My guest this week is Mark Landes, a former Army officer working toward becoming a humanist chaplain. Mark grew up in the United Methodist tradition. He went to West Point, became an officer in the Army and hoped to become a chaplain.
It is surprisingly easy to not act on your hormones with a person of the opposite sex as a gay male when you are publicly declaring that you are not having sex before you are married due to your Evangelical Christian faith.
Mark’s army career is a fascinating tale in itself. He was stationed in West Berlin shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then during the Gulf War, he volunteered to go to Kuwait and experienced the first air raid of the Gulf War. Mark was also a gay man in the military, before the time of “don’t ask don’t tell,” when there were witch hunts to remove gay military members. He was investigated and removed with an “other than honorable” discharge.
I felt like I was letting down god, my family, my school.
Everything was being taken away from me.
It just seemed like my world was coming to an end.
Understandably, Mark went through time of deep depression. To make matters worse, when he returned to the states, he joined a 12 step group that was in effect group conversion-therapy. It is during this dark time that Mark began to question the reality of god. Through a years-long process, Mark deconverted, eventually admitting to himself he no longer believed.
I was holding on to the promise that god could help me, god could be there for me, and when I tried to speak to him, I didn’t get anything back, and that is is actually when I realized that what I had been doing this entire time is just talking to myself.
Mark has since become a humanist celebrant and has tried to get a Masters in Divinity to become a humanist chaplain. During the process, he began his “theological anthropology” which led him to tell his story. He now wants to get a Masters in Pastoral care and is hoping to create an “institutional chaplaincy” in the business world. This humanist journey began with him asking the question, “how can I make the world a better place?”
Eventually, I saw everything I did to go to West Point, become an Army officer, get a master’s degree in computer science, and rebuild my life was not supernatural, but the result of my hard work.
“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
Thanks to Logan Thomas for the new Graceful Atheist Podcast art work