I am very thankful that I was not raised with any sort of religious convictions. No matter what else I’ve had to struggle with, this particular demon never had to be factored in. If you find yourself at odds with it, as many gay men and women do, it can leave ugly scars. That’s what makes Scott Terry’s autobiographical Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth so poignant.
Scott Terry is an ordinary Joe—or, rather, an ordinary former Jehovah’s Witness—with a particularly difficult upbringing. His life was complicated not only by the conflict between his homosexuality and his religion, but also by an emotionally and physically abusive stepmother with the rather contradictory nickname of Fluffy. The happy ending is that Terry emerges from this vile atmosphere with his integrity, his perspective, and his sense of self-worth intact.
Former Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the emotionally strongest people I know. They have to be to break away from the cult, withstanding the loss of their families and the only circle of friends they’re allowed to know as they’re permanently shunned once they leave. Terry’s strength in the face of his deprived and desolate childhood is evident in every chapter of this book.
His prose is very simple and spare, letting the horror (and the occasional joy) of the situation convey itself to the reader without pointing to it and shouting. He also relates these anecdotes with an unsparing eye for his own culpability, which is often not the case with autobiography. But Terry’s eye is always on the lookout for a way out, which he eventually finds. And when he starts to come into his own and begins living his life, I almost stood up and cheered.
This is where the book finds its own gentle poignancy—in Terry’s first fumbling, naïve encounters. He could have been swallowed whole, but his mentors made his transition as easy as possible for someone struggling to overcome his background to discover his true self. My only complaint is one typical of a fiction writer looking for a just ending, and that is he never gets (or if it happened, shares it with us) a chance to call Fluffy out on her abuse and take her to task for it. But sometimes life doesn’t provide those
Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth is a wonderful, engaging book that will leave you with the satisfaction that one man, at least, was saved. And not by religion.
©, 2012, Jerry Wheeler