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

 

   

 

THE TWO TREES IN EDEN

The two trees in Eden 

are metaphors for two minds:

dualistic and unitive.

The Tree of Knowledge 

splits everything into either/or

(God forbids us to eat from this Tree).

The Tree of Life

symbolizes unitive contemplation

and promises access to eternity.

Separation of things by the Church

into sacred (Church)

and secular (world)

meant the Church treated the world

with contemptus mundi.

The Church thought it had everything

to teach the world

and nothing

to learn from it.

Scripture and tradition 

not philosophy or science

are indeed the final norms

for revealing what is truly human.

The philosophy of non-being

in Heidegger, Sartre, Dostoevsky and Berdyaev

viewed religiously

simply speak 

to the transitoriness of all things

and to the power of the demonic

in souls and history.

But atheism 

is not religion’s worst enemy – 

indifference is.

In the New Age

there is passion

because God is only within/immanent.

But to conservative religion 

God is only without/transcendent.

First find the Inner Authority

of your True Self in God

then balance/integrate it 

with the Outer Authority

of Scripture and Tradition.

Balance/integrate God totally within

with God totally without

and voilà 

you have stable yet creative religion.

Totalitarian regimes 

dominate with Outer Authority

 and hate the passion of artists

who break people out of slavery

by waking them up 

to imperial ideology.

Totalitarians rule by power and money

but human reality is constituted

by meaning not matter.

Meaning not money 

is the foundational reality.

It is a spiritual universe.

John of the Cross

put it all together

as a mystic, theologian, and spiritual explorer

who discovered Treasure Island:

that in Christ are buried all treasures

of wisdom and meaning.

Mindfulness of Christ brings

joy, peace, and happiness.

In distress consciously breathe in 

the peace of Christ

and consciously breathe out

the healing of Christ.

Catherine of Siena heard Jesus say

“I want people to meditate

on the greatness of my mercy

before contemplating their shortcomings.

Self-knowledge of sin

must be tempered by and subordinated to

knowledge of God-alive-in-you.”