A Voice in the Wilderness
A Voice in the Wilderness is a story written by shukyou. It ran in Issue 14 and can be found at s2b2.livejournal.com/86351.html and shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/a-voice-in-the-wilderness/.
Two gay church musicians -- one closeted, one a veteran of an ex-gay program -- fall in love.
"Bless me, Padre, for I have sinned. My last Confession was six days ago."
A Voice in the Wilderness is unconnected to other stories or universes.
Most of this story actually happened.
Isaiah and David are a composite of about four different men I know, though only two of the four of them even remotely know one another. While the particulars of the story are by necessity fabricated, their more general experiences -- with the ex-gay movement, being on the 'down low', falling in love with other church musicians, getting gently but firmly ejected from home churches, having to relocate -- are all real.
This story is also very cathartic for me, though I refuse to say how much of the biographical is auto-.
If you're really into interdenominational politics, here's the skinny: David is a Hispanic Catholic who spent nine years in a predominantly white Protestant ex-gay program. As if he didn't feel uncomfortable enough just being queer! I didn't really have room to go into how much it must have hurt to leave the Catholic church in the end, but I'm sure it wasn't pleasant. Isaiah, on the other hand, belongs to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (and not the AME Zion Church). Though I say nothing about the specifics of the church at the end of the story, I'm assuming it's either UCC or a really liberal Episcopal congregation.
Lent is the liturgical season of the church year leading up to Easter; it starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, covering a section of forty days (not including Sundays) meant to represent Jesus' time being tempted in the desert. This story is meant to take place in 2008, since we had a particularly early Easter this year, so if you want exact dates of when things happened, this calendar is very helpful. The first half of the story spans approximately the first six weeks of Lent; the last half of the story covers Holy Week. Any church musician can tell you that's an exact ratio of how long Lent feels like.
Love In Effect is based (somewhat closely) on a very real residential treatment program I won't dignify or incriminate by linking to from here. If you want to know more about the ex-gay movement from a survivor not unlike David, I recommend Peterson Toscano's Doin' Time In The Homo No Mo' Halfway House!
There are a lot of Biblical names! Noemi (pronounced 'no-amy') is the Spanish/Italian variant of Naomi, and her kids all have Biblical names. As for the protagonists, many of the Psalms are attributed to King David, and the story's title comes from a paraphrase of Isaiah 40:3.
This is a tiny, nerdy thing absolutely no one will catch, but: David's allergy to Easter lilies is a common one; I know a couple devout Christians who regularly skip Easter services because their sinuses just won't allow them to be in a closed room with that many blooming flowers. One congregation I attended, however, solved this problem by replacing the Easter flowers with daffodils, which are far less allergy-triggering than lilies. Just one more reason David is probably far happier at this new church.
So. I don't really know how to begin with this. I read this story last summer, and I read it again last week because I felt the need to; every time it blew my mind and I cried my soul out. This fiction deals with really complicated themes: Shukyou wrote about faith and homosexuality without dismissing them as completely incompatible, because faith is such a huge part of the character's lives. And the realism of this piece: every person there feels so real, they're not perfect, they're not white and beautiful, they are struggling to find harmony inside themselves, hurting in the process. There isn't a single detail that's there just for the hell of it, every bit seems to contribute to this amazing, amazing story. In some parts it reads like a love letter, it's a praise to love. I admit that I might be particularly sensitive to this story because of my background, but...hell, I don't know what else to say, go and read it :)
- pinboard.in: "a musician, devout christian, and graduate of an ex-gay program falls in love. Handled really thoughtfully and well."
- delicious.com: "A fantastic story about two church musicians that go through the hard process of accepting who they really are-- and, luckily, they fall in love while doing so. Heartwrenching, lovely, and a real tear-jerker with a hopeful ending (for all of us)."