Wednesday, 24 June 2009

building bridges

Queer theologians are in no doubt that the message of religion, and the nature of the divine, transcends gender and sexuality, and yet embraces gender and sexuality, the world and our bodies. But mainstream theology is having a hard time keeping up with the cutting edge.

Should religion be about transforming the world, or celebrating it? This is at the heart of religious conflict on the issue of human sexuality. But if the central message of religion is love, connection, compassion, then loving relationships are part of the solution, not part of the problem. In Wicca, we have a saying, "All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals", and that means all, including same-sex love. Similarly, Unitarians and UUs have been LGBT-affirming for decades.

I want to celebrate the brave pioneers of LGBT spirituality, and the continuing activism of those who seek to end religious homophobia.

Soulforce is an organisation that campaigns for freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression. They engage in dialogue with homophobic organisations and religious spokespersons.

The LGBT Religious Archives Network coordinates identification, collection and preservation of personal papers and organizational records from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender religious people. There are some truly inspirational stories on their website, and it is a vital historical resource.

There are many more individuals and groups out there speaking up for the inclusion of LGBT people in religious life - too many to list here. I will leave you with two examples to illustrate why including LGBT people is so important:
Peggy Neff and Sheila Hein made their lives together for eighteen years. Then, on September 11th in 2001, Peggy was aboard the plane that was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon. Like so many surviving husbands and wives, Sheila’s life was torn apart. And like so many others in her situation she sought assistance in her home state. The response she received was “Please accept our condolences on the loss of your friend. We regret to inform you that you are not eligible to file a claim under (the) Virginia Victims of Crime Act.”

from Don't be Afraid of Change: A Briefest Reflection on the Dynamic of Creation by James Ishmael Ford
There are many more examples like the one above that happen every day around the world.

The second example was a leaflet, If I told you, a collection of essays by LGBT college students. It was the saddest thing I ever read. In it, various college students told of their isolation and fear at having to hide their sexuality. Sadly it is no longer available online, but I copied some excerpts.

Of course, none of this will reassure people who feel that their tradition, or their holy book, tells them that LGBT sexuality is wrong. I am sure they feel that they are listening for the Divine will in their adherence to this view. So there's no point in shouting at them - we need to calmly engage in dialogue, examining their (and our) underlying assumptions, patiently going through the texts and the traditions, listening to their fears, and so on. That is why the work of people like Soulforce and the Equality Riders is so important, because it's all about changing the hearts and minds of the anti-gay lobby in a non-confrontational way.

This post is part of the Bridging the Gap synchroblog.


edwardnortonfan said...

Ok, the quote from that leaflet, "If I Told You," was great. I felt like a hammer hit me in the face. Ouch. Thanks for sharing those words.

Yewtree said...

Hi, thanks for dropping by.

I wish you could have read the rest of the leaflet - it made me cry.

Lady Grace Dreamweaver said...

I had the honor of meeting a busload of SoulForce riders when they came to Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC in 2007. I honor the power of change that these riders bring to our nation. You are a blessing to my heart to find this reminder of their courageous spirits!

Yewtree said...