Let’s be honest, a LOT of people in the LGBTQ community have a “complicated” relationship with organized religion. A lot of us struggle with residual feelings of guilt having grown up in homophobic religious traditions.
More of us struggle with the loneliness of having to distance ourselves from religious family members and friends whose religious bigotry causes conflict and strife in the lives of the LGBTQ people in their lives. How then can we seek to bridge the gap between those who believe religion is against the LGBTQ community and the LGBTQ community itself?
In May, a Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz, spent several days with Pope Francis. Juan Carlos said during this meetings that the Pontiff told him, “You have to be happy with who you are. God made you this way and loves you this way, and the Pope loves you this way.” After this revelation the narrative that spread was essentially that the Pope says being gay is ok. Now that he said it was ok then things would REALLY change right? Eh… maybe not so much.
Whether we like it or not religion (or religious lip service) plays a huge role in our society. We have recently seen the Supreme Court uphold a baker’s right to assert a constitutional right to deny services based on religious preference, and declined to answer whether or not the same constitutionally guaranteed that religious beliefs can be used to also deny wedding services to gay couples.
Now, I do not believe that ALL these people are ACTUALLY religious, I’m sure they do SOME work on Sunday and share a house with women who menstruate, but are “religious” ENOUGH to discriminate against the gays. They are influenced by local pastors and religious demagogues alike and believe that they will be rewarded with Heaven if they are mean and spiteful to people on Earth.
** blank stare**
….yea I don’t really…get it either.
So back to the Pope, his comments, and the unfortunate uptick in legal support for the anti-gay discrimination.
IF more religious leaders, came out and said “Hey we know God doesn’t make mistakes, you are not a mistake, you were made this way and this way is ok,” do we think that will change people’s minds? My instincts tell me it will not. Whether you are a believer or not, if you have prejudice in your heart, you will keep it there until you are ready to let that hate go regardless of what a man in a robe tells you. I get that people want to be excited about this, I really do but I think there’s something else we should be excited about.
I believe that gays and lesbians have a place in the greater faith filled community we just have to step up and take it.
In fact, we are already creating wonderful, vibrant, religious communities all over the country and we are asserting that God loves us too. Read our article about UFCC, an LGBT affirming church with several locations around the country.
We can’t let the likes of the Pope, or Bishop T.D. Jakes, or Joel Olsteen, or any of these other alleged holy men tell us who we are and what we are worth. Because sadly, people’s prejudices aren’t based on what their pastor has told them, their prejudices buildup during the week and are often just reinforced by the pulpit on Sunday.
There are a lot of LGBTQ friendly churches that don’t just tolerate us but welcome the queer community and I believe these are the churches that should speak for us. It is nice when mainstream heteronormative leaders do it, but they do not possess the experience and insight we need to properly connect to our struggle. So, while I do see why people are excited and hopeful about the recognition and tolerance shown by a popular religious leader, I would argue that it is not nearly as impactful as the work that is being done by the local men and women of the cloth who cater to specifically us.
These are the people who are really bringing about change and pushing the dialogue forward, because they are a part of our community and embody the true message of Christ. For when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” he didn’t say only love those who are like you or who love like you do, or tolerate them because it will make you popular he meant REALLY love everyone as they are. By creating our own loving supportive religious communities, we can be beacons that bridge the gaps between those who would deny us our rights and the LGBTQ people who long for a place to call home. We don’t need to look outward for validation, we can find it within ourselves.