Monday, February 04, 2008

Asking Liberating Questions

Weekly Devotional by Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv

I grew up “knowing” certain things. I knew them because in my rural, southern environment, such knowledge was common. What I knew included:
God was male.
God was Christian (or at least, God wanted everyone else to be Christian).
Heterosexual love and attraction were OK…homosexual love and attraction were not.
Men were to be the head of their households.
Only men could be ordained for professional ministry.

But something happened early in my life. By the time I was nineteen I had to admit what I had really known since I was about 4…I was gay. This wasn’t a phase; it had been with me my entire life, and wasn’t going away. Denying it only delayed my ability to experience joy in my life as the person I was. Accepting that I was innately and unchangeably gay meant that I had to reconsider all of things that I thought I knew.

After studying scripture, theology, sociology, psychology, and my inner-most self, I came to believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the diversity of life. But that means that “they” (the people who taught me all those things I thought I knew when I was a child) were mistaken about the sinfulness of homosexuality. Once I really embraced that fact, I then naturally had to ask, “what else did they get wrong?” What is the likelihood that they only got one thing wrong? Maybe they were wrong about God’s preference for Christians. Maybe they were wrong about men having a divine right to rule the church, the home, and the world.

This is one of the many gifts gay and lesbian people have to offer the world. We were fortunate enough to have to question prejudices against us and learn to believe in our sacred value. And once we did that work, we then had the skills to question other beliefs…especially beliefs that give privilege or power to one group over another (men over women, U.S. over other countries, straight people over LBGT people, Christians over non-Christians, etc.). “The Church teaches” or “The bible says” or “Everyone knows” can no longer be the final word for us. Queer people have the ability (and perhaps the responsibility) to demonstrate the courage it takes to ask questions and to believe that our questions are more important than pre-packaged answers. And those of us who call ourselves religious must also ask the questions that will keep religion from being a tool of oppression against any group every again.

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