“Downton Abbey”, An Intriguing TV Series And Film That I Related To Far More Than I Ever Thought I Would…

Mere weeks ago, I knew next to nothing about Downton Abbey, other than it was a television show surrounding some English aristocratic family from the early 20th century that ran on PBS from 2010 to 2015. Truthfully, I was never very interested in watching it mostly because I wasn’t too keen on seeing a show about wealthy people of great status I couldn’t relate to who were from a time I didn’t live in and a country I wasn’t from. But, after seeing the trailer for a theatrical movie being released for the same show and after hearing all the buzz surrounding it, including the many friends of mine who said how good the show actually was and how much they were looking forward to the film, I finally decided to start watching it on Amazon Prime with my partner to see what the hype was all about. Halfway into season 1, I was hooked and three weeks later I was all caught up, including with the movie itself, which I must say was thoroughly enjoyable for many reasons, but one most in particular.

Beyond the fact that I liked watching the lives of the servants and could relate more to them versus the aristocrats, I was actually drawn most to the journey of Footman/Under Butler/Butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), a closeted gay man living in a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and perversion at best. To the casual viewer, especially someone who isn’t gay, it’s quite easy to hate Barrow’s character, as he was always conniving some type of scheme to try to make it ahead in life, stepping over the feet of everyone else, and backstabbing without regard of who might get hurt. While my partner regularly expressed displeasure in Barrow’s character, I always saw Barrow in a much different light. What I saw was a spiritually wounded man who truly struggled to relate to anyone else, who just wanted to be someone that was appreciated in a world that rarely appreciated people like him. While most of Barrow’s selfish attempts to make something of himself usually backfired, he occasionally exhibited true moments of humility and selflessness that showed he did have a loving heart and soul. Sadly, they usually got overshadowed by all his self-serving actions though, which tended to keep most everyone at arm’s length.

Man, I can so relate.

Over the years of me trying to find acceptance, I regularly hid my sexuality, which often led to me doing actions that hurt others as well, leaving me with a lot of self-loathing and very few friends. Thankfully, I’m a lot more accepting of myself these days and have become far more open with my sexuality, yet there are still days I find myself wishing I wasn’t gay and have even joked about being a straight man stuck in a gay man’s body, all because our world keeps on struggling to practice the true teachings of Christ, instead using things like the Bible and other spiritual books to judge others as sinners rather than unconditionally loving them and leaving all judgments in God’s hands.

It was even worse in Barrow’s time, when homosexuality was considered a sickness by medical standards. These days, while that’s no longer the case, being gay is still far from being widely accepted on this planet. And even when it is, I’ve regularly seen many still make plenty of stereotypical judgments around gay people including why they tend to be such perfectionists, act so prim and proper, and often have incredibly ornate homes and yards. Truthfully, I think it’s because so many of us try to over compensate for being in a minority that continues to hold such a negative stigma of sorts. In Barrow’s case over compensating translated into wanting to be in a higher position that held more responsibility and stature, as in his mind, then and only then, might he become more accepted in the world and make up for his reality that the world was never going to fully accept him for who he was.

Nonetheless, while I was thoroughly engrossed in a number of the other Downton Abbey character’s backstories and growth throughout the series and movie, it was Thomas Barrow whom I found myself the most drawn to, not in a sexual way, but in one where I silently cried quite often for the pain he and so many others like myself have endured throughout the ages, all for being born with a sexuality that frequently has led to rejection and religious persecution.

All in all, Downton Abbey is a phenomenally written series that I’m more than confident no matter what walk of life one may come from, rich or poor, gay or straight, black or white, man or woman, etc., that anyone will find at least one character to really relate to like I did with Thomas Barrow. I highly recommend watching this series and film if you haven’t already and sincerely hope that a follow-up sequel may be on the horizon in the near future.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Struggle I Have With Apostle Paul…

There is one notable figure from the Bible that I’ve had countless discussions around with many people. It’s the one Biblical person I really struggle with and probably the biggest reason why I often refute the Bible being the emphatic word of God and that figure is Apostle Paul.

I’m sure most know his Biblical story in which he formerly was known as Saul and a terrible persecutor of Christians, that is until one day he became blinded on the road to Damascus, during which time Jesus spoke to him and asked why he continued to persecute his people so vehemently. For three days after that, Saul remained unable to see whatsoever and refused to drink or eat anything because of it, until another man named Ananias became instructed by God to lay his hands upon Saul’s eyes, at which point scales suddenly fell from them, allowing Saul to see again. From thence foreword, Saul would take on the name of Paul and become one of the biggest proponents of Christ.

While I always applaud the story of Paul’s miraculous transformation, the part I struggle with is how I feel Paul went from one extreme to the other. You see as Saul, he walked an angry path of violent persecution of the young Christian church in Jerusalem, going from house to house, dragging men and women off to prison, making sure believers of Christ were found guilty of blasphemy and calling for them to be stoned to death. But then as Paul, while he often said how humbled God made him, he still went from place to place preaching about what he felt to be the exact things needed to follow Christ, almost as if he was now the know-it-all on the subject. And some of those very things that are listed in the Bible as what he said to be God’s truths, are now being used to persecute an entirely different set of people, people that include individuals like me.

Paul’s words state same-sex relations is a sin three separate times in the books he wrote. He also claimed in them that women were meant to remain subservient to men and supported slavery as well, amongst a number of other strong beliefs too. And it’s because of those strong beliefs and that belief of the Bible being the irrefutable truth of God, that followers of Christ now persecute in similar fashion as Saul once did, claiming what they know precisely to be a sin and what is not, persecuting many of God’s children along the way.

A good example of this is a guy I once knew who was formerly a Satanist, regularly worshipping the Devil himself, persecuting anyone who believed in God, but then went through his own transformation that led him to be someone that believed the only way to enter the gates of Heaven was to follow the Bible exactly, which he said included following all of Paul’s beliefs. When I spoke about how I believed that God loved me as a gay individual and accepted me in my monogamous same-sex relationship, he angrily told me that Paul’s words were part of the irrefutable truths of God, which from my perspective, made me feel like I was being persecuted all in the name of God.

But here’s the thing. Paul wasn’t a prophet nor was he God in the flesh. He was nothing more than a man doing his best to rectify his former negative ways of being that highly persecuting and judgmental individual of Christians. In doing so, Paul became flawed like the rest of us do on our own quests to find Christ and God. Where we make claims that we know what someone needs to do to find God, yet in all reality, the only one who should EVER be making that claim is God or Christ themselves.

So, while I honor Paul’s spiritual journey and appreciate the great lengths he went to glorify God after his spiritual transformation, that doesn’t give him or any Christian the right to claim their words are coming from the absolute and irrefutable truths of God just because the Bible says so. Using Paul’s words or the Bible in general in a way that persecutes anyone is the very behaviors that Saul did prior to his conversion and on some level, Paul did himself on his path to rectify his past tyranny.

The fact is, none of us truly know Paul’s story, as he was human with human tendencies, human opinions and human flaws. We don’t know his whole back story, what made him tick, and what “demons” he might have had within him back then. Regardless, we know he did his best to follow Christ and preach on what he felt Christ wanted him to do. But, does that make his words the irrefutable truths of God? No and that is precisely why I struggle with the Apostle Paul and the persecution that has followed in his wake because of the words he left behind in the Bible.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

I Think God Has A Huge Sense Of Humor!

Sometimes I think God has a huge sense of humor, because for as crazy as it feels with my best friend who’s been gay his entire life going through a total rejection of that now, receiving an email from someone who once did that very rejecting of gay people like he and I, yet now realizing how far off they were in their views from God’s higher and more loving truth, seems even crazier.

How all this came about requires going back to the beginning, which is over 25 years ago in fact, when I initially became best friends with a guy in college who would eventually become the first true love of my life, even though I was totally oblivious to what was transpiring within me then.

As I got to know this person during that period of my life, who I’ll refer to by his first initial “R”, I’d also go on to meet his mother, who I’d quickly learn was an extremely conservative Christian. I was ok with that at first because I really didn’t know what my sexuality was at the time nor did I even have much of a connection to God then either. A day came though when I’d realize what was going on within me and it came immediately after getting clean and sober from alcohol and drugs. It was then I fully grasped I was gay and always had been, but far more difficult, I also saw that I had fallen in love with “R”. It took me six months after starting my emergence from the closet to actually tell “R” about my sexuality and my feelings for him. “R” would completely reject me after that, even though we had shared many close moments during our drinking days that one would seriously have to put into question his sexuality as well. Regardless, a few years went by before I would work up enough courage to contact “R”’s mother to see if maybe “R” might be open to talking to me again. During my phone call with her, she asked why my friendship with her son had fallen apart and it was then I got fully honest with her as well. I told her about my sexuality, which was as far as I got before she began proselytizing about ex-gay ministries and how I wasn’t keeping to the will and love of God. I mailed her a letter after that call that was intended for “R”, while in turn she mailed me literature about leaving “the gay lifestyle”. I’d never read any of that literature she sent me and during my last contact with her over the phone, she told me “R” wanted nothing to do with me, even all those years later, and had no desire to read my letter either. She told me she’d also be praying for me, to be free of the “lifestyle” I was living and upon hanging up, I had no intention of ever speaking to her again, as both she and her son had caused me great pain and suffering.

But obviously God had other plans, as about a week ago, I’d open my email to see I had received something from my personal website. It was a personal correspondence from someone, which at first glance I thought was just spam, because I get a lot of that on my website. I had almost hit the delete button when I realized it was actually not spam and instead from “R”’s mother, the subject of which said two words: “An apology”.

While I feel her correspondence’s exact contents are probably best meant for her eyes and mine only, I will summarize by saying that she expressed her sincerest apologies for the way she treated me all those years ago due to my sexuality. She also spoke of how she used to be in such a narrow, fear-based evangelical arrogance and that she was in a completely different place today where she saw me with much more unconditionally loving eyes and heart. What’s interesting about this, and ironic for that matter, is how this contact from “R”’s mother came at a time when my own best friend has been going through a place of rejecting his own sexuality due to all the messages he’s been receiving no different from the ones I received from her long ago.

I’ve been pondering the sheer scope of all this and been left wondering if this was somehow God’s way of answering one of my prayers. Truth be told, I’ve been questioning my own sexuality in life all over again solely due to all the conservative Biblical-based messages my best friend has been preaching as of late. Most probably wouldn’t understand what it’s like to have a 22-year friendship with someone who’s gay suddenly say it’s a sin to be that way and reject it outright. Nevertheless, I feel “R”’s mother’s email came at the exact time I really needed a strong reminder from God that I was perfectly created just as I am and perfectly loved just as I am, that being gay.

So, for now, this story has been left with me sending a response to “R”’s mother asking to continue the conversation over the phone. I truly hope she’ll be open to it, as I’d love to know how she went from one end of the spectrum to another when it comes to her views on God. Whether that ever happens or not doesn’t matter so much as I’ve come to accept that maybe, just maybe, God really does have a huge sense of humor in how prayers get answered…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson