My guest, Jon Carl Lewis, was raised in an evangelical religion and received early messages that being gay was definitely not OK. For 10 years, starting at puberty, Jon Carl did everything he could do to "pray the gay away". When that failed, in his early 20's, he entered into conversation therapy. His personal recounting of this experience blew my mind. At age 56, his journey with reconciling his love for Jesus and undeniably being gay has been a very long and slow process. His breakthrough came only 2 years ago. Now, he describes a beautiful sense of inner peace. If religion has played havoc with your life as a homosexual, I invite you to listen.
Jon Carl is a spiritual director, writer, and public speaker.
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Jon Carl's Website
Coach Maddox 0:03
Hello, Jon Carl Lewis, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm excited to have you here, sir.
Jon Carl Lewis 0:09
Thank you. I'm glad to be here. I've enjoyed talking with you. And I hope to talk some more.
Coach Maddox 0:15
Yes, I've enjoyed our conversations as well. And just so the listeners know, Jon Carl just was a guest on August's bonus episode, which is around, it's the fireside chat with Maddox, and it is on the topic of sex. And that will be published sometime around the middle of the month. So you're going to get two doses as of Jon Carl on the podcast.
Unknown Speaker 0:49
Coach Maddox 0:50
Jon Carl is a spiritual director, a writer, and a public speaker. And the way we know each other is former guest, Mike Iamele introduced me to Jon Carl. And that's how we met each other. We've done zoom, and we've done a podcast recording and now we're on podcast recording number two, so it's kind of it's, it's becoming a thing. Yeah,
Jon Carl Lewis 1:17
this is the hot seat, I think
Coach Maddox 1:19
it is the hot seat. So before we jump into the main topic, I would love to know John Karl, what? How you would define or what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?
Jon Carl Lewis 1:36
Hmm, I think to be an authentic gay man is for me to own all of the parts of myself. And that sounds like a cliche, but but to just really be comfortable with, you know, my sexual side, my spiritual side, my intellectual parts, my, my history, my aspirations, my present, just coming to a place where I can sit with it all and say, you know, this is me, warts and all. And here are my good parts. Here are my bad parts. I'm growing, I'm changing. But this is who I am.
Coach Maddox 2:23
Beautiful. Very well said. I love it. Thank you for that. Okay, to our question of the hour, what is the most challenging thing that you've been through in this lifetime, or are continuing to go through
Jon Carl Lewis 2:40
the most challenging thing I've gone through, and I'm continuing to go through to a certain extent is integrating my sexuality and my spirituality. I was raised. Not terribly fundamentalist, evangelical, but I was I was raised where homosexuality was not a good thing. Um, and I knew that I was gay from the time I was four. And I knew that I was different, let's say from the time I was four, and when puberty came along, that only up the ante, but I've also been a Christian my whole life. And so my relationship with Jesus has always been strong. And I only got into trouble when people started telling me that, well, you can't be Christian and gay because they're opposite things. And putting those back together, again, has been, you know, the work of a lifetime.
Coach Maddox 3:47
I can only imagine I, you know, I myself wasn't raised in a religious family. So I never really had that to contend with. But I certainly have met a lot of men who, no matter what age they are, and how long they've been out, it's still sometimes quite an issue.
Jon Carl Lewis 4:05
Yeah, yeah, it's definitely a thing. And the, and it upsets me most because you know, starting relatively recently, the the evangelical churches sort of hijacked our sex education system in the United States. And up through my high school days, you could at least get a good anatomy lesson and the discussion of sexually transmitted diseases. But now they will you talk about homosexuality, they won't let you talk about anything but abstinence. They've essentially dumbed down sex education for the entire country. And these people are trying to find themselves with With no information whatsoever except the internet and pornography,
Coach Maddox 5:04
we have definitely stepped back into the dark ages, haven't we?
Jon Carl Lewis 5:10
Yeah, and I wasn't raised to believe that history went backwards. But here we are. Here
Coach Maddox 5:15
we are. Yes. I wasn't raised to believe that either. And yet, here we are, and wondering how bad it's gonna get before it gets better. So John Karl, tell me a little bit about, you know, when when you really were confronted with that, you know, you can't be a homosexual and, you know, had a relationship with Jesus, how were you? How old were you when you first got that message?
Jon Carl Lewis 5:44
I was an adolescent. I remember in high school sex ed class, then sort of defining homosexual as being well, you know, that's a fag. And of course, you know, they didn't say it as if that was a good thing. And a few years later, I got interested in contemporary Christian music, which was Christian rock. And that drew me into the fundamentalist world. So in college, I was part of a pretty hardcore fundamentalist sect. And they emphasized sexual purity. My biggest problem I thought was was masturbation. But when I couldn't make my desires for other men go away, I realized I had this other big problem. So that was, that was when it became an issue for me.
Coach Maddox 6:56
Well, and when you got those really, really strong messages that you couldn't be both you had to choose, I guess, is the way they were wording it. How did that impact you?
Jon Carl Lewis 7:10
Well, um, I figured that I could pray anything away. Christian, oh, my life. I believed in prayer. I said, Sure. We can do this. And I tried praying. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
Coach Maddox 7:26
So the prayer was, please make me straight.
Jon Carl Lewis 7:30
Yeah, the prayer was please make me straight.
Yeah, so I prayed, basically, for 10 years for God to make me straight. And I thought that I was going to outgrow it. But when it looks like looked like I wasn't going to outgrow it, I was just sort of desperate. I went into conversion therapy. And that didn't work at all.
Coach Maddox 8:12
And about how old were you when you did that?
Jon Carl Lewis 8:15
I was in my early 20s. When I did conversion therapy. I had graduated from college, I came out to my campus minister who tried to helping me pray the gay away. And then he gave me the number four, this ministry in New York City. And so I went into New York City for every Friday night for a while, and sat in a circle with a bunch of other these were actually gay men who wanted to become straight, or at least lose their sexual desires. So
Coach Maddox 9:02
well, I've certainly seen some of the documentaries and movies, but I believe that you are the first man that I have known that has actually been through conversion therapy. And I think that I think the listeners would really get value out of knowing what that was like and how you experience that and what I mean, was there an aspect of that that was traumatizing.
Jon Carl Lewis 9:32
Um, in retrospect, it was traumatizing. But I didn't realize it at the time because I was living in this Evan Jellicle bubble. And I believed everything they were telling me about gay people being sinful and unable to control their sexual appetites and preying on younger people. So, I was, I was already traumatized, but I didn't know it until I got out of that system and saw all the lies and realized, wow, they really do a number on you. And that's, that's definitely affected me to this day. What I'm
Coach Maddox 10:20
feeling right now, as you're describing this, if I were the recipient of all that it feels very shaming to me. Yeah. Everything about your being was, was being
Jon Carl Lewis 10:33
shamed. Yes. And, and the worst thing about it was I was afraid to make friendships with men, because I felt there was something dirty about me that would rub off on them if I came too close. And I'm still very sketchy around younger men and, and male children, because you know that that little voice in the back of your head is saying, you know, you're a corruptor. And I'm, I've spent many years of therapy trying to get rid of that voice. And thanks for your dog that's going away. But it's still there. I have to
Coach Maddox 11:26
wonder, I mean, just, I'm saying this based on my own experience, because I find sometimes, in my in my like I said, in my experience, I'm not saying it, and anybody else is experiencing this way. But sometimes I've realized there is no way to silence those voices. Sometimes I have there's been some as some of those voices that I just had to come to peace with.
Jon Carl Lewis 11:48
Say, Yes, yes, it does make sense. I, I, one of the things that's led to my having a happy life now is I've been in therapy for decades. And like you said, those voices never go away, but you learn how to handle them. And sort of like, oh, there's that voice again, telling me those lies. That doesn't come from me. It doesn't come from God. So why don't you go take a chair and sit down over there somewhere and let me live my life.
Coach Maddox 12:25
Exactly. You're describing exactly what I have experienced. It never goes away. You just learn how to say thank you for sharing, basically.
Jon Carl Lewis 12:36
Right, right. Yeah. And I wrote a good book on shame, several years ago called Beyond shame by Matthias Roberts. And he says the same thing, but shame never goes away. But unless you tackle it head on and talk to your shame. It doesn't get better either.
Coach Maddox 13:00
Somehow, we have to learn how to take its power away by ride. I guess honoring it in some way.
Jon Carl Lewis 13:09
Well, you know, the shame was trying to protect us it was trying to keep us from doing things that would get us kicked out of our out of the group that was nurturing us at the time. I felt very nurtured by my Christian fundamentalist college buddies. And when I came out, I walked away from all those friendships.
Coach Maddox 13:36
Yeah, that's tough. On some level, most of his experience, I've experienced at least some of the hat. People that just didn't support us or didn't want to be around us anymore. It that's that's the hard part. That's the hardest part of coming out. I think the people that we lose, sometimes it's family members, sometimes it's parents that we lose. Yeah. Are your parents still living?
Jon Carl Lewis 13:58
Um, my father is dead. He would have been 90 A few weeks ago. My mother is now 89 She's still alive and we have a good relationship. We don't she she loves my husband and is grateful for him in my life. But she's also not sure how homosexuality squares with the Bible. And so there's a lot of myself I can't bring to that relationship. Even though we do get along now.
Coach Maddox 14:49
So it's am I am I hearing kind of a little bit of a don't ask don't tell me she knows who he is to you. But did you just don't when you're around each other? You Just don't
Jon Carl Lewis 15:02
get we don't. We, I mean, well, we're not, we're not very physical and public anyway. But she, she knows who he is to me, she knows he's my husband, she did not come to our wedding several years back, when which wildly pissed me off, but I figured we had a great party without her. And it was her loss. But she's treated him like a second son. On the other hand, and been very appreciative, it's just the issue that, that she's having problems with, trying to line up what they're telling her on Christian television with, who she knows we are. And so, I mean, unfortunately, she struggles with that more than I struggle with anymore. Because I've just had to say, you know, this is the way you're choosing to live, you're choosing to listen to these people. And that's causing turmoil, and I just can't be responsible, I'll give you any information that you need to help you overcome that. But, you know, by 89, you make your choices, and she's made hers.
Coach Maddox 16:38
I think that's always been one of my problems with organized religion is that it's just, it's, it's just a lot of sheeple. But you know, that term, sheeple people that just follow whatever they're told, without really questioning it, or, and that has never been me. I can recall, being in church when I couldn't have been more than maybe seven years old, if even that old. And overhearing, you know, just because kids don't pay much attention, but overhearing the minister say from the pulpit, that we were all sinners, and I can remember my inner I can remember this, if it was yesterday, my internal reaction was like a kid would actually respond was like crossing my arms and going, Ah, I just I didn't buy into that. I don't know how I didn't. But even at that early age, I was like, no.
Jon Carl Lewis 17:38
Well, a healthy response to that was for you to have you know, and I took that message and said, Well, he must be right. But to have had the strength to say no to that guy that young age, I, my hat's off to you.
Coach Maddox 17:56
Well, I don't really know where that came from. You know, I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. And I don't know where the ability to at such an early age when your formative years where you usually just take whatever's said to you, I don't know what enabled me to have my own thoughts about that and stick to, to what I've been an input to it if person all of my life there was just something inside of me that just said loud and clear. That is not the truth. And I couldn't deny it.
Jon Carl Lewis 18:31
Yeah, wonderful. Yeah, I I didn't I wasn't able to fully by the fact that there was nothing good about me. But, um, because I ran into that in college. I don't want to get in the weeds with you know, what different branches of Christianity thing, but some think you're worse than others. And luckily, I was raised in a branch that didn't go as hard on that your worthless message as some other branches did. But I did run into that and college and and it didn't feel right. But again, to fit in with the group. I went along with it. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 19:24
I would like to, we kind of strayed away a little bit, but I would like to circle back to the conversion therapy because I just do think this is not something that we have exposure to or you know, those of us that haven't been through that yes, documentaries, but to to hear it you know, uncensored from from, you know, another human being like like yourself, I think there's value in in, in the listeners really Can you tell us more details about the story and once again, you know, how it impacted you what?
Jon Carl Lewis 20:09
Well, the first part of the conversion therapy was, you know, one on one with my campus minister and I had to meet with him every week. We were reading a book together about how to overcome homosexuality. And I had to report every time I masturbated. And every time I had a lustful thought, so I had to keep track of that. And then I would, we would pray over it. And we would talk about ways to keep myself pure. Now, when I became, you know, when I in my early 20s, after I graduated, we would sit in the group, and we would tell, well, I didn't have many stories to tell. But we were encouraged to tell stories of the times we had falling into sin, and lusted after other men or had sex. And so I was sitting there getting an earful of all of these things that these men were doing. And they were beating themselves up and crying over and I'm thinking, Well, that sounds sort of fun. But I couldn't say that.
Coach Maddox 21:34
concept seems weird to me. Like, let's put all these young men in a room together and let them talk about their sexual exploits. That's feels like pouring gasoline on the fire to me if the true objective is to convert and not have these lustful thoughts, sitting around and listening to a whole bunch of other men share their less full thoughts and activities. How did they think that was going to work?
Jon Carl Lewis 22:00
I don't know how they thought that was going to work. I mean, they gave me ideas. I mean, it was which I didn't act on for a long time. But
Coach Maddox 22:09
but those ideas had to be some of the thought process that were going on your head when you were in your room alone masturbating.
Jon Carl Lewis 22:16
Well, they they became that way. And then I was supposed to feel bad about them. So it was a it was a feedback loop. It kept feeding on itself and making things worse, really well,
Coach Maddox 22:33
I have to question and wonder if whoever was facilitating this was not facilitating it in that way, specifically, so they could get some kind of stimulation for themselves? I I'm, you know, just, you know, wow.
Jon Carl Lewis 22:57
There are many, many stories of have ex gay counselors, as they were calling themselves getting turned on by the stories of their, of the people they were supposed to be helping. And, you know, some of them blurred that line and actually started to become sexual with the people in the groups. That never happened to my knowledge in mind. Because it was led by a woman who consider herself a former lesbian and her husband. And I think she was there to keep him from getting into trouble. But, but still, I mean, that couldn't have been productive for anybody in that room to go through.
Coach Maddox 23:49
I can't imagine that. And, and I, there's also, I think, probably an abundance of stories of those people who were leading those groups, who later just came out.
Jon Carl Lewis 24:02
Yes, there are lots of those stories,
Coach Maddox 24:05
because you just can't
Jon Carl Lewis 24:05
fight it forever. No, you can't. Well, they, they the alternatives are you. You give up or you kill off a part of yourself or you actually commit suicide. I became very suicidal during that time when I was going to New York and listening to all those stories and having to having to deal with that because I was painfully painfully lonely. How long was
Coach Maddox 24:42
the conversion therapy? On Carl?
Jon Carl Lewis 24:46
It was a couple of years. I didn't last very long. That I mean, there are people who were in it for for a decade. At least but Um, but the actual conversion therapy, I was only in that a few years, and and luckily, I met a guy who was very patient with me. And at one point, he said, You're, you're not ex gay, you're still gay, you're not changing. And I realized, well, I'm not changing. And then I had to figure out what to do with that, because, obviously, what I was doing wasn't working. So that's when I started looking at affirming literature written by gay Christians.
Coach Maddox 25:49
And what that point
Jon Carl Lewis 25:53
is about 2324. Yeah, is about 2324, I started reading up on the history of the church and homosexuality and how the church has treated gay people how the church has not always been homophobic. There were times when those monks and the monasteries were writing love poetry to each other, and nobody thought anything of it. And they, they never told us about that in conversion therapy. But
Coach Maddox 26:37
well, you know, there's another aspect of organized religion, you know, not all organized religion, I'm not going to trash it, but there's certainly a percentage where they cherry pick the scriptures. Yes. And the history and the history and, and, and the, the actual translations are, in some regards, just absurd. Yeah,
Jon Carl Lewis 27:03
it's a, it's really, you get to the point where you just don't want to debate people anymore, because, you know, they're sitting there telling you this is, this is what it says in the Bible. I've got it here in black and white. And you're like, for one thing, it wasn't written in English. For a second thing someone chose to, to translate that way. And the third thing is the translation is wrong. You can go through any of those passages and see, they were they were not they were, they were definitely not talking about adult males in a consensual loving relationship, a permanent, loving relationship. Who cared for each other, and were oriented that way from birth. Now, they were familiar with homosexuality in the ancient world, but a lot of what they were upset with was temple prostitution. You would go to the temple, and you would have sex with a male or a female prostitute. And then you would give a donation to the god or goddess. And this is what they wanted to stop from happening. Not two guys who happen to fall in love with each other. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 28:36
It's, it's pretty crazy. I Yeah. I kind of tend to steer clear of all of that.
Jon Carl Lewis 28:43
Cool, I can see why one would want to I, I hold on to I've never been able to let go of Jesus. I think I could let all the rest of it go. You know, church, the ceremony, the dogma, but there's something very compelling about Jesus and his vision for liberation of the world. I mean, if you if you put Paul aside, and you just read the gospels, you have a Jesus who wants Roman occupation to end. Who wants widows and orphans to be cared for? Who wants to set slaves free? who treats women with just unheard of dignity? Jesus is a pretty cool guy.
Coach Maddox 29:55
I mean, other churches studied him extensively, but what I do know Oh, yes, his teachings are what I know of them are amazing. And and oftentimes not real synonymous with today's brand of Christianity.
Jon Carl Lewis 30:12
Oh no and and much of the church couldn't get farther away from what Jesus taught. I mean, you look at everything they do, and you can find a verse that tells him that, you know, Jesus wouldn't want them doing that. Yeah. Jesus ever built a church. You know, Jesus never took up a collection.
Coach Maddox 30:36
Well, I Well, I don't consider myself religious at all. I have always considered myself a deeply spiritual person. And I have a great belief in a higher power, whatever you want to call it. And I believe it, and I consider myself a a man of great faith. But when I say faith, I'm not talking about that typical brand of faith that religion talks about not the faith, that faith I'm talking about my faith in that higher power, my faith, the way the universe unfolds in a very intentional way, when we get out of the way and allow it to yes, that my faith in that the universe unfolds. For my highest and greatest good. I have never believed that, quote, unquote, God lives in a church. Right? You know, that, to me is kind of absurd, absurd as well. Is it great to have a place where you commune you know, with with, like minded people. My, our mutual friend, Tony Scott said, Yesterday, we were out in the park, and we were driving, and he said, this is, this is the way the new spirituality is going to go. It isn't probably going to be people in a church. It's going to be small groups of people sitting in a circle beating on a drum or some other activity that is about communion. And I was just like, wow, I got it in that moment. I really got it.
Jon Carl Lewis 32:30
Yeah, it's that's, that's funny that you just had that conversation. I was, before I got on this call, I was on a in a conversation with a bunch of pastors who are seriously questioning the way church is, and they were quite explicitly talking about the fact that the way church is done is not sustainable. And that Christianity, if it's going to survive, is going to survive. Well, A is one faith among many, and be in small, committed groups of people who love each other and serve the world. There's not much hope for you know, your average lukewarm church anymore. Unfortunately, the churches that cause the most harm
have claimed the name of Christian and they operate systems of control that draw lots of people in, I mean, people who want who need rules in their lives, flock to these authoritarian Christian communities. And they're, they're preyed upon by these wolves in sheep's clothing. And I don't know how you get rid of that. I don't think that's going away. I think all we can do is nurture true spirituality and other people.
Coach Maddox 34:21
I love that. I love what you just said. And I agree wholeheartedly. I engage every opportunity and every opportunity that I get to be in an environment where I can share that part of myself. And that never turns out to be a church.
Jon Carl Lewis 34:42
Right? And it doesn't have to be that's, I mean, again, you know, Jesus went to churches and holler at people for being for being you know. I'm trying to think of the right word For being hypocritical. No. So
Coach Maddox 35:06
I call it a Sunday Christians. Yeah, the Sunday Christians, their their, their their Christian for one hour on Sunday and the rest of the time, their behavior doesn't exemplify what I believe Jesus's teachings would have been at all,
Jon Carl Lewis 35:25
no. And there's a fundamental. You're trained to not bring your whole self into church. You and I talked about integrity early on. And church only wants your smiling face and your dollars. The the way those exploitative churches work is they they're not giving you a place to question. They're not giving you a place to grow. They're not giving you a place to feel your true emotions. I mean, I feel very free to get angry with God. I mean, when my aunt died two years ago, I was angry with God. And we had a lot of conversations around that. But there's many church, you could not have done that in
Coach Maddox 36:22
it. Most of the time, I've always felt like anytime I've most anytime there's been one exception. But most of the time, I have always felt like there was no place in church for me to bring my authentic self. Right. It was not a fertile, fertile ground for authenticity or vulnerability.
Jon Carl Lewis 36:45
Right. Right. Yeah. And it's funny because I belong to a congregation that I like a lot. I think it's a, it's a good, they're good people. I still hesitate to invite some of the people in my life to church because I don't want them to look down on because of the way they dress or the way they live or anything like that. I'm very aware that we we play this game in churches, respectability politics. And I can see in my future, wanting to gather groups of people, where you don't have to dress up. And you don't have to spend lots of money to support a building. And you can just sort of be with each other. Be honest,
Coach Maddox 37:51
the one church that I did attend for 10 years and non denominational church that or that 10 years I loved and it really served me there was no pomp and stance like that you could come to church in shorts and flip flops if you want to. That's nice. There was there was a there was a nice building that of course, we did work to support. I attended classes there for three years, I got ordained as a minister after three years of classes in that church. Very nice. But you got that was the one place where you could bring your, your authentic self. That's the only church I've ever been in where I could show up and fully be me. It was not a gay church. They had certainly a contingency of gay people there. The minister was, well, she ministered until she couldn't any she I think she died at 93. And she had ministered right up practically to the very end, about the and she used to say standing on the pulpit that she was quite sure that she had been a gay man in a previous lifetime.
Jon Carl Lewis 39:01
Yeah, that's really cool.
Coach Maddox 39:02
She's always talked about the teachings of Jesus. And she used to say, he's, he never asked to be worshipped. He never wanted to be a deity. He asked people to follow his teachings. And what happened is now he's been glorified as the deep deity and his worship, but as far as his teachings aren't largely being followed, and that just really, really weird to me. So I'd like to circle back what was the turning point for you? Where you really begin to move away from all of the guilt and all the shame and move into a place of greater self acceptance and a place of peace where you knew you could have gotten your life Jesus in your life and be homosexual.
Jon Carl Lewis 39:58
Oh, well, I am It's been a long journey. But I think what helped me was finding walking away from my Evan Jellicle past in my mid 20s, and walking into the Episcopal Church, where at the time they were affirming of gay people being there, and being Christians, they weren't all that thrilled about gay priests. And there were a lot of gay priests, but they were in the closet. But just that, you know, change in stance of being open to saying, yes, you may love people of the same gender. But you're welcome here was good for me. And so that shame finally started to go away. It started to look really silly, actually. And love
Coach Maddox 41:06
that. Yeah. Oh, I love that the way you just worded that I hope everybody really caught that that really landed on my ears, it started to feel silly.
Jon Carl Lewis 41:19
Yeah. And the, there was a point in my life where I shifted from how bad I was to, here you are, where are you going to do for the world. You've got a job to do, and you're not doing it because you're looking at your navel and griping about being gay. So like, get over that be gay and figure out what gifts you have to give the world.
Coach Maddox 41:54
And you do indeed have gifts to give the world. I didn't have to be around you very long at all to realize that.
Jon Carl Lewis 42:01
Thank you. I appreciate that.
Have sleep. We all have gifts. And while we're fighting the shame, and while we're fighting the battles. It's just evil tying us up. So that we don't do the good that we can do in the world. Evil wants us ashamed evil wants us to do nothing. Because there's so much good to be done. There is
Coach Maddox 42:48
so much good to be done. Yeah, I often refer to I think that what's coming up for me, as I hear you talk about evil. I often the word that I often use when I'm talking about that is my ego. Which isn't perhaps a tool of you know, a it's a definitely a darker energy. No two ways about it, you know, the part of us that wants to keep us in the status quo.
Jon Carl Lewis 43:16
Right. The egos very afraid. And is afraid doesn't want change? Yes.
Coach Maddox 43:25
It I've always felt like its job was in some way to keep us small, but because in order to keep us safe.
Jon Carl Lewis 43:33
Yeah. And yeah, it does. And it wants to keep us safe. It's not, you know, it's not bad. It's just maybe not, you know,
Coach Maddox 43:43
misguided sometimes. Yeah. Yes. Beautiful. Well, tell. Tell me a little bit about where you are now. I mean, I don't I don't think we've talked about age. So I don't know exactly how old you are. And you don't need to divulge that if you don't want to, but
Jon Carl Lewis 44:05
Well, I'm glad to I'm I'm 55 years old 50 6am. And life got better. Life got really good around age 53. Because I was able to let go of a lot of pain. And I was able to let go of a lot of striving that comes with being a younger person. And I was really able to sort of say who are you? What do you want? How's your relationship with the divine? And what direction do you need to go right now with the rest of your life you don't have you don't have very much longer I mean, you know 20 2025 years goes by like nothing. Yes, it does. Yeah. And so I started thinking, you know, I need to be enjoying every day. So I do my best, I don't always do it, but I do my best.
Coach Maddox 45:20
Letting Go process that you talk about, you know, and it is a lifelong process. You know, we I think we often think, wow, I wish I could have figured this out at an earlier time in life is, but then there's this part of me that always said, when it comes up for me, I say, stop it, you know, because you could have lived your life out and died without figuring this out whatever age you are, if you figured it out, or you've gotten to the other side of it, be grateful that you didn't just live out and die without getting to the other side of it. You know, it's searching for that silver lining things that are pissing and moaning about what I didn't have. I'm always trying to refocus my, my thoughts and my, my attention on what I what I do have.
Jon Carl Lewis 46:05
Right, right. Because you know, if you're alive, if you're breathing there, something for you to do.
Coach Maddox 46:14
Absolutely. And, and something meaningful. If we just step back, I love that you just stepped back and asks your set, you ask yourself the hard questions. And there's some real value. I think that oftentimes people are reluctant to do that. I think there's Super Value in questioning the way things are.
Jon Carl Lewis 46:37
Yeah. You know,
Coach Maddox 46:39
am I I can remember when my father died, it was kind of like a slap of mortality in the face, you know? That Oh, yeah. It's another couple of months, it will be the 10 year mark, since his passing, and his passing his death caused me to step back and wow, you're not going to live forever, you're not going to be here forever. Are you doing what you want to do with your life? And some some of there was doing some things that I wanted to do. And then there were some things that weren't really what I wanted to do. And I, I had to, you know, ask those hard questions and step back and start to make the necessary adjustments.
Jon Carl Lewis 47:25
That's so good. That's so good. I mean, it's a question that I find we don't ask young people enough. Well, I mean, we do, but we asked them, What do you want to be? And we mean, what kind of job do you want to have? And we don't ask, like, what makes you happy?
Coach Maddox 47:46
Or, you know, I've gotten to where instead of asking, What do you want to be? I asked them? Who do you want to be? Yes. Because you get to be, you know, it took me years to figure this out what I wouldn't give if somebody had shared with me it, maybe I wouldn't have gotten it, I don't know, but had just said to me, You do realize that you get to be anybody you want to be. Right? Like anybody you want to be. You get to go within and say I want to be this, this, this and this, and handled and decide that you get to decide 100% Nobody can decide that for you. I wish that I had known that in an early age.
Jon Carl Lewis 48:30
Right? Because it's a game changer. Well, we got to find some way to get to people. I would like to get to people before they've wasted their lives.
Coach Maddox 48:48
Well, and I think that's probably a lot of what your your, your spiritual direction you're writing. And now you're speaking. That's yeah, what's that's about? I know, for me, this this podcast and all the social media that I do. It's wanting to have an impact. Our world needs change right now. And I'm wanting to be on the forefront of that.
Jon Carl Lewis 49:14
Yes. And I really, really love your podcast and what you're doing and focusing on authenticity, because when people are authentic, they do good stuff. And they're happy. Yes.
Coach Maddox 49:29
You just summed it up so beautifully. This is what I'm, you know, the platform is about authenticity and vulnerability. Because, in my experience, a whole different universe opened up to me when I stepped into my authenticity and vulnerability. A whole different level of relationships, a whole different level of relationship with myself. Oh, huh. Yeah, a different relationship with just the universe. Like I there was this moment when the light bulb went off. And I realized that authenticity and vulnerability play a role in our ability to manifest.
Jon Carl Lewis 50:15
Right, right. Because, yeah, I like that. I mean, because you know, the divine can't give you their full gifts. If you're not receptive to it,
Coach Maddox 50:36
or if you're pretending to be somebody different than who you really are, if you're right, right, you know, the divine can't send us the relationships that we desire or deserve. If we're not showing up authentically and vulnerably, because that's the bridge the key to deep and meaningful, or that's certainly been my discovery. I'm sure there's some people out there that will dispute what I'm saying. And that's fine. You know, I just know, in my experience that it's, it's been those two things that have, I always say, vulnerability, builds bridges, clears pathways and opens doors in a way that nothing else can.
Jon Carl Lewis 51:26
Right, right. There's a power there. And it doesn't look very powerful.
Coach Maddox 51:34
Now, based on what society teaches us about vulnerability, you know, the word on the street is that it's showing weakness. Yeah. And I just have to laugh every time I hear that, right. It's just it's like you said earlier, it's silly to me that anybody could buy into that bullshit. That vulnerability is weakness, because there's any one thing I've gotten at this point is that it takes a shitload of courage and bravery, and to step into that vulnerable place. It's not for the faint of heart vulnerability is not for the faint of heart.
Jon Carl Lewis 52:11
No, no. It's for the the,
Coach Maddox 52:15
you know, I don't know those saying it separates the men from the boys. I think that probably doesn't apply, because children oftentimes are, can be very vulnerable.
Jon Carl Lewis 52:25
Coach Maddox 52:26
Well, I would love to I thank you so much for sharing all that you've shared i the piece about the conversion therapy was particularly fascinating to me, because it's just such a foreign thing in some regard.
Jon Carl Lewis 52:48
I would love to know what
Coach Maddox 52:52
wisdom bombs or bomb or bombs, singular or plural? Would you based on all of your experience and how you've come from one end of the spectrum of the continuum to another end? What is the wisdom balm that you would like to bestow on the listeners out there?
Jon Carl Lewis 53:15
Oh, the one that comes to mind is that you need to find someone you can tell your story to who will listen without judging. Because if you hear yourself tell your story, you will find your truth.
Coach Maddox 53:41
I believe that with all my heart, you know, I and I am doing everything in my power to become that person that people can tell their stories to. And it's insane to me how many men who have been guests on the podcast, have come back to me later and told me how freeing it was.
Jon Carl Lewis 54:02
Yes, I mean, I've found this very freeing. I've talked about things that I would rather have forgotten. The whole conversion therapy thing. Is freeing to share your story with someone
Coach Maddox 54:17
to put it out there for the whole world to hear. Yep, yep. Beautiful. Oh, I love what you just I love the wisdom bomb. So are you ready for some rapid fire questions?
Jon Carl Lewis 54:33
Yes, ma'am. Let's do it.
Coach Maddox 54:37
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a black man in the GBT Q community?
Jon Carl Lewis 54:46
Oh, wow. It has been waking up to the fact that Racism is America's original sin and we still live with it. And it is. One hell of a thing to get rid of. Yes, it easy.
Coach Maddox 55:20
Yeah, I'm feeling that right now. I'm really feeling that right now. Wow. Yeah, but a great answer. Okay, next question. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you first came out?
Jon Carl Lewis 55:44
Oh, when I first came out, I wish I had known. Two things. One, I wish I had known how beautiful I was at that age. And I wish I had known to start taking care of my body then. Because it only gets harder as time goes on.
Coach Maddox 56:13
Yeah, that's very true. But your first answer was just stunning. You know, we can't expect other people to love us more than we love ourselves and you acknowledging how beautiful you were?
Jon Carl Lewis 56:31
Oh, well, young people don't know how beautiful they are. They have no idea.
Coach Maddox 56:37
You're right. Even children don't you know one of the things that I that I do when I'm doing inner child work is to honor that little seven year old for the beautiful little boy that he is
Unknown Speaker 56:49
Coach Maddox 56:52
And I see him as a beautiful little boy. I didn't feel that way when I was seven. But I look back now and see that seven year old has? Yes. A beautiful little boy. My nickname for him is a little man. How sweet. That's how I refer to him when I talk to him. Hey, little man. Okay, third question. And the final question. What is your superpower?
Jon Carl Lewis 57:24
My superpower is being able to lean into a conversation and listen. Like I care, which I do, but there's caring and then there's something else that shows that you're caring. And I think that's my superpower.
Coach Maddox 57:59
That's beautiful. Yeah, I would maybe label that as active listening or in or engaging the person speaking so they know that they're, they're being heard. Yeah, we all have a need to be seen and heard. And when you're actually listening, you're giving that person that you're that opportunity to, to be seen and heard. It's an innate, I believe it's an innate need that we all have.
Jon Carl Lewis 58:27
Yeah, and people are interesting. I mean, I enjoy hearing people's stories.
Coach Maddox 58:32
Yeah, I do, too. People are interesting. Oh, my gosh. Well, John, Carl, there's one thing that I would like to leave you with. Okay. And that is I have your your story has been amazing. And I just want to reflect back to you that in my eyes, you are indeed an authentic
Jon Carl Lewis 58:54
gay man. Thank you work every day. And it shows, shows.
Coach Maddox 59:01
Thank you for your, your authenticity and your vulnerability and sharing your story. And, yes, thank you for everything you've shared with me and the audience, the listeners today.
Jon Carl Lewis 59:13
You're most welcome. And thank you. It's been an honor and a pleasure.
Jon Carl Lewis is the host of Sex & the Gay Christian, a growing, sex positive community dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ folk make sexual decisions and construct a personal sexual ethic in line with their values as part of the Body of Christ. A trained and certified spiritual director, Jon Carl seeks to help Queer Christians and their allies come to peace with their sexual and relational decisions while being a blessing and a witness to the world of Christ’s radically promiscuous love. Jon Carl lives with his husband of over twenty-six years in Central Jersey where he serves as a cantor and occasional preacher at a beautifully diverse, radically affirming United Methodist congregation.