LGBTQA HAVE GIFTS TO GIVE CHURCHES

The criticism by Pope Francis of laws criminalizing homosexuality (London Free Press, January 26) was hailed as a new milestone by gay rights advocates, but it fits with his overall approach, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that gay people must be welcomed and respected by the church rather than marginalized or discriminated against. “We are all children of God and God loves us as we are” he said. 

    Personally, I find it helpful when thinking about this issue to keep in mind Richard Rohr’s tricycle. Rohr, a Franciscan priest, says that the front wheel is your own personal experience: does this religious teaching make sense given what you have experienced? Then you check your experience against the back wheels of scripture and tradition.

    My own experience of life is that God loves diversity – there are so many varieties of plants, animals, and birds. No two moons, planets, stars, or galaxies are exactly alike. The same holds for people, we are all different. Perhaps God loves sexual diversity too.

    Some of my own life experience with sexually diverse people is as follows (with names changed to protect confidentiality).

    Walter, who was not interested in sex at all, fits the new category, asexuality (the ‘A’ in LGBTQA). Ronald was a devout Catholic I met in the early 1980s. Among the staff where we worked, the heterosexual married and single staff were all jumping from one bed to another. My wife Grace and I, and Ronald and his gay partner, were the only monogamous couples. This blew apart any stereotypes I had about gay men. Arnold, a devout Lutheran, seemed to be a woman trapped in a man’s body. He had the voice and all the mannerisms of a woman.

    Lawrence, a youth minister, told me he wasn’t sure he was gay. We were both concerned that if he came out of the closet, he would lose both his job and his marriage. So, for two years we explored all the reasons why he might not be gay. Finally, we concluded that he was in fact gay, did not choose it, and was born this way. He said he knew it all along but wanted to double check it with a trained spiritual director.

    My experience with gays is most of them would love to be straight so they could fit in with the majority, but they cannot deny how they were created. As Ronald said to me “I did not choose to be gay – why would anyone choose to be persecuted?”

    Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose book Building a Bridge addresses how the Catholic church and the LGBTQA community can get along, has had positive meetings with Pope Francis about this, and spoke in London a few years ago. He started off by asking “When did you choose to be white, heterosexual, male or female, short or tall?”

    He also made many suggestions about how any religious community could constructively approach LGBTQA people. First, like all of us, LGBTQA people are much more than their sexual lives, so do not reduce them to this. For Catholics, he reminded us that if a LGBTQA person was baptized as a Catholic as a child, you don’t have to try to get them into Catholicism. They already are Catholic and part of the church.

    Not only that but LGBTQA people bring a lot of gifts to any church. They know the suffering of the marginalized and therefore can minister more effectively to outsiders than a straight person can. So, they should be included as part of the church’s ministry.

    As far as the back wheels of the tricycle go, although the scriptures contain a few verses some interpret as anti-homosexual, they also contain many other things we now see as outdated, such as stoning to death people who work Saturdays (the Sabbath)!

     In general, the scriptural message is one of love and inclusion of everyone. Jesus never said anything about homosexuals and repeatedly reached out to the marginalized – prostitutes, the crippled, blind, and lepers. It is no stretch to believe he would welcome LGBTQA people. And Christian tradition has always taught that we are to imitate Jesus.

Bruce Tallman is a spiritual director and religious educator of adults. www.brucetallman.com/books

 

   

 

OPENING TO THE GOD WITHIN ALL

If the devout life is the same as true love of God

and the essence of the devout life is prayer

then the essence of the love of God is prayer.

 

Communion/connection with God or another person

involves the security and insecurity of trust

and a constant battle against all the forces

of fear and selfishness within us.

 

But to love is to be on the path of integral wholeness –

to see the ‘other’ not as ‘stranger’ but as ‘brother’

and ‘sister’ as part of one’s self, as belonging to another

and as part of a greater whole.

 

Objective theology may give you the right answers

but it doesn’t help you with prayer/union with God/

compassion for the lost. It excludes subjective experiences

like John of the Cross’s ‘Dark Night’

and Meister Eckhart’s inner freedom/energy/joy.

The result: if you only deal with Eckhart’s external writings

divorced from his inner spirituality

he can seem like a heretic.

 

There are three styles of religiosity:

‘intrinsic’ – religion as an end in itself;

‘extrinsic’ – religion as a means to an end/social justice

‘quest’ – religion as openness to change –

even to changing one’s religious beliefs/values.

 

Going from ethnocentric to worldcentric belief

means changing from a group-based identity –

this is my tribe –

to a person-based identity –

this is what I believe –

Jesus is still your and everyone’s personal Savior

no matter what you believe

but you realize the Holy Spirit speaks to people

in different faiths in different ways

and so others may find different paths to salvation.

 

Yes, the Universal Christ/God is the only way to God

but this is because the Universal Christ/God

is everywhere and depending upon one’s culture

takes many different forms.

3 Big Ideas for May 1, 2019

  1. The modern worldview is that because our universe is so old and so vast, humans are totally insignificant. A more helpful and meaningful approach is that because of our intelligence and creativity, which it took the universe so long to produce – 13.7 billion years – we can say again, as people did before astrophysics, that humans are not only significant but central to the entire universe.
  2. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian physicist and priest, first postulated that, as in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, there must have been a beginning to the universe. Then George Isamow, an American-Russian physicist, postulated the Big Bang Theory, the current view among scientists. Since scientists have proven that everything is expanding outward, if you go back in time far enough, it must have all begun from a single point. Science has to be materially based, it can’t start with spirit, and therefore Isamow further theorized that the universe came from a tiny particle. However, this idea that all the matter of the universe as we now know it was somehow packed into an infinitely small particle seems absurd and is an untestable hypothesis. As such it is a myth. I am not anti-science, in fact I think science is an incredible tool that reveals even more of God’s glory. But I also believe it is important to understand that science is based on this myth. It is just as logical, in fact I believe more logical, to say that the whole universe came from an Almighty Creator.
  3. Ignatius of Loyola invented the prayer method of inserting yourself imaginatively right into scenes from the Bible. For example, you are in a boat with the disciples in a raging sea. You feel the rocking of the boat, the spray of the waves, and then you see someone walking on the water. You feel the fear of the disciples who didn’t recognize it was Jesus and thought they were seeing a ghost. You feel amazement and relief when Jesus calms the wind and sea and gets into the boat with them. Many people have found that this method of imaginative contemplation leads them beyond “head-knowledge” to “heart-knowledge” of God and emotionally transforms them through a direct experience of God.