Great blog post from "In the Parlor" by Tyler Smither, a Methodist Youth Pastor in North Mississippi
Smart, simple, necessary words.
Smart, simple, necessary words.
Every now and again I fall for it. I look at my Queer life against the background of a homophobic, conforming world, and I think, "Oh shit, what if I'm wrong?"
It happens. After so much time of being marginalized, I slip into thinking I'm marginal. I have been patronized or demonized with such assurance by "people of faith," I start to wobble or to despair.
Then I remember the beauty of my connection to God, the way my spiritual and religious life supports me, the beauty of the faith of all my Queer connections in this world, and I just get angry again. Good angry, though. By that I mean, anger at people who have the chutzpah (the audacity) to dismiss the religious life and faith of millions of Queer people.
Do they really think that our relationship with God is somehow compromised by our being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning? This is what comes from their just telling us about our connection to the Divine as opposed to asking us. We have knowledge of God. The world just hasn't come round to inquiring about it. Their loss.
Religious, anti-Queer bigots are seldom shy about sharing their beliefs. Let's be as audacious and as brazen as they, but let's do it right. We don't need to judge someone else's status with God in order to feel right about our own. We can celebrate our faith and share its validity without debating people about the meaning of scripture or the traditions of oppression that have become commonplace in our culture.
If you recognize the spark of God in your life, but haven't yet fanned it into flame because you were called "wrong" or "sinful" or "queer" by people who didn't know that Queerness is something sacred, take courage from your own inherent link to God. Have faith in your faith. Trust in your truth.
Whatever you believe, whatever name or names you have for God or Divinity, the imprint of your faith in your life, even the questions and doubts you feel, proclaim it loud. The one thing the anti-Queer forces of the world aren't prepared for is our faith. This Thanksgiving be grateful for your bond with God and be grateful you don't need to dismiss someone else's faith to celebrate your own.
Two weeks ago I attended the eQuality Scholarship Collaborative Awards dinner in San Francisco as 16 Queer and Allied students (from high school seniors to grad students) received awards and recognition for their extraordinary accomplishments. Some of these students were introduced at the banquet by their parents, some by friends, mentors, teachers. Each of them in their speech was candid about the challenges they had faced and the support they had received. Some thanked their families, some had been disowned by their families. Some talked about the challenge of starting or reinvigorating the GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) at their high schools. Some were grateful to organizations like LYRIC (Lavender Youth Resource and Information Center in the Castro, SF) Some talked about coming out in high or middle school as Trans, as Gay, as child of Queer parents. Some mothers spoke with pride about their feminist sons, their trans daughters.
The evening made us all cry – these were some of the most remarkable young people of whom the Queer community could boast. The strength, determination, courage, pride, and talent of these students was an inspiration. We all had such reason to be proud of all of them.
One thing I noticed in all the speeches made: Nobody thanked God, no one thanked a single religious authority or professional. Seemingly no clergy or congregation had helped any of these stars get to where they were.
I was so proud of them and so ashamed of us. Where have our institutions been, where have our clergy been? When middle school students were disowned by their parents where had the church or synagogue communities been? As these students had mustered their courage and energies and achieved, where had God been in their lives?
A generation of poorly led religious communities, and a lack of Godspeak among the Queer communities and institutions that supported these kids has meant that we are raising our next generation without a positive experience of God or spiritual community. Not everyone in the world wants or needs God in their life or consciousness, but when none of 16 brilliant and compassionate recipients mentioned God or prayer, we have done something wrong. The aversion from Godspeak among Queer adults has drifted down to the next generation. The comfort, the poetry, the more profound perspective that can come from a consciousness of Divinity in any form was conspicuously absent from these students' lives. A connection to God could make their lives even more dynamic and powerful.
Here's my challenge and my question to my adult readers: How much do you speak about God in your daily life? How much do you impart to your ownchildren or the children you encounter? What slows you down?
I think we adults have to move through our own discomfort, our own histories of abuse, and our own shame at being religious in temperament and rediscover the beauty of God that may have been concealed from us by a bad church or abusive clergy person. God is still there, God is still sterling, and God is a gift we should bequeath to our next generation.
A sweet and powerful journey to all who are celebrating Passover this week. My we feel the strong hand and outstretched arm of God reaching towards us in love and yearning.
A time of renewal and of reconnection to God for all my beloved Christian friends, colleagues, and family in this Holy Week.
May we all eagerly receive God in whatever manner God manifests Divinity in our lives, and may we bring our experience of the Holy One to each other and to the world.
Love and blessings,
For a powerful enrichment of the narrative and imagery of Palm Sunday and Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, check out Jay Emerson Johnson's blog, "Peculiar Faith."
In all the client counseling I have done of late, and in my own life, what has become most clear to me is the way in which Queer people especially (all people, though, to some degree) have been forced to build emotional shells and suits of armor to protect ourselves from abuse, rejection, and simple alienation in a world that is sex-negative and predominantly homophobic.
We all protect our vulnerability. That is of course necessary. However, we can lose our ability to distinguish between moments of genuine threat and neutral time, time when we are unthreatened. In fact we stop looking to see if the threat has abated. In those times we remain in our defensive posture.
When self-protection takes the form of addictive behavior – meaning some form of out-of-control self-medication to stop the pain – it is known in the 12-step world that you can't recover until you stop using or acting out. All the possibility for spiritual growth lies on the other side of not drinking, not using, not acting out. Recovery (spiritual growth) starts with chemical or behavioral sobriety.
Even if we're not caught in classically addictive behavior, self-defensive postures can become habitual. We fend off any possible engagement that involves our being or feeling vulnerable. At that point, we're frozen in time. We stop growing in that moment, and we won't grow again until we thaw out and soften up.
I'm not saying there aren't threats out there in the world. If we are without armor we certainly risk being hurt. If we stay perpetually frozen, though, we risk a sort of emotional “freezer burn.” We won't just stay fixed in ice; our spirits actually suffer more damage. If we dare to be warm, we again become open to God's healing.
My prayer: May we know that it is safe to be soft. May we not fear tripping up or falling down. May we remember, we have more to gain by being vulnerable than we do by being perpetually self-protective. May we know that God is with us and that we need not fear.
"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"
(Matthew 6:27, New International Version)