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Praise be to those who Suffer: GhostHost's Artist Statement on "Testament of a Wretched Dogma"

When I was growing up, my parents were determined on me being raised and confirmed Christian, completing Bible Studies to the point of being confirmed when I was 14 as standard with Lutheran Christian teaching. Every Sunday my mother and I went to church, where she taught the Bible Study, and stayed for sermon. During the week I went to that same church as a day care before and after school, as my mother worked an hour away from where we lived, and it made getting me to and from school more difficult. Why she didn't just let me take the bus to and from school by myself, I don't know. My guess is that she did it to try and protect me, as I lived incredibly sheltered through my earliest years.

Why is any of this important? I say it to set the stage for my life. I was in and around Christianity six out of seven days of my life for the better part of twelve years of my life, and once a week for another 6 years after that. It was something I knew more than really anything else. To this day the "Lord's Prayer" probably is engraved in the folds of my brain.

For a majority of my life, the day care part was seemingly very uneventful. I did standard kid things like played with toys, ate playdoh, and more or less killed time until I had to go to school or Mom picked me up afterwards. I was a curious child, and one of the things I did every so often was play with the dress up clothes they had. I would put on the little Disney princess dresses and high heels just for the sake of curiosity. I didn't think anything of it really, it was just something that seemed fun and I wanted to do it. The reaction though really depended on who was the adult there that day. Sometimes it was a laugh and "oh you're so silly", but most of the time it was scolding, and telling me that "boys shouldn't wear that, take them off!" This didn't come from just the adults who worked there, this was also from the other parents who were coming to drop off/pick up their own kids. Of course that felt bad, as I was just trying to have fun, but I genuinely had no idea what I was doing wrong. Some parents must have confronted my mom at some point, because she asked me why I liked wearing the dresses one day, and I just said "I think it's funny!" I don't think mom ever thought of it more than that, and neither did I for a very long time.

As I got older, I was questioning my relationship with the church, and when I started to question the intricacies of the stories and how things didn't make sense, I was given a standard "well, God is just like that" or "God does whatever He wants, and all things are done divinely" non-answer that didn't satisfy my thirst for reason. There were just too many questions, like if God was here to help everyone, why did dad do things that scared me? Why did bad things happen at all? It just never clicked, and always getting the answer to questions like "Well that's just how it is" was buckling the foundation of my relationship with God.

At about 13 I had a full blown "coming of faith" or something to that degree for like a year; I was a full blown Christ believer, studied the bible more than I had the lest 3 years, and was jamming out to the Veggietales like they were the biggest music on the radio. What caused this, to this day I have no idea. My only guess is that a lot of the kids I knew at the time in school were Christian (this was an extremely white, rural, middle class area), and I guess I just got swept up in it all, who really knows. But what I do know is that I had just gotten a Facebook at that time, and in this wave of Jesus fever Facebook pointed me to PLENTY of Christian pages, some filled with some of the most hateful speech I had ever seen on people I didn't know existed. This was 2015 for perspective, and The landmark decision for Obergefell v Hodges on June 26th 2015 to protect same-sex marriage hadn't been made yet (to my memory), but what I remember seeing was some of the most vile, disgusting things my innocent eyes had ever seen. I didn't even know what a gay person was, let alone why they were getting the ire of these people.

It was like a little moment of clarity in the Christian haze. I was told to "love your neighbor as yourself" and "treat others the way you wish to be treated", not to hate anyone, and have love in your heart for all people, even those who you don't agree with. I quickly left the page and shortly after I started questioning the church and it's ideals again.

It wasn't until I was about 17 I started thinking that I wasn't straight. I thought everyone could be attractive, regardless of gender, and I didn't really think more of it than that. I couldn't tell anyone though, at that time I knew where I was, an old Klan town that was as bigoted as it was old. Very. I was always the weirdo who liked video games, and that was my life. Because of that, I was called every slur in the book for not being the "hyper-masculine image of a boy who played sports".

About this time one of the games I was playing called The Binding of Isaac, which if you're familiar with indie games mostly needs no introduction. The game is a loose retelling of the story of Isaac and Abraham, where God tasks Abraham to sacrifice his only son to prove that he is loyal to God, and when Abraham is about to kill Isaac, God sends and angel down to say "it was just a prank bro lol." I played the game not just cause it was fun, but also because I felt a closeness to the source material and Isaac himself. A boy who not only grows up forced into Christianity by his mother, but also questions his relationship with it, and also questions his gender identity in the form of the other playable characters, who are other persecuted biblical characters. These characters are all just Isaac in costume, and for the characters Maggie and Eve (Mary Magdalene and Eve, first woman of Eden) it's just Isaac in a wig and makeup. As mentioned earlier, I've always questioned my identity, and seeing that in this game was just something that drew me closer to it.

I played Isaac for hours upon hours, and it really ingrained itself on me. It was what really opened the door to questioning Christianity and really led to my exit of the church as a whole. I left for college when I was 19, and knew I needed to go out of the place where I grew up. Since that time, I've never been back to church on my own volition. At college, I could finally leave the shroud of my sheltered childhood and learn more about life as a whole, but also learn about myself. I met many, many people in college who were affected by their experience with religion, some like myself, but also many others who's experience was much worse than mine. Some of the things I heard from people just let my jaw hang, like how could anyone who believed in something so "righteous" be so cruel to people? Plenty of people thrown out, discarded, and mistreated because of who they were, not being understood. It was so shocking that this was an experience that many people shared, even if they were from different parts of the country and even the world.

This brings me to today. My life has been fairly positive in comparison to many other people I've talked to, but I've still had a fair amount of hardships and experiences that have stuck with me. Art has always been a big part of my life, and telling stories has been a large part of it all. I used to make art and have stories that were full of action and adventure "because they were cool" and that's all. But now, I struggle to do something just "because it's cool". I'm sure that is just part of growing up and maturing, but learning how life really is changed me and drastically changed the reasons for why I do what I do.

Being sheltered like I was protected my innocence like a piece of fine glass in a museum. In the end though, it only gets shattered harder by the sledgehammer that is reality. People are terrible. Of course that is a statement said largely in the context of "I hate all people until I get my coffee" (which is soul crushing in it's own right), but I learned that there are PLENTY of people who are just downright awful, for the sake of being awful. This is never more relevant than talking about Christian nationalists, and the conservative right. The pure-blooded hatred and scorn I've heard, seen and even received from those people never fails to drive me into a fury.

I've been drafting this statement for months, and have been thinking about it throughout the post-production process of the album, because I do not want words to get minced or intentions misplaced about this. This album is about liberation. Liberation from persecution. Liberation from the status quo. Liberation from gender norms. Liberation from all the things that bring down and harm marginalized people. This album was born and fueled by the rage I feel whenever I read an article or see a news piece talking about some new draconian law designed to put trans people in danger, or hurt queer people, or impact the livelihood of good natured people who don't happen to be Cis Hetero WASPs. I'm fucking sick and tired of seeing these blood-thirsty cretins chuckle as they doom people who have done nothing but exist to a life of suffering just because "that's not in the bible".

I am queer. My spouse, who I would do anything on earth for, is disabled and queer. I have members of my family who are trans and/or queer. My uncle, who has been dead for many, many years, was gay at a time you'd be lynched for being that way, and spent his whole life in the closet. Some of the nicest, most caring, people I have met and even collaborated on many projects with been trans, queer, and everything in between. "Testament of a Wretched Dogma" is a story that channels my rage and hatred towards those who want people like me and my loved ones dead. This is no more poignant than in the name for the closing track "Praise be to those who suffer". God does not deserve praise. God has done nothing but wreak suffering through the hands of bigots and monsters. The real people who deserve praise are those who take the beatings, who are exiled from their homes and communities, who are abused by bigots. Those who suffer through systematic oppression and oppression by vile humans are the ones who really deserve praise.

The album isn't happy. It's actually quite the opposite. It is my artistic rendering of the black, soupy depression I feel, mixed with the rage and bitter hatred about life and the treatment of the people I love. The story's ending is one of retribution and vengeance, but at the cost of a life that didn't need to be taken. While there is no lyrics in the album, I tried my best to convey those feelings in the tracks, and the pacing of them all at large, and even more so in the actual written narrative piece for the album. It's an album of mourning, hatred, and a desire for all those who want nothing but pain be eviscerated by time and progress.

I hope those who can relate to my story, or know those who can relate take solace in that one day, those who have oppressed you will rot in the ground, worms eating their corpse, and their soul will be tortured in the same hell they think you will be going to, while you will sit on the thrones of salvation.

Trans rights, Queer rights, Disabled rights, and Minority rights are human rights.

Fuck God.

Thank you.

- GhostHost

"Testament of a Wretched Dogma" releases on all platforms on April 7th, 2023. You can check out some of the tracks now over on the album's Bandcamp page.

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