PART 1: Spiritual Aspects
A friend asked me if I would be interested in writing about The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans. “The blog has a theme and the author would have to talk about his faith, beliefs and spirituality,” I replied. Csaba Lukacs, owner of River House Publishing, and David Lummis, the author of The Coffee Shop Chronicles, are life partners. I didn’t think they would be interested in talking to a Christian about God. I was wrong. Csaba called me. The main character in the novel, B. Sammy Singleton, is the agnostic son of a Baptist minister. Csaba thought addressing the spiritual aspect of the book was a good idea.
I read David’s book, impressed by his ability to paint vivid images with words. Mid-way through, the comedic tone of the novel took a sharp turn into the darkness of racism, specifically, the oppression of African-Americans. The latter half of the book appealed to me more than the beginning. Women are well acquainted with oppression. I have been crushed by the oppressive foot of inequality that continues to march through the church centuries after Jesus sent a woman to preach his resurrection to men hiding in an upper room (John 20:17). I share David’s passion for equality.
I thought we would sit at Café du Monde and sip coffee while we talked. The packed Café and noisy conversations from its patrons voided my plan. We found a shaded bench in Jackson Square being serenaded by jazz music. I turned on my recorder and slid it close to the gentle, soft spoken man sitting next to me.
“I went to church every Sunday with my parents,” began David. “I would not call my parents extremely religious, but they were committed. My experience in the Methodist church was a little different than that of Sammy, who was raised Baptist. I seldom if ever heard any talk of Hell. It was always about love and forgiveness and doing the right thing. There was never a punitive element for those who didn’t. I always felt like the church was very accepting of everyone including gay people, and that was very important to me.”
Thoughts of being gay are attached to David’s earliest memories, prompting him to make a conscious decision at eleven years of age. He was gay; he wasn’t going to fight it. The harsh reality that he would never father a child filled him with sadness, which he released in a poem:
I would like to have a son someday
but my path leads away.
I would like never to be alone
but sometimes no one’s home.
I would like to cry out all the tears
and be left with only smiles.
I would like to cross the inches
And be left with only miles.
© David Lummis
Around the same time David wrestled with his sexual identity, he visited an old house near the town high school that had been occupied by Maranatha, a religious group that preached the born again experience and practiced speaking in tongues.
David grew thoughtful as he recalled his experience at Maranatha. “I wanted to have the experience I kept hearing described to me, but I don’t think I did. I spoke in tongues, but I always felt like I was making it up. Honestly, I felt like I had to in order to be accepted by this group, so I just sort of jabbered something, and I don’t think I was the only one doing it. I definitely lean much more Christian than any other direction, but my experience at Maranatha left me angry and disillusioned. ”
David confessed to the leaders of the church that he was gay. They laid hands on him to cast out what they believed was a demon. His attraction to men remained. This experience left David without hope of ever fitting in at Maranatha as the pastor thundered from the pulpit, “Homosexuals go to Hell!”
Others who sought healing at Maranatha for various reasons also failed to receive. Watching people dragged around the church in an effort to make them to walk made David uncomfortable. Nor could he reconcile the constant supplications for money from a pastor who drove a Cadillac.
A few years after David left Maranatha, his life became a blur of drugs and drinking. By age twenty-five, he knew that he needed help to pull his life from the depression that refused to release him. Through a well-known 12-step program, which taught him to rely on a higher power, David returned to his spiritual roots. “I made a decision to turn my life over to God, as I understood God. Just look around,” conviction filled David’s voice. “Could all of this be an accident, it’s so obvious there is a higher power. I still believe in a more or less traditional form of a God, but I really believe more in this force of love. I remember people in recovery who didn’t have the degree of faith I did who had a much harder time overcoming alcoholism.”
The program also led David to an exploration of spiritual people. Deepak Chopra is an Indian medical doctor, public speaker, and writer on subjects such as spirituality, Ayurveda and mind-body medicine. Chopra taught one’s health can be improved by purging negative emotions and developing intuition by listening to signals from the body. David also studied the works of Louise L. Hay, internationally known leader in the self-help field and bestselling author of You Can Heal Your Life. Her message that anything can be healed if you are willing to do the mental work resonated with David. He revisited his more traditional Christians roots with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Schinn, which included quotes from the Bible and anecdotal explanations of the author’s understanding of God and man.
Applying spiritual principles to his life has kept David sober for twenty-five years, and more recently given him the courage to fulfill a lifelong dream – publish a novel.