Project

So Glad He Saved Me: What It’s Like to Be Christian and Gay

Working at a student Evangelical organization, photographer Greg Reynolds had a photo diary where he captured the life of youth Christian communities in the US between the 1970s and 1980s.
Greg Reynolds

Born in Kentucky. Until the age of 30, worked as a head of one of the zones in the conservative Evangelical Christian organization InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Later studied at the film school at Columbia University in NYC. His projects were published in the Huffington Post, Feature Shoot, Vice, and other media outlets. The book Jesus Days was published by Canadian Bywater Bros.

Between the ages of 23 to almost 31, I worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian student organization that had member chapters on over 500 secular university and college campuses across the U.S. I knew that I struggled with my sexuality, but I did not consider myself gay. I did know that I was miserable and unhappy with my situation, and desperately wanted to be made straight. Homosexuality was a major sin which would separate me forever from God, my family and friends. It was only at the age of 30, after two years of therapy, that I came out as a gay man and resigned from the organization.

It was the mission of the organization to establish Christian fellowships at secular colleges and universities that would encourage religious students in their faith and evangelize non-believers. I mentored student leaders, spoke at fellowship meetings, led Bible studies and prayer meetings. Often I would take a single student with me and we would wander around the campus looking for a student sitting alone with whom we could engage in a conversation about Jesus Christ and their eternal welfare. The organization offered students weekend conferences, summer Bible camps, mission trips abroad and evangelism outreach on the beaches of Florida during Spring Break.

Often we would wander around the campus looking for a student sitting alone with whom we could engage in a conversation about Jesus Christ and their eternal welfare.
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During my time with InterVarsity, I met others who also struggled with their sexuality. At the time, I would reassure them of God’s love but encourage them not to act on their sexual desire. It was my belief then that God could change us or at least give us the strength to overcome temptation. But as Oscar Wilde said, I can resist anything but temptation.

I could not understand why God did not heal me from homosexuality if being gay was a sin. I came to believe that either God did not exist or that He did not consider homosexuality to be as horrible and disgusting as the Church taught. Today, I do not consider myself to be an evangelical Christian, but I still maintain a private faith. I rarely attend church services.

The mainstream and liberal churches have changed their attitude in some ways toward gays and lesbians. But the evangelical Christian church still believes homosexuality is a sin. A difference today from the past is that these Christians will allow you to be gay but forbid you from ever acting upon your urges.

I could not understand why God did not heal me from homosexuality if being gay was a sin.
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The photographs from ‘Jesus Days, 1978-1983’ were never envisioned as a project at the time they were made. It was never my intention to make a book or to show the pictures to anyone other than to my family and friends. I was not a “photographer”, nor did I know any artists or photographers. It was only my intention to make images that I liked and would enjoy looking at. The only conscious decisions I made were to shoot slide film and where to point the lens.

The photographs only became a project when I rediscovered them some 25 years later in dusty boxes sitting in a closet in my parents’ house. As I looked again at the pictures, I was taken back to a time in my life that I had chosen to forget, my Jesus Days. Over time, as I looked again and again at the photos, I came to understand this was my first body of artistic work.

Then it became a matter of editing pictures in order to find out what this body of work was actually about. The first images to go were the pretty, but ordinary, travel pictures that one makes when you are young and seeing the world for the first time. As I edited and re-edited, I slowly came closer to the core. I came to see how I looked at the world as a young closeted gay man, working inside a conservative, Christian organization.

For the most part the people in my pictures are Christian friends. In looking at the pictures again, I saw that I frequently photographed the girl whom I thought I should marry and the boy whom I loved, but never acted upon that feeling.

I frequently photographed the girl whom I thought I should marry and the boy whom I loved.

I spent my twenties working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I believed in the message we preached and I believed that the world would be a better place if everyone was saved and had Jesus Christ in their lives. Today, I am thankful for my experience. I would not be the man I am without having lived this life for so many years. I do not regret my path, only that I hadn’t been able to understand and resolve my problems earlier.

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