. Carbone, hiding away in the shadows.
Every relationship in my life was impacted by how I saw myself and they would never get to know me past the shallow. Over the years I would have friends and colleagues tell me that they find it difficult to break through to me; to get to know me on a deeper level other than small talk.
FREEDOM IN THE LIGHT
Certain unexpected events would take place in the summer of 2019 that would compel me to take a leap of faith and step out of this 39-year-old closet of self-hatred and shame,
and, for the first time in my life, I saw myself in the light.
I was free.
And not only was I free to live out my life in accordance with how I was created, but I was free to see my journey through a different lens - a lens that I had not allowed myself, in the past, to entertain due to the fear of being ‘outed.’
For the first time in my life I was not living in fear which resulted in the opening of my eyes and ears.
A BAD TREE
So you may be wondering why I am reaching out to you today in this letter. Well - there are a few reasons for this. First of all, though this has been my own personal journey it has been, and is, and will be, shared by countless others. Some will have it better; some will have it worse.
NO CHILD or TEEN or ADULT should have to go through what I went through.
No child, teen or adult should have to hide in a closet of fear and shame for one moment, let alone a lifetime.
I especially appreciate that I had it relatively easy. But many impressionable children and teens who do not have the coping skills to deal with this particular brand of hate, find themselves literally attempting what I had only considered - the taking of their own life.
And tragically - some are successful. For many, whether in or out of the closet, they find themselves in a place where death seems a better opportunity than the hell they are living on earth.
a tree, whether good or bad, uproots from somewhere - some soil of belief.
There is a reason why I was forced as a young child into a closet of self-hatred and shame.
There is a reason why I spent hours as a child, teenager and adult crying out to God to take ‘this thing out of me!'
There is a reason why I would often ask myself if death would be easier than living this hell on earth.
There is a reason that I had a low sense of self-worth which impacted my interactions with peers.
There is a reason why classmates would call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ and that I would face almost daily the words and actions of a bully.
There is a reason why good Christian folk would picket the funerals of aids victims and people like Matthew Shepherd with hateful signs and rhetoric.
There is a reason why my dad accused me of being ‘some type of girl' when I was in high school.
There is a reason why 49 human beings were slaughtered, and countless more injured, at a gay night-club.
There is a reason why I felt the need to build walls and hide behind them.
There is a reason why I felt compelled to first meet with my district administrators before coming out publicly due to fear of being fired.
There is a reason why programs like The Trevor Project exist and why they reach out and offer emotional help to over 1000 children, teens and adults every year.
The reason for all of these expressions of hate and self-loathing are the same reasons why racism, slavery, segregation, oppression of women, black children feeling inferior to their white peers, anti-semitism, etc., existed in the past and, to some extent, still exist today.
And what is that reason?
Let me be more clear -
And let me be even more accurate and historically clear…
Taught hatred with Biblical justifications.
The priest and preacher that I mentioned earlier?
Had I sat through one of their sermons in the 17th, 18th or even early-to-mid 19th century, I may not have heard much, if at all, their biblical supported beliefs on homosexuality but I certainly would have heard Biblical justifications as to why God ordained black men to be inferior to the white, or how the institution of slavery was endorsed by the Creator and that it was the proper ‘position’ of the African to serve in servitude to the white man, or that God ordained for all the races to be separated, or that women also had their God-ordained function in both church and society and were to serve, in full submission and in silence, their husbands as his property to do with as he see’s fit with no legal rights of accountability or protection.
The list goes on.....and on.
A VERDICT THAT DEMANDS SOME EVIDENCE
I have asked many who believe, think and feel as you if they have any proof outside of the Bible that homosexuality is an immoral practice.
There is only one consistent answer to this:
“The Bible is ALL I need to know what is right and wrong; moral and immoral.”
Of course, in saying this, they recognize that there is absolutely NOTHING outside of the Bible that can speak to either the morality or immorality of homosexuality.
And the reason, Ricky, why this works for you, is your belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, free from any fallacy and contradiction and that the Bible is the proper standard of how we should live out what is truly moral and immoral.
And yet you, and countless others, fail to reconcile this statement of blind faith with the very visible fact that the Bible endorses many practices that we today find to be immoral.
GENOCIDE (Dt. 20:17, 1 Samuel 15.3, Numbers 31, Hosea 13:16, Exodus 32:28, Dt. 20:16, Dt. 15:6, Dt. 13:16, Dt 12:3, Joshua 6:21)
SLAVERY (Exod. 21:2-11, Lev. 25:44-46, Eph. 6:5-9, Col. 3:22-4:1, 1 Tim 6:1-2, Tit 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:18-20, Gen. 12:16, 24:35, Isa 14:1-2)
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING (Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 15:17, Exodus 21:5-6)
WOMEN'S OPPRESSSION (1 Timothy 2:11-15, Ephesians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, Colossians 3:18, Peter 3:1-6, Titus 2:4-5)
ANTI-SEMITIC (Luke 24, John 8, Acts 13, 14, Romans 11, Matthew 23 & 27)
Years ago I sat through one of your sessions where you put marker to poster- paper to explain to me why I am gay. Even though you haven't a neuroscience degree, nor a psychology degree, nor a counseling degree, somewhere along your journey you were compelled to combined those 3 disciplines in such a way as to create a nice 'catch-all' narrative of how you can explain WHY somebody is gay solely to protect a tenet of your faith that was taught to you.
In your ministry you take young people, including adults, who are NOT, as you claim, 'sexually broken,' but rather emotionally, mentally, and spiritually broken from years of living in a closet of self-hatred and shame - tired people who are looking for answers that might help them reconcile a piece of their created identity that is not in harmony with a faith that was taught to them - and you impose upon them a narrative that you simply made up that has no REAL scientific or psychological foundation.
You take predictable storylines that exist within the confines of imperfect relationships between a child and their parents and you manipulate the facts and exploit those relationships to fit within this narrative that you have created.
Based on the presentation you gave to me many years ago, it was clear to me even then, long before I was ready to accept that this part of me, my sexual orientation, was NOT abominable and was just who I was created to be, that in all of your research and the formation of your narrative, that you were quite clearly beginning with a solution that was taught to you (homosexuality is sin because the Bible told you so) and came up with a narrative that helped explain away the very problematic attributes of that very teaching. How does your narrative explain the fact that homosexuality is alive and well in the animal kingdom?
How does your narrative answer to the fact that there are 'rough & tumble' boys who are ALSO 'sensitive' and that, even with a perfectly healthy relationship with his dad and mom he still was created to be gay?
How does your narrative answer to the fact that there are 'sensitive' boys who are ALSO 'rough & tumble' and that, even with a perfectly healthy relationship with his dad and mom he still was created to be gay?
How does your narrative answer to the fact that there are MANY 'sensitive' boys out there with unhealthy relationships with their parents who somehow managed to turn out heterosexual?
How does your narrative speak to bisexuality and the obvious spectrum of sexual orientation on which studies show people exist.
Again - you began with a conclusion and you then crafted a narrative that allows for that conclusion. And if somebody's personal journey doesn't outright explain his or her homosexuality you simply suggest that there is "something there that just can't be seen or realized."
This concept of beginning with a conclusion and working your way from there was never more obvious to me than when I heard you, in an online presentation of this narrative, utter the words:
"But even if, tonight when I walk out of this room, there is a headline that says: 'guess what - we have located the 'gay gene' - here it is!' It would not change, for me, anything that I'm going to say to you tonight because I really still believe that God's Word is that, by which, we have to judge our life. And my responsibility is that I have to take my life and place it under the Scripture and anything in my life that doesn't measure up to what is in the Scripture has to change."
This very blind, dishonest, and disingenuous approach to Scripture puts you on the same side of history as those who completely ignored scientific proof to defend the teaching that the earth was flat.
This very blind, dishonest, and disingenuous approach to Scripture puts you on the same side of history as the slave-holders and southern evangelical preachers who used Scripture to defend the institutions of slavery and segregation.
This very blind, dishonest, and disingenuous approach to Scripture puts you on the same side of history as those who used specific Scripture references to fight against a woman's right to vote and other basic human rights.
I could certainly go on with this.
When you consider the millions of children, teens and adults worldwide who are suffering in silence, as I did, due to the Biblically-based teaching that homosexuality is an abomination to God, this rather tone-deaf proclamation is not only evidence, to me, that in forming your narrative you began with a conclusion and worked your way from there, but it is also evidence to me that the Bible is not merely an authority for you, but rather an idol that you now worship.
In doing so you create more harm than good.
I actually reached out to a handful of top collegiate neuroscientists and psychologists who are experts in their field and gave them the link to your presentation.
I asked them if there was any foundational truth to your claim.
None of them agreed with your outcomes and here are a couple responses:
There's nothing in the science that suggests there's anything wrong with being gay or having a same sex-relationship, nor does science or medicine offer any method to change one's sexual orientation, whether from gay to straight or the reverse...Those Christians who think that being gay is wrong or disordered use traditional teachings to justify their own prejudices. And in Ricky's case, he presents an account of psychosexual development that has no connection with reality and that has only one purpose -- to give bigotry a veneer of reason.
I am incensed by the frequent misuse of neuroscience by non-neuroscientists to support their scientifically unsupported personal views.
BELIEVING A LIE
It is a common talking point among those who advance this evil teaching that there is a significant difference 'in the eyes of God' between someone who simply struggles with same-sex attraction and someone who actually follows through on it. Putting all other problematic justifications aside, this is NOT how children and impressionable teenagers who know that they were born gay 'see' things.
This is NOT how children and impressionable teenagers take in and process information.
They simply see themselves as abominable and problematic - because the Bible, and the preacher, and the church, and their society tells them so - and often in very hateful ways.
And the anxiety and mental anguish that this causes is only compounded further by fear and belief that they cannot talk to anyone about what they are going through.
It is not at all lost on me that you, yourself, have 'struggled' with your sexual orientation and that your faith in the Bible has compelled you to look at this part of your identity as something of which you need to escape or be 'delivered from.' It has lead you to believe that you, yourself, are, or were, 'sexually broken.'
And I know that there have been those that have gone through your ministry claiming to have been 'delivered' from their sexual orientation and that, what was once 'sexually broken' in them, has now been healed.
And as a result, I know that there are many in the Christian community that look at you, and those who have 'been delivered' as some type of Divine proof that the teaching that you are advancing is spiritually guided by God.
But here's the thing....
History informs us that there were slaves, after years of indoctrination, that truly believed that it was their God-ordained position in life to serve in perpetual bondage with a hope ONLY in eternal life.
History informs us that there were little black children, after years of indoctrination, that truly believed that their skin color was inferior to that of their white counterparts.
History informs us that there were women who, after years of indoctrination, truly believed that it was their God-ordained position in life to be silent in both church and society and to keep at home barefoot and pregnant. These were the same women that fought against their own right to vote and other basic human rights.
In all of these cases very specific Scripture was used to advance these evil and harmful teachings with THE ONLY DEFENSE by those advancing them is that they were 'doing God's work' and 'rescuing people to heaven.'
So the fact that you (and others) have been indoctrinated to believe that a harmless part of your created identity is sinful, abominable, problematic, inferior, and evil is not sufficient evidence for me to believe it myself. I refuse to believe this lie and I will do everything I can in my own little corner of the world to stop its advancement.
After all these years later, I had hoped to meet with you again in person to discuss all of this and to ask questions but didn't appreciate having to sign paperwork that would essentially keep the meeting a secret.
If you are so sure of what you are teaching then why the secrecy?
I'm going to tell you something that perhaps you never heard along your journey which could be the reason that you were never able to break away from this indoctrination of self-hate and shame.
And here it is -
Ricky - you were created just how you were created - sexual orientation and all.
There is NOTHING problematic, evil, abominable, sinful or inferior about a part of your created identity - whether it be your gender, skin color, or sexual orientation. You are not now - nor were you ever - 'sexually broken' due to your sexual orientation.
You only get one life to live and I hope that you will live it abundantly here-on-out by staying true to who you KNOW you are.
But more importantly - please stop the advancement of this evil teaching.
Until someone can give me some evidence outside of the Bible (which again, proves a problematic framework for what should be considered moral and immoral - not to mention problematic origins...but this is another letter for another day) that homosexuality lived out is immoral I will continue to question and fight against this teaching.
Until someone can explain to me how a man...
who is sexually attracted to another man in accordance with how he was biologically and chemically created...
who falls in love with that man...
who commits to a life of love, intimacy and companionship with that man...
who opens up their home in love to their community...
who may even open up their home in love to orphans...
until somebody can explain to me how this harms you, me, the man himself, or anyone else in his life...
then I will challenge and call out this teaching for what it is...
a product of an ancient text with problematic origins, written in the context of a hyper patriarchal society.
A historic written agenda of selfish men - not our Creator God.
Simply put, these teachings, even when taught through a filter of 'love' and 'compassion' - still do great harm to many.
These teachings are paramount to child-abuse.
This ministry, regardless of whether you can bring yourself to admit it or not, is a form of conversion therapy.
It's what's evil.
It's what's abominable.
Please stop advancing this hurtful teaching.
Please stop feeding this bad tree that bears NOTHING but bad fruit.
If somebody is going to insist that two men (or women) who make the choice to enter into a loving and committed relationship is an abomination to God....then they are going to have to explain where all of this love comes from.