|The Gay Struggle Continues|
|Kweerspirit: Progressive Spirituality |
by Durrell Watkins for the online magazine, www.gaysofla.com:
There’s a real struggle going on in our society right now. I’m not referring to the economy, or the presidential campaigns, or matters of procreative freedom, or to the ubiquitous and seemingly endless debates about health care and taxes.
Those struggles exist obviously, but added to the list of social tug of war bouts is a simple matter: same-gender love and attraction.
Now when I say same-gender love and attraction, I’m not talking about same-sex marriage (which is another contentious grappling match that has yet to see its last round) nor am I talking about the various scientific and social scientific hypotheses and theories that attempt to explain homosexuality. I’m not even referring to the question of whether same-gender love and attraction is in any way disordered…on that matter, the jury has decided!
From the Kinsey reports in the 1940s and 1950s, to Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s research in the 1950s, to the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973 to the American Psychological Association taking similar action in 1975, to the American Counseling Association and National Association of Social Workers doing the same, to the World Health Organization removing homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1993, that issue has been well decided. In fact, all major mental health organizations in the US (and many throughout the world) have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental illness and that gay and lesbian persons are no more likely to have mental disorders than their heterosexual counter-parts!
No, when I mention the “struggle” over the issue of same-gender love and attraction, I am, sadly, referring to religion (I say “sadly” because, well, I’m a religion guy).
The Metropolitan Community Church movement was started in the late 1960s by a gay rights leader (Troy Perry) to provide a safe and affirming worshiping community for lesbian and gay people and their allies. Since then, one bible scholar after another, one theologian after another, even one denomination after another has come to affirm the sacred value of same-gender loving people and to recognize the holiness of loved shared between persons regardless of gender identity.
And yet, in spite of the best science, the best social science, and the best theological scholarship all affirming the legitimacy of same-gender love and attraction, there continues to be increasingly vocal preachers of pugnacious rhetoric vilifying LBGT people; and politicians continue to use gay rights (or rather, the denial thereof) as a political issue and entire communities continue to speak out and vote against their LBGT neighbors, usually using religion as the excuse for their prejudice. Like I said, it is sad.
Religion, at its best, isn’t about teaching people who to hate or fear.
Religion, at its best, isn’t meant to promote discrimination and inequality.
Religion, at its best, isn’t supposed to disguise prejudices as values or bigotry as righteousness.
I also don’t believe religion’s purpose is to help people know “God.” We each in our own way experience the Sacred and most of us will seek a spiritual life whether within or apart from religious communities. Whatever else God may be, It/She/He must be everywhere fully present, all-inclusive, and much more inclined to nudge the human family toward peace, health, joy, and love than toward shame, fear, acrimony, and hate. We will each find whatever we choose to call divine in our own way, with or without religion.
No, religion’s highest purpose is to bring people together, to form positive, benevolent communities, to help people believe in and live into their great potential, and to guide people to discover and share joy.
My guess is that the struggle will continue. There will be churches and church leaders who continue to demonize and dehumanize same-gender loving people. And they will insist that such nefarious, spiritual brutality is somehow in compliance with a divine calling. Such was the case when Galileo declared a heliocentric rather than geocentric universe; such was the case when women were kept from pulpits and voting booths; such was the case in every war waged in the name of religion; and such was the case not too long ago when even racism was preached as righteousness. Why would the road to LBGT liberation be any easier? But, as history has shown time and again, codified bigotry has a shelf-life and cannot endure forever.
The struggle may continue for a while, but in the mean time, there are those of us, even those of us who call ourselves religious, who are committed to celebrating the sacred value of ALL people and the holiness of all mutually shared love.
Durrell Watkins holds sociology and theatre degrees from Henderson State University and Goddard College, respectively, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He is the author of Wrestling with God without Getting Pinned: Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality (Outskirts Press, available at Amazon.com), and is the Senior Pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (www.sunshinecathedral.org).