Greg Bales

Confession & Testimony

This is a post about a confession and a testimony. The confession is by Jose Antonio Vargas and has been making its way around the American socialmediasphere this week, and for good reason: It is a powerfully told story about living a lie. Vargas was smuggled from the Philippines to the United States as a boy and given forged documents by his grandparents. He grew up as an American in every way except that which allowed him to be “legal.” After he learned the truth, he spent years hiding his immigration status as best he could. He avoided travel, went to college, became a reporter for the Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize—in other words, he stained the fabric of America. Vargas’s confession is an attempt to wipe that stain clean, to demonstrate that he is by all appearances a well-adjusted and stable social outcast with a bright future ahead of him.

The testimony is by Scott Lybrand, whose writing I’ve been promoting for years. He tells the story of how he overcame the personal demons of alcohol addiction and the self-loathing that went hand-in-hand with growing up gay in a fundamentalist church. His fall is an old story—one of the oldest—but in Scott’s hands it’s new again, and it concludes remarkably:

I tell you what I experienced: I was pushed out of the church, but God told the church to go fuck itself and came and got me through an angry, bald, gay alcoholic named Geoffry. Now I get it: God is a shepherd, walking out into the night for a lost sheep. How queer.

For all that I have abandoned my own belief, the story of the shepherd who recovers his lost lamb is still one of Christianity’s most beautiful. It never ceases to awe me when I hear it.

I can’t recommend either story enough. Do yourself a favor and go read them both.

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