I am always astounded at the lengths many religious traditions will go to in order to convert people to their religious beliefs. In the south, Christians would call this a “Come to Jesus Moment.” LGBTQ people have been presented with numerous come to Jesus moments in many areas of life: religious protesters at PRIDE, wealthy chicken purveyors, and even grandma who is praying everyday that her lesbian granddaughter will one day get married… to a man.
While the loudest and most charged voices are those from evangelical Christians, it is quite easy to forget that not all Christians are anti-gay. Additionally, it can be quite easy to forget that there are other faith traditions (some that are anti-gay and many that are not) that promote their own understanding of life and meaning in the world. Not all religions are about conformity and neither is there only one understanding of each religion. While the loud voices often demonize LGBTQ life, it is quite easy to forget that there are LGBTQ and Ally people of many different types of faith who worship, meditate, and practice mindful living in a way that does not tear down or try to convert others. Furthermore, it can also be quite easy to forget that there are many people who do not identify with any religious tradition who promote goodness, hope and love in the world. It is easy to forget about other ways of seeing when the dominant voices are those shouting so loud.
In the midst of all of the noise, LGBTQ people have come and left religion, many with incredible stories of finding both pain and wholeness, finding meaning and finding irrelevancy. However, I am convinced that religious traditions, especially the most dominant, would benefit greatly from changing their approach to one of listening and reflection. Religion needs to have a “Come to Queer Moment”. What is often used as strategy or recruitment for religion, most specifically those traditions that are equated with “American values”, aren’t working in the same ways as they used to. They are often seen as irrelevant and delusional and are often given these stereotypes because of the most radical of its followers.
Where radical religion often gets things wrong, or misses the mark on its approach, LGBTQ experience can provide new insight. While many religious norms have been historically used to constrict and judge, LGBTQ ways of living have been systematically used to encourage diversity and freedom. While many religious traditions are losing members because of a variety of reasons, the LGBTQ community is forging new ground and becoming increasingly more enmeshed in society. While many religious traditions speak out against each other and those who do not have a faith belief system, the LGBTQ community finds ways to support the many identities within itself, even when it is not easy. While the religious traditions shouting the loudest for adherence are driving many away, the LGBTQ community is making their stories heard through personal faith in religion and/or other significant ways of creating meaning and hope in the world.
In thinking about how to begin this shift in approaching religion and queer life, I really connect with the following poem by Muslim mystic and poet Rumi:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”
While we each forge our own path of meaning and hope in the world, and to some of us beyond this world, there will never be a collective method of experiencing life. Many of us forge a path through a personal faith, many do this by a connection to other meaning in this life, others do this by living authentically in a variety of identities, and still others find ways to embody all of these ways of living. If religious tradition focused on simply stepping into the field that Rumi describes and learned from listening, especially to queer experience, religion might reawaken new ways of providing hope and meaning that it is currently unable to hear or too blind to see. While LGBTQ and religious experiences might not have the one right answer for the world, when we come with intention of simply meeting each other, quieting the shouting voices, and listen to the lives of those around us, the paths of hope for the world might emerge in that space.
About the Guest Blogger
BC is a Texan transplant to the city of Chicago, moving here to attend theology school. She has a great love for a good glass of wine, great books, meaningful conversations, her family, dance parties, and crime shows. Her great hope in this life is that LGBTQ stories will be equally heard and valued, and she believes that religious/spiritual experience and dialogue is one of many ways to work towards such a reality. BC is a pastor by trade but a mystical religious mutt in spirit, hoping to soak up as many understandings of hope each person has to offer.